It’s flu season in Ukraine, revolution or no revolution. Just ask the country’s President.
In a statement published Thursday on the website of President Viktor Yanukovych, his chief doctor announced: “The President of Ukraine is on sick leave due to acute respiratory disease accompanied by fever.” The statement did not say how long the President would be incapacitated.
Yanukovych might have used up the remainder of his strength while suppressing a rebellion within the ranks of his own party on Wednesday night. Some of its lawmakers were refusing to toe the party line in a crucial vote meant to stem the revolution in the streets. So Yanukovych stormed into the chamber to set them straight. But to get there, he had to travel the few city blocks from the presidential headquarters, and the weather outside was atrocious at the time, with fierce winds, snow and temperatures of around -20 Celsius.
The heated scene in the parliament building demonstrated how vital it has become for Yanukovych to keep a firm grip on the dwindling ranks of his supporters. “The President is a big source of authority for us,” said one of his party’s lawmakers, Anna German, after the vote on Wednesday night. “The President said that we cannot allow any bloodshed. That is why we did everything we could” to pass an amnesty for jailed demonstrators.
But with the President out of commission, it will likely become a lot harder for him to keep his party, and his country, from spinning further out of control. Dozens of his party’s lawmakers were reportedly prepared to vote with the opposition on Wednesday, granting further concessions to the protestors, before Yanukovych arrived to reestablish party discipline by threatening to dissolve the parliament. When the chamber reconvenes on Feb. 4, such a situation could well arise again, and it would be a lot harder for a bedridden President to reestablish control over his party.
The protestors, meanwhile, seem to be holding up just fine. Their siege of the center of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, has forced thousands of them to man barricades that they built mostly from sacks of ice. But the chief doctor of the revolution (yes, it actually has one of those) said during a briefing on Dec. 20 that the level of infections among the protestors is normal. And on Jan. 29, the same day the President seems to have fallen ill, the Ministry of Health confirmed that the revolution has not led to any spike in infections. Well, at least not outside the Presidential palace.