- Students’ Column
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Every news has two sides, we at The World Reporter always tried to represent both sides of a news event. We all are seeing what is happening in Ukraine, but I decided to talk with East Ukrainians and people from Crimea and get the story out from the other side of the Ukraine, i.e news from Crimea. Before judging the neutrality of the article, please read other articles on our journal.
I have been covering Ukraine in our news opinion articles since the last week of November. Besides some pro government protests in Donetsk, I have not seen much activity in the east. Western media refused to show anything from East and Russian media was busy calling pro-European leaders evil. I avoided following western as well as Russian news, I only relied on talking to native Ukrainians. I have equal number of close friends from both sides of the country who provided me balanced information whenever I had a question.
Recently, I got a chance to talk to a friend of mine from Yalta (Crimea) and I asked her, if the people in East Ukraine do not support pro EU rallies then why do not they come out to protest and raise their voice in equally strong manner and give Yanukovich some moral support? Her quick answer made me think for a while. “If we will also come out on the streets then who will work in Ukraine?” Her words suggested that East Ukrainians are caring for Ukraine and working for its economy and peace.
Since the fall of Ukraine’s previous government, I have been thinking, is it democratic? Viktor Yanukovich was the elected president with the majority (more than 50%) to form the government. Considering the high profile pro EU wave, it is possible that probably 60% Ukrainians wanted EU association, but 40% did not want. See more accurate numbers here.
In US, India or any other democratic country it does not matter which party comes to the power, people remain in the country, they do not leave their hopes and most importantly, they do not feel threatened.
In Ukraine, it is not the case. Probably majority of the people did achieve what they wanted and what they felt was good for their country’s future. However, the remaining either have lost their hopes, are fleeing to Russia or are protesting on the streets. Again, do not think that pro Russians are a small community. Ukraine has almost equal division of pro Russians and pro Europeans.
It has been estimated by Russia’s Federal Border Guard Service that 675,000 Ukrainians (most of them from the region bordering Russia and south Ukraine) arrived in Russia in the month of January and February, fearing the “revolutionary chaos” brewing in Ukraine (The fact promoted by Russia Today is debatable)
“In just past two months (January-February), 675,000 Ukrainian citizens have entered Russian territory,” Itar-Tass news agency cited the service as saying.
People in thousands of number in eastern regions and cities such as Kharkov and Donetsk came out on the streets protesting with placard saying, “in Russia we have brothers, in Europe we are slaves!”
As soon as the new government took the charge of Kiev, the first controversial decision (controversial even in the eyes of west and EU) was taken by making Ukrainian the only official language of the country. This prevents Russian to be used by Eastern regions of Ukraine and Hungarian and Romanian language in Western Ukraine. Many consider this move as offensive and threatening, and some of them are losing hopes of continuing their life in Ukraine.
Crimea has declared that it will stay out of Kiev’s business and Kiev should do the same. Speaker of the parliament of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov told Kiev to put its own house in order first before commenting anything on Crimea, adding that local authorities can take care of local business in Crimea.
“You in Kiev sort it out between yourselves, and we will deal with the republic’s problems,” Vladimir Konstantinov told in a news conference.
To ensure law and order situation and getting financial aid, the republic of Crimea turned to Russia instead of Kiev. Russia, which already has a military base in Crimea, is said to have been providing security.
“We turned to Russia for help in ensuring law and order, and providing financial aid in this difficult period. This request was granted. Now a working group in Moscow is talking about the technical details of this issue,” Konstantinov said. (Quest for Crimea, Why it is so important for Russia?)
With the aim of achieving greater autonomy, Parliament in Crimea has scheduled referendum on March 30 on whether it should have greater autonomy and weaker control of Kiev. It is believed that majority will be in favour of greater autonomy for Crimea.
Donetsk has also taken the same step and The City Council has refused to recognize the new government in Ukraine. The City Council has called for a referendum on region’s status and has made Russian official language of the region alongside Ukrainian.
The Council has urged the local parliament to set the date for referendum immediately. The move is set to “protect the citizens from possible violent actions on the behalf of radicalized nationalistic forces,” the council said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Crimea’s deputy prime minister, Rustam Temirgaliev, announced that after surrendering their all-military capabilities, no active unit of Ukrainian army remains in the republic.
“The entire Ukrainian armed forces stationed on the Crimean territory have been blocked – a number have been disarmed, while another big portion is switching to the Crimean side,” Interfax reported him as saying.
On Friday, the Navy command of Ukraine resigned as well. Rear admiral Denis Berezovsky took the control of Crimea’s newly formed Navy. The move followed Ukraine’s biggest loss of its flagship, the Hetman Sahaidachny frigate. The frigate refused to follow orders from Kiev and is returning home with a Russian naval flag after taking part in NATO operation in the Gulf of Aden.
After Navy, Air Force has also shown its commitment to the people of Crimea, The Ukrainian Air Force 240th tactical aviation brigade based near Sevastopol has pledged its commitment to the authorities of Crimea. The base is manned by more than 800 troops and has four operational MIG 29 fighters out of 45 fighters, which it is hosting. With Air Force coming in, strength of Crimean military has reached 6,000 personnel.
The head of the Security Service of Crimea Petyor Zima, Chief of Department of Internal Affairs in the Crimea Sergey Abisov, the head of Service for Emergency Situations Sergei Shakhov and present Chief of the Border Guards of Crimea Victor Melnichenko took an oath of commitment to the people of Crimea. They promised “to respect and strictly observe the Constitution of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea” and to “promote the preservation of interethnic accord and civil peace” on the peninsula.
Activists and pro maidan protesters have been reported of searching residences of former government’s officials to collect intelligence and handing it over to US and German military. However, Germany has curbed their activities.
Federal Security Bureau (FSB) of Russia has detained a Russian citizen coming back from Ukraine, suspected of raiding houses of former officials with other Right Wing group in Kiev.
“They load buses with the self-defence troops and go to MPs’ dachas in the suburbs, to their apartments, and break down their doors. It is not looting, like in taking furniture and stuff. They take documents and hand them over to special people, who check them,” he said in an interview with the Russia-24 news channel.
“It was in the afternoon of February 26, when an American group came in two Mercedes cars. American troops came out wearing their uniforms,” he recalled.
Liberal Democratic Party of Russia has introduced a bill allowing simplified citizenship procedure for Ukrainians of Russian origin. Later as the suggestion started coming up, politicians pitched for giving jobs to former members of Ukrainian Berkut police in Russian defence and police forces. Berkut was the semi-autonomous police loyal to Yanukovich government. Each region had its own Berkut unit and were specialised in crowd control. However, they were blamed of kidnapping and killing many maidan protesters and terrorized non-Yanukovich voters in the past elections.
In a bill which is still in the parliament can jail people having dual citizenship for up to 10 years. Those who are holding two citizenships would be fined $165 and their citizenship will be declared illegal. Those who are voting in Ukrainian elections with illegal Ukrainian citizenship will face the jail for three years, and those holding public office with illegal citizenship will be jailed for 10 years. if it becomes a law, then it will discourage eastern and southern Ukrainians from taking Russian citizenship, and will encourage others to strip their Russian citizenship.
This was an attempt to dig out news from East Ukraine without imposing the views and beliefs of the west. It does not mean that The World Reporter has taken a side. We have been covering Ukraine for months and our previous neutral reports including a survey (also published on KyivPost) can be read here (also in Russian language)
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