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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Police Beat Up T Fare Hike Protesters in Kyiv

A rally outside the Kyiv City Council on Sunday gathered left-wing youths and non-partisan Kyivites unhappy with the recent quadrupling of public transport fare.

The fare has skyrocketed from Hr. 0.5 to Hr. 1.5-2 ($0.25-0.30). In a city where a school teacher makes about Hr. 1,200 a month and monthly rent for a single-room apartment averages Hr. 3,600, the rally was surprisingly small and peaceful.

The protesters brought a “coffin of the bourgeois,” burned a few tires symbolizing the “fare yoke,” chanted slogans, and sang protest songs.

Riot police responded brutally, clubbing the protesters and dragging them by hair into detention buses, without sparing even minors and journalists.

Is that what Yuriy Lutsenko, today’s Interior Minister, meant when chanting “militsiya z narodom!” (“police with the people!”) during the Orange Revolution? Is he doing penance for hitting Mayor Chernovetsky “in places that men usually take pride in?”

How long before we have Paris all over the place?



Anonymous said...

Umm, sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with you slightly here.

First, why were they singing about Lenin and Stalin if this was supposed to be a protest about bus fares?

Second, why were they burning tires if this was supposed to be a protest about bus fares? Burning tires is not a good thing to do, apart from the bad smell and problems it causes in a public place, because noxious fumes are released.

Third, why were they doing this at night?

Fourth, this didn't seem like anything but a bunch of people milling about and a couple people with megaphones trying to stir thing up with hard rock "music" and songs about Lenin and Stalin.

This seemed to me more like some kind of deliberate agitation than any kind of legitimate protest.

I'm not sure why it deserves any attention.

People should have been paying attention when they sold their votes to Chernovetsky in the first place.

Gabriela said...

From Hr. 0.5 to Hr. 1.5-2? That's a lot. I guess there are, at least, some detainees.

Taras said...


The fact that some of the protesters sang songs about Lenin and Stalin doesn’t mean the entire rally served the communist agenda.

At this time of the year, it gets dark at 5 p.m. I don’t think the Ukrayinska Pravda journalist who got busted that night had anything to do with communism. To make such sweeping generalizations would be as wrong as arguing that once a certain group of voters elects a certain official, the rest have no right to protest.

Besides, in the U.S. presidential election, some Republican-leaning Americans voted for Obama. It doesn’t mean they voted for a communist, does it?

To tell you the truth, had the protesters burned the entire Kyiv City Council and the Verkhovna Rada, I wouldn’t be very upset.

We need a Guy Fawkes in this country.


Considering the purchasing power of ordinary Kyivites, it’s quite a bite into their family budgets.

Thank you for commenting!

Anonymous said...

Taras, the issue is not whether they have a right to protest or not.

You are right about the journalist, but I wonder whether he was wearing a press badge or other press identification.

However, what does singing songs about Lenin and Stalin have to do with metro fares? It calls into question the purpose of the "protest."

Do you really think they have the right to burn tires in a public place, with noxious emissions?

Voting is not the same as burning tires in the street.

Hasn't Ukraine already had enough of Guy Fawkes, with all sorts of staged "suicides" by shots to the back of the head, arranged motor vehicle accidents, and so forth, of political or business opponents?

Isn't it time for Ukrainians to finally get their act together, especially the politicians, in a civilized intelligent manner?

In England, Guy Fawkes is long gone, and the only riots are soccer riots.

In the English Parliament, there is a regularly scheduled session of questions put to the Prime Minister - which is televised all over the world.

The Prime Minister, in English Parliament, has to answer to elected representatives, on various topics of concern to the people, not just oligarchs.

During Hetman times, in roughly the 17th and 18th centuries, the Right Bank of Ukraine was under Polish domination, the Left Bank was under rooshan domination - and Ukrainians fought each other to "unite the country." Somehow, it didn't work.

roosha imposed a brutal regime on Left Bank Ukraine, including depriving Ukrainians of their rights, and giving preferred rights to imported Germans.

Right Bank Ukraine was under Polish domination. But at least the Poles had some culture, even though they were brutal in establishing their dominion at that time.

Hasn't Ukraine had enough of that?

Or is there some "Ukrainian third way" that I'm not aware of - burn down all the buildings, and the people will suddenly have jobs, the hryvnia will stabilize, agricultural will finally flourish and grow from its current 25% of potential (according to Ukraine's agricultural minister), Ukraine will get its act together to host Euro 2012, and win that and the World Cup?

Taras said...

Here’s the detained reporter’s story.

Again, I insist that the songs sung by one group of protesters do not delegitimize the rights of the others. A good analogy would be abolishing the Second Amendment as opposed to passing stricter gun control laws.

There’s nothing inherently wrong about such protests. Would New Yorkers tolerate a fourfold increase in transport fare more than they tolerate exhaust fumes?

The American Revolution may be ancient history, but “no taxation without representation” still holds, right?

So here’s what I think. I think holding rallies and burning tires is the least Ukrainians can do to deliver the wake-up call their kings, queens and cosmonauts so badly need.

We can’t just suffer in silence and wait until they voluntarily give up a quantum of stabilnist.

Anonymous said...

Taras, burning tires in the street ain't gonna do a thing, in my opinion.

New Yorkers did indeed go through fare hikes. But they also got a mayor, Guiliani, who cleaned up the subways, cleaned all the graffiti off the subway cars, cleaned up Times Square, in addition to a number of other things.

And Guiliani didn't bribe people to vote for him, like Chernovetsky did. Bloomberg is now the mayor of New York, and he seems to be doing a pretty good job as well.

The issue is not the right to protest. The issue is how to protest effectively.

I suggest that Ukrainians should have thought of this BEFORE they sold their votes to Chernovetsky.

I further suggest that Ukrainians ought to learn how to organize themselves effectively.

Here's an example - one of the techniques used by blacks to fight against discrimination (being forced to sit in the back of the bus) on public transportation was - boycotts. They simply boycotted public transportation - which hit the city government in the pocketbook big time.

Singing songs about Lenin and Stalin ain't gonna do a thing.

Further - Kyiv is a massively polluted city.

If people still insist on comparing Ukraine to the US, then look at what LA and New York and other large cities have done to curb smog and pollution and exhaust fumes from cars.

I further suggest that burning tires in the streets is downright stupid.

But not as stupid as selling votes to Chernovetsky.

Finally, bus or subway fares are not taxation.

Sales taxes, of value added taxes, or income taxes, or a tax on tea (which was dumped into Boston Harbor) - those are taxes.

Noone pays taxes in Ukraine, anyway.

I stress again - Ukrainians don't seem to know how to get their act together for good, open, honest, efficient government - with the exception of the Orange Revolution.

But in that case, it didn't help that Yushchenko and others betrayed what the people stood for.

There are upcoming elections in Ukraine, one way or another. Seems to me that the time to effectively demonstrate what people want is through the vote.

Otherwise all you get is burned tires - and a bunch of songs about Lenin.

Anonymous said...

OK, a bit more.

I read the reporter's story.

The "Berkut", the special forces, have an extremely bad attitude. They have a Gestapo attitude, or a KGB attitude.

It reminds me when I was standing at a train station in Ukraine with a pretty young Ukrainian girl, and 2 thugs walked up in leather coats and started accusing her of "shpekulatsiya" - currency speculation. No such thing was occurring, and no such thing had occurred. One of them said that he had "memorized her face forever."

Talking openly about how "all of the students should simply be killed" - well, that is an awful attitude on the part of the Berkut personnel. That's Gestapo.

Seems to me that they have no training, or the wrong kind of training.

This guy needs to get his story out, and widely.

By the way, in the US, there is a constitutional prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure by the government.

And there is also a remedy in court for deprivation of civil rights by people acting in government under "color of law" - which actually works.

In the US, he would have a remedy for wrongful arrest.

Of course, simply observing a protest or happenings on the street is not grounds for arrest in the US - or in other civilized countries.

The fundamental principle is that the government may not tread on the bodies or the rights of individuals. In Europe, there is a court which enforces human rights.

What I'm suggesting, Taras, is that people in Ukraine love to compare themselves to the US.

And they love to moan and groan about how bad things are.

But when it comes to figuring out and IMPLEMENTING solutions - there seem to be only blank stares.

Or tires burning in the street. :-)

Taras said...

Would Americans live on $1,200 a month without burning tires?

I did not vote for Chernovetsky. Does that somehow disqualify me from protesting his policies?

In Ukraine, public transport is subsidized with taxpayers’ money. When I go the grocery store, 20 percent of my grocery bill comes from the value added tax.

Americans grew up in a country where they take many things for granted: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. They owe these things to generations of hard work and, yes, protests.

In Ukraine, we don’t have those things. We don’t have probable cause. We don’t have Miranda. It doesn’t mean we’re lazy. It’s just we spent 70 years being screwed under bloody communism, and now we’re being screwed under crony capitalism.

You’re not smarter than us. You just happen to be less screwed than we are.

Learn from us. Don’t take your freedom for granted.

Anonymous said...

Taras, years ago, when I was on a flight out of Moscow and the pilot announced that we had just left soviet airspace, everyone on the flight cheered and clapped.

It may not seem like it to you, but I can assure you that noone in the US takes freedom for granted. Freedom isn't free, and when the US acts to ensure freedom, it quite often gets lambasted by Europe, Canada, and other countries, because US-bashing seems to be a popular sport, especially among socialists in Canada and Europe.

You are right - Ukraine has a far more difficult task before it than the US did.

The US started out with deep suspicion of central authority, and George Washington did everything he could to make sure that the US President did not emulate a king.

The federal government in the early years of the US was a very weak governmental institution. But freedom was not (except for slavery, which was finally abolished).

In the US, there was, and still is for the most part, despite a culture of entitlement among some, a culture and attitude of self-reliance.

In Ukraine, everything began and ended with the government, and Ukraine is indeed still living with and trying to shake off the after-effects of bloody communism.

And my point is not that people don't or shouldn't have the right to protest - the point is how to do it effectively.

Indeed, they should have the right to recall elected officials for doing bad jobs.

It is a huge task to transform from a centrally planned economy and a dictatorial government to a representative democracy.

I wouldn't call what Ukraine has now crony capitalism. There is certainly cronyism. It's more like crony thievism.

But then tell me the answer to the question I've asked before, especially since it is out in the open that Ukraine has a crony "political elite" bunch of thieves in power:

why do people keep voting for the same old thugs in Ukraine, if everyone knows there is cronyism and corruption?

And when people from the West offer advice based on years and years of experience, why do Ukrainians get their back hairs up and take a "don't tell us what to do" attitude?

I've seen it not only from Ukrainian officials, but also all over forums and blogs.

So when NATO says "reform," Ukraine says "we don't have to reform, you need to beg us to be in NATO."

When Euro 2012 comes to Ukraine and says Ukraine can host Euro 2012 if you get your stadiums and hotels and roads up to FIFA standards - Ukraine blows it.

Ukraine can have all the protests it wants, but the question remains:

Why do people in Ukraine keep voting for the same old thugs?

Taras said...

By freedom, I meant America’s freedom from within. As for America’s freedom from without, things often — not always — go wrong. The world knows it.

In Ukraine, we lack your freedom from within.

We no longer have a centrally planned command-and-control economy. With 80 percent of the economy grabitized, gone are the fruits of several generations’ slave and semi-slave labor. The fruits of that labor have gone into the coffers of crony capitalism.

That’s not reform. That’s not freedom. That’s not democracy. That’s kleptocracy.

Ukraine does need advice. Does the IMF always offer that kind of advice? I don’t think so. Was monetarism a big win for Ukrainians? Was the undervalued hryvnia a blessing for Ukrainians? Was the dollar peg/dollarization good for Ukrainians?

What good were the loans that empowered Kuchma to carry out a blowout discount sale of this country’s assets to his cronies?

Borrowing from Yushchenko’s discourse, I can proudly say that Ukraine piled up bad advice “like a b**ch piles up lice.” Keeping in mind that Yushchenko once described Kuchma as his father figure, we can open a whole museum of bad advice and bad role models.

Our biggest entitlement culture comes from our elite. They owe it to our corrupt government. It’s a vicious circle, or the “circle of life,” as Kuchma’s birthday singer Elton John put it.

I try not to vote for outright thugs. And guess what? Once I vote for the lesser evil, that lesser evil comes out, and it gets bigger and bigger. The horns that stick through the plaited halo become ever more visible.

Nothing will change in this circus of stabilnist until we hold them accountable through regular large-scale protests.

Anonymous said...

Well, Taras, one way or another, Ukraine has got to break out of what is has now.

No question that there is just a big kleptocracy.

However, to me it is just an extreme extension of what occurred during sovok times - some people were more equal than others. Top officials had access to Mercedes, Western information and culture, dachas, and all sorts of other stuff that was forbidden to "ordinary people."

In 1991, when the subsidiaries (republics and satellites) decided to stop reporting to headquarters (Maskva), what emerged was a bunch of pashas and sultans who no longer felt that they needed to hide any conspicuous consumption, like during sovok times, and saw the chance to INCREASE their conspicuous consumption and grabitization - without any social, political, legal or governmental restraints whatsoever, and without having to try to hide it, like during sovok times.

In large part, because the people were - sheeple, thanks to bloody sovok communism.

It happened in every former sovok republic and satellite.

The difference today between roosha and Ukraine?

In Ukraine, there is free and open discussion about how rotten the oligarchs and the government is.

In roosha - well, you get jailed for even mentioning it, or saying anything to criticize Dictator Vlad Dracul Putin, er, Medvedev.

Despite all the problems, I think Ukraine is on the right path.