I received an interesting email regarding Ukraine from reader Jacob Dreizin, a US citizen who speaks both Russian and Ukrainian.

Jacob comments on media bias and offers the “full scoop” on Ukraine.

First, let’s take a look at events that happened earlier today.

Pro-Russia Gunmen Seize Crimea Parliament

Bloomberg reports Gunmen Seize Crimea Parliament as Ukraine Backs New Premier.

Gunmen occupied the parliament in Ukraine’s Crimea region as lawmakers in the capital approved a new cabinet after last week’s ouster of Viktor Yanukovych.

About 120 trained and well-armed men took over the parliament and government buildings in Simferopol, according to Serhiy Kunitsyn, a lawmaker for former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s UDAR party. They raised the Russian flag.

Fistfights broke out yesterday near Crimea’s parliament as hundreds of demonstrators demanded a referendum on breaking the region off from Ukraine and joining Russia. They were met by several thousand Tatars, chanting “Crimea isn’t Russia!”

The proposed Crimean referendum has no legal basis, Unian said, citing the Central Election Committee. The Constitution requires a nationwide referendum to change territorial status.

Crimea’s Parliament Seeks Referendum on Region’s Future

The Financial Times reports Crimea’s Parliament Calls for Referendum on Region’s Future

Ukraine plunged further into crisis on Thursday after unidentified pro-Russian gunmen seized Crimea’s regional parliament, prompting legislators there to call a referendum on the autonomous peninsula’s future.

The raid in Simferopol, Crimea’s capital, intensified east-west tensions over Ukraine. Fears mounted that separatists could prevail in the largely pro-Russian peninsula after a pro-western leadership assumed power in Kiev after last week’s toppling of president Viktor Yanukovich.

Hours after scores of armed men seized Crimea’s legislature, Vladimir Konstantinov, the Speaker, said an extraordinary parliament session had voted to hold a referendum on the peninsula gaining more autonomy on May 25 – the date already set for snap presidential elections across Ukraine.

Mr Yatseniuk told the national parliament as his government was sworn in that the country was “on the brink of collapse and being torn apart”. He called for members of the UN Security Council to preserve the nation’s territorial integrity.

The escalation of events in Crimea and Mr Yanukovich’s claims still to be in power pose a severe challenge to Ukraine’s new leaders even as they grapple to stabilise the country’s tottering economy. Joking grimly about his role yesterday, Mr Yatseniuk said he would be leading a “government of suicides”.

Hryvnia Plunges Another 9.8% Today

Clearly things are not going well. A default looms. Now let’s hear what reader Jacob Dreizin has to say.

Ukraine – The Full Scoop

Hi Mish,

The last Ukrainian government was awful, but as someone who speaks the language and has been reading the local news for hours each day, I want you to know there are two sides to this story.

The Western media is not reporting accurately and in a balanced way as to what’s going on in Ukraine, both in the run-up to the fall of the regime, and now, in the aftermath.

There is a “reign of terror” in Kiev and some other areas right now.

Offices and even private homes associated with the former ruling party and its communist allies have been ransacked or burned by militias even though Yanukovich’s mansion has been left alone.

An independent member of parliament who critiqued certain positions of the main nationalist party was assaulted and had to go to hospital with a concussion.  Also, some public officials in the central/western regions have been detained and beaten-up. 

Other pro-Russia citizens have been rounded up and taken away by militias, with no warrant.  We have no idea if, how, or where they are being held.

The ultra-nationalist umbrella groups that direct the militias have just announced they will essentially take charge of Central Elections Commission HQ and monitor its work during the upcoming national vote.  How fair will the vote be?

Riot police returning to their bases in western Ukraine were forced to attend public assemblies in which they had to get on their knees and beg forgiveness (whether or not they were involved in any abuses.) Some have already fled their homes and are living as refugees. 

Also, one of parliament’s very first post-revolution decisions was to revoke the right of local governments to do business in non-Ukrainian languages, such as Russian. Another law has been proposed to effectively ban the broadcast or rebroadcast of television or radio from Russia.  There are still other proposed bills aimed at provoking and oppressing the Russian or Russian-speaking population.

Lastly, while the new legal authorities are investigating the killing of around 70 protestors, no one is looking into the deaths of at least 13 policemen (at least 10 from gunshot wounds) or several ruling party workers who were killed in an attack on their office.

It’s much easier to pretend this is about democracy, human rights, the peoples’ choice, etc. while looking the other way now that “our guys” have won. We have seen this movie before. And I fear it will only get worse from here.

Yes, the former government led by President Viktor Yanukovych was corrupt. But the leading opposition figure, who was just released from jail was named by U.S. Federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspirator in the massive corruption schemes of a former Ukrainian prime minister who served time in U.S. Federal prison for money laundering and other charges after having made off with what is believed to be hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it not yet recovered.

Feel free to use my name. I put in my time in uniform, and I’m not afraid that some pro-war, pro-intervention chickenhawks might call me a traitor for supporting the “wrong” side. I have earned my right to say whatever I want.

All the best,

Jacob Dreizin

Ukrainian Language Usage

Comments by Jacob got me interested in who speaks what, where? Here is an interesting chart from Wikipedia on usage of Russian Language vs. Ukrainian language.

The problem is obvious.
There is a serious chance Ukraine splits in two. If it doesn’t issues can fester for years, if not decades.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock