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The myth of a 2014 coup in Ukraine
If Zelensky was "installed by CIA", then who installed Poroshenko? MI6?
I heroically resist the temptation of quoting Roger Waters once again (I pay definitely too much attention to him). So in order to provide an example of another myth I want to debunk, I used the first tweet I got after typing “Zelensky coup”.
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In 2014 Zelensky was not even a politician. He was elected in April 2019 as a surprise candidate (much like Ronald Reagan, he was famous as an actor, but not as a leader).
So exactly who was this “US installed puppet”? Maybe Zelensky’s predecessor, incumbent Petro Poroshenko? Nope. He was elected in May 2014, 3 months after the alleged “coup”.
If anyone was “installed” by the “coup”, it was the interim acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov. For an American “puppet”, it was not a particularly interesting puppet show: he fulfilled his main mission: to organise snap elections, restore democratic procedures and lead his country out of the constitutional crisis of 2014.
There is no doubt that in its history, America did indeed instigate some coups and installed some actual puppets, such as Pinochet, Somoza or Batista. But we will all agree that the history of Latin America would have been much happier if these puppets had behaved like Turchynov - quietly stepping back after the democratic snap election.
Politics is not mathematics, there are no strict definitions. Such concepts as “coup d’etat”, “revolution”, “civil war”, “forced resignation” and “no confidence vote” have a huge grey area where they overlap. Especially if everything happens against the backdrop of violent civil unrest.
Was Charles De Gaulle installed by a fascisct coup? These guys seem to believe so! (photo: Jean Tesseyre / Getty Images)
For instance, in May 1958 in France, during violent unrest (with multiple fatalities), subsequent governments were forced to resign. General Charles de Gaulle became prime minister with extraordinary prerogatives, and in January 1959, he was elected president.
Was this a coup d’etat? Of course, de Gaulle’s political rivals were fond of using this word. In 1964 Francois Mitterand penned a famous essay “Permanent coup d’etat”, where he accused the Gaullist system of being fundamentally anti-democratic. Of course, when he finally became president in 1981, he forgot everything and continued this “permanent coup”, whatever that means.
In 1974, Richard Nixon was forced to resign from the post as a result of the Watergate scandal. His presidency was marred by civil unrest, also with casualties. Was it a coup d’etat?
Of course, you will also find people calling Watergate “a coup”. I guess for every government change we will find at least one disgruntled politician claiming that it was “a coup”.
Therefore let me suggest a modest proposal: *IF* after a government change, there were democratic procedures allowing further government changes, it was *NOT* a coup d’etat. Without this criterion we would have to call every government change a coup d’etat, for instance: the replacement of Liz Truss by Rishi Sunak.
I might not be a big fan of Rishi Sunak, but I wouldn’t put him on the same shelf as Pinochet. Would you?
Ukrainian democracy might not be perfect… but is it perfect in your country? I think the only countries where democracy is totally and absolutely perfect, are the dictatorships such as Democratic Republic of North Korea. People are so happy there that the incumbent always gets 100% of the vote.
Here is another modest proposal: the main criterion of democracy is the ability to change the government by vote. If you don’t have it, you don’t have democracy. According to this criterion, Belarus and Russia are dictatorships (just like North Korea), while Ukraine is a democracy. Maybe a flawed one (like in your country and in my country as well), OK, but still a democracy.
So what happened in 2014? Here is my understanding of the Revolution of Dignity.
It’s true that the ousted president - Vladimir Yanukovych - was “democratically elected”. So were all Ukrainian presidents before him and after him.
It wouldn’t be the only case when a democratically elected president was facing backlash due to his unpopular decisions. Emmanuel Macron is facing such backlash right now in France, and this could lead to him to resign (just as de Gaulle eventually resigned in 1969).
He was elected on the platform of Party of Regions, labelled as “pro-Russian”, but in 2010, it simply meant decentralisation of the country and maintaining good relations with Russia, while pursuing generally pro-Western policy.
An element of this policy - often overlooked on the other side of the big pond - was co-hosting the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship by Ukraine and Poland. The ominous motto was “Creating History Together”.
Donbas Arena - one of the stadiums built for the 2012 UEFA Championship in Poland and Ukraine (photo: shutterstock)
This mutual endeavour resulted in a lot of mutual coverage in Ukrainian and Polish media. How are they doing with building stadiums, motorways, airport terminals and train stations? How do they compare to us? Polish media were interested about how things were going in Donbas, Ukrainian media put equal attention to how things are going in Silesia.
While all the post-Soviet nations started roughly from the same development level in 1990, in 2012 we were in different universes. Polish pro-Western line was bearing its first fruits. We finally approached the quality of life of Western capitalist countries.
It might not sound like much, but in 1990 it seemed like mission impossible. Personally I never thought I would live to see this.
Before we joined the EU in 2004, we were in a transient period when many politicians claimed joining EU will be a disaster. They were full of shit, and in 2010 it was already obvious to just about everyone.
In Ukraine politicians saying “don’t join EU, there’s nothing good for us there” were still fairly popular in 2010. But in 2012 everyone watching the media coverage of the UEFA Championship (which means: everyone) knew that this is nonsense. For the Ukrainian society, it was a huge opportunity to see how their neighbours are doing.
They knew we had the same starting point in 1990, and they saw how much we achieved. They just wanted the same for Ukraine.
(still from a video via reddit)
And what does Russia have to offer? Nothing but poverty and oppression. At the initial stage of the invasion, the Russian occupiers frequently voiced their surprise that in Ukraine, “in every house they have a laptop and they eat Nutella”.
In one intercepted phone call, a Russian soldier described him looting Ukrainian houses. He expressed his surprise that even in Ukrainian countryside, they “live in brick houses”, they use “quality cosmetics” and “wear brand clothes”, the “refurbishments are simply astonishing”. “Our daughter goes to school, she needs a fucking laptop, steal one for her” - reminded the wife.
Putin cannot afford the existence of affluent Ukraine. His own slaves would eventually ask questions such as “why can’t we have a laptop in every house, too?”.
Of course, if you are an oligarch, the best system for you is oligarchy. So I believe them, when Solovyev, Simonyan or Skabayeva say that Russia is perfect for them (but it still does not explain why Solovyev burst in actual tears on national television crying for his confiscated Italian villa).
I strongly believe that if you’re about to live the average life of an average person in an average household with an average income in an average neighbourhood - it rarely gets better than in European Economic Area (that’s EU plus associates). Maybe in Japan, maybe in USA - but definitely not in Russia or its puppet states.
Party of Regions was full of politicians with vested interest in Russia. It was acceptable at the time, it was even common in the West. Back then, even Gerhard Schroeder was a
So Putin and his oligarchs started to pressure Yanukovych to drop the general consensus on pro-EU stance (more or less accepted by all Ukrainian mainstream political parties). In 2013, Ukraine was fairly advanced in negotiating the free trade and association agreement with EU - the first step towards the membership. In February the agreement was approved by overwhelming majority in the parliament (315 votes out of 349 seats).
On 21 November 2013, Yanukovych announced Ukrainian withdrawal from the negotiations with EU, against the will of the parliament (dominated by his own party!). The same day Ukrainian journalist Mustafa Nayeem published a fateful social media post. Below you will find the original (it’s in Russian - so much for “Russian speaking” equalling “pro-Russian”).
snippet via facebook
In my humble translation: “OK, let’s get serious. Who is ready to go to Maidan Square today before midnight? Likes do not count. Only comments ‘I’m ready’ under this post. When we get more than a thousand, we start to organise”.
Initially the protesters peacefully demanded Yanukovych to sign the agreement with EU - or resign. He reacted with violence, begetting more violence, leading to casualties on both sides. For the first time in history, people fought under the EU flag (and died for it).
photo: euromaidan press
Since Yanukovych clearly overstepped his constitutional prerogatives, the parliament started to talk about impeachment. His own party disowned him, so it was obvious that he stands no chance in the procedure.
On 21 February Yanukovych finally signed an agreement on a temporary settlement of the crisis - stipulating snap election and a temporary government of national unity. The same day he broke this agreement by defecting to Russia.
He left no formal resignation, probably intending to leave a legal loophole that could come handy if Russian army invades. They would simply reinstall him in the presidential palace in Kyiv - if only they could get Kyiv.
In fact, the invasion of “little green men” - paramilitaries wearing Russian uniforms without distinctions, officially coming out of nowhere (according to Russian propaganda: “you can buy these uniforms in any surplus store”), began just a week later - on 27 February.
Crimea, 28 February 2014: unidentified paramilitaries who came from some unidentified country, wearing Russian uniforms and Russian weapons, pretending to be your friendly homegrown local separatists. Photo: Elizabeth Arrott / VOA
The invaders never reached Kyiv until this very day, but they announced “independence” of Crimea (16 March) and Donbas (6 April). This is another story, though.
I don’t mention CIA in my description of the Revolution of Dignity because, frankly, I don’t think they played an important role. Nothing would have happened without the spontaneous reaction of the people to the Yanukovych’s unilateral withdrawal from the negotiations with EU.
People talking about CIA’s coup never provide any actual evidence to back up this claim. They either digress into talking about actual CIA backed coups in Latin America (I don’t deny they happened!), or they provide a “smoking gun” such as “Victoria Nuland supported the revolution”.
Well, I supported it too. Many people did. I relate to the will of average Ukrainians to live like the average Western Europeans. My generation achieved this dream in Poland, I wish it to our neighbours.
Right now, we have protests in Georgia. Their people are unhappy with their democratically elected government because of its pro-Russian stance.
I know that there are people who will always say “it’s CIA everywhere”. But I will use the Occam’s razor: it’s much simpler to assume that millions of people in Georgia or Ukraine (and in 1989: Poland, Lithuania, East Germany etc.) simply prefer to be able to afford Nutella.
Yes, I know, it’s unhealthy. But it’s an entirely different story, to be able to buy as much as you want of it, but not doing it because it’s not healthy - or simply not being able to afford a single jar of Nutella. The average Polish person of my age went through all these stages of Nutella: from the precious delicacy available only to the decadent bourgeois on the West, to the boring staple of unhealthy diet. The average Russian person is where they were in 1989.
To assume that the Revolution of Dignity (and other anti-Russian movements in our region) are “CIA coups”, you have to assume that millions of Ukrainians (Poles, Georgians, etc.) are telepathically brainwashed by hypnosis rays from secret satellites. So we only THINK that we want to live according to EU-standards: drive decent cars (or even better! use the convenient public transport!), wear decent clothes, eat decent food.
Alas, we are deluded by the CIA-induced hypnosis! In fact, we would be better off drinking lukewarm vodka to oblivion, wearing vatnik’s cotton jackets and eating shit, because we don’t need the decadent bourgeois toilet bowls either.
Russian propagandist mocking EU sanctions on export of toilet bowls to Russia. “They probably think we can’t live without them!”. Comrade, of course we know that you can and you do, but this is the butt of the joke - sorry for the pun. Your can make supersonic cruise missiles and yet you shit in outhouses… (screens from video subtitled by Julia Davies)
And let me reiterate: the Russian world has nothing better to offer for your average Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, from the average Russian town in the so called “glubinka” (literally: “deep territory”). His life is hell. And right now, he is fighting to spread this hell to Ukraine.
Everybody prefers to have the Western way of life. Even the pro-Russian Westerners.
They are my favourite kind. There is no better place to praise Russia than a comfortable condo in, say, Berlin or Madrid.
You can sit there, eating jamon iberico with a fresh baguette and Greek olives, sipping nice Italian wine, enjoying your Villeroy & Boch equipped bathroom. And typing on your Korean laptop connected to American social media the praise of Russia.
All those pro-Russian Westerners would take it to the streets should their governments try to impose the quality of life of Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov. And of course, if they do it in the West, it is democracy in action. If it’s in France, it’s “la revolution”. But in other regions it’s merely a sparkling coup.
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