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Violent Protests Grip Ukraine, Venezuela

Upheaval in Ukraine. Upheaval in Venezuela. We’ll look at both, and their futures.

Ukrainian protesters throw out and burn papers from prosecutor's headquarters in Lviv, western Ukraine, early Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. The violence on Tuesday was the worst in nearly three months of anti-government protests that have paralyzed Ukraine's capital, Kiev, in a struggle over the identity of a nation divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, and the worst in the country's post-Soviet history. (AP)

Ukrainian protesters throw out and burn papers from prosecutor’s headquarters in Lviv, western Ukraine, early Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. The violence on Tuesday was the worst in nearly three months of anti-government protests that have paralyzed Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, in a struggle over the identity of a nation divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, and the worst in the country’s post-Soviet history. (AP)

More blood and fire in the center of Ukraine’s capital Kiev today. Scores now dead, just in the last three days.  Moscow, lined up fiercely behind a corrupt, authoritarian regime.  Ukranian protestors, begging, fighting for something better.  Looking to the EU.  And Europe and the United States, on the spot now.  Just across the Black Sea from Sochi and the horse-whipping of Pussy Riot, it looks suddenly, vividly, like old Cold War days.  This hour On Point:  we go to Ukraine for the latest and look ahead.  And we will turn in this hour to Venezuela and a hot week of turmoil in Caracas.

– Tom Ashbrook


Sabra Ayres, Ukraine, Russia and Afghanistan correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor. (@babraham)

Steven Pifer, director of the Brookings Center’s Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Institute. Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. (@Steven_Pifer)

Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale University. Author of “Nationalism, Marxism and Modern Central Europe,”  “The Reconstruction of Nations,” “Sketches From A Secret War,” The Red Prince” and “Bloodlands.”

Irene Caselli, BBC correspondent in Venezuela.  (@irenecaselli)

From Tom’s Reading List

Wall Street Journal: Ukraine Clashes Raise Stakes in Renewed East-West Contest – “Ukraine, the largest and most strategically important of the former Soviet states after Russia, appears on the verge of the kind of bloody uprising rarely seen in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly 25 years ago. But unlike that time, when Moscow had neither the appetite nor the wherewithal to challenge Western policy, the struggle now has become the most dramatic conflict yet between the U.S. and Europe, on one side, and Mr. Putin’s Kremlin, on the other.”

The Christian Science Monitor: Why Ukraine’s future may hinge on its oligarchs — “Behind the scenes is a handful of the country’s wealthiest businessmen, who control an enormous amount of Ukraine’s economic output through their holdings in metallurgy, chemical production, and mining, and other industries. This clan of oligarchs, with their economic interests and close ties to embattled President Viktor Yanukovych, could be critical to ending the political turmoil.”

BBC: Venezuelans gather for Leopoldo Lopez court hearing – “After briefly disappearing from the public eye, on Sunday Mr Lopez posted a video message calling on his supporters to join him in a mass rally on Tuesday, during which he would hand himself in to the security forces. After giving an impassioned speech standing in front of a statue of Cuban independence hero Jose Marti, Mr Lopez, clutching a white flower, walked up to a line of National Guardsmen and turned himself in.”

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  • Kofi Asokwa

    What the opposition in Ukraine is doing is against every principle of democratic governance.Its perfectly fine to express their disapproval of their president’s policies through peaceful protests.However occupying govt buildings and obstructing govt officials from performing their legitimate constitutional duties is wrong.None of the countries supporting the protesters will allow this kind of behavior on their own soil.The right way is for the opposition to convince a majority of Ukrainians to vote the current govt out of office at the next elections rather than trying to come to power through the backdoor.This is analogous to the Tea Party demanding that the POTUS should step down because they dislike his healthcare law!

    • jefe68

      You mean like this tea party leader:
      Retired Army General To Tea Party Group: I Would Lead A Coup Against The U.S. Government


      Or this “lovely man”: William Boykin, now a Family Research Council executive and former top general says members of the military have considered staging a coup d’état against President, but will not because of civilian control of the military.


      • William

        Is he any different that Obama’s mentor, Bill Ayers, who to this day declares no remorse about setting off bombs and wish he had done more.

        • jefe68

          In a word yes.

          • James

            Of course, one’s a conservative, ones a liberal

          • William

            The amazing thing about Bill Ayers is he is still very proud of trying to kill innocent people. It makes you wonder where his parents went wrong.

          • jefe68

            Nice try. But you’re attempt to change the subject is lame.

            The facts: The only hard facts that have come out so far are the $200 contribution by Ayers to the Obama re-election fund, and their joint membership of the eight-person Woods Fund Board.

            Back to the subject on hand. Ukraine.

          • William

            “He was just a guy in the neighborhood”. Yeah…sure….Bill past radical left-wing criminal background is a fact. The funny part of the Obama-Ayers relationship is how Obama tossed him aside after he got what he wanted from him. Bill never got a seat at the Obama table and is just another old washed up radical Liberal.

          • jefe68

            Stupid is as stupid does.

          • William

            You lost the argument when you resort to insults. Rather childish behavior on your part.

          • jefe68

            Well, you keep on posting pretty inane comments. In my opinion, as you’re the one posting them, what you are posting is not very bright. You want to take it personally, well that’s your problem.

        • brettearle

          NEVER thought you could lose even more credibility.

          But when you describe Ayers as the President’s mentor, you reach a new diarrhea-of-the-mind Low

      • twenty_niner


        • jefe68


    • Bill Liteplo

      What we take for granted in the US is that systems work. Here, we can (mostly) accept that elections are free and fair, that the judicial branch is largely doing its best to be non-partisan, that police try to protect the citizenry. In countries were there is so much corruption that elections are not fair, judges are bought by politicians and police are distrusted, you can’t simply use the standard democratic processes. I don’t condone any violent acts by protesters or by officials, but sometimes it takes mass acts of civil unrest to change the system.

    • twenty_niner

      Every actual state is corrupt. Good men must not obey laws too well.

      - Ralph Waldo Emerson

    • twenty_niner

      “This is analogous to the Tea Party demanding that the POTUS should step down because they dislike his healthcare law!”

      Hardly, Yanukovych is trying to drag Ukraine into a Soviet-style alliance with Putin’s Russia using Soviet-era tactics. Ukrainians have been there, done that, and would rather ally with the EU. The stakes are much bigger than a half-baked healthcare law.

  • Michael

    Many Americans attempt to frame the situation in Ukraine as a fight between right and left. They easily get caught in the hysteria of pigeon holing protesters as rightists and, therefore, “fascists.” This is partly fueled by the remnants of Soviet propaganda, which labeled enemies of the Soviet Union fascists.
    I live in Ukraine and have not seen anything that could be called a fascist uprising. The f-word is used by the Ukrainian and Russian governments as a way to discredit those who oppose them. Beware of their distortions!
    What is happening now is a genuine grassroots uprising that was precipitated by social media and the internet. Since November, Twitter, for example, has been very active with protest related issues. The self organization here has been remarkable.
    However, there is only so much that ordinary Ukrainians can do to change their country. It will be very important for the US and the EU especially to freeze the bank accounts and impose visa bans on those responsible for the violence in Ukraine.

    • Adam B

      I haven’t seen the protesters characterized as right wingers….I have seen them characterized as left-leaning liberals and students who want a more democratic government

    • twenty_niner

      You definitely have moral support, but, unfortunately, look no further than Syria for an example of the state-level support you can expect.

    • AI CP

      Looking back at the discussion: Maduro is into fascists too. Too bad these parallels were not discussed. Good luck in Ukraine.

    • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

      Kiev: Exactly, every time you hear facist, extremist, right-wing, neo Nazi- take with a shaker of salt. Some small portion of Svoba (most denigrated cause most powerful, but big mover behind violence) and larger of Pravy (Right) Sector and Spravo Spilno (new groups w little history) ARE anti-foreigner or anti-semetic. But the funny thing about pushing the gay agenda in Russia is that both countries are stuck in maybe the 50′s in social mores- they are pretty deeply racist and anti-Semetic (browns, the Moslems of the South + Ottoman Empire were their enemies for 400 years- 3 mil Ukrainians were shipped out as slaves by Ottomans from Crimea!). Soviets hate the Western rebels (UPA, Bander) with a psychotic passion, cause they were the only group to ever really fight their depredations… and have smeared them for 80 years as neo-Nazis for their brief German flirtation (before they realized their plans were faster extermination).

  • Bill Liteplo

    Hey Tom and other WBUR reporters, let’s please get with the program. Drop the definite article from the country name, i.e. “Ukraine” and not “the Ukraine”.


  • Adam B

    I was watching live streaming video (via the Telegraph) as the sun rose and the truce collapsed in Kiev. For an hour or so, there was a standoff with the police lines on one side of the street hurling tear gas and stun grenades into the crowd of protesters behind makeshift barricades and wooden shields who returned fire with Molotov cocktails. A screen of smoke separated the two camps as the police retreated out of the square and the protesters followed them through the smoke, some of them returning on stretchers carried by men as no vehicles seemed to be able to enter the square. Fireworks blasted sporadically through the night before being replaced by gunfire as the sun rose. As the smoke cleared the new line of the protesters, complete with newly built barricades came into view, under a pedestrian bridge.

    At this point I went to sleep as it was 1:30 local time for me.

    Ambulances are now ringing through the square as the sun sets…9:40 central time US

  • James

    On Venezuela, government aid creates political loyalty

  • tbphkm33

    It is interesting that the topic is civil strife in Ukraine and Venezuela. You could just as easily add in a host of other nations from the past six years – Syria, Thailand, Morocco, Egypt… even to lower level conflict seen in Greece, Spain, Argentina, and even the United States. In fact there is a common theme in all these conflicts. They are dressed up and explained as religious sectarian fighting, democracy struggles, people’s seeking freedom from oppression, political infighting, etc. Yet, when you peel back the layers, you find the same common thread that has been the basis of all human fighting since the dawn of history – economics. The struggle between the have’s and the have-not’s. Resource allocation.

    What makes this era somewhat unique is that these hot spots are popping up all over the world. Then again, the global nature is not all that unique. A similar scenario played out in the mid- to late-1930′s, during, and on the heels of, the Great Depression. Today we are emerging from the most severe global economic crisis since the 1930′s – the Great Recession. The status quo is being questioned, the masses are rising up against a system they rightly perceive as being unjust. Few nations are immune to this.

    Even the United States is being affected. The left brought us the Occupy Wall Street movement. The right the Tea Baggers. Whereas one of the nations richest men warned the country that there is class warfare waged by the rich against the middle class and the poor. This very forum had a heated debate only a few weeks ago about new free trade agreements and the reality that such negotiations tend to mainly benefit large multi-national corporations.

    We should not get caught up in the bravado of simplistic thinking, such as “good versus evil,” or, “this side is our ally, thus the other side is our enemy.” Most of the press and “expert” analysis of these struggles will be clouded by propaganda. The reality is that things come down to economics and who has the best economic system or resource wealth. History only teaches us one thing, that the rich will survive and continue do well – while the masses will bear the brunt of the bloodshed and continue to struggle.

    Humanity has yet to develop an economic resource allocation system that propels the species above the brutality of civil strife and warfare. Capitalism is as corrupt as all the systems that preceded it. Until we can establish a system that provides everyone the resources to lead a happy life, and we curtail greed, humanity will continue to suffer the misery of war.

    • brettearle

      Excellent, just excellent, short essay.

      Couldn’t agree with you more, on everything you said.

      Good work.

      However [yes, I have a `However']:

      I do not think that the `Extreme Progressive’ is necessarily the answer. You are not necessarily SAYING that. But I wonder if you are implying that, as a subtext.

      The value of individual vision and individual mission cannot, or should not, necessarily be thwarted by an overarching societal commitment to Equal Distribution of Resources and Means of Living–above and beyond individual credit and reward.

      Extreme progressive political schema might very well discourage the strength and the gratification of individual achievement and corresponding reward..

      There HAS to be a balance.

      And Ego is important. [Despite the Buddhists among us.]

      The other thing, that you very well could have mentioned, is the economic dissolution of the Wiemar Republic–which predates and presages your references to the Great Depression.

      After all, Liberals like us, fear Fascism, the most.

      And, what could be more symptomatic of the nefarious scourge, to have come in the 1930′s, than the preceding breakdown of German society?

      In the case of a forewarning for political breakdown, anywhere, The Wiemar standard should be employed–in order for all of us to respect the hackneyed maxim,

      “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

      It seems to me that the 2007/2008 Economic Collapse is a forerunner to an inevitable Implosion, world-wide–one that you are clearly alluding to, above…with all the economic unrest, that we are seeing, through parts of the world.

      Your point is well-taken about observing such a troubling trend.

      But, based on your past views, your time table is quicker than mine.

      I think that you have less faith in the dysfunctional nature of our antediluvian political culture. you think it’s about ready to crumble. I still think it’ll take a while.

      When the Soviet Union went under in the early part of the nineties, I think it was long, long time comin’.

      Be interested in hearing your reactions to my comments, here….

      Again, an excellent bit of Narrative.

      [Even if we have strongly disagreed with other things in the past].


      • tbphkm33

        Well written. I agree, a system has to reward individual contributions, while providing equitable distribution of resources. In many ways, we have to reevaluate the basic premise of the industrial revolution and its resultant economy based upon mass consumption. Manufacturing has to switch to a sustainable model of delivering higher quality, while still enabling innovation.

        I am intrigued by your assessment regarding a time table. I tend to draw the assumption that it is closer than what most people believe. As an undergraduate in 1989 I wrote a thesis on the impending fall of the USSR. My advisor rejected my assumptions and almost failed my thesis. Yet, three years later, he admitted that I had been right. I look back on that and wonder if gut instinct is not closer to being correct in the current situation.

        One historical example is Germany, being the most advanced society in the 1920s, to transforming into a nightmare less than a decade later. That perspective should ring loud alarm bells in the United States. No society is beyond such a collapse, and the US has too many troubling economic, social and political fault lines.

        • brettearle

          Thank you.

          Yes, the quick collapse of Germany, back then was startling. But also, as expected.

          Back here, if the Economy were reflecting inevitable collapse–which it really would have to do–then that would be different.

          But I think we will be seeing gradual downward trends, where the uptick spikes will never go back to the prior peaks…..so that it’ll be an inevitable, but slowed, slide.

          A major–God Forbid–terrorist attack would, of course, hasten the Anarchy.

          [I'm sure that the most perspicacious of Al-Qaeda leaders sense this and smell blood.]

          But, yes, it’s inevitable.

          But like Woody Allen said about Death, “I’ve got nothing against it; I just don’t want to be there, when it happens.”

          That would be how I would feel about a Revolution:

          The bloodletting would be endless….

          • tbphkm33

            It is ironic that in terms of bang for the buck, Al Queda got a bargain with 9/11. It caused the USA to spend billions, change societal habits, and has left the country so worse off in so many ways. You are right, the USA cannot sustain many terrorist attacks without the veneer of society crumbling.

          • brettearle

            Do you remember what Bin Laden said?

            [I know, I'm making this a quiz.]

      • Human2013

        Socialism is equally important to individual achievement and competition. I always think of the Nordic states who always seem to get things right. I find that they’re always on top of any measurement of success. I know that they’re largely homogenous, but I think we should be looking to them for guidance.

    • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

      Economic justice and basic human rights, in a nutshell.

    • Art Herttua

      Well said tbphkm33, but what is ignored is what the US has to do with Venezuala, ($4 million to the oppoition) and the refusal to have a joint aid program with Russia for the Ukraine. A good discussion at http://www.democracynow.org/2014/2/20/a_new_cold_war_ukraine_violence

    • Human2013

      Nice Summary.

    • twenty_niner

      Thumbs up.

    • HonestDebate1

      The countries you cite are not capitalist countries.

      • tbphkm33

        ??? and what does the Nopublican/TeaBagger establishment classify these countries as? Oh yes, I forgot, Egypt (long an ally of USA) has also been a strong communist state.

  • Monica

    I agree with you, the situation in Venezuela deserved more time, is very complex, 10 minutes was NOT TIME AT ALL and the BBC correspondent in Caracas gave a TERRIBLE outlook …

  • Monica

    Mr. Ashbrook, since only ten minutes were given to the topic of VENEZUELA, I feel more information has to be given, especially since the BBC correspondent in Caracas gave such poor outlook about the situation…
    throughout last night panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle class neighborhoods, shooting at people and storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting. People continue to be arrested merely for voicing an opinion, and a long established local Human Rights NGO makes an urgent plea for an investigation into widespread reports of torture of detainees. There are now dozens of serious human right abuses: National Guardsmen shooting tear gas canisters directly into residential buildings. We have videos of soldiers shooting civilians on the street. And that’s just what came out in real time, over Twitter and YouTube, before any real investigation is carried out. Online media is next, a city of 645,000 inhabitants has been taken off the internet amid mounting repression, this is NOT a fight of the middle class only as the BBC correspondent said, THIS IS FIGHT FROM REPRESION OF MOST VENEZUELANS FROM ALL CLASSES, MADURO’s militia and police force are MOSTLY CUBAN ARMY CITIZENS dressed in Venezuelans uniforms.

  • twenty_niner

    Speaking of Venezuela:

    Add one part, socialism
    Plus one part, central planning
    And half bake

    • tbphkm33

      Perhaps a bit overly simplistic view of the situation at hand.

      • twenty_niner

        Simplistic? Venezuela (and Argentina) are South America’s latest socialist experiments, which are now on the verge of collapse. Price controls, seizing private property and industry, and currency manipulation are great ideas for becoming a dictator and remaining so, but generally make for disastrous economic policy.

        Of course, for the left, this a lesson that will never get learned. They metaphysically can’t wrap their heads around the idea that a bunch of bureaucrats sitting in a room can’t plan an entire economy. And it’s always: we’ll be kinder, gentler leftists, and the next time will be different, but it never is.

  • AI CP

    Ok, here– some questions:
    Ms. Caselli said that the current unrest is a middle class protest. On the other hand, wouldn’t >50% inflation, a very high crime rate, and lack of freedom of the press, all presumably present currently, affect all classes? What is the cutoff (financial or otherwise) for the middle class vs. the lower class? How much resentment is there currently between the two, and how is it expressed by the lower class vs the government?

  • Art Herttua

    It’s Deja vous all over again see:
    The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (the movie)

  • HonestDebate1

    There was a time when despots thought twice about crossing America and her interest, no more. Obama’s lead from behind strategy has failed. I understand geo-politics is complicated but we’re sitting on the sidelines. This is the result.

  • twenty_niner

    “Democracy = Demos (people) Kratia
    (rule). Elections should show what people want, and not a bunch of armed, violent puppets on barricades.”

    Agreed, but all the reporting on Yanukovych is that he is completely corrupt. He has a roving band of thugs who beat Tetyana Chornovol to an inch of her life for investigating the corruption. Protesters have received similar treatment, so the veracity of any ensuing election is highly in doubt.

  • marygrav

    Why is Tom so disappointed that the Venezuelans are not malnurished? He seems to believe that the White middle class should rule while the poor continue to be abused? When the US/CIA backed dictators ruled in Latin America there was not a so-called democratic voice raised against the abuse of the poor and underclass living in the flavellas. Now because no one is hungry there must be revolution.

    When the American Oil companies refused to give oil to heat the homes of the poor in the United States, Hugo Chavez stepped up to meet the need. The US 1% believe that if the poor, the then middle class needed heat, they could find it in hell.

    The reason that there is no revolution in Venezuela is because the CIA is too busy making war and unrest in Other parts of the Third World like Syria and Ukraine.

    Ever since 1945, the US has been trying to reinstall colonialism in Latin and South America using the excuse of preventing Communism. George Shultz and Ronald Reagan wrecked Africa and is at the root of the poverty in The Congo and Central African Republic that invaded and arm the rebels against the interest of the African peoples. Now the US wants the oil and valuable mineral in Africa, but this is not possible because of the blowback from the Communist farce.

    Tom needs to study American History between the Invasion of Haiti to WWII, then maybe his hubris will take a back seat to the fact that people die in revolution caused by the CIA/US desires to control history as well as control the world.

    When we learn to mind our own business perhaps the welfare of the American middle/working class can get some attention.

    Furthermore, if WE Americans were not so cowardly and distracted by freeing others from their oppression, WE could free ourselves.

  • hourly_PA

    This hour of talk hardly mentions that at least half of Ukraine wishes to remain allied with Russia and wants nothing to do with the protests in Kiev. Guaranteed that a bailout for Ukraine from Putin will be way less poison to its citizens than money from the IMF with its social impositions.

  • janet

    Disappointed in the coverage of the Venezuelan
    protests in this report. The BBC correspondent on this program is very wrong by minimizing this as a middle class protest of mostly middle class concerns. Since when is government corruption
    only a middle class concern? Or oppression? The violations of basic civil
    rights? The inability to voice a dissenting opinion for fear of government
    retaliation? This is more than just about a shortage of toilet paper and basic
    goods. The death toll is up to 13 at last check, and these demonstrators are
    not courageously putting their lives and freedom at risk for a good cup of
    coffee or a better job after college.

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