The Corner

Kiev: What Was the Trigger?

John O’Sullivan has already ably highlighted the grim news out of Kiev.

 A live feed to events there can be found here.

I cannot help wondering whether one trigger for the action by the authorities was this (as reported by the New York Times):

KIEV, Ukraine — The protracted struggle for Ukraine between Russia and the West was on vivid display on Monday with Russia throwing an unexpected financial lifeline to the embattled Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, just as Germany rolled out an unusually high-level reception for two of the president’s most ardent opponents.  As the Ukrainian opposition leaders, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk and the former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, huddled in Berlin with German leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, Russia said it would this week unblock the next payment of a promised $15 billion credit for Ukraine that it had earlier frozen because of the political disarray in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.

Russia’s decision to resume financial support for Ukraine gives a needed lift to Mr. Yanukovych ahead of a parliamentary session on Tuesday at which the opposition is expected to push for constitutional changes to trim the president’s powers. It also does an end run around Europe’s sluggish efforts to support the opposition by coming up with an aid package of its own….On Monday, however, Mr. Putin again showed his talent for putting rivals off balance when Russia’s finance minister, Anton Siluanov, told reporters during a visit to the Russian town of Cherepovets that Moscow would this week purchase a further $2 billion of Ukrainian bonds. This indicated that Moscow has now reactivated the previously suspended credit offer….

In his post, John  wondered whether Yanukovych had been told by Putin that if he wanted “the next tranche of Russian money, he would have to clear out the Maidan and establish stability Soviet-style.”  Quite possibly, I reckon, meaning that Russia’s public declaration of intent to buy another large slug of bonds was confirmation that the deal was on, and that it was time for Yanukovych to act.

Meanwhile, keep an eye on Crimea, as well as other more familiar spots in Ukraine’s Russia-leaning east.

Radio Free Europe:

Crimea is Ukraine’s only region where ethnic Russians are a majority, comprising approximately 60 percent of its 2 million population. From the 18th century until just 60 years ago on February 19, the peninsula was part of Russia. And as Ukraine’s turmoil shakes the region’s ethnic and religious fault lines, there is increasing talk that perhaps it should be again….

Last week, Russian presidential adviser and leading Kremlin ideologue Vladislav Surkov made an under-the-radar trip to Crimea, meeting behind closed doors with Crimean Prime Minister Anatoly Mogilev, Crimean parliament speaker Vladimir Konstantinov, and Sevastopol Governor Vladimir Yatsuboi. It was also announced that Konstantinov will travel to Moscow on February 20 for talks with Russian Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin.


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