© Kyiv Post
On Jan. 29, at least 23 cars were set on fire in Kyiv. Some had license plates that indicated that their owners are from western Ukraine, a stronghold of nationalism and opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych.
At least one European diplomat evacuated his family because of threats. At least one high-ranking member of the ruling Party of Regions did the same. When their mobile phone numbers were made public, Regions’ members of parliament began receiving threats.
People are scared.
Some see the dirty hand of Moscow’s special services in these divisive tactics. But blackmail and threats are also some of the favorite tactics of Yanukovych. On Jan. 29, he coerced his faction into supporting an amnesty bill. He threatened to disband the Rada if they did not. Some Ukrainian media even reported that he threatened criminal cases against deputies.
Under Yanukovych’s watch, terror is common. Properties have been taken over by force. Women have been raped and set on fire by police officers, as in the Vradiyivka case last summer. Courts are political tools.
In EuroMaidan, police have acted with hired thugs to clear protesters off the streets and terrorize peaceful demonstrators. Of course, some in the Party of Regions see the thugs as heroes helping police to stop the EuroMaidan vigilantes.
And then there are the unsolved kidnappings and killings of activists, as in the case of Yuriy Verbytsky, who was kidnapped on Jan. 21, tortured and then left to freeze to death in a ditch.
Police have acted with brutality in dispersing crowds. There is the case of Mykhailo Havryliuk, a EuroMaidan protester forced to walk naked on snow in freezing temperatures. A video of Berkut officers abusing him was leaked online, but instead of investigating the police officers, authorities started to hunt the whistleblower, who was forced to flee Ukraine.
Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, insisted that the Yanukovych administration address these issues. She is asking the wrong people to solve the problem.