Ukraine against Ukraine


There have been weeks of informational chaos around Ukraine. Who? When? Why?

What started in November 2013 as a peaceful pro-European demonstration escalated in January 2013 into real street warfare, clashes between protesters armed with fireworks, cobblestones and Molotov cocktails, and riot police units, using water cannons (at 10 degrees below zero), tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Reports show police guys on fire, wounded journalists, dead civilians. Blood on the snow.

The protests are no longer localised, government buildings have been stormed in the regions: It is Ukrainians against Ukrainians.

Revolutions occur when democratic instruments fail to be effective, but they are not necessarily effective themselves. Thus the Orange revolution in winter 2004/05 brought in a new political leader, but failed to reform the corrupt system of power.

Yanukovych is now playing for time and trying to keep a balance within his kleptocratic clique. He has the resources: His party has the majority in the parliament. He controls the executive branch. Law enforcement agencies and courts under his rule are ready to protect the authorities from the people.

Irrespective of the opposition demands to steps down, he won’t.

Firstly, he is an elected leader and secondly, he doesn’t have much of a choice between being a President and a jailed former president, the kind of political revenge he has practiced himself.

As he won’t resign, he can try to form a new government and employ opposition figures to appease the streets and the regions. But his offer to the opposition is also an attempt to put at odds the leaders, who are not too united anyway.

The opponents of Yanukovych have rejected his offer already. They have to play for time too: Polls show 5 to 10 per cent of their supporters among those in the streets, which is not really a landslide number. Their main demand is the release of detained protesters, and Yanukovych has promised to take it to the parliament. It has already repealed a series of restrictive lawshe signed on 17 January.

And what about people at large?

Ukrainians blame opposition groups for loss of control over the protests, for the inability to act coherently and consistently. Authorities are held responsible for the enormity of corruption, low living standards, the current economic problems in the country and for the escalation in violence, including deadly violence, during the protests.

Ukrainians took to the streets in despair, they feel helpless.

Unlike in 2004/05 there are no unified messages, no leaders, just the enormous frustration with the political elite.

It remains to be seen how far the government and opposition groups can go to resolve the conflict and deliver on their promises: Their talks have yielded no results yet.

As intervention from Moscow (which out-bargained an EU-Ukraine integration agreement with a $15 billion bailout package) might only further fuel the protests, the EU doesn’t really have anything to offer to Kyiv in the short-term perspective. The carriers of hope are formal and informal political leaders (..if they are leaders!) who should act wisely and in the best interest of the Ukrainian people.

So that the deaths of the protesters have not been vain.

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