War in Ukraine. A quick reference guide for 2015 – part one

I do not know what 2014 will be remembered for. There is plenty of choice. I would say for the first violent border change in Europe after the Second World War. However, the Russian annexation of the Crimea is only one of the pages of the crisis (and then war) in Ukraine. Here there is a quick reference guide to better understand what will happen next.

 Photo: Danilo Elia
Euromaidan. That's where it all started. The clichés of the two warring parties tells the uprising in opposite ways: a democratic revolution, a neo-Nazi coup. In most cases without having been there. My version is instead the one of a journalist who was in Kiev during the three days of the end of February, when about a hundred people died, most of them shot from distance by snipers that aimed to kill. The revolution was violent, yes. I saw with my own eyes protesters armed with rifles and pistols. I saw and photographed the assembly line for the manufacture of petrol bombs behind the front line of the Maidan. And I saw them throw at police. I saw, but I could not take pictures, big petrol bombs for catapults: 5 liter plastic bottles, filled with gasoline and styrofoam pieces that burn longer and stick to clothes and skin. I saw and photographed those of Pravy Sektor ready for battle. But I have also seen the most genuine forces of a country in search of redemption withstand the winter of Kiev. I saw the doctors treat the wounded and the elders sing the anthem, the girls bring hot tea on the ront line and unarmed protesters fall under the blows of the sniper rifles fired from hundreds of metres away.
The Maidan was working as a military camp, but the enemy was only one. And it was not the people. Phrases such as "Ukraine is a country without law, in terror and chaos, and in the hands of the fascists" (Yanukovich, February 28) or "Neo-Nazis, anti-Semitic and Russophobes are causing pogroms and terror in Kiev" (Putin, March 18) are simply false.

Yanukovych. President designated by elections recognized by the OECD. Not a dictator, but the head of a kleptocracy that has impoverished Ukraine. Enemy number one of Euromaidan, scapegoat of the faults of an entire political and ruling class. He was not barred, he fled the country. Giving up his role he legitimized his dismissal. Before fleeing shipped to Russia numerous trucks carrying his shameful heritage. 

Odessa. It is the darkest page of the whole story. On may 2, clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian protesters happened in the city. Someone shoot with firearms, at least one demonstrator among Ukrainians was killed. The mob assaulted the pro-Russian camp on Kylikova field, that have been there for months. Many took shelter in the nearby House of Trade Unions. From outside the mob started throwing Molotov cocktails. The building went on fire, while the police did nothing. The dead toll raised 43, counting people burned alive, suffocated or fell on the ground in an attempt to escape the flames.
It is an exceedingly serious matter, which casts an indelible stain on Euromaidan. The event has been biased by both parties. It is ridiculous to think that the pro-Russian burned themselves alive: there are numerous and incontrovertible video (as well as witnesses) of the petrol bomb throwing from outside the building. It is equally ridiculous to think of a planned pogrom: no one could predict the House of Trade Unions would be chosen as a shelter. Nevertheless, the fact that the fire was the result of clashes degenerated does not diminish at all the enormity of the tragedy. It’s a sheme how local authorities acted during and immediately after the tragedy. The deads of Odessa don’t rest in peace even now. They received no justice jet, while their memory - often manipulated - is used to fuel more hatred. It is the power of the martyrs.

Junta coup. It is the most popular argument among the pro-Russians, even abroad. The interim government born in the days after Euromaidan would be the result of a coup, the removal of Yanukovych illegitimate. The parliament has removed former president without recourse to impeachment proceedings provided for by the constitution, and voted a return to the 2004 text with no law allowing it. It is true: the procedure adopted by the parliament was not legal, but it should be remembered that it was the same parliament elected under Yanukovych to act, and that its decisions have been taken with the votes of the deputies of his Party of Regions. Can we call it a coup? According to pro-Russians, certainly yes. Too bad that the same people continue to talk about a coup junta even now that the country is ruled by a parliament and a president elected regularly by Ukrainians.

 Andrea (Andy) Rocchelli. The Italian photographer was the first foreign journalist to die in the war in Donbass, along with his fixer Andrei Mironov. Andrea was killed by a shell fired by Ukrainian army in Slaviansk. They saw the car traveling, aimed at it and fired. The first shot did not hit the target. The second did. The captain who ordered the fire told the Corriere della Sera: “Normally we do not shoot in the direction of the city and on civilians, but as soon as we see a movement we load the heavy artillery. This is what happened with the car of the two journalists and the interpreter. We shoot from here over a mile. Here you don’t have to play around.” No one told him that Rocchelli wasn’t playing around. He was there to do his job, exactly like him.

(to be continued)


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