Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More on crackdown

A Fistful of Euros finds this article from the Financial Times, Ukraine president spurned pressure over protesters, very interesting and it is. It give us a little more information on why there wasn't a crackdown.

This might of course be the official version let out for what comes down to a matter of skin saving-- a point that FFE makes--so it has to be taken with a grain of salt. But it is interesting and tracks well with some of the reports and rumors making the rounds at the time.

The Financial Times has learned that the administration of Leonid Kuchma, the authoritarian president, considered deploying troops against the crowds of protesters gathered in central Kiev in support of Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition leader.

Those lobbying for the use of force included senior officials, among them Viktor Medvedchuk, the head of the Ukrainian presidential administration and Viktor Yanukovich, the prime minister.

According to people inside and outside Mr Kuchma's administration, the president resisted the pressure and the danger passed.

Vasyl Baziv, the deputy head of the administration (cautionary lights flashing), is quoted as saying that though he was lobbied hard, Kuchma was against the use of force. The FT quotes Western officials as saying that the pressure on Kuchma was intense to use troops to put down the protest. These same officials say that Kuchma called off the troops because he did not want blood on his hands.

The FT uses the word "apparently" when quoting these Western diplomats. The troops were "apparently" called off because he did not want blood on his hands. This is speculation if it is not tied to something else. It suggests that Kuchma might have been interested in some sort of legacy as Pinchuk has said he is. I guess it is possible he is interested in something like that, but, if he is, it is something he has come to lately. The fact is that Kuchma has never shown himself to be concerned for much of anything other than his own interests, the interests of his family and the interests of those useful to him.

What I think is more likely is that that is the reason decided on when Kuchma could no longer guarantee the result. At the tme they were set to act, I think there was no longer any assurance the military, or a significant portion of it, would follow the order. And there was the distinct possibility that once an order to fire was given that the military would turn and fire in the opposite direction. The point is that once the firing started there was no guarantee that there might not be some sort of rebellion in the ranks. Once a rebellion happened, there would be no way to ensure they would not come for him. In other words, if the order was given and the military acted, the blood on his hands just might be his own.

I think Kuchma was acting to save his own skin.

"The key moment came on Sunday, November 28 (a week after crowds took to Kiev streets), when soldiers were given bullets. Then they were going around not with empty machine guns, but already fully armed. I think that was the peak of the
whole conflict," Mr Yushchenko said...

[On that day] Mr Kuchma chaired a meeting of the key National Security Council which discussed plans for armed action. Western diplomats say intelligence reports showed interior ministry troop movements around Kiev. One senior western diplomat says: "There were credible reports that troops were moving on Kiev."

The real question is why they waited so long?

UPDATE: There is an interesting argument that Kuchma might be wanting to blame Yanukovych for the whole thing. I wonder though who gave the order for the troop movements in and around Kiev? Would it have been Yanukovych if he is the one that is supposed to get the blame for it all? Seems doubtful.

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