A pro-European Union protester throws a Molotov cocktail during clashes with riot police in Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 22. CNS photo/Gleb Garanich, Reuters

May this be Ukraine’s 1989

By 
  • February 13, 2014

A quadrennial custom I look forward to is writing a column mocking the absurdity of the Winter Olympics. Hockey aside, silly sports contested by people otherwise unknown somehow become moments of national pride. “Cheering on the oddballs” was how my editor headlined the 2010 version for Vancouver. Hoist the maple leaf — our man won skateboarding on snow!

The games roll on, all a bit of harmless, though scandalously expensive, fun.

Yet as the world’s eyes are turned toward Russia and the Black Sea, there is something not at all harmless taking place nearby. A long day’s drive from Sochi puts one in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, where for more than two months there have been enormous protests — often put down violently by the police — against the government of Viktor Yanukovych. Democratically elected, Yanukovych is increasingly following the model of his patron in Moscow, Vladimir Putin, another democratically elected president who rules by intimidation, corruption and secret police tactics. That the world is celebrating Putin’s games while his boot is being stamped upon Ukraine is yet another sign of how the United States and Europe are allowing Russia’s malign influence to spread — in Ukraine, in Syria and in Iran.

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