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Putin's meddling in Ukraine sinister

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The determination of Ukraine's protesters to stand for democracy is like a chapter of the popular Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Dictator Snow, in real life, is a composite of President Viktor Yanukovych and his mentor-dictator, Russia's President Vladimir Putin. As in the book, they precipitate to-the-death human struggles -- games -- in order to maintain control over an already oppressed population.

Putin has been meddling in Ukraine since he helped Yanukovych get elected, intending, through him, to annex Ukraine and create Russkij mir, one Russian world. The demonstrators -- read Katniss, the heroine of the book -- are fighting back with EuroMaidan. They want both independence from Russia and good government at home.

The former colonel's approach follows standard practices, which Putin acquired at the KGB. First, create chaos where you want to rule then oppress the population, introduce fear, force a crisis and, finally, take over by offering "salvation" from the opposition now called right-wing extremists, mobsters and terrorists.

Putin's aggression in Ukraine has been escalating. He gained expanded control for foreign policy, defence and security ministries. Hateful anti-Ukrainian propaganda bombard the media in both countries and in the West to discourage support for the opposition. Currently, the most dangerous tactic is the insinuation Russia must be part of the resolution of the crisis, despite having had a heavy hand in destabilizing Ukraine by pressuring Yanukovych to drop progress to Euro integration at the 11th hour. Throwing the fox among the chickens is not the way out of Ukraine's crisis.

As was the case under the former USSR, however, Western-grown neo-Russia apologists like Stephen Cohen, Dmytir Simes or under-informed pundits like Patrick Buchanan are Russia enablers. They snarl at the U.S. to stay out of Ukraine's internal affairs, allowing Russia to advance as a peacemaker, despite ongoing documentation of its hand in the violence since protests began in November and war rhetoric.

The marauders, responsible for six deaths and some 240 missing, receive about $5 a day for staging anti-EuroMaidan protests; $50 for abductions and tortures. In Crimea, where a fiercely pro-Russia puppet heads the regional government, it's a significant $1,500, a professional wage. It looks like Russia's special forces are stationed in a sports club some 30 kilometres outside Kyiv and hide behind plain clothes or Ukraine's security uniforms. There are reports of daily reinforcements.

Then there's the biker "club" Night Wolves from Russia. They aim to "patrol" Black Sea coastline cities -- Sevastopol, Simferopil, Odessa, Mykolajiv -- all of strategic naval interest to Russia. The bikers' leader, Olexander Zaldostanov, vows "to protect Ukrainian brothers" from "terrorists." Weapons are involved. Zoldostanov is Putin's personal friend: They bike together.

What about the $15-billion "loan" Putin offered Yanukovych? Ukrainians see it as a means to ensnare their country, to make it ever more dependent on Russia. So far, there's been little money. The interest rate on the loan is renegotiated every three months; Russia has exclusivity of supply. Apparently, there is no document, just a verbal agreement.

The big question is who will benefit? People like Yanukovych and Mykola Yanovych Azarov, the prime minister who resigned in an effort to mollify protesters, have profited handsomely from political office.

They top lists of those with immense wealth in EU countries, including Austria where Azarov's wife has fabulous holdings. He flew there immediately after resigning from office.

The deal relinquished Ukraine's Kerch peninsula, granting Russia highly desirable warm-water ports and strategic access to the Mediterranean and beyond. (Recall the annexation of Georgia's Abkhazia and South Ossetia.)

The one-sided deal allows Putin to literally turn off the heat in Ukraine by cutting gas supplies. Ukrainians fear they will "freeze like mice" in centrally heated apartments. They have experienced genocide by Kremlin before.

This current scenario evokes the cataclysmic scenes of 1933-34, when some 10 million Ukrainians were starved for resisting Russification and collectivization. The famine-genocide is reflected in the Hunger Games title. Today's Kremlin despot has the means to mass-kill again.

It can. Putin's adviser, Sergey Glazyev, said Ukraine's government is making a mistake by avoiding force to end the EuroMaidan protests. Allowing Russia to precipitate a heat shortage, a violent scenario or weasel its way into a resolution dispute process there assures a bad ending for EuroMaidan, Ukraine and world stability. Russia must bow to democracy not vice versa.

The Sochi Olympics were granted to Russia at a time when it was hoped it would move toward more democratic values under Putin. History has proven otherwise.

His destruction of Chechnya, democracy in Armenia, annexation of parts of Georgia and hard-fisted government at home do not bode well.

The spread of his aggression must stop. EuroMaidan allows the West to contain Russia's aggression. It is shameful to see EU's reluctance to do just that.

 

Comment writer Oksana Bashuk Hepburn, former president of U*CAN Ukraine Canada Relations Inc.. is a frequent elections observer in Ukraine for the Organization for Security and co-operation in Europe.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 14, 2014 A11

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