Kyiv, March 12, 2014. Recently revealed information points to evidence that pro-Russian demonstrations aimed at fueling separatism in Ukraine may have been organized by citizens of the Russian Federation. Seeking to demonstrate their extreme pro-Russian stance, protesters have taken over city councils, have burned Ukraine’s national flag, and have violently dispersed pro-Ukrainian demonstrations, further fueling the conflict. Interestingly, Russian media sources have identified these pro-Russian activists as Ukrainian citizens who are fighting for their Russian freedoms and liberties.
While the obvious, yet with no shots fired confrontation between Ukraine and Russia escalates in Crimea, other regions of Ukraine are not left without the Kremlin’s close attention. Putin seems to be holding Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, namely Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv in a tight grip. Russian self-proclaimed tourists are crossing Ukraine’s borders and settling in the Eastern cities of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, while the presence of Russian armed troops in Crimea continues to increase dramatically.
Violent events which took place in Kharkiv on March 2, 2014, featured thousands of activists violently taking over the Kharkiv city council and installing a Russian flag on top of it. One of the dramatic pictures taken on that day showed someone by the name of Mika Ronkainen installing a Russian tri-color flag on top of Kharkiv city hall. As later discovered on his Vkontakte profile, Mika is a Russian citizen and a resident of Moscow. His mission to Ukraine and how he appeared on the top of Kharkiv city hall with a foreign flag still remains a mystery.
Reports of violence by overly active Russia supporters have been coming from Ukrainian businessman and Maidan activist Hennadiy Balashov. During his recent visit to Crimea, he was kidnapped and tortured for eight hours by unknown perpetrators. The presumed reason for this extraordinary violence was his support of the current allegedly “fascist” regime installed in Kyiv, reported Balashov at a briefing on Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Balashov said that those people were Russian militants, dressed as “kazacks”, who were had come there via open border in the east. Putin told these militants to go to Crimea and get there apartments.
Social networks are being used as a tool in the conflict as well. A recently launched page “Civil Defense Unit of Ukraine” already has more than 8,000 subscribers. Interestingly, the page serves as a platform where Russian tourists can cooperate and together travel to Kharkiv and Donetsk – cities where linguistic conflicts and problems of national identity are most serious.
Historically, Ukraine has been defined as a bilingual state. It is not clear why suddenly issues of linguistic sensitivity, national identity and heritage, fueled by hundreds of Russian citizens within Ukraine’s borders, have come to the forefront. There have not been and continue to be no cases of discrimination against these citizens.