Arabs look at Kiev and see Damascus
Arabic media review

Arabs look at Kiev and see Damascus

Putin is to blame for the bloodshed in both Syria and Ukraine, with Europe’s complicity, argues editorial

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Anti-government protesters take a break on a barricade at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 (photo credit: AP/ Marko Drobnjakovic)
Anti-government protesters take a break on a barricade at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 (photo credit: AP/ Marko Drobnjakovic)

The violence in Ukraine leads the headlines of Arab newspapers on Friday, pushing aside the continuing civil war in Syria.

“Ukranian police arms itself following a Russia request to ‘pummel the revolutionaries’,” reads the headline of London-based daily Al-Hayat, featuring a row of dead protesters lying on a wet street in Kiev.

The daily reports that Russian leaders are concerned that Ukranian President Viktor Yanukovych may succumb to the demands of the protesters, and the West, to immediately stop the violence.

“The most violent day in Kiev’s square; American and European sanctions,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring an image of demonstrators wearing helmets and hiding behind large shields as they clash with police.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based daily, focuses on European action with respect to the Ukrainian crisis. “Ukraine: Europe moves to stop the bloodbath adjacent to its borders,” reads the paper’s main headline.

The editorial pages are also preoccupied with the similarities between Arab Spring violence and the events unfolding in Ukraine.

In an article titled “The Syrian revolutionary flag in Kiev,” A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Mustafa Fahs points to the Russian fear of Middle Eastern violence reaching its own doorstep.

“The Russian leadership tacitly admits to what it considers the diplomatic and strategic mistake of agreeing to UN Security Council resolution 1973 allowing the international community to use force in Libya. It believes that had it prevented this, Colonel Qaddafi would would not have fallen and things would not have deteriorated so much in Syria. If it were not for its forceful position in Syria, demonstrations would have reached Tehran, continued to the Islamic republics in central Asia and spread to Moscow.”

Ukrainian oppositionists, Fahs argues, were clearly inspired by the Syrian uprising in their own revolutionary movement.

“The Ukrainian oppositionist waving the Syrian revolutionary flag alongside the Ukrainian flag in Kiev’s central square is certainly aware of the deep importance of the move, even if it spontaneous. [The protests] haunt the Russian observers, who are nervous by the events in Ukraine and their repercussions on Russia domestically and internationally.”

The editorial of Al-Quds Al-Arabi points to the culprit in the unrest in both Syria and Ukraine: Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But it also blames Europe for weakness in the face of Russia tyranny. 

“Faced with the violent Russian leadership manifested in Vladimir Putin’s attempt to regain its waning weight following the collapse of the Soviet Union … Europe’s shameful position is based on economic pragmatism concerned with the continuation of Russian gas supplies to warm their fancy homes. They are not seriously willing to pay the price of defending the will of Ukrainians (or Syrians) in ridding themselves of Russian-backed despotism.”     

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