In the spring of 2011 dozens of committees sprung up almost overnight in Syria, soon followed by the establishment of coordination and training offices in Turkey.
The committees were provided funds, supplied with equipment, provided training, and supplied with contacts to the Western media.
Some of the committees organized local protests and provided unverified, and often unverifiable, 'news' from 'real citizen journalists' to eager Western media and for widespread dissemination on the internet, and the UK-based SOHR could be relied on to publish most, if not all, of the 'news'.
Some of the committees also assisted in coordinating rebel actions and in the distribution of funds and weapons to rebels.
Is there a Ukraine parallel? There doesn't seem to be, but there are the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine's daily updates, which seem to describe an initially very mild and vague insurgency with the updates from the past week indicating an increase in tension in some areas following the events in Odessa on May 2nd and the beginning of the Ukrainian military's 'anti-terrorist operation' in eastern Ukraine.
In the spring of 2011 a network of arms suppliers, brokers, buyers, and smugglers also sprung up almost overnight in Turkey and Lebanon.
Is there a Ukraine parallel? No, but there is often much speculation on the internet, and sometimes in the media, about arms being supplied by Russia to people in eastern Ukraine, even though there is not much mention of arms being evident in eastern Ukraine in the OSCE SMM's daily updates.
In the spring of 2011 a significant number of soldiers and officers deserted from the Syrian military and began forming units which then actively attacked Syrian government forces.
A camp for these former soldiers and officers was established in Hatay, Turkey near the Turkish-Syrian border and they were provided with funds and arms and allowed to freely cross the border by Turkish authorities. Command organizations, first the 'Free Officers' Movement' and then the 'Free Syrian Army', were established a short time later in Turkey.
Is there a Ukraine parallel? There doesn't seem to be, even though a number of police officers and soldiers have reportedly left/deserted from or been dismissed from the Ukrainian police force, security services, and military.
There are reports of men in eastern Ukraine who wear military uniforms and that some of them are armed, and the formation of the 'Donetsk People’s Militia' has been reported, but there don't seem to be reports of units being formed by former police officers and members of the Ukrainian security services and military to attack Ukrainian government forces.
In the spring of 2011 well-funded Syrian opposition conferences were organized and held in five-star hotels in Turkey and Europe. The great majority of the participants were religious, had Saudi, Qatari and Turkish connections, and supported the overthrow of the Syrian Government.
Most in the leftist, secular and Kurdish opposition to the Syrian Government, who generally supported change in Syria through dialogue with the government, were not present at the conferences.
These conferences had well-organized press offices and were covered by the Western media.
The participants of the conferences labeled the unrest in Syria a 'revolution' and called for the 'toppling of the regime', and the participants of the conference in Antalya, Turkey elected a 'consultative body' which was to appoint an 'implementation body' which was to 'establish and implement an action plan to coordinate all activities supporting the Syrian revolution'.
Is there a Ukraine parallel? There doesn't seem to be, but the Washington Post reported on April 7th, 2014 that:
In Donetsk, several hundred protesters who had occupied a regional administration building declared a “People’s Republic of Donetsk” and announced a referendum on secession to be held no later than May 11. They called on Russia to send in troops if they are attacked.
There was little evidence that they enjoy any public support.
In the spring of 2011 it was very often claimed that more than 50%, and sometimes as much as 80%, of the people of Syria supported the rebels.
Is there a Ukraine parallel? No, the great majority of polls and media reports claim that there is very little support among the people of eastern Ukraine for separation from Ukraine or unification with Russia.
There are also some indications that there is moderate to strong support in some areas of eastern Ukraine for federalization and revisions to the Ukrainian constitution.
Note: I was often attacked, and sometimes still am, for stating three years ago that public support for the rebels in Syria was at most 20%, with there also being strong public support, probably around 50%, for political reforms in Syria, but through dialogue and without resorting to arms.
I believe that in eastern Ukraine, as was the case in Syria three years ago, there is limited public support for the most radical of the alternatives - which in Ukraine are the separation of eastern Ukraine from Ukraine or its unification with Russia.