This is a blog written by alumni of the EPA MA programme in Maastricht.
Bursting the Bubble

UKRAINIAN ARMAGEDDON

19 February 2014 | by
Ukraine, Euromaidan

Branded extremists, radicals, criminals and foreign agents. This is how Ukraine’s bandits in power (or the so-called government) see protesters of Euromaidan. Hundreds of thousands of open-minded and freedom-seeking demonstrators, for whom dignity, human rights and liberty are not just plain words, are apparently terrorists. At least, this is how yesterday’s horrifying developments, claiming at least 20 innocent lives in Kyiv, were justified – as anti-terrorist operations. Clubs, tear gas, flash grenades and Molotov cocktails are again a reality after almost 3 weeks of a standstill in Ukraine’s capital.

What began as a protest against Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an Association Agreement, including the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, with the EU in late 2013 has spiraled into much bigger demands. Seen as a pro-European uprising in the East, the latest dynamics highlight a much more complicated political scene. Current demonstrations represent a fight for democratic values, rule of law and a change of the country’s corrupt political system. In fact, the EU’s inaction and inability to broker a solution diminishes, to some extent, local support for the European Union. The absence of a decisive Western stance definitely harms the image of a flexible Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU. Coupled with expressions of concern that are not backed by real actions, this only irritates Ukrainians more .

Nevertheless, many things have happened since the beginning of Euromaidan then: deaths of peaceful protesters, draconian dictatorship laws and their later abolishment, seizure of state administrations across the whole country, grotesque Belarus-style repression, clashes with the riot policy and open violence on the street. However, the last two to three weeks were relatively peaceful, without major breaking news in the headlines of international media. Now, remember this point, we’ll return to it later.

Kyiv Fires, Ukraine
Mstyslav Chernov, 2014

Thus, the main battles seemed to have moved from the streets to a pure political dimension. The fulfilment of the amnesty law in return for the evacuation of seized administration buildings by protesters brought the situation back to square one. Juicy debates on constitutional changes (which would entail a return to the 2004 Constitution, limiting the President’s powers), the appointment of a new prime minister, and Ukraine’s federalization scenarios dominated the internal political agenda. Everything WAS relatively calm and non-violent. Yet, also a bit suspicious. As if somebody was trying to buy time. Up until yesterday.

After the Verkhovna Rada,the Ukrainian parliament, failed to register these topics for discussion at yesterday’s parliamentary session, alluding to contradicting rules of procedure, renewed violence broke out on the streets of Kyiv. What followed next seems like a series of actions planned well ahead. The unprecedented complete (!) blockade of the capital’s metro system, malfunctions of the internet, the shut-off of the leading opposition-supporting TV news channel, police snipers on the rooftop of buildings in the centre, the limitation of physical access to Kyiv, quick and compact location of internal security forces, armoured personnel carriers (war vehicles!) circulating on the streets and well-organised “Titushki” – thugs, hired by the government  to help the riot police to beat the people. In fact, Ukraine’s capital found itself in a state of emergency just in a couple of hours, without being officially introduced by the authorities. A state of emergency is not a 1-day decision. Such actions have to be planned and prepared for. This apparent preparation brings us to the point of the recent two to three weeks of a suspicious “Silence of Ukrainian Lambs”.

What does it mean for the EU?

  1. You are dealing with a bunch of murderers who seized power in Ukraine.
  2. You cannot fight a system soaked through with Soviet-type corruption and kleptomania by only expressing concern and disgrace.
  3. Sanctions on officials, their business sponsors and legislators responsible for violent crackdowns on mass protests in Ukraine are one of the measures you can take.
  4. A failed state at your borders is a direct security threat for you.
  5. If you think the best way-out is to leave the solution of the crisis to Russia – you are deeply mistaken. Its appetite does not stop at the Polish-Ukrainian border.
  6. Euromaidan’s fate will have serious international repercussions. It’s not only about Ukraine. It’s about you, the EU, and your ability to defend values the Union stands for. Or at least used to.

To me, like for the majority of Ukraine’s protesters, it seems quite ironic and paradoxical, that non-EU citizens have to remind the EU of this. Nevertheless, it is for the Ukrainians, not the EU, the USA, Russia or any other actor to decide the country’s future. The war against the criminals and murderers in power has to be won by Ukraine’s society – people, who are more mature in a political and societal sense than their so-called political elite. “Freedom or Death” is what you hear now on the streets of Ukraine.

2 Comments

  1. That was a moving article, Lesia. My hope is that the violence will stop and the people responsible for the deaths will be held liable for their crimes.

    Nevertheless, I am following the dramatic reports from Kyiv and I am increasingly thinking if the right choice for the opposition would not be to take a step back. The government seems to be desperate and the continuing protests will only make more victims among civilians, it seems.

    As a second reason, my modest experience with street protests tells me that some people join the protests not to peacefully express their opinions, but are just looking for an opportunity to punch someone and to have a brawl.

    Consequently, I think that the rumours about the policemen being assaulted by protesters may often be true and that the right choice right now would be to hold on and let the situation calm down.

    The signal has been sent. The World may have waited too long to react, but I can’t imagine that it could possibly steer clear of dealing with this situation after what it evolved into in the past days.

  2. It seems that Stalin’s ghost just won’t leave this part of Europe, firstly it was famine, stalinism, war and pretty much all other negative aspects about the last 50 years of socialist Eastern European history. The pro-government forces intervene exactly like in the case when a revolution used to be suppressed back in the USSR days, this time without the aid of satellite countries forces.
    The EU reaction has been disappointing to say the least and these tense moments really show how useless this mainly economic structure really is. I was hipped up a few years back about being an European citizen, but the recent events have thought me that I don’t need to feel European, Romanian, German, Spanish or so on, I just need to see myself as a human being, I don’t need any nationality. I am totally shocked by the events that have unfolded in Kiev and all the information I have received has been like a huge blow to my head. I can’t even begin to comprehend what is going on in the mind of the average Ukrainian parent, women or child who are in the middle of these violent events.
    I draw only one conclusion from all these events: Eastern Europe is the wrong place to be in and seeing it as a cradle of civilization is simply childish.This is merely a buffer zone between the EU and Russia which are dueling it out at the expense of the Ukrainian people. We are just some small fish in an ocean where sharks rule and if we try to voice our concerns we get devoured one way or another.

What do you think?