Lviv provocation on 9 May: No joking matter
Well-known publicist and historian Andriy Portnov writes that it is painful to speak of what happened on 9 May in Lviv. “Nothing like it had happened in all the twenty years of Ukraine’s independence. And suddenly we were all witnesses to provocation acted out as to a script. There was the fairly marginalized and overtly anti-Ukrainian organizations “Rodina” [Motherland] and “Russian Unity” on the one hand, and the radical nationalist Svoboda party, recently in the majority in the Lviv Regional Council., on the other. They proved to be ideal partners” The author describes one of the incidents where young guys of a certain build and carrying St. George ribbons (a Soviet military honour) clashed with Svoboda supporters. Within a couple of minutes, he says, one of the St George ribbon contingent, who’s armed himself not just with dark glasses, pulled out a shock gun and used it. The police proved not to be around, unlike a film crew (the feature was immediately shown on television).
At the Hill of Glory Memorial, the author says, there were plenty of police officers but they only partially succeeded in preventing clashes between the above-mentioned opposing groups. He points out the important detail that despite a ban by the Lviv Regional Council on holding mass events in the city, the coaches full of “Rodina” and “Russian Unity supporters encountered no difficulty in reaching the centre. This he notes is in contrast to many occasions when the police have stopped people trying to reach opposition protests, etc.
After the conflict at the memorial when a wreath which the Russian Ambassador was about to lay, was pulled away, red flags were burned near the town hall. At around the same time an activist in Donetsk threw a red and black UPA [Ukrainian Resistance Army] flag under veterans’ feet. You got a picture already recognized throughout Europe: a deeply divided country virtually on the edge of civil war.
Andriy Portnov compares the orchestrated conflict this year in Lviv with that in Zaporizhya a year ago over the unveiling of a bust to Stalin on the territory of the Communist Party regional committee. The event was widely publicized in the Ukrainian and foreign media. And although there were only a few hundred people present, the event was presented as though a demonstration of the will of the region’s residents.
The bust was destroyed by an explosion on New Year’s Eve. The author slightly blurs two events. While criminal charges have been brought against those from the nationalist organization Tryzub who, three days earlier, cut off the head of the monument, despite a large number of detentions, searches and interrogations, those responsible for the explosion have not been found. What is indicative, he notes, is that the Security Service immediately initiated a criminal investigation under the article for terrorism.
“It is difficult to rid oneself of the impression that somebody very much wanted violence in Ukrainian society to become palpable”. It became so, at present only with two lots of extremists playing each other off. What next?
Andriy Portnov is by no means alone in suggesting that the conflict was absolutely deliberate and part of a dangerous game of manipulation by those in power. Others who have suggested the same include the former dissidents and political prisoners Myroslav Marynovych, Yevhen Sverstyuk and Josef Zissels, as well as the prominent publicist and Editor of the I journal in Lviv, Taras Voznyak.
In her article, Natalia A. Feduschak points out that “But some political analysts and administration critics blame the president’s supporters, suggesting that the conflicts are a way for Yanukovych to capitalize politically on disorder. The motive, these critics say, is to reinvigorate Yanukovych’s traditional Russian-speaking electorate in eastern Ukraine.”
“Critics of the nationalist Svoboda Party however, say the organization and Russian extremists are two sides of the same coin.
Despite its nationalist credentials, allegations have dogged Svoboda about the sources of its financing. Some suspect people close to the pro-presidential Party of Regions of furtively backing the nationalists, charges denied by Svoboda.”
Basically nobody believes that the shameful displays of violence “just happened”. How high up one looks for those behind it, it is worryingly clear that the conflict could not have occurred without official connivance or at very least the enforcement agencies turning a blind eye.