Bitcoin Magazine – Conflict in Ukraine

It was a challenge for me to write something a bit more journalistic. I’m more accustomed to writing analysis.

krainian society has a low amount of trust, and high technical expertise. So, perhaps predictably, Ukraine’s Bitcoin scene is defined by isolated pockets of talented developers and miners (see did Ukrainians almost take over Bitcoin article by Bloomberg1). But it is absent of any substantial community of users or merchants. The public remains unaware of Bitcoin. A handful of people (myself included) are trying to change that by organizing clubs, Satoshi Squares, and educational resources.

The founder of Kyiv’s Kuna Bitcoin Agency2, a retail Bitcoin shop, explains on the agency’s website: “After the revolution we now have no fear nor anything to lose. Sounds like a perfect place for Bitcoin.”

Despite the violence and uncertainty, the mood in Ukraine is largely optimistic, more so the further you travel from the territories disputed by Russia where a low-intensity war is underway and where a substantial minority remains deeply skeptical of the West. For many others, the conflict in Ukraine is a long over-due divorce with the corruption and brutality of the Russian government — what Wikileaks dispatches revealed3 was considered a “mafia-government” by many diplomats.

Of course, there is concern too. Everyone is waiting to see how far Putin will push the covert invasion / uprising. He recently surprised many observers by stating Ukraine’s planned election for May 25th is “a step in right direction.” That means he’ll either be backing off, or launching a full scale invasion, or something in between.

Last month, the self-declared separatist mayor of Sloviansk, the Eastern Ukrainian city at the center of the covert invasion / uprising, said “We will take all necessary measures so that elections in the southeast do not take place.” Asked how he would accomplish this, he responded, “We’ll take somebody as hostage and hang him by the balls.” He also promised to destroy dissent, calling it “a harsh truth of life4.”

November seems like a life-time ago, and a world apart from today’s situation in Ukraine. The unrest began on November 21st. Victor Yanukovych was still Ukraine’s president. He was Moscow’s preferred candidate in the 2010 election (which he won), and earlier in the fraudulent 2004 election which was overturned by Ukraine’s Orange Revolution.

On November 21st, he announced the postponement of a planned accession agreement with the EU, a long, difficult process at the end of which, Ukraine might theoretically have joined the EU. Success was doubtful, but the process itself would have strengthened Ukraine’s ties with Europe. Even more importantly in the opinion of many Ukrainians, it would have symbolized a movement away from the corruption and criminality that replaced the Soviet Union. A minority of Ukrainians viewed the EU with skepticism and wanted closer ties with Russia, especially in Crimea and the two easternmost provinces known collectively as “Donbas,” the home of then-President Yanukovych.