Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

John le Carre has nothing on this true story

By Aussiegirl

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.


At 7:42 PM, Blogger Timothy Birdnow said...

Hi Aussiegirl!

Someone needs to make that into a move! Truth is often indeed stranger than fiction.

We DO live in momentous times!

Keep up the great work! I now have you blogrolled on my own blog (unfortunately, my toolbars to post links and italicize no longer work-oh boy!) If I EVER figure this out before I die I`ll be sure to tell you!

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Orange Ukraine said...

Did you know there is a good analysis of the article at Neeka's Backlog, and an even better one at the Eurasia Daily Monitor (best free coverage of Ukraine imaginable, outside of Zerkalo Nedeli, that is)
The Eurasia Daily Monitor Article:

I'm with these guys. The credit goes to the protesters.

At 11:56 PM, Blogger Aussiegirl said...

Thanks, Orange Ukraine, for the links -- and the comments -- wheels within wheels. I think the analysis sounds correct, and I was wondering if one person wasn't being a bit lionized in the story. These stories tend to have many players. I suppose that Moscow could have sent in troops disguised as Ukrainian troops, weren't there rumors of such things? It was a scary time, anyway -- and who knows what a desperate regime might have done. But like in the Czechoslovak revolutions and other places, once that many people come out it gets difficult to do anything. I remember the Czechs all jingling and shaking their keys in the air -- saying -- get out of office -- we have the keys now -- not you. It was a beautiful sight and seems so long ago now. And the analysis is right, the thought of ending up like the Ceaucescous was not appealing.

At 12:55 AM, Blogger Kirk H. Sowell said...

Interestingly, I blogged on the same article a few days ago.See, http://arabworldanalysis.blogspot.com/2005/01/ukraines-heroic-spies.html. It is a fascinating story. And I read your translation and linked to that as well. It was a great speech. Thanks,
Kirk Sowell


Post a Comment

<< Home