I have blogged previously about the concerted campaign of terror implemented against peaceful protesters and members of the opposition. In the last few months dozens and dozens of activists and journalists have been beaten up, opposition party Batkivshchyna headquarters raided and computer servers removed with no explanation, and hundreds of protesters have been systematically harassed and persecuted.
The probability of escalation is high, and Ukraine is facing the greatest crisis in its short history.
Even today, Friday about a dozen protesters and a couple of journalists, including well-known Lb.ua photographer Maks Levin, were seriously beaten by 'Berkut' outside the Kyiv-Svyatoshynsk regional courthouse where 'Svoboda' activists had been given lengthy sentences on allegedly trumped up charges of 'terrorism' [plotting to blow up a statue of Lenin in Borispil] . The trouble is continuing as I write....report that opposition leader and former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko has been seriously injured...his wife Iryna, a parliamentary deputy may also have been injured...
It's getting very ugly...I fear many more will be injured in the clashes....
Serhiy Vysotsky, a serious commentator not known for sensationalism, explains in Liga.net how little time remains before matters spin out of control.
I've loosely translated some portions:
Terror tactics applied against participants will lead to serious bloodshed
Criminal pressure on activists of mass protests in conjunction with the tactic of ignoring the EuroMaidan will lead to unpredictable consequences for Ukraine
Repression against protesters has unfolded rapidly throughout Ukraine. People are being beaten, their driver's licences are being taken away from them [participants of AvtoMaidan protests in particular], and criminal cases opened against them. Protesters' property is being damaged and they are being threatened with lay-offs. The authorities' tactics are clear: having ignored the Maidan, they are trying to isolate its co-ordinators and leaders with the aim of neutralising them.
Vysotsky claims up to four million people have in some way participated in the current protest actions. He continues: The peculiarity of the situation is that official repressive forces have been bolstered by openly criminal forces. Even the 'sylovyky' are now employing gangster-like methods of intimidation.
It is already clear that the use of the police and the Security Services will not be able to stop or restrain protest.
The EuroMaidan, which has now stood for fifty days, will not disperse itself.
Massive criminal terror could potentially be employed, but in order to stifle protest, terror in Ukraine would have to be on an "African" scale - thousands of thugs armed with machetes used to scatter crowds.
But Ukrainian society, fortunately, is not criminalised to that extent. Defenders of the EuroMaidan have had time to organise and would provide stern resistance to any attack. If, heaven forbid, anyone is killed, then the situation will begin to develop unpredictably. [Three persons are still missing after the sadistic clearance of EvroMaidan on the night of 29/30th November last year by 'Berkut' forces..there is serious concern that may have been killed on that night.. LEvko]
Organisers of self-defense could potentially generate a wave of counter-terror possibly against the residences of Ukraine's current leaders. Any such radicalisation would lead to serious casualties on all sides.
Vysotsky concludes the only way to prevent such escalation is to abandon the practice of employing criminal elements against activists immediately, and quickly move to the purely political methods of settlement of the dispute.
Parliament returns to work on January 14 and should make crisis resolution a priority. Any delay significantly reduces the likelihood of a political solution to the crisis.