The most surprising thing about the ongoing Brown Revolution in Ukraine is neither the West's support for neo-nazis, nor its immediate acceptance of the armed, violent overthrow of a legitimate president, whose election four years ago was deemed valid by the Eurocrats and the State Department. The most stunning aspect of the neo-nazi putsch is the hapless cowardice and woeful incompetence of Viktor Yanukovych.
For years preceding the Brown Revolution, Yanukovych had a myriad of opportunities to strengthen the political power of the eastern regions of Ukraine. An alternative center of power could've been established in Kharkov, or Dnepropetrovsk, or Donetsk—far from the Russophobic atmosphere of Kiev and Lviv. And instead of rewarding his corrupt and oftentimes, incompetent Donbass cronies with political and financial perks, Yanukovych could've promoted capable, pragmatic young leaders from southeastern Ukraine. He should've also done the obvious: establish wide-ranging autonomy for regions such as Donbass, which were predominantly Russian-speaking and far from the noxious Lviv-Kiev axis. Alas, he concentrated on stuffing his official residence with ostriches and sports cars.
When the revolt has not yet entered its most violent stage, Yanukovych could've easily drawn on his support in the east of the country and established a "counter-Maidan"—thousands of east Ukrainians bused over to surround and stand up to the Galicians. I doubt that the tough, no-nonsense Donbass miners would shirk away from a confrontation with the skinheads. Pro-regime demonstrations should've also been set in motion in the eastern regions and Crimea.
But none of this happened. Yanukovych, from the beginning of the revolt, demonstrated shameful weakness to the bloodthirsty mobs. Even the actions of the police, including the notorious "Berkut" special forces was restrained and inept. What better evidence of the cops' restraint than the fact that at least 16 of them were murdered, some quite brutally, over the course of mere days. One police officer even had his arm torn off by the crazed mob. Scores of police and interior ministry troops were seized by the rebels. The latter, largely young conscripts, were especially pusillanimous and ill-prepared for a showdown with the armed radical thugs.
Finally, the shabby spectacle of "Where in Ukraine is Viktor Yanukovych?!" further demonstrates that the capable Donbass technocrat and manager proved to be a bumbling coward when president. First, he fled Kiev to Kharkov, then to his home turf of Donetsk, then to Balaklava in the Crimea.
So where is Viktor? Two destinations seem most likely: Moscow and Minsk (cynics also mention the US embassy's basement). Speaking of Minsk, the EU/State Department hydra tried to pull a color-coded revolution there a few years ago. And unlike Yanukovych, Lukashenko had the courage to clear the rebels off the street. Indeed, Belarus is no country for sold men.
Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.