Ukraine: Why Protests in the East are Fake

It does seem that Ukraine is long away from stability. The unrest which have been stirred up in the East and the South since Yanukovych’s escape and the formation of the interim government assumed a radical form last weekend. Local government buidlings were attacked and occupied in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv. Radical groups have proclaimed the Kharkiv and Donetsk «Independent Republics». One of their key demands is holding a referendum on the issue of accession to the Russian Federation, following the Crimean scenario.

There is much evidence that these protests have hardly anything to do with democracy and popular will, but are rather carefully instigated from the outside.

Indeed, there are no obvious reasons that could bring people to the streets in the East and South of Ukraine. No steps have been taken by the interim government which could anyhow oppress the rights and freedoms of Ukraine’s citizens there. The Verkhovna Rada is exactly the same which was elected in 2012, meaning that the East and the South still have their legitimate representatives there, and the Party of the Regions still has the largest faction in the Parliament.

If the people were unhappy with the former opposition coming to power and forming the interim government, it is strange that the protests only took place now and not in end February. Even stranger is the fact that the protesters do not request the restoration of Viktor Yanukovych in power. In 2010 he won in Donetsk and Luhansk regions with the landslide of 90,44% and 88,96% of votes respectively, and even during the Euromaidan his support in the East and the South was significant.  The radicalists don’t even claim the right to run in the upcoming presidential elections for Yanukovych – instead, they demand their cancellation altogether, which conspicuously coincides with Russia’s vision.

Besides, the protesters number is indeed meagre (up to 1000, which is a triffle for Donetsk and Kharkiv with over a million citizens in each), which can hardly lay a claim for a ‘popular’ uprising. Meanwhile, they are equipped with genuine weapons, whereas the multithousand protesters in Kyiv Maidan could only afford sticks and self-made Molotov cocktails.

The small numbers of protesters are explicable by the fact that traditionally the protest potential in the East and in the South is the weakest among all Ukraine’s regions. Even if one imagines that the active minority has decided to take to the streets, it still does not represent the popular will. Independent Donbas Miners Trade Union leader Mykola Volynko stated that Donetsk region miners did not support the separatists. According to the latest Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation opinion poll, only 26% of the population in the East and 19% in the South would like to join Russia.

The latest Rating Group poll also indicated that 64% of the Ukrainians are against federalization of the Ukrainian state. This is true for the South and the East alike: according to the poll results, 45% and 44% respectively support the unitary form of the Ukrainian state, while only 22% and 26% are in favour of the federalization.

Hence, it is evident that the South-Eastern crisis is the Russian attempt to destabilise Ukraine at the very least, keep it within its orbit of influence or even restore the former empire.

Skillful resolution of the crisis is now the biggest challenge for the interim government, a real test for their capacity to stand up for and defend Ukraine’s independence. Ukraine knows to its own cost that winning a revolution is not the end of it, defending the results is most important. The 1990 ‘revolution on granite’ and the 2004 Orange revolution were bitter lessons. It remains to be seen whether at the third attempt Ukrainians will finally make it, bearing in mind that their enemy is the most powerful person on the Earth.

The views expressed in this entry are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute of World Policy.



Ukraine-EU: A Chance to Restore Historical Justice

During the Euromaidan’s events the EU’s normative power declared itself fully — Ukrainians were ready not only to massively defend a new European quality of internal development, they gave their lives for it. In time of its own existential crisis, the EU has received a chance to look at itself from the outside, to feel its attractiveness and historical necessity.

However, in three months of protests an enormous re-estimation of the EU, as an international player in Ukraine, took place. The EU suffered serious reputational losses because they had not answered the main expectations raised by the Euromaidan’s participants and supporters in Ukraine — the EU had not imposed targeted sanctions against members of the Ukrainian leadership before blood was spilled. In general, the European Union’s contribution in resolving the Ukrainian crisis can be defined as «too late and too little».

This is a serious threat  for the EU policy in the neighbourhood. Losing its credibility in the region could lead to a serious – if not fatal – damage to its ‘soft power’, the only kind of  transformative power the EU actually possesses. EU policy makers should take into account that for many Ukrainians the concept of the EU and the concept of democracy are identical, so the disappointment in the EU can strike pro-democracy forces in the country.

Preventing this from happening is easy.

Firstly, the EU should sign the Association Agreement with Ukraine. In full, not in parts.

Indeed, it is not clear why the document should be divided in two parts now. In the first place, the transformative capacity of the Agreement lies in its DCFTA part and not in the political part. Moreover, if the EU was ready to sign it with the authorities whose genuine ambition to implement it was very doubtful, it is unclear why it cannot do the same with the government which is significantly more likely to take its implementation seriously.

The EU owes this to Ukraine. Not to the government – to the people.  Even in the third month of protests, when more than a hundred people died and hundreds were injured, the Ukrainian government’s reluctance to sign the Association Agreement with the EU remained one of  the key motivations for people to stay on the Maidan. In addition, after the failure to sign the Agreement in Vilnius, Ukrainians became more interested in European integration: the unprecendented figure of 60% of respondents consider the focus on the EU to be the key condition for improving the situation in the country.

The Ukrainian people voiced their will eloquently. So, signing the Association Agreement now seems a logical response from the EU – keeping its word about the AA «being on the table» for Ukraine.

But the effect of the membership perspective will be even stronger, especially if you consider that post-revolutionary politics came to power using pro-European slogans. The policy of conditionality has proved its effectiveness in Central Europe, and therefore it has a great chance to be effective in the Ukrainian case.

The membership perspective may give an even bigger chance to establish trust. Today, 50% of Ukrainians support Ukraine’s accession to the EU,  while 13% are undecided.

Let’s face it: there would be no reputational costs for the EU. The surveys conducted in six largest EU countries show that the majority of the population there are in favour of Ukraine’s accession. Besides, accession is a long-term process and the EU would have plenty of time to prepare against ‘enlargement fatigue’. Meanwhile, in Ukraine it would bear an unprecedented symbolic value, an incentive for qualitative change not only for the state structures but also for ordinary citizens.

Last but not least, the membership perspective for Ukraine would put an end to Russia’s attempts to force on European countries an agenda and competition spirit of the Cold War era.

If the EU denies the historic chance of the ‘return to Europe’ to Ukraine, it will only admit its own power limits and put an end to its own ambition of global influence. If the EU supports Ukraine now, it will receive an unprecedented ‘success story’, a luminous justification of its raison d’être and unique European mission.

This blog entry is based on the policy paper ‘A Call for the EU — Tme to Step In. Ukraine’s Expectations from the European Union’ (authored by Alyona Getmanchuk and Sergiy Solodkyy). It was presented by the Institute of World Policy on March 11, 2014 in Kyiv. The full text can be accessed at (English version starting from page 17).

The policy paper was conducted by Institute of World Policy as part of its project New European Policy implemented under Ukraine National Initiatives to Enhance Reforms (UNITER) program, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Pact Inc. It is also part of the project ”Romania — Ukraine Civic Forum” — implemented together by the Institute of World Policy in Kyiv and the Romanian Center for European Policies in Bucharest with the support of UNDP and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania.

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10 Things You Should Know About Russia’s Aggression (in English and Russian)

The analysis below was prepared by the Institute of World Policy (Kyiv, Ukraine),


1. The intervention is based on lies. Russia has invaded Ukraine under a false pretext that there were victims among Russian population in the Crimea. There is no single proof that any Russian was killed in the Crimea or in South-Eastern Ukraine.

2. Ukrainians do not want to join Russia. There is no single region in Ukraine where the majority of the population is willing to join Russia. Even in the Crimea the number of those who would like to see the peninsula as a part of the Russian Federation amounts to 41% of the population. Only 33% of locals in the Donetsk region would like to join Russia.

3. Ukrainians are not separatists. 80% in the South and 76% in the East of Ukraine refuse the idea of establishing an independent state on the basis of the South-Eastern Ukraine. Let us recall: The Constitution of Ukraine allows to make changes regarding the territory of Ukraine only through a NATIONAL, not local, referendum.

4. How are Russia’s interests being infringed?The interim government of Ukraine has NOT APPROVED ANY SINGLE decision that discriminates Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population: Parliament’s decision to repeal the law on regional languages has not come into force. NATO integration is NOT mentioned in the program of the new government.

5. The EU enjoys a stronger support. The majority of Ukraine’s population (55%) supported signing of the Association Agreement. Moreover, almost half of those (47%), who voted for the most popular in the South-East of Ukraine Party of Regions, supported the signing of this Agreement.

6. How many Russians are there in Ukraine? Putin has claimed that there are 17 million of Russians in Ukraine. In fact, 17% of the Ukrainian population are Russians; it amounts to about 8 million people. The percentage is lower than in Latvia (where are 27% of the population are Russians) and Estonia (almost 26%).

7. Who are fascists and Russophobes? Four ministers of the new government were born in Russia. The new head of the Dnipropetrovsk administration, Igor Kolomoisky, is the Head of the European Jewish Council.

8. Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine are not necessarily pro-Russian. The daily language for nearly half (45%) of the Euromaidan participants is Russian!

9. Ukrainians are against federalization. Most residents of Ukraine are against a federal structure of the country. 53% in the East and 63% in the South do not support this idea.

10. Ukrainians are patriots. 95% of Ukrainians consider Ukraine as their motherland. None of the military units of the Ukrainian Navy has surrendered to the Russian invaders or has sworn to the self-proclaimed “government of the Crimea”.

Sociological data comes from Democratic Initiatives Foundation, Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, Levada-Centre, Razumkov Centre, Russian Public Opinion Research Centre, DW-Trend, etc.


1. Интервенция на лжи. Россия вторглась в Украину под вымышленным предлогом – жертвы среди русского населения в Крыму. Ни одного убитого русского ни в Крыму, ни в Юго-Восточной Украине не обнаружено.

2. Украинцы в Россию не хотят. Ни в одном регионе Украины нет большинства, желающего присоединиться к России. Даже в Крыму количество видеть полуостров в составе РФ составляет 41% населения, на Донбассе к России хотят только 33%.

3. Украинцы – не сепаратисты. 80% Юга и 76% Востока Украины против независимого государства на основе Юго-Восточной Украины. Напомним: Конституция Украины позволяет изменить территорию страны только через ОБЩЕНАЦИОНАЛЬНЫЙ референдум.

4. Где ущемление интересов России? Переходное правительство не утвердило НИ ОДНОГО решения, дискриминирующего русскоязычное население Украины: решение парламента об отмене закона о региональных языках не вступило в силу. Интеграции в НАТО в программе нового правительства НЕТ.

5. ЕС поддерживают больше. Большинство украинцев (55%) поддерживали подписание Соглашения об ассоциации. Более того, подписание этого Соглашения  поддержала почти половина (47%) избирателей самой популярной на Юго-Востоке Украины  Партии  регионов.

6. Сколько русских в Украине? Путин заявлял о 17 млн. русских в Украине. На самом деле русских в стране 17% – это около 8 млн. человек. В процентном соотношении это меньше, чем в Латвии – 27% русских или в Эстонии – почти 26%.

7. Кто фашисты и русофобы? Четыре министра нового правительства родились в России. Новый глава Днепропетровской администрации – Игорь Коломойский, глава Европейского еврейского совета.

8. Русскоязычные в Украине – не значит пророссийские. Почти половина – 45% – участников Евромайдана в быту говорят на русском языке!

9.  Украинцы против федерализации. Большинство жителей Украины против федеративного устройства страны. На Востоке не воспринимают эту идею 53% и 63% на Юге.

10. Украинцы – патриоты.  95% украинцев считают Украину  своей  Родиной. Ни одна из воинских частей ВМС Украины не сдалась российским оккупантам и не присягнула самопровозглашенному «правительству Крыма».

Институт мировой политики,

Социология: ДИФ, Центр Разумкова, КМИС, Левада-Центр, ВЦИОМ, DW-Trend и др.


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Ukraine: the End of Post-Sovietness

What is happening now in Ukraine is not a full victory yet. However, it is the end of Ukraine post-sovietica and the birth of a truly independent Ukraine.

In 1991 Ukraine became officially independent but remainded deeply post-Soviet inside. The ex-Soviet nomenklatura kept the power. These people were neither reform-minded nor patriotic and only cared about personal enrichment. In their turn, the population tolerated the situation because Ukraine seemed safer and more peaceful than other post-Soviet states and because they also believed they would be better off financially in independent Ukraine. As a result, for the last 23 years Ukraine stewed in a murky post-Sovietness which basically stalled the institution and nation-building processes (without completion of which no democracy and market economy can be built).

It took exactly this time for a new nationally minded patriotic generation to grow up. Unlike their predecessors 23 years ago they knew they wanted their Ukraine to be independent and free – not only geopolitically but also internally. They wanted to leave the post-Soviet heritage of corruption, legal opacity, unprofessionalism, selective justice and repressions behind in order to start building a democratic European Ukraine. They were ready to die for it and some did.

The battle against post-Sovietness is present at all levels, starting with the «elite» which was brought up under the conditions of «decaying socialism» and ending with symbols such as Lenin statues and squares. The latter were demolished or severely damaged in over 40 Ukrainian cities and towns. As a matter of fact, Ukraine’s post-Soviet legacy is vividly illustrated by the fact that up until now there were 176 Lenin statues against 46 Ukraine’s national leader Taras Shevchenko statues in Kyiv region alone.

The Euromaidan also contributed to the consolidation of the Ukrainian nation. It is true that in Ukraine’s East and South 43% of the population didn’t support Euromaidan. However, about one fifth of the Maidan population is represented by the Southern and Eastern Ukrainians. Thus, Euromaidan and the end of the Yanukovych regime is a common achievement for all Ukrainians, the first of the kind in the history of independent Ukraine. It is also a common grief. Noone will ever be entitled to claim that the glorious slogan «Slava Ukraini!» – «Heroiam Slava!» is an ultranationalist greeting. Not only has it united Ukrainians from the very start of the Euromaidan, but also from now on it will bear a very specific reference to Maidan’s heroes. Called «the Heaven 100», the people who died in defence of their rights and freedoms came from all parts of Ukraine: from its Western, Central, Eastern and Southern parts alike.

Likewise, the Euromaidan has proved that language is not a dividing issue in Ukraine, bringing together both Ukrainian and Russian speakers.

This is just the beginning, of course. A lot of work is still ahead. In the first place, those responsible for the deaths, beating and torture of the innocent civilians have the face the strictest punishment, starting with Viktor Yanukovych. This will not only be the triumph of justice but also serve as a warning and a precedent for the future Ukrainian political leaders. Drastic measures should also be taken to sustain Ukrainian shattered economy.

Ukraine’s political future is uncertain, too. The actions of the opposition leaders during the Euromaidan have not added to their popularity among the voters at best. Besides, the majority of incumbent politicians enjoy limited trust among the population (level of trust towards politicians in Ukraine is one of the lowest in Europe). It will take time for new strong ideology-based parties to establish themselves. Besides, Ukraine’s ‘big politics’ has to resist the temptation of putting personal ambitions above the welfare of the state. Even the Euromaidan saw the appearance of numerous internal groups with their own vision of its aims and means.

It is important that a qualitative generation change takes place not only in the top tiers of power but also locally. Otherwise we will have a deja vu of 90-ies when inert and passive civil servants resisted any potential change.

Last but not least, Russian imperialistic ambitions are here to stay. Kremlin will not stop trying to weaken the Ukrainian statehood.

It is important to remember that no change will take place instantly and to have no false expectations from the future political process. However, in contrast to the Orange revolution, I don’t think this could be the case now. The Euromaidan didn’t have a single leader, let alone a political one, from the very beginning. Each of us knew that the success depended on him or her personally. This new skill of taking individual responsibility for the future of the country was one of the Euromaidan lessons to Ukrainians. The next skill to be developed is to make it a routine daily practice.

This entry’s data partially comes from the policy study ‘How to Get Rid of Post-Sovietness’, published by the Institute of World Policy (Kyiv, Ukraine) in 2012.

The Euromaidan statistical data comes from the opinion polls conducted by ‘Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation’.

The views expressed in this entry do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute of World Policy.


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Ukraine: Every Law Has a Loophole

After three weeks of the negotiations between the government and the opposition virtually no progress towards meeting Euromaidan’s demands has been made.

Meanwhile, the key question at the negotiation table is currently the changes to the Constitution which would limit the presidential authority and lay the foundation for the democracy restoration in the country. However, the Ukrainian political process over the years of independence was so entangled and misty that a vicious circle of illegimate decisions has been created. Breaking this circle is a real challenge now.

In a nutshell, there have been two editions of the Ukrainian Constitution, adopted in 1996 and 2004.

The Constitution of 1996, adopted under Ukraine’s second President Leonid Kuchma, five years after Ukraine got independent, proclaimed a presidential-parliamentary republic and endowed the President with expansive authority.

The Constitution of 2004 was adopted between the second and the third tour of the presidential elections in Ukraine, thus allowing a peaceful resolution of the Orange revolution. Its key innovation was transfer of much of the presidential authority to the prime minister. However, the Constitution was adopted with numerous procedural violations, one of the most cited being the changes to the final document made after the Constitutional Court returned its verdict on the text’s legitimacy.

The ruling of the Constitutional Court of 2010 proclaimed that the Constitution of 2004 was illegitimate owing to the voting procedure violations. Hence, the Constitution of 1996 came into force. This instance also lacks in legitimacy. For one thing, it bypassed the Verkhovna Rada which is the primary body in the constitutional process. For another, the Court’s ruling did not contain a direct assignment to the restoration of the Constitution of 1996.

Currently, any solution out of the deadlock is not flawless. There is no constitutional majority for a new version of the Constition in the parliament. Moreover, a new project would have to be approved at a referendum, while the current law on the referendum was ardently criticised by both Ukrainian and international lawyers and experts as conflicting with the Constitution and the European democratic standards.

In effect, only Constitution of 1996 was adopted according to the juridically correct procedure. However, as American scholar Paul D’Anieri observed, while there were no procedural violations de jure, de facto President Leonid Kuchma forced the parliament to pass his version of the Constitution under the threat of dissolution. Thus, what juridically was the start of the constitutional process, in reality was the triumph of the power politics. The latter has flourished in Ukraine up until now.

Meanwhile, no protester detained by the police has been rehabilitated, noone responsible for brutal dispersal of Euromaidan and further aggression towards demonstrators punished, no early parliamentary or presidential elections envisaged. Some observers comment that the negotiations on such a time-consuming issue as the Constitutional process are just a means for Ukraine’s authorities to play for time until the presidential elections in 2015.

Be these elections early or (most likely) not, it is important that they take place in accordance with the democratic standards. Otherwise, the events of 2004 and Euromaidan will have even more things in common.

The views expressed in this entry are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute of World Policy. 

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Don’t take Yanukovych at face value

While many in the West celebrate the negotiation process between the government and the opposition in Ukraine, it is important to realise that virtually no compromise has been attempted by the authorities so far. Below I am providing a brief summary of the key ‘concessions’ made by President Yanukovych and explain what they really mean.

1. An offer to the opposition to join and even head the government.

This is a smart tactical step which pursues numerous goals. Reported by the Presidential Administration minutes after the negotiation round was over, it created a storm of indignation among the protesters who felt that even contemplating such an offer meant the opposition’s pursuit of power and betrayal at the expense of people’s expectations and sacrifice. As a result, the opposition leaders had to explain away to the people rather then present and discuss the negotiation results with them.

While it may sound as a division of power attempt to the West, it’s worth remembering that in Ukraine President can appoint and dismiss any minister (except Prime Minister) at any time. The ruling Party of the Regions has a Speaker and a strong majority in the Parliament. The Ukrainian economy is in dire straits and Russian loans, promised to resigned Mykola Azarov, will hardly come if the opposition takes the Cabinet of Ministers (well, under Azarov it was hardly guaranteed, too). In fact, a year ahead of the presidential elections, it would just play into Yanukovych’s hands to blame the opposition for any problems or undelivered promises. So, if Arseniy Yatseniuk by any chance decided to take Yanukovych’s offer, it would be totally suicidal for his political career.

2. Repeal of the ‘dictatorship laws’.

Opposition MP Lesya Orobets provided an excellent analysis of this step here In addition, Yanukovych has not signed the law passed in the Parliament on Tuesday (January 28) yet (the condition upon which the law comes in force) and going on sick leave is a likely trick never to do this. According to one of the sources, he openly declared that he wasn’t going to sign it during the PR faction meeting on Wednesday.

3. The law on the amnesty of the detained protesters.

This law was indeed passed on Wednesday (January 29) after hours-long session in the Verkhovna Rada. Importantly, four bills were registered in the Parliament, two of which envisaged the liberation of the detained protesters unconditionally. While there were enough votes to pass one of them (according to ‘The Insider’, an indepenent online media, 52 Party of the Regions MPs were ready to vote for it), President Yanukovych himself arrived at the Parliament and summoned a faction meeting. After this, a bill prepared by the Representative of the President in the Verkhovna Rada Yuriy Miroshnychenko was voted in. It foresees the liberation of the detained protesters only after all streets and administrative building are freed by the demonstrants. These conditions are unacceptable to the protesters since they mean giving up effective leverage on the authorities and no guarantess against further detainments, abductions and torture. In effect, the President himself intruded in the Parliament’s work so that no consensus between his party and the opposition could be reached. Speaker of the Parliament Volodymyr Rybak conceded yesterday that Yanukovych had threatened his deputies with the Parliament’s dismissal.

All these steps are taken by Yanukovych to placate the West with seemingly democratic solutions. In fact, these are all imitations aimed at blaming the opposition leaders for derailing the negotiations. Meanwhile, detainments, crack-downs on the protesters in the region and repressions persevere.

Yanukovych’s supporters like to stress that Yanukovych was democratically elected.  True, and this was the last thing connected to him which had anything to do with democracy.


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EU, act on Ukraine!

Dear EU leaders,

For the first time in the history of the EU a peaceful demonstration for the European choice of a country has been brutally dispersed. It happened in Ukraine on November 30, 2013. This only spurred hundreds of thousands to join Maidan. That day it stopped being merely about the EU – it started being about Ukraine people’s rights and freedoms.

For over two months now the Ukrainian people have been making pleas to the EU to help and stand up for the values the EU claims to be built on. During this time seven innocent people have been killed. Dozens abducted, detained and tortured. Hundreds injured, including journalists and doctors who are purposefully attacked by the police.

Skærmbillede 2014-01-28 kl. 18.53.54

However, so far the EU only «condemns» and is «deeply concerned». On January 23 German Chancellor Angela Merkel excluded sanctions for the time being.

The EU-Ukaine Association Agreement was being negotiated during five painful years. On top of the legislation which Ukraine and the EU were going to share under the Agreement, the Ukraine and the EU claimed to share the same values.

Dear EU leaders, Ukrainian people are dying for these values. Are you sure you’re ready to  support them by actions, not words? Watch out: history knows precendents when you shied away from your noble declarations.

In 1932, Poland received letters from Ukrainians who begged to inform the world about the atrocious famine on its territory. Poland kept silent, because an non-agression treaty between Poland and the USSR had been signed. As a result of the famine, at least 3,3 mln of Ukrainians died on the territory of the Ukrainian SSR.

The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), which continued to fight the Soviet occupation years after the World War II was over, failed to receive any support from Europeans, too.

Some EU Member States have offered Ukraine a helping hand. Lithuania was the only one who said the EU foreign service should draft a list of potential sanctions at a meeting of the bloc’s Political and Security Committee in Brussels on 23 January. It also offered to accept injured people for treatment, since in Ukrainian hospitals the police and the allied mafia lie in wait for them. On January 24 Polish Sejm  stressed the possibility of imposing personal sanctions against Ukrainian officials responsible for the bloodshed. Europe, are you ready to stand by Warsaw, Vilnius and Kyiv?

As of now you can:

  1. mediate the negotiations between the authorities and the opposition leaders. The precendent is set by Javier Solana and Alexander Kwasniewski during the Orange revolution;
  2. introduce the visa bans and freeze assets in the European banks of those authorities and oligarchs who are responsible for violating human rights and freedoms in Ukraine;
  3. put pressure so that those responsible for crimes against humanity, including torture of peaceful activists, bear responsibility in accordance with the international norms.

Europe, Ukraine is on the brink of a civil war. Act now, otherwise you’ll have a lot more trouble to sort out on your own borders. And, above all, your alleged loyalty to “European” values will be infinitely compromised – as a result, even less soft power amid almost no hard one.