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Political Resistance against Russian Aggresion

23 May

From Kyiv Post, with Olena Tregub, May 2, 2014

The “anti-terrorist operation” the Ukrainian government launched in eastern and southern Ukraine to displace the Russian-backed separatist militia has been a failure. The acting Ukrainian president Oleksandr V. Turchynov himself acknowledged on April 30 that the “overwhelming majority of security forces in the east are not able to carry out their duty to defend our citizens.”


Crimean Tatars in protest to commemorate 70th anniversary of 1944 deportation. Russian-occupied Symferopol, Crimea, May 18, 2014

The overall struggle of separatists and their backers has clear political objectives: to hold local referenda and win support for secession of a large minority or ideally majority of the regions’ population; either voluntarily or through falsification. The problem is that for this political struggle the Ukrainian government mobilized merely the military instrument – the very tool for which its adversaries hold a strong suit. In fact, the separatists have a clear advantage over Ukrainian forces that have poor organizational skills and training to deal with a limited scale guerrilla insurgency embedded with small but boisterous pro-rebel civilian crowds.

This kind of political struggle calls for total political resistance, not military engagement.

In the call for total political resistance the Ukrainian authorities would address two simple but crucial questions:

1. How can unarmed local populations make the life of the occupiers in Crimea and separatists in southeast Ukraine difficult?

2. How can the social cohesion and solidarity among Ukrainians be enhanced despite ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity?

The call for total political resistance could thus offer general “tips” or “resistance recommendations” equally to help guide actions, stimulate people’s imaginations and expand their resourcefulness given their abilities, skills and risks which they are willing to take.

The Ukrainian government, together with mainstream and social media could launch a nationwide campaign of total political resistance that would recommend specific actions and expected behavior from Ukrainians at a time of crisis, including:

· Do not give out any information to separatists

· Ignore separatists’ request for assistance

· Do not serve them when they come to buy groceries, water, medicine or other products or charge them more than usual; or sell them bad, expired goods

· Do not exchange their dollars to local currency or vice versa

· If separatists want to stay in your hotel or home give them the worst rooms and food. Inform them that restrooms do not work

· Protect, offer shelter and extend your solidarity to Ukrainians, Ukrainian Russians and Ukrainian Jews and other minorities who are attacked because of their pro-Ukrainian views

· Use your balconies and windows to display Ukrainian flags or Ukrainian national colors

· Wear cloths with Ukrainian national colors and Ukrainian traditional dress

· Go to the local Ukrainian churches for collective prayers

· Design, print and distribute thousands of leaflets and brochures in villages, towns and cities across eastern and southern Ukraine about what life would be like under Russian occupation

· Engage in pro-Ukrainian graffiti that could mark towns

· Paint trees, buildings, and other city landmarks in Ukrainian colors with difficult-to-remove materials

In Crimea, if you work for a state-owned company serving the new Russian administration (e.g. postal service, telephone companies, public administration, railroad administration, etc.):

· Work slowly

· Do not complete tasks on time

· Complete administrative tasks incompetently and without much enthusiasm

· Produce and offer poor-quality goods and services

· Treat machinery carelessly

· Take excessive sick leave

· Delay in responding if they call you and operate with slow reactivity in your professional communications with government structures

· Increase consumption of power to push the power system to its limits

· Do not pay taxes and other government bills

· Protect, offer shelter and extend solidarity to Ukrainians, Ukrainian Russians, Tatars and other minorities who oppose Russian occupation

· Increase the costs of the Russian annexation in any imaginable way short of violence

For some, political resistance can be viewed as naïve and weak given the level of repression. After all, activists are targeted, kidnapped and killed in eastern Ukraine.

However, political resistance does not imply that life will not be lost but that the probability and scale of killings will be still much lower than when the armed conflicts breaks out. Political resistance is about staying alive as much as the armed struggle is about killing. And, it is political resistance, not armed struggle that holds greater promise for saving civilian lives, and preserving country’s infrastructure while at the same time imposing considerable costs on the adversary. Finally, it is political resistance that holds greater promise to awaken those in eastern and southern Ukraine who are now apathetic, fearful and withdrawn.

Furthermore, if armed groups use the language of violence our natural reaction is to use the language they understand well. However, more effective way would be to develop a strategy that they either do not understand or for which they lack training. Political resistance might work better where the current “anti-terrorist operations” failed – namely, in keeping separatist militia and its Russian backers off-balance and mobilizing the local population in active though unarmed opposition.

For those who look for a military solution against an armed adversary it is appropriate to recall the words of the British captain Basil Liddell Hart, who interrogated German generals after the World War II: “[Nazi Germans] were experts in violence, and had been trained to deal with opponents who used that method. But other forms of resistance baffled them- and all the more in proportion as the methods were subtle and concealed. It was a relief to them when resistance became violent, and when non-violent forms were mixed with guerrilla action, thus making it easier to combine drastic suppressive action against both at the same time.”

While launching total political resistance the Ukrainian government together with Ukrainian civil society would emphasize the message: small triumphs through the acts of political resistance will prove to you and others that ordinary people: women, men, elderly, disabled and even children can do things to support the country and Ukrainians are not defenseless even if they do not have arms.

Understanding civil resistance. Questions I am asked and wrestle with

22 Mar

z15502016QWhile I continue teaching and writing on civil resistance, some prominent scholars, opinion makers and students have lately asked a number of very pertinent questions regarding the practice of and corresponding analytical concepts about civil resistance — no doubt some of the queries were sparked by the recent popular upheaval in Ukraine. Since these questions often resurface in various conversations, I would like to take a shot at some of them, including:


Protest laying down1. How are nonviolent actions and violence defined in civil resistance? When does a nonviolent action stop and violence begin?

Nonviolent action in civil resistance is a politically purposeful act conducted outside the institutionalized politics that can be coercive, but it does not entail physical violence or bodily harm.  As a politically purposeful tool, a nonviolent action aims at 1) delegitimizing an adversary, 2) decreasing adversary’s effective control over the population, 3) weakening the loyalty of its key allies, and 4) increasing the scope and diversity of the participation by a) mobilizing disengaged parts of the society and b) deploying various other action-initiatives that people will be able and willing to join. The above political goals are intrinsically linked to a nonviolent character of resistance actions without which the goals cannot be achieved. Any violence by civil resisters would be bound to undermine — if not in short, then in the mid- and long-term perspectives — political goals of the civil resistance struggle. For example, the goal of the anti-communist opposition in Poland was set around the struggle to win the right to establish free trade unions. By itself, the goal was revolutionary in the tightly controlled “workers” country, but more importantly, the very nature of the goal made the use of violence redundant and even counterproductive. Instead, reaching the goal of legal trade unions that would be independent of the communist party entailed a political (nonviolent) mobilization of workers supported by other segments of the society. They would then choose suitable nonviolent actions — such as occupational strikes inside the factories — that were effective in minimizing the risks of repression (in contrast to open street demonstrations that were crushed in the past) and in increasing the economic and political costs on the regime where idle factories occupied by protesting workers became powerful examples for hundreds of thousands of other workers across industries on how to resist in order to achieve the goal of free trade unions.

Nonviolent action turns into violence when a political tool to delegitimize an adversary — disrupt the business-as-usual and solicit loyalty away from an adversary — shifts to becoming a purely material device used to physically harm the opponent. This would include, for example, throwing stones or Molotov-cocktails during the campaign.

2. If implied threats are used, people harm themselves on purpose or property is destroyed as part of a nonviolent campaign. Is this still nonviolent?

Threats of physical violence (e.g. against collaborators), destruction of property (e.g. cutting communication lines) or self-inflicted harm in order to express a protest are on the borderline of violent and nonviolent tactics. They are usually part of an overall nonviolent campaign that would include hundreds of other clearly nonviolent tactics beyond the ones mentioned above. For example, self-immolation by the Tibetan protesters is a relatively small — though a very dramatic and tragic — element in their self-preservation and self-determination struggle that includes a very rich repertoire of cultural resistance, including family and community-based actions to protect and develop Tibetan culture and language and traditions in defiance of the persistent campaign of Hanisation.

Still, even though the borderline actions are few and far between in an overall nonviolent campaign, it is worth delving more into their nature. One way to assess the character of these actions is to highlight the essence of a civil resistance struggle. The core value of civil resistance is life in and of itself — its preservation and bettering. Political struggle is carried out as long as a human being remains a political agency for action. Death, including by suicide, ends all political engagements. A destruction of property might not entail, in the process, bodily harm, but any benefits stemming from that action might be outweighed by massive reprisals if it is not executed strategically. Blowing up the railways in order to undermine the German war efforts during WWII might have led to considerable collateral damage because Germans held nearby villages — even though they might not have been directly involved in the sabotage —accountable for the actions of the partisans. On the other hand, the concealed sabotage of the German weaponry, which failed to shoot, drive or communicate once it reached the front, by the Danish factory workers was less risky, with lower chances of punishing repression once the weapons were loaded and sent where the German army needed them. Both cases show property destruction, but the first example leads to a loss of civilian life and the second one considerably limits that possibility. Consequently, the latter action can be said to remain within the realm of nonviolent resistance while the former is outside that realm.

547742_571900669547272_354267135_n3. If the activists set the nonviolent battlefield so as to provoke the authorities to use violence, is that still considered nonviolent?

Nonviolent action is often designed — as Martin Luther King Jr. said — to dramatize the already existing injustice. Violence of the adversary against nonviolent action is therefore an extension of the repressive system that is in place. Nonviolent action does not so much provoke but expose to a larger public the violence that the community is being subject to.  A smart nonviolent action is the tool to show the real face of injustice in a dramatic way. This is done to draw massive media attention and, consequently, awaken a large part of the population that over years and decades might have become numbed to or complicit in the existing injustice.

Nonviolent action that exposes violence in a vivid fashion remains in every sense nonviolent as it was before violence was evoked to crush it.

4. Can civil resistance authentically sustain itself on its own for long and succeed against a materially powerful adversary without some kind of external assistance?

The question is set on the (wrong) premise that a nonviolent contestation is material and, consequently, only a materially stronger force prevails. If the material resources (money, manpower, capacity to repress) matter for the outcome of the struggle then the natural question is how resource-deprived, seemingly powerless and until now victimized people can become their own liberators, as well as a sole force able to bring down immovable repressive structures. Surely, the thinking goes, they must have received material help from outside (from other governments with resources) that aided them in their success. The major problem with the premise and derived from its conclusions is that in reality the nonviolent struggle is hardly ever driven by material “boosters” from outside. The resilience of mass-based civil resistance movements that can withstand repression, government propaganda and attempts of co-optation while continuing mobilization and disruptions come from individual and collective fortitude and will. Those who maintain their power through material force, including firepower, can hardly understand a different force. The Ukrainian activists that were kidnapped and tortured during the Maidan revolution told the media that their captors — while beating them up — wanted to know how much money activists received from the foreign embassies in Kyiv, how the money transfer was organized and who was behind it. They could not comprehend that a three-month-old Maidan and other ongoing protests, often in freezing winter temperatures, could have been organically propelled and sustained over time by the voluntary participation and actions of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who donated their time, money, goods, and services and took the risk simply because they deeply identified with and shared the values and ideals that Maidan represented.

The government that projects its power through the tools of oppression, bribery, and propaganda has major difficulties in grasping that political authority of a movement can, in fact, be derived from entirely different (nonmaterial) sources: a genuine representation of people’s grievances and expectations, an organically-created sense of an individual and collective responsibility for the movement and people’s free volition to join the movement that undergirds authentic consent and participation.

With the authentic grassroots force comes people’s commitment to the movement, and with that commitment the movement can self-generate needed resources. The most successful civil resistance movements were also the most effective fund-raisers. The Polish solidarity movement was an extremely effectual resistance force because it mobilized millions while its self-organizing skills were propelling the most successful grassroots fund-raising machinery in Polish history. The assistance from other governments for civil resistance movements in the distant and recent past has never been a decisive factor in the ultimate victory of the nonviolent campaigns. Some activists realize that an external help from governments can in fact do more harm than good as it helps the regime brand the movement as a foreign stooge that represents other governments’ interests rather than the interests of the local population. This is one more reason why activists develop their own domestic sources of material and financial support to reinforce their grassroots legitimacy and occupy a better position to defend themselves against the regime’s attempts to discredit them.

enhanced-buzz-2970-1385130500-25 5. Is a successful nonviolent fight against a democratically elected leader a civil resistance or a coup?

Civil resistance differs from a coup in at least two aspects. First of all, although both are extra-legal struggles, a coup is also an extra-constitutional takeover of power by a small group of power holders (political insiders) often as a direct result of violence or threat of violence. In turn, more often than not, the force behind civil resistance that can successfully challenge a violent regime without resorting itself to violence is a nationwide movement that represents grievances of the majority of the population. Because of its national representation — in terms of the composition and goals of the movement — combined with its largely nonviolent nature, the civil resistance eventually draws to its side key allies of the regime, e.g. sprawling bureaucracies, business communities and security forces. In that sense, civil resistance of national proportion is the manifestation of the fundamental constitutional credo that the people (nation) are the sole source of power and sovereignty in the country (see, for example, the first articles of the constitutions of Venezuela, the Russian Federation, Poland, Turkey or Ukraine). In civil resistance, the power is exercised in the extra-legal way, meaning beyond and above the established political procedures. However, in contrast to the coup, which is the usurpation of power by the actions of the few political insiders, mass-based civil resistance is the practical expression of a basic constitutional value — that only the people can claim and reclaim political power.

Finally, in contrast to a coup, where the only goal is a takeover of power by a deposition of the incumbents, civil resistance can bring about a major political change through at least three processes: a nonviolent coercion powerful enough to lead to the disintegration of the regime, a negotiated settlement between the regime and the opposition movement (by far, historically, the most common pattern of power transfer in civil resistance struggles), and finally, a conversion of the regime that sides with the movement and adopts its demands.

Ukraine-protests6. Why was it considered to be a nonviolent force that brought down Yanukovych when during the decisive days of resistance, just before his escape from Kyiv, media were showing people who used violence against his security forces?

During the 92 days of the Maidan revolution, 112 activists are now reported to have been killed. Close to 200 demonstrators are still missing, most of them presumably dead, their bodies buried in local forests surrounding Kyiv. 17 police and interior security troops have died during the same period. Violence was used by a small minority of the protesters, but minority violence was neither effective in protecting civilians nor in inflicting serious damage to Ukrainian security forces. Yanukovych fled not because of violence, but because he could no longer rely on his political allies and more importantly on the army that he planned to use to crash Maidan. His interior minister’s plan called for 22,000 police and troops to turn Maidan in Kyiv into Central Europe’s Tiananmen Square. He managed to assemble up to 5,000 police/interior security forces but he still needed the army. When the orders came, the army disobeyed the orders for mobilization. It did that not because it was scared of the violent opposition minority, but because it perceived the revolution as genuinely grassroots, representing grievances and ideals of the majority of Ukrainians. And this, in turn, was the result of nonviolent actions and mobilization of millions of Ukrainians from November 2 until Yanukovych fled Kyiv on February 21, hence the title of my co-authored article Ukraine Explained: A Nonviolent Victory.

The Maidan revolution in Ukraine was largely nonviolent and self-restrained. When violence broke out (three days in the second half of January and three days in the second half of February), it was limited and carried out by a few hundred, while millions that were engaged in various forms of resistance remain nonviolent. For comparison, the Tunisian revolution that lasted 28 days (3.5 times shorter than the Maidan revolution), is considered by most observers to have been nonviolent — 20 police and army troops died. Millions remained expressly nonviolent. President Ben Ali fled, not because he lost 20 security members, but because, like Yanukovych, he could no longer rule the country while his political and security allies no longer obeyed his orders.

7. Nonviolent restraint is useless when one is being attacked by armed thugs and has no way to run. Violence is needed to repel violence.  How then is civil resistance reconcilable with a life-and-death situation?

In a situation where an individual’s life is in immediate danger because of an armed attacker who is ready to shoot and kill on the spot and there is nowhere to retreat, the use of arms can be the only way to survive. However, what works in a dark alley in one-on-one combat is not necessarily applicable to a collective struggle driven by its own dynamics. The resistance of the many against an armed regime or a group is not about one encounter that decides the outcome of the battle, but about repeated interactions pursued on multiple levels (local, regional, national) among members of a movement, between activists and the general public that they try to mobilize, and a movement and the regime’s pillars of support (e.g. the business community) or oppression (security forces).

The dynamics of civil resistance in collective struggles brings to the fore the phenomena that are not present in the situation of a one-on-one encounter, for example, an adversary’s repression against unarmed people backfiring on the regime, or disruptive collective nonviolent actions undermining the control of the regime, exacerbating its internal divisions or causing loyalty shifts among its supporters in the movement’s favor.                                            

8. Is peaceful resistance against an extremely ruthless dictator idealistic? 

Because of its peaceful character, civil resistance is often considered, in moral terms, as an ethically superior force vis-à-vis a nakedly brutal material power. In that sense, many equate civil resistance with an idealistic fight, particularly if waged against a brutal tyrant. For example, commentators would reflect on the idealism of the Syrian peaceful resistance when it took on the ruthless Assad regime in March 2011.

Idealism of civil resistance is then contrasted with the realism of armed resistance — after all, a violent regime understands, and thus is afraid of only one thing: superior violence. In practice, however, when faced with a brutal dictatorial regime, civil resistance is in fact the most realistic of all possible alternatives, be it surrender, negotiations, conventional politics or armed resistance.

Violent or unarmed resistance is undertaken because the population is not ready to surrender. There is also an acknowledgment that other traditional channels of bringing about a political change — through courts, party politics, elections, grand political bargain or negotiations — are not a viable option for the repressed. In a highly violent environment, the overarching goal of the resistance is to provide an effective protection for the civilian population and to launch a successful campaign to bring a ruthless regime down.

The three-year anniversary of the Syrian uprising (March 15) offers a vivid example of the realism and utopianism of the selected resistance methods. Strategically, the armed resistance against a militarily stronger force proved to be a major failure in achieving its two main objectives: neither protected the population (more than 120,000 lives perished, more than 5 million Syrians are internally displaced, and 3 million are refugees) nor ended the tyranny (Assad remains in power). In fact, it was the armed resistance that turned out to be idealistic and emotional at is core, verging on utopianism. The underlying reasoning was, in fact, based on a number of misconceptions, both about armed and civil resistance, which I articulated earlier in one of my blog posts. Civil resistance, while it lasted, proved to be more strategic, calculated and realistic even though not many recognized this at that the time. In my co-authored piece on the resistance in Syria, published in fall 2013, we wrote about four misguided beliefs rooted in the seemingly  “realistic” necessity for the armed insurgency against the Assad regime and concluded that “the real gains of civil resistance [in Syria] were never assessed, before being overcome by the myth of the power of the gun, and later by [misguided] hope that external military intervention could resolve the conflict.”

Beautiful, strategic, and realistic – the Ukrainian resistance against Russian aggression

17 Mar
Do not panic! Organize!

Do not panic! Organize!

During the last 17 days – from the date of the Russian military aggression in Crimea (Feb.27) to the referendum on the peninsula (Mar. 16) Ukrainians have launched one of the most impressive civil resistance campaigns in the history of unarmed struggles with foreign military invasions and occupation. The richness and creativity of the actions that Ukrainians undertook matched their strategic value as well as a realistic assessment of the military strengths of the Ukrainian army vis-à-vis its Russian counterpart. There is also a strategy of not responding to provocations and maintaining a remarkable posture of restraint even in the midst of escalating confrontation – all in order to not give the Russian regime what it wants: a bloody pretext that could be used to justify a deeper military incursion of the Russian army into Ukrainian territory.

The strategic Ukrainian resistance consists of at least five types of actions:
– Building-up economic pressure on Russian companies
– Reaching out to the Russian civil society
– Unarmed defense pursued by the Ukrainian army
– Fostering unity among Ukrainian society in the face of a foreign invasion and relentless Russian propaganda
– Reforms of the state assisted by the mobilized Ukrainian society

The overall strategy of the unarmed engagement is based on the realistic (given the Russian military superiority), and often beautiful, nonviolent actions carried out by hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens all over the country. In the last 17 days, these actions, among others, included:


  • There is a growing boycott of products made in Russia or imported from Russia into Ukraine. It is spearheaded by the same group of activists that led the boycott campaign against the financial and economic assets owned by the members of the Party of Region. Their Facebook page now has close to 60,000 members and they use their activist skills honed during the anti-Yanukovych campaign to lead the boycott campaign against Russia. One of the activists acknowledged that the boycott of Russian goods is much easier than the economic boycott of the Party of Regions – there is no need to convince people to do it and no one is worried about being fired. The activists-bloggers issued the call to boycott the Russian products and distributed the list of the Russian companies and goods, together with the Russian products’ bar code 046,  on the Ukrainian market. In Lviv, 7,000 “boycott flyers”‘ with the list of Russian products were distributed in front of the French supermarkets, Auchan. The flyers and activists warned that buying the Russian-made goods meant giving financial support to the occupant. The German supermarket chain, Billa in Ukraine, coincidentally began placing small national flags, including the Russian one, next to the price tags of the products on the shelves. Activists say this helps customers to quickly identify the countries where particular goods are from in order to help the boycott.  Flashmobs of “dead bodies” appear in the supermarkets to dramatize the need for the boycott of Russian goods so as not to “pay for the occupation and war.”  Some grocery stores are already reportedly offering discounts on the boycotted products, and there are still no customers willing to buy them.  Protesters on some roads in Ukraine encouraged drivers to boycott Russia’s second largest oil company, Lukoil and to stop using their gas stations. The passing drivers gave support to the picketing activists by pressing their car’s horns and flashing their car’s lights.

Reaching out to the Russian people and their rulers

  • An open letter from the Russian speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians living in Ukraine was sent to President Putin rejecting his military intervention and stating that their interests do not need to be protected by another state. More than 142,000 people have signed, and the number is still rising. Ordinary Russian-speaking individuals in Ukraine issued their own public pleas to the Russian government and President Putin to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine and respect their country’s territorial integrity. Russian citizens in Ukraine said in the videopost that they do not need to be rescued by Russia. Ukrainian Jews (a majority of whom are Russian speakers) issued an open letter to Putin in which they say that they “do not wish to be defended” by the Russian state and strongly oppose “sundering Ukraine and annexing its territory.”
  • Open letters were written and signed by Ukrainians of various professions, addressed to their Russian counterparts. The letter of Ukrainian cinematographers to their Russian colleagues with the call for solidarity stipulated the latter’s public response to state their opposition to the Russian military intervention in Ukraine. Famous Russian rock singers called for peace and friendship between Russians and Ukrainians. Well-known Ukrainian actors and writers posted their video appeals to Russians.
  • Ukrainian scholars and academic institutions issued a public appeal to their colleagues in Russia after the Russian parliament approved the military invasion of Ukraine. They expressed their deep concerns about the propaganda that sows disinformation about the situation in Ukraine and particularly the Russian speakers in Ukraine  while emphasizing cultural and historical ties between the Ukrainian and Russian people. They emphasized that there was no conflict over the language or culture. The language of science and education is the language of peace and cooperation. And they called on their Russian counterparts to influence the Russian government and to do all they can to prevent war between the two brotherly nations. In response, the representatives of the Russian academic and education community  expressed their solidarity with their Ukrainian colleagues and offered their support to the Ukrainian people in their efforts to achieve “freedom, democracy and social justice.” They also called on all Russian scientists, scholars, students and teachers to sign the solidarity letter.
  • Ukrainian artists and intellectuals publicly appealed to Russian artists and people of culture who expressed their support for Putin and his military intervention in Ukraine. The appeal countered Putin’s propaganda about the violent Maidan, discrimination against the Russian speakers in Ukraine and legitimacy of the referendum in Crimea. The appeal ended with the comment that those who support the occupation lose the moral right to ever walk on Ukrainian soil.
  • Ukrainian retired and serving soldiers are reaching out to Russian army officers with the appeal to not support military intervention in Ukraine. A Ukrainian writer sent an open letter to his colleague and former classmate from the military college who is now general in the Russian intelligence directorate and asked him to influence the decisions of his bosses so the blood of “your and our children will not be spilled.” In the last part of the letter he offers his classmate the examples of heroic actions by other soldiers who saved civilian population in past conflicts even though they knew they would face the consequences for their disobedience.
  • Odessa residents called Putin to let him know that they are doing just fine as Russian speakers in Ukraine and do not need special protection from the Russian government.
  • Ukrainians have reached out to their family members, friends and colleagues in Russia to explain the Russian regime’s manipulation of information about Ukraine and the situation of the Russian-speaking population that is neither discriminated against nor asking to be rescued by any external military intervention.

Nonviolent restraint of the Ukrainian army

  • Nonviolent defense is the official defense strategy of the Ukrainian government as far as its soldiers stationed in Crimea are concerned. According to Oleksandr Turchynov, the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, the Ukrainian army in Crimea defends its military bases, equipment, and its ships without arms in order to not fall for provocations.
  • A Ukrainian army unit in Kerchi (in Crimea) organized an anti-war music concert. The Russian soldiers stationed nearby heard the concert. They said they liked the music. Fraternization “from a distance” between Russian and Ukrainian soldiers can also take on a more humorous quality like the encounter between a Ukrainian captain and a Russian vice-admiral. A Russian ship ordered the Ukrainian military frigate “Ternopil” to surrender. The response of the Ukrainian captain was,  “Russians do not capitulate.” When asked to explain, the captain said that he is ethnically Russian, but swore allegiance to defend the Ukrainian people and Ukraine, and he cannot break that oath. The Russian vice-admiral was reported to have said to his soldiers, “Learn [from this captain] how to serve with honor and dignity.”

The nonviolent restraint that the Ukrainian army and society have shown in the face of the armed invasion of Crimea, and the citizens’ campaign to reach out to their Russian counterparts and the general population have all paid off. Though the Russian population’s support for Putin remains very high — close to 70 percent – Russian society is not a monolith, and Ukrainians can seek potential allies there and rely on their support.

Civilians in Crimea loyal to Ukraine

  • Protests of 15,000 women and children all over Crimea were organized against Russian military intervention during a holiday that is popular  in both Ukraine and Russia – the March 8 ‘International Women’s Day’ (see the videos). The protesters created a human chain in protest against the Russian military intervention on the peninsula. At the same time on Maidan in Kyiv, women held a solidarity rally and wrote postcards with words of support for the Crimean women.

Referendum in Crimea- March 16

  • While the referendum in Crimea was taking place, a pro-Ukrainian protest in Dnipropetrovsk, on the east was organized in support of the Ukrainian people’s unity against the referendum.

National unity campaigns

  • At the beginning of March, the city councils of Odessa, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Dnipropetrovsk condemned the Russian aggression. Solidarity and unity demonstrations were joined by several thousands of residents in Donetsk (10,000 protesters), and in Kharkiv and Odessa (20,000 protesters). These took place on March 2, March 4 and March 5 respectively. People sang patriotic songs and called for territorial integrity of Ukraine. Thirty one rectors of the universities in Kharkiv (the city traditionally close to Russia) publicly criticized the Russian military intervention. On March 9, 3000 Odessans crowded the famous Potemkin stairs in Odessa Port to support the territorial integrity of Ukraine and sang the Ukrainian national anthem

Protests against the Russian military invasion

  • Thirty Odessan activists hung spaghetti on the front fence of the Russian consulate in the city to “thank” the Russian government for the anti-Ukrainian propaganda and to protest the lies. Spaghetti on the fence illustrated the Russian proverb of hanging noodles on someone’s ear to show they have been lying. Automaidan – active during the revolution against Yanukovych – organized auto-actions in Odessa on March 8, in front of the Russian consulate to protest the Russian military invasion.

Mobilized Ukrainian society pressures the new government to deliver while it also confers legitimacy on it

  • Activists and the police serve in joint patrols throughout the city to maintain the security on the streets. Activists also maintain the Maidan barricades and pressure the politicians to move Ukraine closer to the EU and to begin implementing needed socio-economic reforms. Automonitor – that emerged from Automaidan – picketed Verkhovna Rada to force her to deliver on her promises of effective work.
  • The Maidan civic groups (Euromaidan Public Sector and “New Citizen”) launched the “Intensive Reforms Package” initiative that brings together 120 experts and activists to work on the blueprint for reforms.
  • Maidan activist, Yegor Sobolev, heads the newly established Lustration Committee.

Check the article on nonviolent victory of the Ukrainian Maidan that includes examples of nonviolent actions that Ukrainians used to fight the Yanukovych regime.