“The Outside World Frightens Putin”: Russians Talk Ukraine

Ukrainian protesters. YouTube screenshot.

Ukrainian protesters braving the cold. YouTube screenshot.

Over the past week, massive protests unfolded in Ukraine following President Viktor Yanukovych's decision not to sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. They rapidly grew in size, morphing into a country-wide effort to influence their government, with citizens sharing developments and other information via Twitter and Facebook using the hashtags #євромайдан, #евромайдан, and #euromaidan. Despite the violence, there have been some positive developments. Twitter user @Dbnmjr, who aggregates Ukrainian and Russian-language updates alike, wrote:

The Shevchenko Court has released ALL [arrested] students, the judges recognized the illegality of the detentions, [they] are afraid and make rulings in accordance with the law.

Russians continue to be divided about the protests. President Vladimir Putin, for example, remarked that the protests seemed “more like a coup than a revolution.” Activist Oleg Kozyrev (@oleg_kozyrev) responded, tweeting:

The outside world frightens Putin.

Young opposition activist @berillii quipped:

Putin, unfortunately, is crazy.

Pussy Riot lawyer Mark Feygin (@mark_feygin) noted that Ukraine's President Yanukovich is acquiescing to protester demands:

Hey, Viktor Yanukovych is melting away…

Others were frustrated with armchair experts writing about Ukraine from Moscow. Photo-blogger Ilya Varlamov (@varlamov), who was on the ground in Kiev on December 1, griped:

Is there a Twitter plugin that can be used to cut out all the political commentators who, sitting in cozy Moscow cafes, discuss the fate of Ukraine?

Some joked about the ramifications of expanding the ailing EU even further. Roman Dolzhinskiy posted the following on his Facebook [ru]: 

Про Украину вот что думаю. Я категорически против ее евронтеграции. Потому что мне жалко Евросоюз. Он уже чуть не подавился Румынией-Болгарией, а Украиной точно подавится. Не выдержит, не прокормит.

Here's what I think about Ukraine. I am categorically against its integration into the EU. Because I feel sorry for the EU. It has nearly choked on Romania and Bulgaria, and it will certainly choke on Ukraine.

Irek Murtazin, a Moscow journalist, blogged [ru] about the epitome of the two-dimensional way in which Russians view Ukraine, in a piece titled “Blondes Discuss What's Happening in Ukraine.” Murtazin overheard a conversation between two girls in the Moscow Metro — one of the girls expressed the opinion that Ukraine is Russia's for the taking, while the other had some sympathy for those with European aspirations:

Иду на работу и думаю, девушки «по разную сторону баррикад», но в головах у обеих – винегрет и упрощение ситуации в Украине до абсурдности. Не правы обе. Но ведь подобный взгляд на события у наших соседей и братьев сформировался не только у этих девушек, точно так же думают миллионы. И есть серьезная опасность, что усиление поляризация Украины может стать еще одним фактором поляризации и России.

I am walking to work and thinking, these girls are “on opposite sides of the fence,” but both have a completely mixed up and absurdly simplified understanding of the situation in Ukraine. Neither of them is right. But these girls are not the only ones who have formed these opinions; in fact, millions think this way. And there is a serious danger that the increased polarization of Ukraine could become another factor in the polarization of Russia.

In the end though, most people simply wish Ukraine all the best, as twitter user Pavel Senko (@senko), who simply tweeted:

I hope everything works out for the people of Ukraine.

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