Dmitro Yarosh Donbass Fascism International Relations Lviv Maidan Nazism Neo-Fascism Oleh Tyahnibok Regime Change Regime Transformation Revolution Right Sector Russia SBU Security Service of Ukraine Social-National Assembly Svoboda Party Ukraine Ultra-Nationalism US President Barack Obama US State Department US-Russian Relations US-Ukrainian Relations

Working Paper – Revised/Updated Edition: Escalation Points 1-5 in the Ukrainian Revolutionary Crisis, November 2013 – January 2014

photo Ukrainian-Revolution

by Gordon M. Hahn

The following is the revised edition of the first edition of this working paper, first published on this site last year: WORKING PAPER:Violence, Coercion and Escalation in the Ukraine Crisis: Escalation Points  1-5: November 2013 – January 2014,” Russian and Eurasian Politics, 9 April 2015, 


In order to understand the unfolding of events that led to the Maidan revolutionary coup and Ukraine’s civil war, it is necessary to examine the key turning points in the crisis leading up to these events. This chapter consists of analysis of several ‘escalation points’—coercive and violent turning points— in the making of this still ongoing Ukrainian and international crisis. Although they are not the only escalation and turning points in crisis politics, coercive and violent incidents are particularly powerful ones. Research shows that rhetoric and insult, for example, also raise the temperature in any developing or ongoing conflict. Nevertheless, it is almost always true that coercion and violence play the lead role in the development of conflictive dynamics. Coercive and violent acts sharply polarize, mobilize and radicalize actors and groups operating in the structure of strategic action attending any major political or revolutionary crisis. Therefore, I endeavor to determine here the dynamics of escalation through coercion and violence as well as which sides initiated escalations by raising the level of antagonism through coercion and violence at key moments in the Ukrainian crisis sparked in the most immediate sense by then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s decision to delay the signing of the draft EU association agreement.

Before looking at the various violent escalation points leading to the overthrow of Yanukovych, I examine the spark of the Maidan protests and the Western-funded infrastructure’s activization once the spark lit the fuse.

The Spark

The day that Ukraine’s signing of the EU AA stalled, November 21st, Mustafa Nayem, the abovementioned ethnic Afghan Western-connected activist journalist, called for demonstrations on the Maidan in a 8:00 pm Facebook posting: “Come on guys, let’s be serious. If you really want to do something, don’t just ‘like’ this post. Write that you are ready, and we can try to start something.” Within an hour, according to Nayem, there were more than 600 comments. He posted again: “Let’s meet at 10:30 p.m. near the monument to independence in the middle of the Maidan.” When Nayem arrived on the Maidan, there were perhaps 50 people gathered, he notes, but soon “the crowd had swelled to more than 1,000.”[1] Nayem’s FB posting set in motion the network of networks that USAID and other funders had been knitting together since the failure of the Orange revolution. The Maidan demonstrations had begun.

When on November 21st President Yanukovych reneged on signing the EUAA, deferring many Ukrainians’ dreamed ‘European choice, Nayem’s Hromadske.TV went online. As Nayem deployed social media to summon students and other young people to rally on the Maidan, would help drive the revolution along with other Western-funded strategic communication operations. Soros immediately stepped up to fund the ‘Ukrainian Crisis Media Center’ to inform the international community about events on the Maidan and in Ukraine. He and other Western entities likely funded ‘Euromaidan PR’, the website of the Official Public Relations Secretariat for the Headquarters of the National Resistance in Kiev.[2] The website’s ‘About’ page contains no information on its partners or funders.[3] These institutions became the strategic communications and propaganda infrastructure for the Maidan revolt.

Nayem described the mood and his own motivation for acting as he did in an April 2014 article published on the website of Soros’s Open Society Foundation:

Many factors contributed to Yanukovych’s downfall: his jailing of political opponents, pressure on independent journalists, and use of brutal force against peaceful protesters. But the final straw was his refusal to sign the agreement forming an alliance between Ukraine and the European Union.

The morning it happened, I was covering parliament in Kyiv. At first, I thought Yanukovych was just playing politics, holding out for more money or concessions from the EU. But soon it became clear that the agreement was truly dead. Facebook erupted with rage, people’s posts dripping with venom. They were so disappointed after all the buildup. They had so little faith in their own institutions, in their ability to make their voices heard; many had come to see the EU as their chance to change everything.

It was ironic that the defeat happened on November 21—10 years after the Orange Revolution that prevented Viktor Yanukovych from becoming president. It felt cruel that hope was being dashed on the very day that had come to symbolize freedom.

The outrage needed an outlet.[4]

The outlet became the mass demonstrations on the Maidan Square—EuroMaidan— and in other major cities, most of them in western and central Ukraine.

In Nayem’s view, after his spark set the pro-Western network in motion, “(t)hree acts” took place in the macabre play that over the next few months would become the Maidan: “First came the citizen protests. Then, the brutal government crackdown. And finally, after the first guy was killed on Hrushevsky Street, what I call “the Maidan of dignity.” At that point, it had become obvious that the people would never accept Yanukovych again.” This is the classic Western and pro-Maidan Ukrainian view. Initially, to be sure, the EuroMaidan protests were civil, peaceful even joyful, as the color revolution handbooks taught. As Nayem notes, it was “a true people’s movement, fueled by Ukranian citizens’ desire for a better government.”[5]

To be sure, young people and middle class families as well as grandparents graced the Maidan, but soon enough another force made its presence felt on the Maidan. Quite early on, in fact, some demonstrators, in particular ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist elements from groups, like Tyahnibok’s Svoboda Party and a new group organized on the Maidan itself, turned to coercion and then violence. They infiltrated Kiev’s central square and began to drive the violence and coercion that gradually came to dominate the tenor of the protests by deep winter. Regime violence also played an escalatory role, but that role was played often first by the protests’ neo-fascist elements as well. The security and police forces usually responded with more violence. The regime also brought in toughs, so called ‘titushki’, from the countryside to supplement the police and provoke the demonstrators. The pro-regime forces’ coercion complemented the pro-Maidan nationalists’ efforts, creating a tit-for-tat spiral of violence that escalated the crisis from a political one to a potentially regime transformational, even a revolutionary one.

Escalation Point 1: The First Violence

Typically, the first violence mentioned in most media and other reports on the Maidan demonstrations is that ostensibly carried out on Yanukovich’s orders by the Berkut police in the early morning dark hours of November 30th. At that time, an attempt was made by the Berkut special police forces to clean the Maidan square of demonstrators during the sleeping hours when the crowd thinned down to a few hundred.

In reality, the first violent clash between police and the demonstrators occurred on the evening of November 24th. Several reports in non-mainstream but far from alternative Western media report that demonstrators attacked police in the early morning hours on the evening of November 25th “for the second night running” as police “struggled to keep order.” Business News Europe reported: “In the morning of November 25, police used tear gas and batons to disperse a crowd around the government headquarters after numerous protesters hurled rocks and tried to tear off officers’ helmets” (my emphasis).[6] The independent and pro-democracy Russian daily Nezavisimaya gazeta also reported that the demonstrators initiated the violence by throwing objects at the police and that there were numerous aggressive youths calling on the crowd to storm already the presidential palace, turn over buses or engage in other such violent acts.[7] The pro-Kiev Kyiv Post reported that more clashes broke out that evening when demonstrators attacked a police van, which turned out to be a police mobile eavesdropping post. Police moved in to retaliate and more violence ensued.[8] Also, it appears that photographic evidence that would support the print reports cited above were cleansed from some Internet websites, for example, that of the pro-Maidan, now pro-Kiev Kyiv Post. The Kyiv Post removed an article, which is cached on the Internet; only its accompanying photographs remain, but only 7 of the original 14 photographs. One of the seven remaining photos shows members of the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party front and center at the demonstrations.[9] The evidence that originally there were 14 pictures and that 7 have been removed comes from a mobile phone freeze frame still accessible on the Internet.[10] A video that briefly shows some of the violence remains on other websites.[11] Most Western sources did not identify which side initiated the violence, but tended to mention the police response first.[12] Therefore, the claim made by Western governments and media that the demonstrations were peaceful was already proving false. The demonstrators had escalated the situation from a political confrontation to a more tense and violent confrontation.

The likely perpetrators of this first violent episode were members of the ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist Svoboda Party and/or the Social-National Assembly. No casualty figures are available for this first violence, and it appears no one was killed, wounded, or hospitalized.

Brown Maidan: The Rise of ‘Right Sector’

The next data point for violent escalation was the Yanukovych’s November 30th late night attempt to clear the Maidan of demonstrators by depploying the ‘Berkut’ special riot police. For the first time, Ukrainian riot police used force against the Maidan protesters on 30, when they refused to disperse, resulting in dozens of injuries and the brief detention of 35 peaceful protestors on charges of hooliganism.[13] This escalation, however, was preceded by a non-violent escalation with implications for future violence that occurred four nights prior to the Berkut raid and crackdown on the Maidan’s emerging tent city.

On the evening of 29 November 2013, several neo-fascist parties even more radical than the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party joined to form what they called ‘Right Sector’ (Pravyy sektor) or RS.[14] Right Sector was to function officially as the Maidan’s defense force, but its founders’ in real purpose was for RS to become the nucleus and shock troops for a nationalist revolutionary takeover of the Maidan and overthrow of the Yanukovych government. The formation of RS meant the quasi-militarization of the Maidan and would escalate the conflict between regime and opposition, leading ultimately to the revolutionary seizure of power in February 2014. Four ultra-right and neo-fascist groups joined forces to found RS: Stepan Bandera’s Trident, named after the head of the Ukrainian nationalist leader who allied and carried out massacres of Poles and Jews in league with the Nazis during World War II; the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA); White Hammer; and the ultra-fascist Social National Assembly (SNA).

Right Sector was founded by Dmitro Yarosh “on the ideological and personnel foundation” of the group ‘Trizuby imeni S. Bandery’ (Trident in the name of S. Bandera) or simply ‘Trizuby.’ Born on 30 September 1971, Dmitro Anatolievich Yarosh began his political life during the perestroika era, becoming a member of Rukh in 1989. He co-founded ‘Trizuby’ in 1994 and led the organization from 1996 to 1999, then becoming its “main inspector” and again heading the group until autumn 2015 when he handed the reins to his deputy and the commander of RS’s military wing Andrei Stempitskii. Like many nationalists and ideologues, Yarosh is focused on the Ukrainian language and culture, having graduated from the Ivan Franko Drogobychskii Pedagogical University’s Philogical Department in 2001. He then published a book putting forward his ideas of a nationalistic revolution entitled The Ukrainian Revolution in the 21st Century. Yarosh described the purpose of founding RS: was “to state the position of rightist forces,” given the EuroMaidan’s limited goal of signing the EU AA, and pursue the goal of “implementing a nationalist revolution and overthrow the regime that we call a regime of internal occupation.”[15]

The source works for Right Sector’s philosophy, ideology, and propaganda are those of ‘integral nationalism’ proselytized by Bandera, Donstov, and other inter-war and post-war Ukrainian ultra-nationalist luminaries.[16]  Its programmatic key words are the “Ukrainian nation,” “the Ukrainian national idea,” “nation-centric” (natsiotsentichnoi), and “nationocracy” (natsiokratiya).[17] The “main slogan” of RS’s modified and softened electoral program is “God! Ukraine! Freedom!” The individual is subsumed to God and the “Homeland,” since, according to RS, “(t)he purpose of human existence is be closer to God,” and “(t)he way to God is through the Homeland.” Under the second part of the main slogan ‘Ukraine’, the program emphasizes that “the Almighty created us, the Ukrainians and the Ukrainian nation, and let His will be hallowed forever. Only in their own national state can Ukrainians, Ukrainian Christians, and Ukraine survive. So Ukraine for us – above all! By defending Ukraine and seeking to create a Ukrainian national state, we not only defend our national rights but, above all, the will of God. And so – God is with us!” Freedom is defined not in terms of individual freedom and rights but rather as the Ukrainian nation’s freedom protected by its own state: “Stateless and oppressed people can not act according to the laws of God, nor his own; he is doomed to live as those who oppress him dictate. And so the struggle for human freedom, the nation, and Ukraine is our Christian and national responsibility. Our duty is the cultivation and propagation of the Ukrainian national idea – the idea of ​​self-assertion of state of the Ukrainian nation, and the Ukrainian national state’s creation of an effective system of Ukrainian democracy.”[18]

The Ukrainian nationality and state—depicted as being under constant threat from alien forces: ethnic, foreign, religious and cultural—are placed above all else. All non-ethnic Ukrainians are judged on the basis of their support for building a home for the Ukrainian ethnicity – “Ukrainian Ukraine.” Thus, for RS, the “national state” is the consequence of the “natural desire” of every “developed” nation’s “political self-assertion through which it becomes full and sole master of their destiny in their land.” The realization of the “national state” is “a state in which citizens of other nations recognize the indigenous people of the host country and have not only the level of the (indigenous nation’s) rights but also its duties, know and respect its language, laws and history.” The educational system should create “nationally conscious, active, selfless and sacrificial citizens for the Ukrainian national state.” Similarly, cultural policy will aim to form the “national ethical and aesthetic consciousness of society, making every Ukrainian spiritual and ideological immune to alien cultural imperialism. In order to overcome the “religious and denominational fragmentation in Ukraine”, the state will be directly involved in religion seeking “the spiritual and ecclesiastical unity of all Christians” in “a single local national Christian Church” that will assume “responsibility before God and people for failing to lead the way and to bring Christ to the people of God entrusted to them to be what created it and who wants to see the Lord, and not what would make it different invaders and their heirs often – clear the servants of Satan.” [19]

The program claims Ukraine is undergoing a genocide, having fallen victim to “carefully cultivated and propagated perversion, drug addiction, alcoholism, fornication, homosexuality, violence, spirituality, denationalization, political apathy and more. The anti-Ukrainian government recruited young Ukrainian obedient servants, non-Ukrainian politicians, a mindless electorate, cosmopolitan business, unpretentious mercenaries, criminals, blind artists, foreign capital, and disenfranchised and cheap slaves.” Simlarly, media is seen as being under the control of alien forces underminging the nation: “Ukraine’s information space was formed by non-Ukrainian, anti-Ukrainian, cosmopolitan and pro-Russian oligarchic clans, and this is not in the interests of the Ukrainian nation, society and state. The media became a powerful and permanent factor in the de-spiritualization and ideological and political denationalization, demoralization and disorientation of Ukrainian society. Therefore, the dominance of clans in Ukraine’s information space of Ukraine must be replaced by its fundamental Ukrainization.”[20]

Like many nationalistic programs, RS’s is fetishistic about the “village” as the purified carrier of the nation: “The Ukrainian village – formed by the millennia, an effective and unique system of full material and spiritual sustenance, national- and people-creating and nation-preserving, can not be ‘wasted’ villages. Each carries a Ukrainian national share of the world and every need of the nation. (We must) revive, develop and maintain every village – not just as a production unit, but above all as a living and irreplaceable cell of the national organism.”[21]

In foreign policy, RS’s program proposes a non-aligned course in the current understanding of that term. Partnership with NATO, the EU, the CIS and other existing international organizations is regarded as “dangerous and destrcutve.” Ukrainian geopolitical strategy is to be based on something like Pilsudski’s ‘Intermarium’: the creation of a “priority space” encompassing a north-south axis extending from the Baltic Sea to the Caucasus and Black Sea based on countries Ukraine has “historically cooperated with” – Sweden, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Georgia).[22]

The RS program’s vagueness and generalities masks the true extent of the neo-fascist extremism that characterizes the group and its members. The extent of RS’s extremism is revealed in other RS documents, public statements of RS leaders, and the program documents of its other member parties. A short course for RS members on the ideology of “nationalist revolution” and “nationocracy” states that the RS is founded on the ideas of OUN, Bandera, among other Ukrainian ultra-nationalists. Specifically, the polity of the “National Order” will be built not on the basis of political competition and parties but on “orders” or brotherhoods designed not to represent various interests but rather to unite the Ukrainian nation in a “Ukrainian Community of Independent States” (Ukrainskaya Sobornaya Samostiynoi Derzhava) or UCCD. In both Ukrainian and Russian, the concept of ‘sobornost’ means an organic unity that presumes unity of beief and values and precudes conflict between interests within a community. Thus, quoting the nationalist philosopher Ivan Franko, the course notes assert: “Everything that goes beyond the frame of the nation is either hypocrisy or sterile sentimental fiction.” Thus, the Ukrainian collective order envisaged by RS’s philosophy rejects the “empires of communism, Russian great-power chauvinism, democratic liberalism and cosmopolitanism” which are inherently “hostile to the Ukrainian nation.” Ukraine is seen as “caught on the edge between two worlds,” and Ukrainian nationalists’ “sacred mission” is to defend the West in “the ongoing struggle against the latest generation of Asian hordes” and “create a new life.”[23]

The course instructs members that “the only way to build the Nation and the State is by way of a National Revolution made by the Ukrainian people and led by the National Revolutionary Order.” Thus, the RS sees the present Maidan regime as a “transitional stage between the USSR and UCCD” in the “Militant Ukrainian National Revolution,” which has a strong religious element and “does not distinguish between the defense of the Christian faith and the Church of the national liberation struggle.” Thus, the RS has an attitude toward the Maidan regime, constitutions and the law that is highly contingent and based on expediency and the higher value—the nation—rather tha the rule of law. The course notes:

The Constitution is a law and no more, the basic law, but only a law. Establishing the national idea should be primary in the minds of the people, not only in the Constitution. People can exist without a Constitution, but they are doomed without a national idea, which turns it into a nation. The national idea is above the law. … The national idea is the general goal of the nation; the law is just the means of implementing the national idea. … The national idea is in the category of the permanent, but the law is in the category of the variable. Change in the law—the rule in the state—that is a modification or replacement of the national idea is a national crime. Woe to the people and state authorities where laws run contrary to the national idea. If the law is contrary to the national idea, it is not the law, but rather instructions for supervisors and rules for the conduct of slaves. Citizens do evil, if the execute laws opposed to the nation, state, or humanity.[24]

Despite the course’s significant talk of Christian love, the RS rejects the idea of bloodless revolution. Yarosh’s deputy Andrey Stempitskiy, who would head the RS’s military wing after the Maidan’s ouster of Yanukovych, warned: “Undoubtedly, completely bloodless revolution is impossible. After the revolution the intensification of hostilities is quite expected. And the one who says “I do not want blood!” has yet to say “I do not want the return of the occupied territories” and “I do not want to Ukraine’s liberation from the power of Moscow.” Freedom and greatness of a nation is something for which you pay a high price.[25]

Thus, like other extremist ideologies, the RS member is expected to sacrifice his life for the cause: “To ensure the existence of future generations of our nation, the Ukrainian nationalist revolutionary is willing to give even his life. … Death in the struggle for the freedom, power and glory of Ukraine is eternal life in the memory of the people, is the crown of eternal glory in the nation, is the eternal paradise with the Lord. Each death is new proof of the holiness and justice of our ideas, its vitality and victory.” In some sections of the RS short course the cult of self-sacrifice attains a level equal to that of the jihadists’ cult of death and martyrdom: “This Cossack Baida, three days hanging on the hook, but did not betray his people. The woman – Olga Basarab, bloody perished from beatings and torture without betraying the slightest confidence. In heroically died without zlamavshys, Bilas, Danylyshyn, Legend and second fighters. Their names have become immortal. You act in this way and when you find yourself in the most critical, hopeless situation quietly and calmly, as they killed themselves, shoot yourself in the forehead or explode a grenade—proof of Your ideology, self-holiness, courage and endurance.”

Also like many extremist organizations there is a strong dose of primordialism, of a national existence and struggle of “Millenial” proportions. The nation’s past heroes are numerous and reached levels of “superhuman heroism” against eternal and omnipresent enemy elements that the present generation is obliged to emulate. Members are encouraged to “(a)venge the deaths of the great mighty ones”: “The enemies of the Ukrainian nation killed her best sons – chiefs, leaders, and political men (Grand Knights). They all perished in cruel deaths at the of an executioner, because rightly they fought for freedom for you, your family and the entire Ukrainian people. This struggle is always a feast, and who opposes it is a criminal and tyrant. That is why revenge for the death of our Great National Knights is infinite, reasonable, just, and holy. Their Hot blood penetrated the black earth, crying for vengeance. This blood fire burns thee, that thou shouldst not forgive wrongs. This revenge was, is and shall be holy.[26] The reference to red blood sinking into the black earth is a nod to RS’s black and red flag.

At the same time that RS is committed to violent national revolution, it claims to adhere to a long-term strategy focused primarily on expanding its influence in society and secondarily on infiltrating state organs. Stempitskiy notes: “(T)o take the path of revolution does not mean to go right now and storm the Administration of the President and the Verkhovna Rada. This would mean lost opportunities in catching up rapidly in all areas – in the promotion (of the movement), the formation of structures, and winning over those social groups that understand there is no alternative to the  revolutionary path and are looking for someone to lead.”[27] The RS short course supports an “auxiliary” strategy of the “penetration of nationalists into the camp of the authorities.”[28] The strategy is clearly one of building the movement’s strength before engaging the revolutionary seizure of power.

Yarosh and other RS leaders have been insistent that RS is not anti-Semitic. It would be more accurate to say that RS is not openly anti-Semitic. Thus, RS’s program states anti-semitism is an enemy ideology along with communism and several others, but it refers to “cosmopolitanism” and “cosmopolitan business” a code phrase for Jewish business.[29] Upon close questioning they tend to reveal an anti-Jewish bias. For example, when asked in a March 2014 interview with a Western journalist whether RS was anti-Semitic, a top RS leader, Igor Mazur, said this was impossible since his son’s godfather was “half Jewish.” However, he also stated that all of Ukraine’s hated oligarchs are Jewish and he does not like them because thay “care only for their trans-national business empires, for making money. They don’t really care for Ukraine.” When asked if all Ukrainian oligarchs are Jewish, he simply shrugged, and when asked if the unpopular Yulia Tymoshenko is Jewish, he replied: “We don’t know for sure. We think she has some Jewish blood in her.”[30]

Moreover, RS leaders have allied with extremists with anti-Semitic leanings. In March 2014, shortly after Yanukovych’s fall, media reported that Yarosh had appealed on his social media ‘VKontakte’ page to the amir ‘Abu Usman’ Doku Umarov of the jihadist successor group of the separatist Chechen Republic of Ichkeriya (ChRI) for assistance in fighting the emerging Donbass separatist movement. PS rejected the charge, claiming Yarosh’s account had been hacked.[31] However, Yarosh’s RS colleague, Igor Mazur, acknowledge at the time that he along with 14 of his comrades fought against Russia for the ChRI and for Georgia against its breakaway republic of Abkhazia. He claims the ChRI separatists awarded him medals for valor for his combat role.[32]

The program of the other main RS-founding group, the SNA, also does not leave a reader sanguine. It emphasizes the very same concept of “nationocracy.” Its proposes banning all political parties, organizations, associations and ideological groups. The elite of the Ukrainian ethnic group or nation will hold full power: “Political power is wholly owned by the Ukrainian nation through its most talented, idealistic and altruistic national representatives who are able to ensure proper development of the nation and its competitiveness.” “Supreme power (executive, legislative and judicial) of the Ukrainian state will be in the hands of the head of state, who is personally responsible to the nation’s own blood and property.” Capitalism is to be “dismantled” and democracy is to be “eliminated.” All actions that fail “to comply with obligations to the nation and the state will entail the restriction of civil rights or deprivation of citizenship … The ultimate goal of Ukrainian foreign policy is world domination.”[33]

The SNA’s leader at the time of Right Sector’s formation was Andriy Biletskiy, who prior to running the SNA led the equally ultra-nationalist ‘Patriots of Ukraine,’ the military wing of the UNA, which was in the business of beating immigrants. In a 2010 interview he described his organization as nationalist “storm troopers.”[34] A year later Biletskiy was in prison, after his organization—renamed the SNA—had been involved in a series of shootouts and fights. In 2007, Biletskiy castigated a government decision to introduce fines for racist remarks, noting: “So why the ‘Negro-love’ on a legislative level? They want to break everyone who has risen to defend themselves, their family, their right to be masters of their own land! They want to destroy the Nation’s biological resistance to everything alien and do to us what happened to Old Europe, where the immigrant hordes are a nightmare for the French, Germans and Belgians, where cities are ‘blackening’ fast and crime and the drug trade are invading even the remotest corners.”[35] Biletskiy has also said: “The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival. A crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.”[36] Following Maidan’s overthrow of Yanukovych, the SNA and Patriots of Ukraine were rewarded with Biletskiy’s release from prison, being regarded as a political prisoner by the new Maidan regime. The Maidan regime’s MVD would give Biletskiy command of one of the many volunteer battalions tasked with suppressing the movement for autonomy/secession in Donbass, and, as I discuss in a later chapter, his ‘Azov Battalion would be charged with war crimes.

Throughout the early winter, Right Sector, SNA and Svoboda members would infiltrate the EuroMaidan defense forces organized in units called ‘hundreds’ (sotnyi), a subdivision of Cossack formations. Andriy Parubiy, the commander of the EuroMaidan’s delf-defense hundreds, was a founding leader of the neo-fascist SNA, which he later left for Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party. Parubiy would become the Maidan government’s first Chairman of the Defense and Security Council.

Escalation Point 2: The November 30th Berkut Crackdown

Mobilization in the western provinces, where from many of the radicals would come to the Maidan began early on. On the November 25th, the day that saw the protesters’ initial violence against the police on Kiev’s Maidan. Ultra-nationalists of the Svoboda Party and other Galicians in Lviv (Lvov) called the population to the city center to mobilize for a march on Kiev. Declaring Lviv’s secession from Yanukovich’s Ukraine as a “free European city”, the mayor hailed the Galicia’s European messianic mission in the east:  “We have always been Europe. Today, our task is to ensure that this European spirit prevailed all over Ukraine.”[37] The attempted regime crackdown on November 30th would increase the flow of radical nationalists as well as democrats to the Maidan.

It is likely that the Berkut police or the SBU found out about RS’s formation and were put on high alert beforehand, and the decision to attempt clearing the Maidan was almost certainly motivated at least in part by the news of Right Sector’s formation. The failed attempt to clean the square of demonstrators was executed by unleashing several hundred baton-weilding Berkut and hired-hands or titushki, who brutally beat apparently defenseless demonstrators. This was a significant escalation in violence but not a major one, having led to no fatalities or use of firearms. Tens, even a hundred or more were injured, but no firearms were used by either side. Although President Yanukovych condemned the November 30th Berkut beatings and promised an investigation, much of Kiev and all of western Ukraine and the Western media were convinced that he had ordered the crackdown. As a result, conflict between police and demonstrators escalated but remained at a manageable low-intensity level.

At the same time, the incident further mobilized both democrats and nationalists in Kiev and in other parts of the country, especially in the more pro-nationalist and anti-Russia western provinces. The result was the gradual radicalization and militarization of Maidan, the seeming vindication of the creation of Right Sector, and the mobilization of democratic and nationalist opposition forces in the provinces. Escalation in the use of coercion and violence was coming to a new turning point that would have implications far beyond Kiev’s city center.

International and Domestic Coercive Escalation

Tension and conflict between police and Maidan demonstrators continued to gradually escalate through the first week of December, with the nationalists’s beginning to use sticks, bricks, and Molotov cocktails against police and the police occasionally beating demonstrators. By the second week of December, with the weather turning colder during and the holidays on the horizon, the Maidan demonstrators seemed to begin to fade away. But coercion and violence on the ground in any local conflict are not the only sources of potential escalation. Foreign influences can push conflicting sides to escalate in the belief they have powerful foreign backers, the support of which can tip the scales in their favor. In mid-December, President Yanukovych was set to travel to Moscow for discussions on a possible economic rescue package and Ukraine’s involvement in the Eurasian Economic Union. It was at this crucial point that Washington stepped up its backing for the protests and would-be revolution.

On Wednesday, December 12th, US Deputy Secretary of State Viktoria Nuland and US Ambassador to Kiev Jeffrey Pyatt encouraged the demonstrators to stay the protest course by walking through Maidan Square and handing out cookies. In a press conference during her visit, Nuland said she had a “tough but realistic” conversation with President Yanukovych and believed it possible to save Ukraine’s “European future” if he showed “leadership.” US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki suggested the US might impose sanctions on Ukraine, and the US government-funded think tank Freedom House called on Yanukovych to resign immediately and declare early elections as “the only non-violent way to end the standoff with demonstrators.” Like Nuland, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle toured the Maidan protest camp with two Ukrainian opposition leaders and asserted that “Ukraine should be on board with Europe.”[38] The Polish Foreign Ministry set up a tent on Maidan Square, according to some reports.[39]

At the same time, the US government began to threaten Yanukovych with sanctions as punishment for the November 30th violence. The statements began to hold the Ukrainian administration for any violence by police forces, even if it came in response to demonstrators’ violence, which was increasing among the nationalists. On December 11th Sen. Ben Cardin, head of the U.S. CSCE Helsinki Commission issued a warning: “If the Ukrainian government does not take concrete action to improve the situation, the international community should seriously consider additional measures, including targeted sanctions against Ukrainian officials responsible for violations human rights, including the repression of peaceful protests.”[40] The same day, U.S. State Depertment spokeswoman Jen Saki stated that all policy options, including sanctions, were on the table.[41] At the same time, eleven U.S. senators introduced a draft Senate resolution No. 319 stipulating that “in case of further use of force against peaceful protesters, the US president and Congress may consider whether to apply targeted sanctions, including visa restrictions and the freezing of assets, on the persons responsible for the issuance of the order or commit violence.”[42]

In the days that followed the cookie walk and threats of U.S. sanctions, the barricades that had been disappearing from the square were returned by the demonstrators. But on Sunday, December 15th, a rally of some 200,000 supporting Ukraine’s ‘European choice’ was feted by two US Senators – Democrat from Connecticut Sen. Christopher Murphy—sponsor of Senate resolution No. 319 threatening sanctions against Yanukovych—and former Republican Party presidential candidate John McCain (Arizona), well-known for his anti-Russian and bitterly anti-Putin stances. McCain’s words seemed calculated to whip up an anti-Russian sentiment. He declared: “We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe. We…want to make it clear to Russia and Vladimir Putin that interference in the affairs of Ukraine is not acceptable to the United States. People of Ukraine, this is your moment. The free world is with you, America is with you, I am with you.” Warning Putin not to interfere in Ukrainian politics from Maidan Square in central Kiev seemed blatantly hypocritical and designed to antagonize Moscow.[43] While in Kiev, McCain also met with ultra-nationalist Svoboda party leader Oleh Tyagnibok, whose followers had been and would continue to play a leading role in the violence on Maidan and the ultimate coercive seizure of power in February. Russian officials not surprisingly expressed their dissatisfaction with this American interference.[44]

Taken together or simply in its essential parts, the activity of Nuland, Payatt, McCain and Smith seems to constitute a violation of the Helsinki Final Act’s clauses banning the interference of member-states of the OSCE in the domestic politics of its other member-states. The Final Act’s Section VI on ‘Non-Intervention in Internal Affairs’ reads:

The participating States will refrain from any intervention, direct or indirect, individual or collective, in the internal or external affairs falling within the domestic jurisdiction of another participating State, regardless of their mutual relations.

They will accordingly refrain from any form of armed intervention or threat of such intervention against another participating State.

They will likewise in all circumstances refrain from any other act of military, or of political, economic or other coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by another participating State of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind.

Accordingly, they will, inter alia, refrain from direct or indirect assistance to terrorist activities, or to subversive or other activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another participating State (author’s emphases).[45]

Article VI’s final clause referring to the refraining ‘from direct or indirect assistance to … subversive activities directed toward the violent overthrow of the regime of another participating State’ is perhaps gotten around or trumped by the deniability—dubious albeit—provided by the ‘dual-use political technologies of democracy promotion and color revolutions described in previous chapters. It would seem that the politics, indeed crisis politics on the Maidan in those days, would constitute the ‘internal affairs falling within the jurisdiction’ of Ukraine and not that of the US or its officials. Nuland, Pyatt, and McCain clearly failed to ‘refrain from any intervention, direct or indirect, individual or collective,’ in Ukraine’s internal affairs. One would reasonably deem their intervention as rather direct. Democracy-promotion and crisis-inducing activities in Yugoslavia, Georgia and 2004 Ukraine would also seem to fulfill the criteria of indirect if not direct subversive ‘activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another participating State’ in the OSCE under Helsinki.

Moreover, the Budapest Memorandum much cited by Western officials and pundits after Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March 2014 to prove Putin had violated international law and the ‘rules of the game,’ pledged Russia and the U.S. to a “commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”[46] Thus, the West had violated not just the Helsinki Final Act but very arguably the Budapest Memorandum as well—one of the pillars of Ukraine’s state sovereignty—by encouraging revolutionaries to continue their demonstrations, helping to fund those same revolutionaries, and backin their illegal takeover after the fact as a ‘democratic’ development. For Moscow, this could be the green light to reunite the Crimea, the status of which Moscow agreed not to raise on the basis of the Budapest Memorandum’s assurances, which rendered Ukraine a neutral country.

The EU seemed to move in the opposite direction from the Americans, simultaneously undermining its Ukraine integration efforts and Yanukovich’s incentive to pursue them when it announced it was terminating all further efforts to convince Kiev to sign the agreement. As noted above, the result was that Yanukovich’s trip to Moscow produced the Kremlin rescue package with the purchase of $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and a cut in the price of natural gas for Kiev.

Escalation Point 3: 21 January 2014

By early January, it seemed that the American gambit had failed. Maidan had largely emptied out. The Catholic Christmas, the New Year, and the Orthodox Christmas drained the Maidan and revolutionary activity all but ceased. One pro-Maidan Western media outlet lamented “Why Did Ukraine’s Eurorevolution Fail?”[47] However, this was a misimpression. Many of the EuroMaidan demonstrators had simply returned to their homes in the provinces for the holidays, though the square was filled with as many as 2 million revelers to bring in the fateful New Year. Indeed, the year began in ominous fashion with torchlight marches and demonstrations by neo-fascists and nationalists to commemorate Bandera’s 105th birthday all across central and western Ukraine on New Year’s Day, including in Kiev, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Khmelnitsk.[48] Party of Regions Rada deputy Vadim Kolesnikov, concerned about the wave of ultra-nationalist demonstrations, warned of the growing neo-facist presence on Maidan on New Year’s Eve. He, like many others since, was ignored not on the basis of investigation of the facts but as a consequence of his political affiliation.[49]

EuroMaidan canceled the ‘traditional’ “Sunday people’s veche” (assembly) set for January 5th, two days before Orthodox Christmas, which was celebrated on the Maidan with song and prayer and without incident. Through early January, Maidan’s tent city remained relatively quiet. Some demonstrators returned to the Maidan, but they were initially few and largely limited to the ultra-nationalists from the RS, PS, and other radical groups. Opposition figure, Fatherland party Rada Deputy Anatoliy Gritsenko, lamented that there had been fewer protestors on Maidan in recent weeks and that many of its tents were standing empty.[50]

Simultaneously, those increasingly associated with RS and PS, such as “Commandant of the tent city” on Maidan, Fatherland party Rada deputy Andriy Parubii, promised Maidan would go on the offensive after Christmas on January 7th.[51] Another EuroMaidan commandant, Fatherland party Rada deputy Arsen Avakov announced at the same time that after the holidays EuroMaidan would make a decision of “beefing up security” and the heavenly hundreds, increasingly infiltrated by RS and other ultra-nationalists.[52] EuroMaidan’s “Command of the Staff of the National Resistance” remained based in central Kiev’s Trade Union House throughout the holidays, despite a dispute about whether its lease had ended.[53]

With the gathering rightist storm forming, one of very few lulls in the crisis, giving the Yanukovich regime a chance to divide the parliamentary opposition and the Maidan demonstrators and thereby secure an agreement for a peaceful resolution for the crisis, was missed. Instead of negotiating with the troika of Fatherland (Batkyvshchina) party leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Udar party leader Klitchko and Svoboda’s Tyagnibok during the post-holiday lull in demonstrations, Yanukovich continued to hope that the demonstrations would peter out, and in the interim the police could maintain relative order. Talks with the opposition only would come a month later when the violence had escalated significantly, and this occurred on the initiative and effort of the EU and Russia to avoid an impending catastrophe. In lieu of talks, matters escalated and spinned out of control. The day after Christmas the Maidan movement confirmed its plan for the month of January, including the formation of a strike committee, and reiterated its demands that President Yanukovich, Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov, and MVD chief Vitaliy Zakharchenko resign and extraordinary, mid-term presidential and parliamentary elections be held immediately.[54]

As EuroMaidan prepared for its Sunday veche of the new year on the 12th, a clash between demonstrators and the Berkut riot police was sparked when demonstrators blocked and tried to seize a Berkut van in late evening of the 10th. Fatherland party Rada Deputy Yurii Lutsenko and three deputies from Svoboda were beaten, and Lutsenko and 17 other demonsrators were hospitalized. Some 20 Berkut were injured, according to police, and one had to be hospitalized.[55] For the first time, a Western official acknowledged that demonstrators were becoming increasingly violent, when in response to the January 10th clash the EU’s deputy ambassador to Kiev called on both sides to eschew violence.[56]

As detailed further below, it was during the week of January 12th that pro-Maidan protestors seized scores of regional and city administration buildings in western Ukraine. In Kiev, on January 14th demonstrators from RS and Svoboda began blocking the Supreme Rada and presidential administration buildings to prevent the parliament from beginning its winter session and passing a budget, setting off tension inside parliament and Berkut-protest standoff on Bank Street, where the presidential administration is located.[57] On January 15th EvroMaidan’s commandant Parubii threatened that if the Berkut attempted to clean the Maidan square, the self-defense ‘hundreds,’ which had increased by 500-700 fighters and now numbered some 2,500 mostly ultra-nationalist RS and PS fighters, would respond with force.[58]

Yanukovich suddenly submitted a series of laws to counter the mounting protests. Passed by the Rada on January 16th immediately and without debate, the new laws seriously restricted the rights to public protest and the activities of nongovernmental organizations and cracked down on independent news media. The new laws required demonstrations and the particulars of their conduct to be approved by the MVD. It was forbidden to wear masks, helmets or camoflage at demonstrations, complicating the Maidan’s self-defense hundreds’ and ultra-nationalists’ tactics. A 15-day sentence was stipulated for pitching a tent.[59] Another law toughened slander laws, and another eased the circumstances for which a Rada deputy could be stripped of parliamentary immunity, both constraining freedom of speech. These laws were adopted with no advanced notice and no debate in the Rada and immediately signed into law by president Yanukovich. Although the laws were not as draconian as they were portrayed in the West and by the opposition, their adoption nevertheless raised fears that another massive attempt to clear the Maidan and arrest demonstrators was imminent. This was especially so, since in the morning of the 16th an influx of some 2,000 Berkut around the Maidan was being reported by the automobile movement of EuroMaidam, the so-called AutoMaidan.[60] Therefore, the new laws breathed new into the Maidan protest and allowed the ultra-nationalists to seize the initative and move into the movement’s vanguard.[61]

Immediately, in the evening of January 16th, the parliamentary opposition troika of UDAR’s Klichko, Fatherland’s Yatsenyuk, and the ultra-nationalist Svoboda’s Tyahnybok took to the Maidan stage and called for a “national mobilization,” a general strike, and an all-national veche on the Maidan for Sunday, January 19th. Tyahnybok claimed that Yanukovich was taking orders from Putin, and Yatsenyuk implied the same.[62] An official opposition statement announcing the veche called for “full resistance” and “mass and immediate resistance by the people to stop the criminals and and defend the people from mass repressions.” One hundred public organizations supported the call, including the RS and SP.[63] After mid-month, the now entrenched and well-organized radicals began moving out from the square in greater numbes to storm and occupy government buildings. The ultra-nationalists’ began to systematize and intensify their use of bricks and firebombs, catapulting them with improvised devices. The numbers of demonstrators again rose to many thousands on the weekdays and tens of thousands on the weekends. The smell of an imminent explosion was in the air.

As it would turn out, the official parliamentary opposition was beginning to lose some of its luster and that lost luster went to the Right Sector and Svoboda Party radicals. This was tipping point, the fulcrum between peaceful protest in pursuit of a transitional regime transformation and violent, illegal revolutionary regime change. The January 21st demonstration of at least 100,000 started peacefully enough with protestors listening to speeches from the opposition troika and other opposition figures. But as the account of one American eyewitness, William Risch, who chronicled the events, shows that the profession politicians’s rhetoric matched neither the mass’s new level of discontent, being whipped up by the neo-fascists’ growing presence and violence, nor the urgency of the moment as it had been portrayed since the January 16th laws by the opposition’s leadership and as it could justifiably be perceived by average Ukrainians and many others. The pivot point came when an unidentified member of the AvtoMaidan took the stage and proposed that the opposition field a single candidate in any mid-term election agreed to by Yanukovich, but the demonstration’s organizers cut off his microphone. Later Fatherland’s Yatsenyuk designated anyone wanting a single opposition leader a provocateur.[64] In response, according to Risch and another Ukrainian source, thousands of protestors began to leave the Maidan, and Right Sector was able to mobilize some of them, organize attacks on the police and thus begin to “play first fiddle” in the revolution.[65] Risch describes the scene:

“I heard two men near me arguing over the political opposition’s weaknesses.  I heard whistling and booing from the hill opposite the stage, and I was convinced that real provocateurs – (Yanukovich’s) hired thugs, or “titushky” – had broken into the crowd and were starting a fight.  Then I heard people chanting, “Lidery!  Lidery!” (Leaders!  Leaders!).  Yatsenyuk warned that there would be provocateurs interested in starting violence with the authorities.  Then I heard similar whistles and boos.  The crowds started leaving.  I saw hundreds of them file past me as they went up Instytuts’kyi Street, up the hill past the barricades. …

(T)housands of such people drifted away from the Maidan and headed in the direction of the Supreme Rada, against opposition leaders’ warnings.  A crowd of people stopped at the foot of Hrushevskyi Street, just beyond European Square, where a cordon of riot police and police busses and trucks blocked the road.  Automaidan activists began a demonstration in front of the police barricade.  When Vitaly Klychko tried to turn the crowd back to the Maidan, members of the extremist group Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) doused him with a fire extinguisher.  Then Right Sector members started a fight with the riot police.  They hurled pavement stones, sticks, Molotov cocktails, and petards.  The police responded by attacking them with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and water from fire hoses. The protestors managed to burn down all of the busses blocking Hrushevskyi Street, yet police forces held firm.  After 11 hours of fighting, at least 100 people were injured.[66]

Right Sector’s coordinators on social networking sites like VKontakte had urged its activists and other protestors to openly oppose “pacifist Maidan.”[67] And indeed, on the holy Day of the Epiphany, Right Sector had seized the initiative of opposition and violent revolution. As the violence continued through the night and the next two days, demonstrators led by Right Sector and Svoboda radicals violently seized several government buildings, including the Justice Ministry on January 19th, and barricaded themselves inside, preventing access.[68] Also, RS and other radical groups tied to the self-defense hundreds escalated use of Molotov cocktails, chains, metal bars to attack police.

From Risch’s description, the Berkut and police initially conducted themselves with restraint in the face of extremely aggressive taunting by demonstrators and Right Sector ‘activists’ before the latter attacked them. The security forces’ response and the continued fighting over the next two days, January 20-21 was severe, but the pro-Maidan ‘Civic Maidan’ group clearly exaggerated and whipped up tensions even more when it reported that the fighting led to over 30 medical workers being “shot and beaten,” over 70 journalists shot, over 500 protestors injured, over 50 activists kidnapped, and over 5 protestors killed.[69] Other sources gave somewhat lower figures for protest casualties. Berkut and police casualties, according to the MVD, amounted to 235 needing medical assistance and 104 being hospitalized, with no mention of fatalities.[70]

The first deaths and use of firearms on January 21st marked another escalation in violence. Three, not five, demonstrators were killed by firearms on that day. Ukrainian Yuriy Verbytskiy became the Maidan protest’s first fatality. Having been abducted, his body was later found in woods outside Kiev with signs of torture. However, no one witnessed the abduction or torture, and the perpetrators were never found. A 25-year old Belorussian, Mikhail Zhiznevskiy, and Sergei Nigoyan from Armenia also were shot. At least one of them was reportedly killed by a police sniper, but in the chaos of the street violence no eyewitnesses could pinpoint the source of shots no less the perpetrator.[71] The opposition contended that they were shot by police on Kiev’s Hrushevskiy Street, where demonstrators had been throwing bricks torn from the pavement and improvised firebombs at riot police for several days running. The government, however, claimed the two demonstrators were killed with hunting rifles, which police do not use.[72] Video later emerged showing demonstrators from the Right Sector, Svoboda Party and other groups – including Svoboda Party parliament deputy Ruslan Koshulynsky – carrying and using hunting rifles at various periods during the unrest in January and February, in particular during the February sniper attacks discussed in detail below.[73]

One year later, the Maidan regime’s own Ministry of Internal Affairs cast doubt on the EvroMaidan’s version of January 21’s events; a version that itself moved the regime-opposition confrontation closer still to a revolutionary outcome. Maidan Ukraine’s MVD deputy chief Vitaliy Sakal now reports that the first Maidan fatality, Zhiznevskiy, was shot with a pistol, and Nigoyan was shot with a hunting rifle, noting that police do use such weapons. Sakal adds: “The investigation is also considering among other versions a killing in order to provoke an escalation of the conflict and justify the use of weapons by protestors. It is confirmed by numerous materials from public sources, where people with firearms were recorded.” “It was also found that the dead bodies were removed, and the witnesses of the murder weren’t found.”[74] This gives creedence to the Yanukovich regime’s rejection of the charge that the police had committed the first killings of the Maidan revolution. A third version which lacks any supporting evidence is that one of the infamous titushki, using his own firearm or other weapons (against Nigoyan) killed one or more of the first victims of the revolutionary upheaval. The titushki were allied or paid, mostly young thugs, the regime transported to Kiev from the provinces who participated in counter-demonstrations or engaged the Maidan demonstrators in running street battles.

Finally, according to journalist Lyubov Melnikova, for example, the leader of the White Hammer at the time, Vladislav Goranin, told her that Nigoyan and Zhiznevskii, the first two Maidan protesters killed on January 21st, were shot by Yarosh’s fighters in a RS false flag operation. In January, White Hammer broke with RS, which it helped found, because it disagreed with RS actions. The White Hammer activists went to live in the Kiev mayor’s building, while RS occupied two administration buildings on Kreshchatik. Melnikova also reports that Goranin was detained several times by the authorities and met with Avakov frequently after Maidan.[75]

Despite the evidence to the contrary, the Yanukovich regime was and would continue to be blamed by most in central and western Ukraine and in the Western media. This would not be the last case in which questionable, unsubstantiated, and even false attributions of crimes would be made against the, albeit, corrupt and venal Yanukovich regime. In the end, the shootings sparked an escalation of neo-fascist demonstrators’ attacks on police forcing the January 28th repeal of the draconian laws passed less than two weeks earlier and the resignation of Prime Minister Mikhail Azarov the same day.

Sensing that the radicals, as is often so in revolutionary situations, were beginning to get the upper hand, in the early morning hours of January 21st Klichko reached out to Yanukovich who, Klichko claimed, “appeared worried” and agreed to set up a “special commission for crisis management” with representatives of his administration, the Cabinet and the moderate opposition troika of Klichko, Yatsenyuk, and Tyahnybok.[76] This effort would help pave the way for a similar one that would produce a potential exit from the crisis that, unfortunately, would not be ultimately taken. In the mid-January bloodshed, the RS, SP and other opposition radicals played the lead role – not for the last time – in tipping the dynamic from peaceful protest to violent revolutionary action.

Escalation Point 4: The Local Pro-Maidan Revolts

The next escalation point – the wave of regional revolts in western and central Ukraine in support of the Maidan uprising – was both violent and coercive, sometimes producing injured and wounded, sometimes not. Contrary to the now accepted view, the local revolts in the Crimea and Donbass, that seemed to spark the civil war, were not the first regional revolts with separatist undertones. Nor were they Crimean and Donbass revolts modeled simply on the seizure of power in Kiev. Rather, they took after the takeovers of local administration buildings across many of the country’s pro-Maidan, nationalist regions mostly in the west. As division, instability, and violent conflict began to grip the capitol, these dynamics began to spread across the entire country. It is important to emphasize that the pro-Maidan regional takeovers in the west occurred earlier than the anti-Maidan takeovers in the east and south and held the potential for secession or latent separatism. Thus, it was western Ukraine that set in motion the tactic what would rip Ukraine apart along its eastern and southern edges.

Indeed, as early as November 25th, revolutionary dual power and, more importantly latent separatism emerged in the west. As the very first violence began on Maidan in that evening, ultra-nationalists of the Svoboda Party and other European-messianic Galicians in Lviv (Lvov) called the population to the city center to mobilize for a march on Kiev in support of the Maidan demonstrators. Declaring Lviv’s rebirth as a “free European city”, the mayor hailed the Galicia’s European messianic mission to transform not just the country’s political practice and geopolitical orientation but to impose western Ukraine’s culture and ideology on the east: “We have always been Europe. Today, our task is to ensure that this European spirit prevails over all Ukraine.”[77] This attitude, reflected in the first post-revolutionary act of repealing Russian language rights in Russian majority regions in the east, along with the threat of neo-fascist violence helped to spark secessionism in Ukraine’s east and south months later.

In late January, dual power and potential for secession intensified in the west. Radical, mostly ultra-nationalist, pro-Maidan demonstrators began storming government buildings in central Kiev housing various ministries and other government offices. Days after the neo-fascist in Kiev began to move out of the central square and violently seize government buildings such as the Justice Ministry and Trade Union House, pro-Maidan protestors, led by the RS and SP toughs, began siezing dozens of regional and city administration buildings across western and central Ukraine, including the regional or ‘oblast government administrations’ (OGAs) of Lviv, Ivan-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Rovno, Khmelnitskii, Lutsk, Sumi, Chernovets, Poltava, Vinnitsa and Zhitomir. There were even attempts to do the same in the central province of Cherkassk and the mid-eastern provinces Dnepropetrovsk and Zaporozhe regions.[78] Videos of some of these takeovers show just how violent these takeovers were.[79] Some of these seizures were rolled back through talks or storming by police, and in some cases these same OGAs were re-taken by the pro-Maidan forces. Thus, on February 19th in Lviv the oblast administration, MVD, SBU, the prosecutor’s and other government buildings were seized for a second time.[80] All of these seizures mimicked the Maidan demonstrators’ seizures of government buildings in the country’s capitol.

On 19 February 2014, Lviv went beyond its ‘mere’ latent separatism of November, moving towards a declaration of independence from Ukraine in a decree establishing a monopoly on sovereignty in the oblast and an alternative government to Yanukovich’s then crumbling regime in Kiev. The local legislature established itself as a “People’s Rada” or “National Rada” and declared its full sovereignty over Lviv Oblast. The document also referred to the chairman of the Lviv Oblast Executive Committee Petro Kolodiy as such but also later in the document as the “chief of staff of the national (or people’s) resistance” and “President of the National Rada.”[81] The next step would clearly be secession.

Meanwhile, in the weeks following the mid-January, pro-Maidan regional takeovers, radical demonstrators would go on to seize even more government buildings in Kiev and ultimately the presidential administration and Rada buildings in the revolutionary seizure of power on February 20th. Legality had become the first casualty of the developing Maidan revolution. Revolutionary violence and illegality were speading across the contrary. Consequently, the Ukrainian multi-communal state began to suffer the second casualty of revolutuions in such states: the breakdown of its stateness. As occurred in many previous revolutions, the societal split was leading to both constitutional and legal nihilism, administrative breakdown, and the threat of territorial division and separatist conflict. Ironically, Ukraine – the union republic that put the last nail in the coffin of the USSR in December 1991 – was beginning to suffer a similar fate as a consequence of its own post-Soviet revolutionary upheaval. Once the political game moved outside legality and constitutionality, all bets were off and anything could and would happen. Ukraine would experience both the dissolution and reunification scenarios of revolutionary breakup simultaneously.

Escalation Point 5: The Bulatov and Chornovol Affairs

In July 2014 Russian state television was raked over the coals for issuing a report that Ukrainians had crucified a boy in the Donbass which was rapidly exposed as false.[82] But this was not the first false report of a crucifixion or torture in the Ukraine crisis. On the same day as the first casualties and use of firearms occurred, a similar atrocity allegedly carried out by Yanukovich’s Berkut occurred and was reported widely in the Ukrainian, Western and even Russian media. A Maidan activist named Dmitriy Bulatov disappeared on January 22nd and supposedly was kidnapped, tortured and crucified but ultimately released when thrown from a vehicle on the outskirts of Kiev by his captors on January 30th. Bulatov was the leader of the AutoMaidan, which was a movement of motorcade demonstrations. The last days of January and the first days of what would be a fateful February were filled with talk of this next alleged crime of the Yanukovich regime. This further alienated many societal elements from the Yanukovych regime before an investigation could be completed.

However, beyond a few bruises, the only sign of serious injury to Bulatov came in one photograph where the top of his left ear appears to have been clipped off. His attempt to prove crucifixion was completely unconvincing since damage to his hands was barely visible.[83] Doctors who examined Bulatov saying there had been no damage to his internal organs, and some were claiming the affair a fake.[84] The authorities suggested Bulatov’s disappearance might have been a ploy to exacerbate the already highly tense crisis. The opposition spoke of death squads operating in Ukraine and demanded an international investigation.[85] Bulatov was visited in hospital by future president Poroshenko before being sent to Lithuania and Germany ostensibly for treatment.[86] One week after the Maidan’s overthrow of Yanukovich, Bulatov was rewarded by his appointment as Minister of Sport and Youth.

Months later, this event appeared to have been something quite different than claimed by Bulatov and other Maidan activists at the time. In November 2014 Bulatov’s then deputy and now leader of AutoMaidan, Sergey Poryakov, said in a radio interview that the kidnapping was faked and those in AutioMaidan had known from the start it was so. Moreover, he described Bulatov as “rude” and suffering from a “star complex,” who had been kicked out of the group three days before his alleged kidnapping.[87]

A similar pattern occurred in the case of the alleged beating of Ukrainian journalist Tatyana Chornovol in December 2013. She was in fact beaten, but the motive remained in question. Opposition members and Western officials saw a Russian hand, but the prosecution’s investigation found a simple case of raod rage. Accordingly, the perpetrators claimed Chornovol, driving from Borispol to Kiev almost caused an accident cutting off their car. A chase ensued, and the cars bumped several times before Chornovol stopped her car and was dragged from the car and beaten.[88] In April 2015 after a long trial a Maidan regime court upheld the apolitical version of the crime as hooliganism and aggravated assault lacking any political motive whatsoever. Chornovol is now a Rada deputy elected to parliament on the ticket of Prime Minister Yatsenyuk’s National Front party.[89]

Yet US Ambassador to Ukriane, Geoffrey Pyatt had no doubts about the political nature of both the Bulatov and Chornovol cases at the time, blaming a Yanukovich, an alleged “enemies list,” and even a Russian “wet-job team”:

Yanukovych’s guys had an enemies list. A real, honest-to-god list of ‘here are the journalists that we need to go after, and here are the ones that are a threat to us.’ There was the attack on Tatyana Chornovol; there was the attack on a guy named Dmitry Bulatov, who was the leader of the auto-Maidan and who was abducted by Russian-speaking professional interrogators, who cut part of his ear off. They tortured him. The main line of questioning: What has the American embassy told you to do? How much money have you received from the American ambassador? They put nails through his hands. Ugly, ugly stuff. You had a number of disappearances. Everyone was sure that there was some Russian wet-job team, because everybody’s point of reference was the Orange revolution, which was concluded nonviolently.”[90]

It is now clear that Pyatt’s and the West’s understanding of these two events were anything but factual. Both cases were spun to appear political for the sake of the revolution despite the lack of any and all evidence, and Bulatov may have not only spun but entirely fabricated his account from whole cloth. As is too often true in politics and would be true throughout the Ukrainian crisis, perception trumped the facts in the Bulatov and Chornovol affairs and misperception intensified the mounting conflict.

* * *

On February 20th there was a major escalation of the violence, ending in a massacre. In the center of a European capitol over one hundred police and demonstrators were shot to death and hundreds more were wounded. The ‘snipers’ massacre’ was the most pivotal escalation point 6. The working paper on the snipers’ massacre is soon to be revised. The original is available at: WORKING PAPER: “Violence, Coercion and Escalation in the Ukrainian Crisis: Escalation Point 6: The ‘Snipers of February,” Russian and Eurasian Politics, 8 May 2015,



[1] Mustafa Nayem, “Uprising in Ukraine: How It All Began,” Open Society Foundation, 4 April 2014,

[2] Steve Weissman, “Meet the Americans Who Put Together the Coup in Kiev,” Ron Paul Institute, 25 March 2014,

[3] ‘About’ page,,, last accessed on 4 January 2016.

[4] Nayem, “Uprising in Ukraine: How It All Began.”

[5] Nayem, “Uprising in Ukraine: How It All Began.”

[6] “Ukraine’s president tries to calm tensions as clashes continue,” Business New Europe, 26 November 2013 and Kyiv Post,

[7] Tatyana Izhvenko, “Yevrointegratsiyu v Kieve travili gazom,” Nezavisimaya gazeta, 26 November 2013,

[8] Brian Bonner, “EuroMaidan rallies in Ukraine – Nov. 25 coverage,” Kyiv Post, 27 November 2013,

[9] Kostyantyn Chernychkin, “Police, demonstrators clash in Nov. 25 evening rally,” Kyiv Post, 26 November 2013,

[10] See Kyiv Post,

[11] See “Yevromaidan v Kieve, den chetvortyi: Khronika,”, 25 November 2013,

[12] See, for example, Luke Baker and Richard Balmforth, “Police, pro-Europe protesters clash in Ukraine, EU condemns Russia,” Reuters, 25 November 2013.

[13] Amnesty International Annual Report 2014/15 – Ukraine,

[14] “Privitannya Dmitra Yarosha z richnetseyu ‘Pravogo sektora’,”, 29 November 2015,

[15] “Dmitrii Yarosh,”,, last accessed on 27 January 2016.

[16] “Ideologichni osnovi Ukrainskoi derzhavnosti: Problema Vybori,”, 11 June 2015,, last accessed on 31 January 2016.

[17] “Ideologichni osnovi Ukrainskoi derzhavnosti: Problema Vybori;” Programa Pravogo Sektora,,, last accessed on 30 January 2016; and “Korotokiy ideolohichno vyhovniy kurs dlya vo tryzub im s Bandery ta pravoho sektora,”, 27 November 2015,, last accessed on 15 January 2016.

[18] Programa Pravogo Sektora.

[19] Programa Pravogo Sektora.

[20] Programa Pravogo Sektora.

[21] Programa Pravogo Sektora.

[22] Programa Pravogo Sektora.

[23] “Korotokiy ideolohichno vyhovniy kurs dlya vo tryzub im s Bandery ta pravoho sektora.”

[24] “Korotokiy ideolohichno vyhovniy kurs dlya vo tryzub im s Bandery ta pravoho sektora.”

[25] “Doroga na Donbas i Krym lezhit cherez Kyiv,”, 11 November 2015,

[26] “Korotokiy ideolohichno vyhovniy kurs dlya vo tryzub im s Bandery ta pravoho sektora.”

[27] “Doroga na Donbas i Krym lezhit cherez Kyiv.”

[28] “Korotokiy ideolohichno vyhovniy kurs dlya vo tryzub im s Bandery ta pravoho sektora.”

[29] Programa Pravogo Sektora.

[30] Matthew Schofield, “Leader of Ukraine’s revolution rails against Putin, Russian military and Jewish oligarchs,” Miami Herald, 15 March 2014,

[31] “Dmitrii Yarosh.”

[32] Schofield, “Leader of Ukraine’s revolution rails against Putin, Russian military and Jewish oligarchs.”

[33] Programa, Sotsialno-Natsionalna Assembleya,,, last accessed 15 September 2014. See also Gordon M. Hahn, Maidan Ukraine’s Neo-Fascist Problem,” Fair Observer, 23 September 2014,

[34] “Andrei Biletskii | Sotsial-natsionalizm – zolotoi vek Ukrainy,” YouTube, 7 December 2014,; Leonid Bershidskiy, “Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Money,” Bloomberg, 12 June 2015,; and Robert Parry, “US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine,” Consortium News, 13 June 2015,

[35] “Slovo bilogo vozhdya.pdf,” VKontakte,, last accessed on 29 January 2016; and Bershidskiy, “Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Won’t Get U.S. Money;” and Parry “US House Admits Nazi Role in Ukraine.”

[36] Tom Parfitt, “Ukraine crisis: The neo-Nazi brigade fighting pro-Russian separatists,” Telegraph (UK), 11 August 2014,

[37] Maryana Petsukh, “Lvovskii Yevromaidan: messianstvo v raskolotom vide,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 25 November 2013,

[38] Fred Weir, “Russia cries foul over Western embrace of Ukraine’s demonstrators,” Christian Science Monitor, 13 December 2013.

[39] “KYIV BLOG: Yanukovych backed into corner as EU suspends talks,” Business New Europe, 16 December 2013.

[40] News release, “Cardin Urges Immediate Action by Ukrainian Officials to Respect Human Rights,” Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, December 11, 2013,, last accessed on 11 December 2013.

[41] “Jen Psaki, Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, 11 December 2013,” U.S. Department of State, 11 December 2013,

[42] “S.Res.319 – A resolution expressing support for the Ukrainian people in light of President Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union.113th Congress (2013-2014),, 12 December 2013,

[43] The Guardian,; Fox News,; Reuters, and

[44] Weir, “Russia cries foul over Western embrace of Ukraine’s demonstrators”.

[45] “Helsinki Final Act, Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Helsinki, 1975,”,, p. 5, last accessed 4 February 2016.

[46] “Budapest Memorandums on Security Assurances,” Council on Foreign Relations, 5 December 1994,

[47] Vijai Maheshwari, “Why Did Ukraine’s Eurolution Fail?,” The Daily Beast, 5 January 2014,

[48] “Po Ukraine prokhodyat mitingi v chesti dnya rozhdeniya Bandery,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 1 January 2014,

[49] “Kolesnichenko uvidel na Maidane ‘peshernyi natsionalizm i element natsizma,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 2 January 2014,

[50] “Gritsenko: lyudei na Maidane vse men’she , chast palatok pustuyut,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 13 January 2014,

[51] “Oppozitsiya gotovitsya k novomu razgonu Yevromaidana,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 4 January 2014,

[52] “Avakov: Maidan primet reshenie po usileniyu bezopasnst posle prazdnikov,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 6 January 2014,

[53] “Yevromaidan ostanetsya v dome profsoyuzov, potomu chto ‘de-fakto dogovor deistvitelen,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 6 January 2014,

[54] “Maidan sozdaet stachkom i utverdil plan deistvii na yanvar’,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 8 January 2014,

[55] “Byvzshie podchinennyie izbili Lutsenko i aktivistov Yevromaidana,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 11 January 2015,

[56] “V YeS prizvali aktivistov i silovikov vozderzhat’sya ot nasiliya,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 11 January 2015,

[57] “Oppozitsiya blokiruet Radu. Benyuk zasevaet. Pod AP miting,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 14 January 2014,

[58] Valeriya Kondratova, “Parubii: Vlast’ gotova rasognat’ Maidan, est’ dva stsenarii,”, 15 January 2014,

[59] “Vlasti vybrali repressii. Ot strakha,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 16 January 2014, and “Rada prinyla zakony, otkryvayushchie put’ k massovym repressiyam, fond ‘Vozrozhdeni’,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 16 January 2014,

[60] “Yevromaidan ne shturmirovali, no v tsentr Kieva styagivayut silovikov,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 16 January 2014,

[61] “SShA vzvolnovany ‘zakonami po diktatury’,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 16 January 2014,

[62] “Oppozitsiya sozyvaet novoe veche i gotovitsya k zabastovke,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 17 January 2014,

[63] “V Ukraine ob”yavlena vseobshchaya mobilizatsiya,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 17 January 2014,

[64] William Risch, “Maidan Chronicle – January 19-20, 2014 – The Day Kyiv Blew Up (In Lieu of a Conclusion),” Maidan Chronicle, 20 January 2014,

[65] “Maidan Chronicle – January 19-20, 2014 – The Day Kyiv Blew Up (In Lieu of a Conclusion)” and Pyotr Shuklynov, “Praviy Sektor. Yak i chomu vibukhnuv Maidan,” Liga novosti, 20 January 2014,

[66] Risch, “Maidan Chronicle – January 19-20, 2014 – The Day Kyiv Blew Up (In Lieu of a Conclusion)” and Shuklynov, “Praviy Sektor. Yak i chomu vibukhnuv Maidan.”

[67] Shuklynov, “Praviy Sektor. Yak i chomu vibukhnuv Maidan.”

[68] CBS News,

[69] Risch, “Maidan Chronicle – January 19-20, 2014 – The Day Kyiv Blew Up (In Lieu of a Conclusion).”

[70] “Kolichestvo postradavshikh na Hrusheskogo aktivistov dostiglo 160 chelovek – KGGA,” Ukrainskaya pravda, 23 January 2014, .

[71] Maidan Translations,

[72] CBS News,

[73] YouTube,; and

[74] UNIAN,

[75] Lyubov Melnikova, Facebook, 18 November 2015, and cited by Ivan Katchanovski, Facebook, 22 January 2016.

[76] Shuklynov, “Praviy Sektor. Yak i chomu vibukhnuv Maidan.”

[77] Ukrainskaya pravda, 25 November 2013,

[78] “Protestnaya Ukraina – region strany okhvatili masshtabnyie bunty (obnovleno),” Segodnya Ukraina, 24 January 2014, and “Militsiya zaderzhala 58 chelovek,” RBC, 24 January 2014, and

[79] See, for example, the violent seizure of the Vinnitsa OGA at “Vinnitsa. Zakhvat oblastnoi gosudarstbennoi administratsii, 25.01.2014,” YouTube, 26 January 2014,

[80] “Vo L’vove zakhvatyvali OGA, SBU, prokuraturu, militsiyu i nalogovuyu,”, 19 February 2014,

[81] International Business Times, 19 February 2014, For the view that this declaration had little or nothing to do to with secession, see Ukrainian Policy, 19 February 2014,

[82] “State-Run News Station Accused of Making Up Child Crucifixion,” The Moscow Times, 14 July 2014,

[83] “Bulatova nikto ne pokhishal – lider Avtomaidana,” Korrespondent, 20 November 2014, and “Bulatov – feikovaya figura i ego nikto ne pokhishal,”, 20 November 2014,

[84] “One of Maidan leaders kidnapped, tortured and crucified,” Pravda, 31 January 2014,

[85] “Ukraine Government Says ‘Tortured’ Activist Dmytro Bulatov Is Both Victim and Suspect,” Kiev Ukraine News Blog, 2 February 2014,

[86] “Ukraine Government Says ‘Tortured’ Activist Dmytro Bulatov Is Both Victim and Suspect.”

[87] “Bulatova nikto ne pokhishal – lider Avtomaidana.”

[88] “Na Chornovol napali iz khuliganskikh pobuzhdenii – itogi sledstvii,” Korrespondent, 6 February 2014,

[89] “Sud osvobodil obvinyaemykh v izbienii Chornovol,” Korrespondent, 7 April 2015,

[90] Julia Ioffe and Frank Foer, “Ambassador to Ukraine: The Russian Strategy was Intended to Create Chaos,” New Republic, 20 May 2014,


Gordon M. Hahn is an Analyst and Advisory Board Member of the Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation, Chicago, Illinois; Adjunct Professor and Senior Researcher, Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey; Senior Researcher, Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, San Jose, California; a Contributor for Russia Direct,; and an Analyst/Consultant, Russia Other Points of View – Russia Media Watch, Dr Hahn is author of three well-received books, Russia’s Revolution From Above (Transaction, 2002), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), which was named an outstanding title of 2007 by Choice magazine, and The ‘Caucasus Emirate’ Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014). He also has authored hundreds of articles in scholarly journals and other publications on Russian, Eurasian and international politics. Dr. Hahn has taught Russian politics and other courses at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, St. Petersburg State (Russia), and San Francisco State Universities as well as the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey, California. He also has been a Senior Associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (2011-2013) and a Visiting Scholar at both the Hoover Institution and the Kennan Institute. His website is

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: