On 17 Jan 2014, Ukrainian president Viktor Janukovytsch signed into law bills “limiting freedom to demonstrate and freedom of opinion” passed quickly in parliament by a show of hands from his affiliated M.P.’s. Newly forbidden: setting up tents, stages or loudspeakers in public without a permit, “slandering” government officials (now punishable by a year of “corrective labor”), blocking public buildings (up to five years in prison), car protests involving more than five cars (“Automaidan”!). The ruling coalition also harshened punishments for the crime of mummery.
Apparently the Ukrainian parliament usually votes electronically, leaving the government parties open to accusations that they knew they didn’t have the votes to pass this.
After the new legislation, and after a court arbitrarily banned protests in downtown Kiev until 08 Mar 2014 without citing grounds for the decision, opposition leaders said a Staatsstreich, coup d’état, had occurred. Protests quickly got more violent.
One wonderful bright aspect was the costumes protesters wore to make fun of the “mummery” ban. German news showed an elegant red construction helmet decorated with black feathers and a black velvet Venetian carnival mask trimmed in gold. A lady was interviewed who wore a black-brimmed winter hat wreathed in colorful plastic flowers and berries, and long silk ribbons, with a large fur hood. Beautifully painted flames on an army helmet. One Spiegel.de photo showed even rugose mummery, with what looked like ceratopsian dinosaur horns.
Update on 23 Jan 2014: The U.S.A. threatened Mr. Janukovytsch’s government with sanctions if the new antidemocratic laws aren’t recalled. Chancellor Merkel’s government told reporters she too phoned the Ukraine to urge the government to enter into dialog with protesters: “That includes examining and recalling quickly-passed laws used to restrict burgher rights.”
Update on 28 Jan 2014: Ukrainian prime minister Mykola Azarow resigned, and Ukraine’s Rada parliament rescinded the anti-demonstration laws. In post-WWII Germany’s version of parliamentary democracy, a prime minister would be more powerful than a president. But throughout these protests Mr. Janukovytsch has seemed to have more power than Mr. Azarow.
(Fair MOOM oongs fair BOAT.)