John le Carre has nothing on this true story
An amazing New York Times article lays out in fascinating detail how high ranking members of Ukraine's intelligence services thwarted and prevented a violent crackdown on unarmed protestors in Kiev's Independence Square by thousands of armed and helmeted troops. The inside story of how this power struggle came about, and the players involved, makes a John le Carre novel seem like child's play.
As we all followed those events there were many rumors of tanks and trucks and troops moving toward the capital and stories swirled about possible armed assaults against the protestors. Little did we know then how true these reports were, and how close Ukraine came to a bloody crackdown like in Tiananmen Square in China or the scenes in Hungary in 1956. Thank God that finally a sense of decency and independence had awakened even in some of the country's security forces.
Read the first paragraphs below -- and don't miss the entire article in the Times -- which is more exciting than a spy novel -- because it's true -- and we just watched it unfolding before our eyes.
We are living through momentous times indeed.
Here's the article:http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/17/international/europe/17ukraine.html?8bl
The New York Times
January 19, 2005
Back Channels: A Crackdown Averted. How Top spies in Ukraine changed the nation's path.
By C. J. Chivers
As protests here against a rigged presidential election overwhelmed the capital last fall, an alarm sounded at Interior Ministry bases outside the city. It was just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 28.
More than 10,000 troops scrambled toward trucks. Most had helmets, shields and clubs. Three thousand carried guns. Many wore black masks. Within 45 minutes, according to their commander, Lt. Gen. Sergei Popkov, they had distributed ammunition and tear gas and were rushing out the gates.
Kiev was tilting toward a terrible clash, a Soviet-style crackdown that could have brought civil war. And then, inside Ukraine's clandestine security apparatus, strange events began to unfold.
While wet snow fell on the rally in Independence Square, an undercover colonel from the Security Service of Ukraine, or S.B.U., moved among the protesters' tents. He represented the successor agency to the K.G.B., but his mission, he said, was not against the protesters. It was to thwart the mobilizing troops. He warned opposition leaders that a crackdown was afoot.
Simultaneously, senior intelligence officials were madly working their secure telephones, in one instance cooperating with an army general to persuade the Interior Ministry to turn back.
The officials issued warnings, saying that using force against peaceful rallies was illegal and could lead to prosecution and that if ministry troops came to Kiev, the army and security services would defend civilians, said an opposition leader who witnessed some of the exchanges and Oleksander Galaka, head of the military's intelligence service, the G.U.R., who made some of the calls.
Far behind the scenes, Col. Gen. Ihor P. Smeshko, the S.B.U. chief, was coordinating several of the contacts, according to Maj. Gen. Vitaly Romanchenko, leader of the military counterintelligence department, who said that on the spy chief's orders he warned General Popkov to stop. The Interior Ministry called off its alarm.
Details of these exchanges, never before reported, provide insight into a hidden factor in the so-called Orange Revolution, the peaceful protests that overturned an election and changed the political course of a post-Soviet state.
Throughout the crisis an inside battle was waged by a clique of Ukraine's top intelligence officers, who chose not to follow the plan by President Leonid D. Kuchma's administration to pass power to Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich, the president's chosen successor. Instead, these senior officers, known as the siloviki, worked against it.
Such a position is a rare occurrence in former Soviet states, where the security agencies have often been the most conservative and ruthless instruments of state power.