February 20, 2014

Who broke the truce in Kiev? You can't tell from the NYT headline "Kiev’s Brief Truce Shatters in Bursts of Gunfire."

It's like the truce shattered itself. And those guns fired themselves. Can we get some human minds into the action? I assume that the responsibility falls on the side the NYT would like to present as sympathetic. Let's read until we can see who did what:
Ukraine’s descent into a spiral of violence accelerated on Thursday as protesters and riot police officers used firearms in a clash apparently intended to reclaim areas of Independence Square, the symbolic central plaza in the capital that had been retaken by police two days before.
So protesters and riot police simultaneously fell into the accelerating spiral of violence?
The fighting shattered a truce declared just hours earlier. Just after dawn, young men in ski masks opened a breach in their barricade near a stage on the square, ran across a hundred yards of smoldering debris and surged toward riot police officers who were firing at them with shotguns.
Ah, then, it was not simultaneous gunfire? It was young men in ski masks running — without guns?! — toward police who were firing shotguns at them? But the demonstrators, we're told, were able to retake the square:
Protesters pushed back the police in a continual racket of gunshots and by around 10 a.m. had recaptured the entire square, but at the cost of creating a scene of mayhem.
So the police "were firing at them with shotguns," but the protesters "pushed back the police in a continual racket of gunshots." The Times seems unwilling to say the protesters were firing guns at the police. They were just pushing and there was also the "racket of gunshots." It's as if the guns were simply noisemakers.
The fighting left bodies lined up on a sidewalk, makeshift clinics crammed with the bloody wounded, and sirens and gunfire ringing through the center of the city.
Bodies were left. Noises were made.
Eleven bodies were taken to a makeshift morgue at the entrance to Independence Square on Thursday morning and and an undetermined number were lying elsewhere. Around 28 people, including police officers, died in clashes earlier this week.
How much restraint did the police show? How many casualties did they take in trying to avoid a massacre of the protesters? Can we get a clue?
The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, said that 29 police officers had been hospitalized with gunshot wounds.

demonstrators captured several dozen policemen, whom they marched, dazed and bloodied, toward the center of the square through a crowd of men who heckled and shoved them.
I didn't elide anything there. A paragraph begins with an uncapitalized word, as if perhaps an edit was made. Several dozen policemen were captured and marched to the center of the square, into a crowd where they were heckled and shoved. Can you read this story and interpret the actions of the human beings involved in this scene? The NYT gives us the name of one protester and paraphrases his opinion:
Anatoly Volk, 38, one of the demonstrators... said the protesters had decided to try to retake the square because they believed the truce announced around midnight was a ruse. 
If that's true, then the protesters are fully responsible for a planned and deliberate collective decision to break the truce!
The young men in ski masks who led the push, he said, believed it was a stalling maneuver by President Viktor F. Yanukovych, to buy time to deploy troops in the capital after discovering that the civilian police had insufficient forces to clear the square.
That means the protesters broke the truce.
“A truce means real negotiations,” Mr. Volk said. “They are just delaying to make time to bring in more troops. They didn’t have the forces to storm us last night. So we are expanding our barricades to where they were before. We are restoring what we had.”
But that means, then, that your side entered into a false truce, and you did exactly what you are accusing them of doing — making a phony peace agreement to buy time to set up your next attack. You're admitting you did that, while making the justification that you did that because you thought that's what they were doing.

54 comments:

paminwi said...

From Richard Engel this morning it sounds like the protesters took the Square back AND have taken over some side streets around the square.

Oso Negro said...

Two words on New York Ties reporting on Ukraine - Walter Duranty. The fellow who denied the Holodomor. The NYT boldly issued a correction 50 years laters. Honestly, why would you read them?

Abdul Abulbul Amir said...


One problem with your analysis is that the government side has a hierarchy of control, the protesters not so much.

Then, there is a dozen or so reported to be killed by sniper fire.

Heyooyeh said...

Althouse, if you actually read the article instead of trying to find a way to take the side of the Ukrainian government, he said they were restating their positions, not commit violence. There's a difference, and even you should be able to recognize that.

Ps--you're trying to find a position to advocate here, as usual, rather than being cruelly neutral. Think it's important, whenever possible, to point out that the Walker-loving, taxpayer-salary-receiving, tenured law professor, who barely works but begs for Amazon $$$, wears no clothes.

sykes.1 said...

The demonstrations are not about democracy. That was settled in 2004 by The Orange Revolution, and the current government led by Yanukovych was freely and democratically elected. It is as legitimate as any government in Europe or North America.

The dispute is driven by differences between ethnic Ukrainians and ethnic Russians, and the ethnic Ukrainians are trying to overthrow the legitimate government by violence because they do not like its pro-Russia policies. The correct democratic thing would be to wait until the next election and vote out Yanukovych's party.

The truly dangerous aspect of this situation is that various European governments and the Obama administration might be inciting the ethnic violence. There is a significant chance of a large-scale war in Central Europe.

Ann Althouse said...

"Honestly, why would you read them?"

I closely follow, study, and interpret journalism, and the NYT is the most important newspaper in the world, so honestly I think it's weird to ask.

David said...

Maybe no one knows.

But if that is true, say so explicitly.

Ann Althouse said...

Were the protesters retaking the square firing guns at the police or not?

I'm just attempting to read the story. I have no reason to side with the Ukraine government.

The NYT article has earmarks of propaganda, and that bothers me greatly. I want a clearly written, straight, factual story.

I don't know why anyone would accuse me of having an ulterior motive here.

David said...

"One problem with your analysis is that the government side has a hierarchy of control, the protesters not so much."

They may have a chart. Actual control is quite a different matter.

That said, overall the reporting on what is actually going on there has been mystifying. And not just in NYT.

Ann Althouse said...

"Maybe no one knows. But if that is true, say so explicitly."

Yes, it's quite possible that the reporters are unable to get to the truth, but I want to see balanced, neutral reporting, not direct statements that the police fired shotguns at the charging ski-mask men and the charging ski-mask men were accompanied by the racket of gunshots.

Also, later in the article there's a statement that the police had previously used rubber bullets, so I had the unanswered question what was fired from those shotguns.

the jackal said...

Perhaps we should support democracy, or perhaps we should cheer on liberalism, or liberty, or "western values." Or maybe it's just soccer hooligans fighting corrupt policemen.

But whoever it is, and for whatever purpose, I admire the bravery of anyone willing to run into a line of armed men, on either side. Beats a bunch of politicians running to Illinois.

The Drill SGT said...

I'm not fond of the current government there, but this fight is a civil war between two factions. The legitimacy belongs to the government, though I don't like it's pro-russian tilt.

As for the tactical aspect? If during a truce, the demonstrators charge the police (implying that they must have outnumbered the police to have any hope of success) then the police are faced with a 'use them or lose them' situation with respect to their weapons and tactical advantages. It is not surprising that they opened fire with shotguns (what type of shot?)

The article is written from the perspective of a pro-demonstrator viewpoint, but one has to inquire about how those police got shot?

mesquito said...

How many members of the Ukranian security services are Russian agents and provocateurs? No more than several hundred, would be my guess.

Amichel said...

I think it's pretty clear that the protestors are set on becoming revolutionaries. I've read reports of armories being looted by the opposition and thousands of rifles and heavier weapons are now in their possession. While I sympathize with the oppositions goals, I think that they would have had much more international support if they had remained a largely non-violent movement. Now they are ramping up to wage war with the government. This is what the NYT is trying to soften in it's passive reporting, with shots ringing out somehow without anyone firing them.

They may succeed in overthrowing Yanukovych , but any new government would be legitimate for only about half of the country, and could just as easily be toppled by a later revolt supported by the Russophile eastern provinces. Overall, it's a big mess.

betamax3000 said...

When the Battle Spreads from Kiev to Cordon Bleu we Will All Feel the Consequences.

Ann Althouse said...

From the Wikipedia article "Nonlethal weapons":

"Common tactics used by police that were intended to be non-lethal or less lethal included a slowly advancing wall of men with batons, officers on horses trained to deal with policing situations, or a charge into a riot using the flats of sabers. Other reasonably successful approaches included shotguns with lower-powered cartridges, "salt shells", using bean-bag rounds and ricocheting the shot off of the ground."

So… what kinds of shotguns were the police using? What kinds of guns were the protesters using?

Go to the NYT article and do a search on the page for "gun" and you'll see a lot of undifferentiated references, often to the sound of the gun. Who's shooting whom and with what? Who's getting seriously injured and who's dying? What is the count on both sides?

Pookie Number 2 said...

The NYT article has earmarks of propaganda, and that bothers me greatly.

Unfortunately, the NYT agrees with your (obsolete, I think) assessment of its importance, and is often willing to abuse that position of authority to advance its political preferencess.

So if the article is clearly unclear about who broke the ceasefire, it seems reasonable to assume it was government forces.

Ann Althouse said...

I really don't understand the enthusiasm for violent revolution. Why are people jumping into that?

Clyde said...

Bad times for those who oppose Russia when their hockey team loses. Putin's on the warpath: All of this stuff, plus Cossacks whipping Pussy Riot girls.

Ann Althouse said...

"Unfortunately, the NYT… is often willing to abuse that position of authority to advance its political preferences."

Which is why I am doing the monitoring.

If I and the Times are really wrong about its importance, then its abuse of authority wouldn't matter so much.

But I take the position that it does. You seem to be wishfully thinking that its influence is gone. It's influence is subject to pressure from alternative media, such as blogs. But if we say, so the struggle is over, the pressure is gone.

In other words, you are being complacent, and I am performing a service. You are telling me this service isn't needed, so not only do you not thank me for serving, you disrespect me as if I am wasting my time.

Fine. If you think so, go find something else to read. But you sure aren't convincing me that what I'm doing is not worth doing.

Amichel said...

Some of the most commonly used non-lethal weapons are rubber bullets fired from shotguns. It's very likely that the riot police were firing rubber bullets (at least initially) into the advancing crowd of protestors. If the police started taking fire they might have switched to real bullets. Now,even rubber bullets are only non-lethal when fired from about 30 or 40 feet, if fired at point blank range they can easily maim or kill.

Bob Ellison said...

These are the Times that try men's souls with passive voice.

rhhardin said...

Diversity doesn't work out, except on what used to be the American model.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Why are people jumping into that?"

-- That would make a much more interesting story for the NYT to write than phantom gun shot noises from people who are definitely not carrying maybe guns.

Heyooyeh said...

The problem is your analysis sounds as pro-Yanukovych as your pro-Walker articles do.

You wrote it with only an anti-demonstrator context, striving to make the NYT look dumb (a popular move with your reader base (have to get those Amazon $$!)) even if it meant avoiding any acknowledgment that the answer as to who broke the truce was unknown or offering any facts that might make defensable the position that the government broke the truce.

Also, again--you've put the onus on yourself to be cruelly neutral. You staked out a position here, and you have not been neutral.

Bob Ellison said...

Professor, I appreciate your efforts.

I have a subscription to the NYT and occasionally dip in to read what looks like pretty straight journalism. The writing and editing seem to lurch around a bit. I've got the impression that there's an A team and a B team over there, and sometimes when the A team is taking a holiday, the writing and journalism both suck.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Just after dawn, young men in ski masks opened a breach in their barricade near a stage on the square, ran across a hundred yards of smoldering debris and surged toward riot police officers who were firing at them with shotguns."

-- If that's what happened, the protestors broke the truce by charging the enemy line. Hostile action doesn't require gunfire to be hostile, or would it have been cool for the police to shoot just over protestors heads while they were in the square since, hey, they didn't hit anyone, right?

Now, there's probably more to the story -- but if that's it, if what the NYT says is true [the fight started by one side charging the other], yeah. The protestors broke the truce.

Jon said...


"So if the article is clearly unclear about who broke the ceasefire, it seems reasonable to assume it was government forces."

No, the opposite. The NYT, like all of the liberal US media, is on the side of the "peaceful protestors" (as Obama called them yesterday), because the elected Ukrainian government is pro-Putin/Russia, and the left hates Putin because he doesn't celebrate gay marriage and has repeatedly made Obama look foolish.

Unknown said...

I closely follow, study, and interpret journalism,

You'd never know it from this post. It's about as superficial as it gets given the life-and-death drama unfolding in Kiev.

Carter Wood said...

It's not just the NYT.


Kiev, Ukraine (CNN) -- A shaky truce crumbled Thursday as gunfire erupted at Independence Square, the center of anti-government protests and an increasingly violent crisis that has left at least 48 people dead and hundreds injured in recent days.

Unknown said...

Effete bloggers and commenters from the "new media" snarking in the most foolish ways at war-time journalists who are risking their lives to tell you as best as anyone can what's what.

You should wait for Instapundit to tell you what happened.

Illuninati said...

The Ukrainian situation shows one of the fatal flaws of democracy. Undoubtedly a major problem here is that the Holodomor and the Great Terror shifted the ethnic composition of the Ukrainian population so that ethnic Russians now outnumber ethnic Ukrainians. In that case, the ethnic Ukrainians would see the ethnic Russians as invaders who are profiting from past crimes against humanity. Democracy will not work in a situation in which one ethnic group feels that their interests are actively undermined by the votes of the majority.

Hagar said...

I see Althouse as criticizing the reporting more than taking sides.
And she is right; the MSM today interprets everything, regardless of what and where, in the light of Washington politics, in which they are firmly on the side of the Democrat left.

Pookie Number 2 said...

You are telling me this service isn't needed, so not only do you not thank me for serving, you disrespect me as if I am wasting my time.

I think you're trying much too hard to be 'disrespected' by what I wrote.

I was suggesting a method for interpreting what the formerly-great, now-corrupted NYT writes to get at the truth. If that somehow offends you, you need to ask yourself why.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Democracy will not work in a situation in which one ethnic group feels that their interests are actively undermined by the votes of the majority.

Crack seems to have reached the same conclusion.

The Cracker Emcee said...

"Democracy will not work in a situation in which one ethnic group feels that their interests are actively undermined by the votes of the majority. "

To some degree, that describes every country on Earth. Democracy is screwed.

Pookie Number 2 said...

No, the opposite. The NYT, like all of the liberal US media, is on the side of the "peaceful protestors" (as Obama called them yesterday), because the elected Ukrainian government is pro-Putin/Russia, and the left hates Putin because he doesn't celebrate gay marriage and has repeatedly made Obama look foolish.

That makes sense. I'm totally unfamiliar with the Ukrainian situation, but I certainly agree that the NYT can be counted on to obfuscate when clarity makes its 'side' look bad.

policraticus said...

At this point, really, what difference does it make?

It's not like we're going to do anything. This today's Ukrainian is yesterday's Syrian. Too bad, but we elected the wrong man if we really wanted to care about the suffering of sympathetic people in far off lands.

Illuninati said...

Ignorance is Bliss said...
"Democracy will not work in a situation in which one ethnic group feels that their interests are actively undermined by the votes of the majority.

Crack seems to have reached the same conclusion."

Crack's argument about the past has merit. His reaction to the past is another matter.

The only answer to preserve democracy is to have a government which does not undermine any ethnic group. This can only happen if the government is completely color blind in which each person is a citizen and is treated with complete disregard for race or ethnicity. The smaller and less intrusive the government the less likely it is to tip the balance between racial groups into active competition for government largess.

Anglelyne said...

policraticus: It's not like we're going to do anything. This today's Ukrainian is yesterday's Syrian. Too bad, but we elected the wrong man if we really wanted to care about the suffering of sympathetic people in far off lands.

Ex malo bonum. I'm glad that Obama and the interventionists got outmaneuvered by Putin on Syria. So sure you know who the Good Guys are over there?

Same with Ukraine. Show a few videos of "suffering sympathetic people" and everybody's an expert now?

traditionalguy said...

The interesting news is tactical dilemmas of how civilians defend their country from a government's treaty giving its power to a foreign entity whether located on Moskva River or on the Potomac River.

The Potomac River boys just built themselves a $96,000,000 typical American city to be used as a training ground for asymmetrical (city) warfare in the USA against right wing citizens who refuse gun confiscation.

And the Potomac boys just ordered themselves 141,000 rounds of sniper ammunition for Homeland use.

That's on top of 4 billion rounds of .40 cal wad cutter ammo squirreled away last two years for all of the Federal civilian agencies, supposedly for target practice use over many, many years.

So far not a rubber bullet in that huge ammo cache they are getting ready for use in the Civilian War DC plans to fight here.

Heyooyeh said...

Best of Althouse:

-- I'm never wrong.

-- I'm cruelly neutral.

-- Romney didn't win, so I'm going to silentlypout about it and then claim not to have cared that much despite being so hopeful for victory based on yard signs.

-- Hillary is faking an illness to avoid having to testify. Oh wait, she testified. Well, I hate her testimony and am going to help my readers take it out of context.

-- Amazon $$$ please? The tenured law prof salary I get from scamming Wisconsin law students by working 4 hours a week isn't enough.

-- I'm providing a service by reviewing NYT articles with an agenda and telling you it's disrespectful not to like the reviews.

You're being monitored, Althouse. You think you have enough influence to "influence the conversation" on many issues--so you deserve some monitoring.

Illuninati said...

Heyooyeh said...
"You're being monitored, Althouse. You think you have enough influence to "influence the conversation" on many issues--so you deserve some monitoring."

I hope this is a joke.

Heyooyeh said...

It's as much a joke as the service Althouse provides by monitoring the NYT.

Matthew Sablan said...

"You're being monitored, Althouse. You think you have enough influence to "influence the conversation" on many issues--so you deserve some monitoring."

-- Uh... aren't bloggers, by definition, monitored? Or do you mean in a creepy, stalkerish way?

Tank said...

@Heyooyeh

You just got here.

Some of the very best posts at Althouse over the years have been her fisking and deconstruction of articles written by other bloggers and journalists.

This sort of thing is what a lot of blogging is about, here and elsewhere.

paminwi said...

Yes, it's quite possible that the reporters are unable to get to the truth, but I want to see balanced, neutral reporting, not direct statements that the police fired shotguns at the charging ski-mask men and the charging ski-mask men were accompanied by the racket of gunshots.

The key part of that Althouse statement is "but I want to see balanced, neutral reporting"

Ann, you are reading the NYT! When has that paper ever been balanced and neutral in its' reporting?

The way we all have to read the news these days is remember who is spouting their crap at us and ALWAYS read into a story their perspective. NYT is a liberal newspaper, we know their bent, read the story accordingly.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

I'm reflexively anit-big government/jackbooted thugs, have no love for Putin or his aims, and broadly want the protester's side to "win."
Having said that the footage from this protest over the last few days has remarkable for the amount of restraint some of the police exercised. I watched a YouTube video last week showing how the protesters used fireworks as weapons (which was interestng) and as part of that the footage showed *several* security officers hit with Molotov cocktails and set on fire. The problem was frequent enough that right behind the security people were firefighters with extenguishers and blankets to put people out!
This was before the reports of exchanges of gunfire. To me, if you're throwing Molotov cocktails at people (successfully!) you can't be too surprised if some in your group are shot.
Again, maybe it's justified, maybe that's not a representative sample of what's actually going on, etc. When you/your group tries to set other people on fire, though, I have a hard time seeing you as a wholly innocent party in any subsequent violence. If they want to fight a violent revolution then so be it (and maybe good luck!) but they can't simultaneously hold on to the mantle of peaceful protesters.

Matthew Sablan said...

My general theory on protesting is that if you want to be an organized protest, it behooves you to make sure your members aren't acting in ways that you don't want. No one would accept if the government said some "rogue soldiers who do not represent the consensus of the armed forces" started killing people. If you want to be a political force, you need to police your side.

Oso Negro said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
"Honestly, why would you read them?"

I closely follow, study, and interpret journalism, and the NYT is the most important newspaper in the world, so honestly I think it's weird to ask.


You see the NYT as the most important newspaper in the world. I see it as the 39th largest newspaper in the world and 3rd in the United States behind the WSJ and USA Today. I also view it as an organ of the Democratic Party.

Paco Wové said...

"so you deserve some monitoring."

That's hilarious! I'm sure Althouse is quaking in her Birkenstocks.

Clyde said...

The problem here is that only one side in this conflict actually has a chain of command that could order its forces to stand down. The protesters are a far more anarchic collection of groups, with multiple, sometimes conflicting, agendas. Truces really can only occur when there are two armies, with chains of command and the discipline to enforce orders on their own troops. If both sides don't abide by a truce, then it will quickly break down, and there will be less likelihood of such truces being attempted in the future.

Bottom line, it's a tinderbox situation, and it's only going to get worse before it gets better.

gregq said...

Let's be clear here, shall we? Every single one of those riot police deserves to be shot and killed. Or burned to death with Molotov Cocktails. Or beaten to death.

Yanukovych is trying to enslave the Ukrainian people. The fact that he got in with one election win matters no more than that Hitler's Party did well in the last elections they faced. He's trying to re-tie them to the Russian empire, and anyone who supports him deserves whatever they get.

Go re-read what happened during the starvation of the kulaks. That's what the protestors are trying to prevent, and that's what the government supporters are going to bring back, unless they're stopped.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Do you think the timing is an accident? The protesters have to achieve maximum provocation before the closing ceremonies in Sochi.