Rostislav Ishchenko: The Opposition Delivers Training Sessions for a Maidan

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Over 20 cities in Ukraine were left without a heat supply. Generally it is cities that are rather small – up to 100,000 inhabitants, but also the 600,000 Krivoy Rog, and in the capital, in Kiev, certain houses, and even whole residential districts remain without heat.

The reaction of the population that followed was splendidly harmonious, organised, and quick as lightning. The people blocked Zoologicheskaya Street in Kiev for half a day, the roads in Smela and other settlements were also blocked, in Krivoy Rog tyres were burned, and then “Krivorozhgaz” was taken by storm and people independently switched on the gas in boiler rooms.

It is characteristic that problems arose mainly in those places where the local government is controlled by the opposition. It is a standard situation – the local authorities spend money on anything, even on writing out bonuses for themselves, but not on repaying the debt to gas companies. This is besides the fact that the debt was re-structured, that it was necessary to pay a sum that wasn’t too crazy, and that there is a negotiation mechanism that made it was possible to reach an agreement on delaying, rescheduling, or reducing the payment if someone is suddenly not able to pay.

Moreover, since on the eve of the start of the presidential electoral campaign Poroshenko isn’t interested in cataclysms of this sort, there was also an option to appeal to the central authorities for support.

Nevertheless, a heating collapse arrived completely unexpectedly. This is besides the fact that by the time this happened the heating season had already been ongoing for one month. There is the impression that the opposition deliberately waited for cold weather in order to organise anti-Poroshenko acts. In certain cities, in addition to the heating and hot water being disconnected, the cold water supply was also disconnected. At least in one case the electricity was also disconnected – so that the population felt the criminality of the regime in full.

The acts, as was already said above, were strikingly synchronised, well organised, and purposeful. “Revolting people” everywhere quickly and effectively won local victories. It’s not everywhere that they were associated with the immediate supplying of gas to boiler rooms, but by all accounts, it’s not everywhere that such a task was set. It is clear that in huge – according to Ukrainian measures – Krivoy Rog the government couldn’t allow a heating collapse, and intervention would happen immediately. That’s why there the “uprising” didn’t start to wait – they quickly seized “Krivorozhgaz” and activated the boiler rooms themselves.

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Pay attention – among the “spontaneously revolting people” the necessary specialists appeared on the scene completely incidentally.

In other cases where the city is less big or it concerns separate residential districts or houses being left without heating, the “uprising” limited itself to the local and short-lived blocking of minor streets or roads. Since the scandal acquired an all-Ukrainian scale, it means that heat will be given quickly enough. But, taking into account the degradation of administrative structures and the slowness of bureaucracy – traditional for Ukraine, this will take from several days to one week.

I.e., it will remain in the memory of the people that the criminal regime froze them, that they (the people) rose up and won a difficult fight, and that the authorities couldn’t do anything to oppose them, because “the police is with the people”.

In order so that the Ministry of Internal Affairs isn’t too active in the suppression of protests, the organisers covered their behinds. Along with the “genocide by freezing” scandal, the topic of the guilt of the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor-General in the death of the activist Gandzyuk, who in the summer was doused with acid  by her Maidan colleagues and amazingly died in time on November 4th in hospital due to thromboembolisms, started being inflated. I.e., law enforcement officers during the “uprising against the cold” rally were occupied with their problems, and they had no time for actions that didn’t have a menacing character.

What did the opposition receive from it?

It was shown to people – all the people of Ukraine, and not just to those who found themselves without heating. It was shown that the regime is ready to abandon them to the cold and extinction and it won’t bat an eyelid until it faces active street resistance. It was shown that the regime is afraid to use force, and that street protests – up to the level of the occupation of state institutions – are an easy and pleasant affair, and yield immediate results. It was shown that it is possible to block streets and highways and there will be no consequences as a result.

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The next time when an appeal to come out to the streets for a fight for their rights will sound (under any pretext), a much more dense crowd scene will be on the streets, and rallies can turn out to be not so harmless. And it’s not minor streets that can be blocked, but strategically important main lines (including railway), and also the central streets of cities. And state administrations can be taken by storm, and not just some city gas establishments.

In fact, the opposition carried out a successful rehearsal of the instant paralysis of the life of the country and the artificial collapse of the state administration, which is almost near death. At any moment Poroshenko can learn that he doesn’t control anything, except his office and, maybe, if he is lucky, his reception. It is also important that the mass rallies that embraced a considerable part of the country were carried out in such a way where the authorities weren’t given a reason to use force or to accuse the opposition of committing illegal actions.

When two political forces prepare to solve an issue of governance by means of force and understand that it can’t be solved otherwise, it is very important who will formally appear to be the instigator of the illegitimate scenario both in the opinion of the world community and in the opinion of their own people. The opposition is always in a weaker position. The authorities a priori have the right to use force against illegal street protests, while the opposition in relation to the authorities only acquire the right to use force if the authorities start a war against its own people. There is no other format of delegitimising the legitimate authorities.

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Therefore, even if the actions of the people are beyond the law, they have to be sure that they aren’t doing anything illegal and that there is no reason to use force against them. So then even the dispersal of a rally by police officers with truncheons will be perceived more sharply than if it was done with machine gun fire.

The opposition in Ukraine in November 2018, with its “anti-genocide by freezing” activity, created the illusion among the people that had been forgotten since the last Maidan concerning the legality of their actions. For the authorities it will be much more difficult to suppress any subsequent mass protest by means of force. Police violence will be perceived as illegal and, being insufficiently traumatic, won’t stop a bigger number of protesters coming out to the streets, but, on the contrary, it will stimulate it.

It is possible to stop the protests growing only by a shockingly disproportionate and unexpected use of violence – when, for example, people expect to face police truncheons, while in reality they face machine gun fire. But such shocking violence, without political stabilisation measures being added to it, leads to external partners refusing to support a regime drenched in blood and also the transition of practically all the country to deaf/silent opposition. In the end this leads to fast decomposition and fall of the regime.

As we can see, the opposition doesn’t believe that Poroshenko will give up power voluntary and thus uses Maidan technologies so that Poroshenko’s readiness for large-scale bloodshed can’t help him remain in power.

At the same time, it is necessary to understand that the opposition is taking a serious risk. Firstly, its Maidan is lacking, since it is being deployed without external support. Secondly, Maidan technologies assume a slow stage-by-stage succession of events, and it means that Poroshenko receives time to carry out anticipatory actions against the leaders of the opposition.

But the opposition emphatically won the training round in the middle of November. Poroshenko, occupied by Tomos, didn’t understand what is happening.

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