Wednesday, November 24, 2004

To Arms (yes, I'm still at it)

It looks like we may have to answer the question about the security services loyalties sooner rather than later.

The Kyiv Post is reporting that this afternoon, at least 22 buses full of militia and "unknown persons" (ie, civilians) from outlying regions have arrived in Kyiv. Is the government arming civilians to take action against their countrymen? Or are they meant to rely on fists?

We know that a key turning point in any successful standoff of this sort comes when military forces have to decide whether or not to follow official orders. If they determine that Yuschenko is the rightful president, or if they receive an order to act against the demonstrators that they do not wish to follow, that will be a major blow to the Yanukovych authorities. But the presence of civilian thugs may complicate matters—they could be around to provoke a scene that would oblige the security forces to disperse the crowd.

I don't have a very strong sense of the internal dynamics in Ukraine—in much smaller Georgia, people were more or less united in their common misery, and it may have been easier for the military to side with what they felt was the common, shared sentiment of the population. I feel in Ukraine, though, there might be more of a (dare I say) red state/blue state divide; the denizens of flashy cosmopolitan Kyiv may not be seen as representative of the demos writ large. On the other hand, we're talking about an enormous gathering, and sympathetic demonstrations in major cities across the country. The military's a wild card, they're armed to the teeth, and with an outgoing president, a president who supposedly won the election, and a president with rallying hordes that has taken the oath of office, they don't know who to take orders from. Chaos is not unimaginable.


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