by Gordon M. Hahn
Is a ‘third Maidan’ brewing? Is one possible? On this week’s third anniversary of the beginning of the Maidan ‘revolution’ or revolt, Kiev remains rife with talk of a ‘third Maidan’ and for some good reason. The Maidan regime remains unstable internally, weak in its legitimacy within society, and vulnerable to the radical nationalist forces the Madain revolt unleashed.
In the run-up to the anniversary the main pro-Western ‘varyag’ or outside Varangian invited to rule in Maidan Ukraine, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, appointed by Ukrianian president Petro Poroshenko as the governor in crime- and corruption-ridden Odessa, resigned, accusing Poroshenko and the Maidan regime of massive corruption. In resigning, Saakashvili stated he would go to Kiev to “sweep out the Rada, the administration and the Cabinet of Ministers and then instill order in Odessa… The ideas of the revolution have been betrayed… Therefore, we are again left with nothing. What is the difference to the people whether it is Poroshenko or Yanukovych who treats them as if he is spitting on them…if the result under Yanukovych at least the grivna was a little better” (www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2016/11/8/7126189/, see also https://tvrain.ru/news/saakashvili_objavil_ob_uhode_video-420514/; https://tvrain.ru/articles/saakashvili-420513/?utm_campaign=breaking&utm_source=push&utm_medium=420513&utm_term=2016-11-07; http://vesti-ukr.com/politika/209095-prezident-podderzhivaet-banditckie-klany-hlavnye-zajavlenija-caakashivli-na-brifinhe-; and http://vesti-ukr.com/politika/209179-caakashvili-).
The rise of a mass protest movement in early November prompted the Maidan regime to claim that Moscow was fomenting the protests and was seeking to overthrow the regime in an operation called ‘Shatun’, and mutual charges began to fly within the elite and between competing political parties that their opponents were plotting in cahoots with Russian President Vladimir Putin. For example, ultranationalist Radical Party leader Oleh Lyashko accused nationalist Fatherland Party leader Yuliya Tymoshenko of said.
Growing Social Discontent
In the weeks running up to the anniversary, a series of demonstrations rattled the regime which took extraordinary measures to ensure that such demonstrations did not evolve into open revolt. On November 3rd a mass protest by deprived bank vkladchiki or depositors turned violent as hundreds of the demonstrators, who lost access to their bank accounts and deposits attacked police and National Guard units in central Kiev. The demonstrators are demanding that recently defunct banks return or the state refund their disappeared deposits. Protest leaders said that whereas in the past few gathered at such protest, now thousands attended, including many from the regions far outside the capitol. Demonstrators announced a larger protest scheduled for November 15th when the All-Ukrainian Congress of Deceived Depositors was scheduled to be held and two days before large trade union protests were scheduled in the capitol, heightening fears of a Maidan III (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/208622-protecty). However, already on November 8th another mass demonstration by 7,000 depositors rocked Kiev (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/209309-pod-natsbankom-maccovye-protecty-protiv-hontarevoj-ljudi-perekryli-ulitsu).
The depositor protest movement, according to Ukrainian sociologist Yurii Gavrilechko, provides numbers capable of forming the nucleus of a countrywide revolt movement. The movement includes 1.5 million people, including the middle class in addition to welfare and state wage recipients (http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/208622-protecty). Thus, to undercut the protest movement, in mid-November the Rada approved a program to refund depositors. However, funding and implementation of the program remains in doubt. Earlier, the state developed a program to reimburse the needy to cover the cost of draconian increases in electricity, water, garbage – so-called ‘kommunalki’ or communal payments in the post-Soviet space. However, when the crunch came many were deemed ineligible for the assistance and cannot make the new high tariffs. All this comes on the background of revelations regarding the vast and ill-gotten wealth of new Maidan regime’s elite and regarding Poroshenko’s expansive villa in Spain (www.rferl.org/a/spain-ukraine-poroshenko-villa/28120674.html). Regarding the latter, it came from the US government-funded Radio Liberty; a sign that Kiev’s back may be increasingly less covered given the shifting lay of the political land in Washington D.C. in the wake of the election of Donald Trump as 45th President of the United States.
The November 21st commemorative meeting scheduled for Maidan itself fell flat, with few attending. Instead, alternative demonstrations populated largely by nationalists, ultra-nationalists and neofascists were held on adjacent squares. These ended with violent attacks on several buildings in central Kiev, including a branch of Russia’s SberBank (http://vesti-ukr.com/kiev/211409-pochemu-hodovshchina-majdana-zakonchilac-pohromami-). All this was a reflection of the popular malaise and new regime’s unpopularity.
The Neofascist Threat
Poroshenko continued through the anniversary to all he can to appease the ultra-nationalists’ leaders while cracking down on some of the rank-and-file’s more blatant excesses in violence and intimidation. On the third anniversary in November 2016 of the beginning of the Maidan revolt, Poroshenko gave Dmitry Yarosh the coveted state award, the Bogdan Khmelnitskiy Medal III, for his service in the ‘anti-terrorist’ operation conducted against Donbass rebels and civilians (www.ng.ru/cis/2016-11-23/7_6866_ukraina.html). The latter were most often targeted by the ultra-nationalist-populated volunteer battalions nominally under the command of the Internal Affairs and Defense Ministries and the National Guard. Yarosh is the former and founding leader of the neofascist party ‘Praviy Sektor’ (Right Sector or RS).
Yarosh and RS played a crucial role in the formation of ultra-nationalist battalions fighting Ukraine’s own type of hybrid war in Donabass. He and RS also organized the May 2014 Odessa terrorist pogrom that ended with at least some 40 anti-Maidan regime picketers being intentionally burned alive or otherwise murdered (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/05/02/ukraines-neo-fascist-right-sector-claims-responsibility-again-for-2-may-2014-terrorist-pogrom/ and https://www.newcoldwar.org/a-new-analysis-of-the-massacre-events-in-odessa-ukraine-of-may-2-2014/). RS (and other ultranationalists) ‘activists’ have also booted elected officials out of office and beaten such officials, independent journalists and others ((https://gordonhahn.com/2015/04/21/maidan-ukraines-authoritarianism-surplus-update-on-maidan-ukraines-democracy-deficit/; http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/104230-gazeta-vesti-i-svoboda-slova-v-jepohu-poroshenko); https://gordonhahn.com/2015/06/21/one-day-in-the-life-of-ukrainian-democracy/; and http://www.fairobserver.com/region/europe/the-ukrainian-revolutions-neo-fascist-problem-14785/); https://gordonhahn.com/2014/07/14/war-from-below-and-the-warlords-of-ukraine/; and https://gordonhahn.com/2015/03/15/everyday-neo-fascism-in-ukraine/). In November 2015 Yarosh resigned from RS claiming he had overestimated its organizational capacity. This came after RS organized a congress and demonstration in Kiev in July 2015 that appeared to be a probe to begin a Maidan III (https://gordonhahn.com/2015/07/22/right-sector-and-the-impotence-of-ukraines-weimar-maidan-regime/). Yarosh’s new party, the State Initiative of Yarosh (Національного руху «Державницька Ініціатива Яроша or DIYa) appears to be a more political organ, but one that could likely count on the support of RS (www.facebook.com/kyiv.ryh.yarosh/).
Poroshenko’s limited efforts to contain the ultranationalists are negated by the silovikis’, especially the SBU’s, continuing support for such groups. Yarosh also enjoys much military support as well. Yarosh was appointed an advisor to the Ukrainian army’s chief of staff in April 2015. Upon receiving the Khmelnitskiy Medal, Yarosh announced that President Poroshenko had agree to form a reserve, territorial defense force long-lobbied for by Yarosh and some others (www.ng.ru/cis/2016-11-23/7_6866_ukraina.html). Yarosh is well-positioned to play a key role in the formation and perhaps leadership of such a force. This would put at his potential disposal an organ of coercion that he might use to accomplish his oft-stated goal of completing Ukraine’s ‘national revolution.’ On November 11th Yarosh said in an interview that he would support or move on his own to order loyal forces to storm the presidential administration “if the regime totally betrays the national interest.” ( www.pravda.com.ua/rus/articles/2016/11/7/7125992/ and http://vesti-ukr.com/politika/209132-jarosh-objacnil-pri-kakikh-uclovijakh-otdact-prikaz-ubrat-etu-vlact).
One should not underestimate the angst and radical nationalism extant in today’s Ukraine. Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a moderate institution when compared to the Uniate Catholic Chrich’s Ukrainian nationalism, has called for Donbassians to pay in “blood” for rejecting the Maidan revolt and regime and sinning for voting for federalization of Ukraine: “We should not think that the population of Donbass is not to blame for their suffering. They are guilty. And they should pay for their guilt for their sins in suffering and blood. Did not they vote in a referendum for federalization? They voted. Did they sin? They sinned. And this is the consequence of this sin” (For the video and report, see: “Patriarkh Filaret Ukraine rezko viskazalsya v otnoshenii xhitelei Donbassa,” Vesti Ukraina, 6 November 2016, http://vesti-ukr.com/strana/208947-vecti-vykhodnykh-208947). Days later, someone set afire and gravely damaged a Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate by throwing a Molotov cocktail (http://vesti-ukr.com/pridneprove/209058-v-dnepropetrovckoj-oblacti-khram-upts-zabrocali-koktejljami-molotova
The present Maidan oligarchic-nationalist hybrid regime has survived the third anniversary of the Maidan protest movement. It remains unclear whether it can survive through the next.
About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an analyst and Advisory Board member at Geostrategic Forecasting Corporation (Chicago, Ill.), http://www.geostrategicforecasting.com; member of the Executive Advisory Board at the American Institute of Geostrategy (AIGEO) (Los Angeles, Calif.), http://www.aigeo.org; a contributing expert for Russia Direct, russia-direct.org; a senior researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group (San Jose, Calif.); and an analyst and consultant for Russia – Other Points of View (San Mateo, California), www.russiaotherpointsofview.com.
Dr. Hahn is the author of the forthcoming book from McFarland Publishers Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War”. Previously, he has authored three well-received books: The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland Publishers, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction Publishers, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.