Ukraine protesters take Kiev without a shot as Yanukovich flees east to Kharkiv

Battle for Kiev

Kiev Riots
A pro-European integration protester takes cover behind a makeshift shield at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev

By Janet Daley

As we watch events in Ukraine, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and decide whether to laugh or cry over that short-lived daydream, we must come to terms with the fact that a great many powerful countries – including the most powerful one on earth – seem to be behaving as if that momentary fantasy actually came true. Barack Obama began his presidency with a tour of Eastern Europe in which he announced explicitly what America’s intentions were in the wake of the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact. The long-range missile shield with which the United States had intended to guard those countries would be abandoned. After all, the threat was gone: Russia was no longer to be regarded a bellicose enemy. So Europe, which had relied so long on American military power, would have to be responsible for its own defences.

Ukraine – a large, populous country which forms the critical, hazardous bridge between a neo-imperial Russia and a deluded European Union with fantasies of superpower status – is still in chaos. The biggest player in this game (which, incidentally, is poker, not chess) was Mr Putin, as the US president effectively acknowledged by telephoning him after the negotiated “agreement” with the EU foreign ministers was reached.

This is, in fact, only the latest hand which Putin has played in the new global power struggle. Ever since the Assad regime was allowed to gallop gleefully over Mr Obama’s “red line” by using chemical weapons on its own people – thus showing the world that you could now openly defy America and suffer no consequences – Putin has believed himself (not unjustifiably) to be on a roll.

That this ex-KGB autocrat, presiding over a country with a dying population and an economy entirely dependent on the price of oil, has become the world’s most powerful head of state (and its self-appointed chief peacemaker, of all things) is entirely attributable to the vacuum which has been left by America’s retreat. It is quite true that the US could not militarily intervene in Ukraine (or in Georgia). But it is the void, that deliberate withdrawal from the global stage, which allows the new Imperial Russia to march across it with impunity.

Putin clearly felt confident that he could reclaim those countries which he believes to be within Russia’s own sphere of influence, and justifiably respond with outrage when they got ideas of their own about being modern self-determining European states. There is a vacancy for world domination – and Putin, wearing his most implacable face, has put down his marker. Which raises the interesting question: back in the day, was Soviet aggression always about territory, rather than ideology?

Nor is Russia alone in this new imperial confidence. China is threatening Japan – America’s established ally – over territory, in a way that would have seemed unthinkable a generation ago. And, ironically, it was to Asia that Mr Obama claimed he was shifting the attention of his foreign policy. In the absence of American leadership, it seems that any state looking for an expansionist adventure or a public relations bonanza can take a punt.

And, of course, al-Qaeda has noticed, too. The failure of the West to support the early stages of the Syrian resistance to Assad provided a splendid opportunity for it to stage a takeover of the rebellion with a ready-made case: the West has abandoned you to the regime that murders your children with poison gas. We are the only ones to whom you can turn for defence.

So tell me, those of you who have demanded for years that America and the West should end their “domination” of geopolitics, and their interference in the affairs of far-flung nations: is this what you wanted? A free-for-all for rogue states, lunatic extremists and long-dead imperial powers, in which the lives and freedoms of populations caught up in the murderous power play would count for nothing?

Over Syria, every crackpot and despot in the world saw America dither and shamelessly contradict itself – and in the end, do nothing. Every rebellious dissident in an autocratic country now appreciates that he and his fellow protesters are on their own, with only the feeble attempts of a collective European negotiating machine standing between them and annihilation.

If Ukraine – or Syria for that matter – eventually finds its way to some form of stable democracy, it will have been with precious little help from the West, which seems to be either uninterested (America) or useless (the EU). So I ask again: is this what those who longed for a post-American, post-Western world had in mind?


By Sergei L. Loiko

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s capital fell into the hands of anti-government protesters Saturday morning.

Without a shot fired, opposition units surrounded and took control of parliament, the Council of Ministers building and most important, the Presidential Administration building, when they discovered early in the morning that the riot police who had been guarding the sites were gone, an opposition leader said.

“[The opposition] today controls all of Kiev as we have taken control of all government quarters,” Andriy Parubiy, commander of the opposition forces, told thousands of people in Independence Square. “We told those of [the police] who are decent and honest that they may join us.”

Parubiy advised policemen wishing to switch sides to put blue and yellow ribbons on their uniforms, the symbol of the opposition.

Parubiy said earlier that the Interior Ministry troops stationed in Kiev had pledged allegiance to the opposition.

Friday night embattled President Viktor Yanukovich reportedly fled to Kharkiv, the industrial stronghold of Yanukovich’s ruling party in eastern Ukraine, where he was expected to hold a conference with supporters.

Saturday’s events marked what could be an end to this week’s violent confrontation in central Kiev, which left more than 100 dead and hundreds injured but symbolized a victory for the opposition. The dramatic standoff with the government started in November after Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union and instead chose closer economic and political ties with Russia.

Ukrainian lawmakers made their way to an urgent session of parliament, walking past protesters in masks and helmets who were armed with makeshift shields and clubs. The lawmakers were expected to pass new laws to accommodate the new realities, the most important new measure being a law on impeaching the president.

Saturday morning, parliament speaker Volodymyr Rybak, a staunch Yanukovich supporter, resigned, the UNIAN information organization reported.

The streets of central Kiev, where the government complex lies and which previously had been protected by thousands of riot police, were empty and unusually quiet Saturday morning, with some groups of protesters patrolling them.

The president’s headquarters were also surrounded by opposition guards. They said the government guards were still inside the building but there was no conflict, and the protesters were ordered to stay outside and protect the building’s perimeter. Igor Melnik, a 45-year-old auto mechanic from the western town of Sambar, wearing a green military helmet, voiced determination:

“We were bracing for a bloody battle today, but the police are all gone and the victory is ours!” Melnik said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But the war is not over for us until Yanukovich is captured and put on trial.”

Experts agree the capture of Kiev is a big victory for the opposition, but they predict a tough road ahead to stability, one of the key steps being the ouster or resignation of Yanukovich.

“Yanukovich didn’t leave anybody in charge in Kiev, didn’t give any instructions to anybody,” said Kost Bondarenko, director of the Ukrainian Police Institute, a Kiev-based think tank.

“But technically, since he is still in Ukraine, he remains president. As for the impeachment procedure expected to be launched, it will need the support of two-thirds of the lawmakers and a long procedure involving action by the Supreme and Constitutional courts.”

Yanukovich still enjoys sizable support in the eastern regions of Ukraine, and there is still a danger of Ukraine breaking up, Bondarenko warned.

“Russia’s role in our conflict shouldn’t be underestimated as the Kremlin may still intervene in some way,” Bondarenko said. “The best outcome for all will be Yanukovich’s voluntary resignation, but he then will need guarantees of secure passage to some place where he will feel safe. Now he is only 25 miles away from Russia’s border [in Kharkiv]”.

The previous few days saw fierce fighting between riot police and the opposition. At least 20 of the protesters killed were shot by snipers. The opposition holds Yanukovich personally responsible for the carnage.

Friday night thousands of protesters in Independence Square rejected the peace deal signed by Yanukovich and three protest leaders. The deal provided for an early presidential election, the reduction of presidential powers and amnesty for all protesters. On the same day parliament fired Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko, who had reportedly given orders to suppress the opposition by force.

Another important measure passed by parliament Friday night was a criminal-code change that clears the way for the release of ex-premier and opposition leader Julia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko, Yanukovich’s key political rival, is serving a seven-year term in Kharkv prison for abuse of power and is expected to be released any day now.,0,2157062.story#ixzz2u5qny8GX



n 1946 a young, post-war Italian businessman from Valenza, Gino Amisano, began producing leather seats and motorcycle saddles. One year later he repurposed his skills to start AGV SpA (helmets) designing some of the earliest motorcycle protective leather helmets on the market in Italy. As safety testing and standards were not commonplace in this time of history, Amisano was one of the first to begin producing protective motorcycle racing helmets with his 1954 model 160 helmet. Fast forward sixty one years and worldwide the AGV name is living legend. After the production of the first leather “pudding bowl” shaped, crisscross inner lining and harnessed helmet, which would mold to the riders head, AGV had thus separated themselves from the competition, and Gino Amisano would soon be known as the “King of Helmets” in the European industry. To attain such a high status, a “King,” AGV had to establish their dominance in the helmet industry. They started with a riding helmet, but what was to follow? Their first step was by producing a protective jet helmet in 1956, later signing the best motorcyclist to ever participate in the sport in 1967, Giacomo Agostini, who would go on to win 14 World Championships while wearing AGV helmets. The first AGV full faced helmet worn in racing was in an Italian race, worn by Alberto Pagani, in 1969. And finally by creating and sponsoring the now famous “Clinica Mobile, this mobile clinic which would treat injured riders at the race track starting in 1977. It was clear that AGV had a commitment to excellence, both in safety of their products and the sport itself. It was right about this time that Michael Parrotte began riding motorcycles while attending the American School of Paris for three years. During this time AGV was the undisputed King of the helmet world in Europe while Bell Helmets reigned supreme in North America. During this time in Europe AGV Helmets were worn by many of the top Grand Prix Riders – Giacomo Agostini, Barry Sheene, Angel Nieto, Johnny Cecotto, Steve Baker, and Kenny Roberts. AGV was not just the sponsor of racers but of race series. The AGV World Cup consisted of 200 mile events at Daytona, Paul Ricard, and Imola. Shortly after returning to the US Mr. Parrotte wrote a letter to Mr. Amisano enquiring about the possibility of importing AGV Helmets into the US. Communications continued and in late 1976 AGV granted the exclusive rights for the AGV brand to Mr. Parrotte and his new company AGV USA. The first helmets arrived in the port of Baltimore in the spring of 1977. As an avid road racer Michael traveled the race circuit promoting and selling AGV as well as participating in races. During this first season AGV USA sponsored their first racer, an up and coming fourteen year old from Louisiana-named Freddie Spencer. After years of operating as the exclusive importer of AGV helmets, Parrotte saw yet another opportunity in the motorcycling market by producing safety apparel for riders, particularly club racers who needed very durable and safe products and who did not have unlimited budgets. In 1985 Mr. Amisano licensed the use of the AGV tradename to begin a joint venture with Mr. Parrotte in this new sector. In the first year American GP rider Randy Mamola began wearing AGV gloves, the CX-1. AGV road race suits and boots quickly followed, all handcrafted in Italy at the time. After only a couple of years of business in the US motorcycle apparel industry Yamaha Motor Canada became the first international importer of the AGV apparel. After the success of the AGV motorcycle safety apparel in the United States and Canadian markets, the decision was made to expand the name from AGV to AGVSPORT for cosmetic reasons particularity the Suits, Jackets, and pants. The AGV logo was perfect for helmets and worked for Gloves and Boots but was too short for use on arms and legs. So in the late 1980’s the AGVSPORT brand was born. For a number of years products were branded both AGV and AGVSPORT depending on their styling requirements. In the early 1990’s Italian designer Sergio Robbin designed the AGVSPORT logo. Sergio was the top designer for AGV and Spidi and had done extensive design work for Ducati and Bimota. One of his first creations was the Bimota V-Due 500cc two stoke sport bike. The company may have been young in age, but with the years of helmet industry knowledge that AGVSPORT founder Michael Parrotte brought with him from his early years with AGV SpA proved to be invaluable when creating high performance safety apparel. As many other producers focused of fashion, Michael focused on safety, performance, and value over all else. In 1992 AGV SpA purchased a majority ownership of AGV Sports Group. The reputation for durability spread throughout the club racing world and it is not uncommon to see AGVSPORT suits twenty years old or more still being used by club racers today. This ultimately led to a great and long-lasting partnership, now for more than 25 years, with Keith Code and the California Super Bike School, where all instructors would be suited up in AGVSPORT leather suits. The California Superbike Schools’ instructors and students have been using and abusing AGVSPORT leather suits for more than quarter century. These suits are put to a stress test like no other often being used for days on end, rain or shine year after year. These instructors and students often remain in their suits for the entirety of the day’s lessons, and essentially are living in our leathers. 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It was now time for AGV Sport Group Inc. to become an independent entity and all the shares of the company were purchased back from AGV SpA in Italy. But it was not until the fall of 2001 that AGVSPORT was officially recognized by the Italian helmet company as an independent brand, owned by entirely by AGV Sport Group Inc. Today AGV Helmets is owned by famed Italian apparel manufacturer Dainese. Since that time AGVSPORT has enjoyed a comfortable position in the apparel industry. By continuing their age old business model “Designed by Riders, for Riders,” and “The Science of Safety” which combined years of helmet industry knowledge. AGVSPORT has always been on the cutting edge of the safety apparel design and construction. AGV Sports Group has always been, and will always be, a company of avid riders and enthusiasts who are wearing and always developing AGVSPORT apparel. This ensures that you, the customer, will experience the best and safest products we have to offer, and we hope that you will actually be able to feel the history of Gino Amisano and progress of AGVSPORT every time you ride and are wearing any of our AGVSPORT leathers or textiles. Each AGVSPORT product is designed by riders for riders, and function is never sacrificed for aesthetics. By keeping product development and design in house and using experience riders, we are staying true to the dedicated following of discerning motorcycle enthusiasts who respect the quality and value of AGVSPORT performance driven products. We at AGV Sports Group are among the sport’s greatest enthusiasts.

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