Can Europe Make It?

I cannot not care about what happens in Ukraine.

Marzena Sadowska
31 January 2014

I cannot not care about what happens in Ukraine. It’s a revolution happening almost next to me - on the brink of European Union. I follow it as closely as I can, while not knowing Ukrainian.

Protests started on Nov. 21, caused by President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to create closer relations with the European Union but to tighten the ties with Russia (which offered him a $15 billion bailout and 33% discount on natural gas, at least for three first months of 2014). In January the demonstrations became deadly.

On Jan. 22 Yuriy Verbytskyy, 50-year-old seismologist and Euromaidan volunteer, was found dead in a forest near Kyiv. Together with activist and journalist Ihor Lutsenko he was abducted from a hospital after being injured in the eye during a police clash. Lutsenko says both of them were tortured through whole night, police claims Verbytskyy died of exposure.

Serhiy Nihoyan, 21, died on Jan. 22, shot dead during fight between riot police and protesters. According to the authorities, bullets he was killed with are not in police’s use. He wanted to be an actor.

Roman Senik, 45, died on Jan. 22 in hospital, from wound in the chest being a result of clashes with riot police.

Mikhail Zhyzneuski, 25, died on Jan. 22 of a gunshot wound to the heart during fights between protestors and riot police.

Euromaidan PR reported yesterday on Twitter: 5 dead, 90 missing and 1,000 arrested. KyivPost mentioned 4-6 causalities and published an infographic stating: 6 dead, 30 missing, 116 arrested and 2 000 injured.

According to Prosecutor-General’s Office, 234 protesters have been detained since beginnings of the protests, about 140 of them remain in custody, 4 people had been killed and about 500 people, including 253 police officers, had been injured. No one knows exact numbers.

On the international level, there seems to be an agreement that the most important thing right now is meaningful dialogue in Ukraine. Yesterday the Visegrad Group issued a joint statement condemning the cycle of violence and warned that escalation of the crisis “endangers the future of Ukraine and threatens the complete destabilization of the country."

They also voiced concerns regarding the role played by extremist groups. Similarly, EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Jan. 29, after meeting in Kyiv with Yanukovych that the dialogue between the president and opposition leaders must "address the concerns that people genuinely have about the future" of Ukraine.

According to Chancellor Merkel’s office, she spoke on the phone with President Putin and urged him to push Ukrainians in direction of constructive dialogue. Kremlin states that in response Putin stressed the unacceptability of outside interference. On Jan. 29 Putin said that Russia will hold on to promised $15 billion bailout until the new government of Ukraine is formed. If this is not a form of outside pressure, I don’t know what it is. For the moment it is unclear whether the new government will include pro-European politicians.

When in western Ukraine the protestors seize and occupy government buildings, in the east, traditional power base of Yanukovych, counter-protestors form self-defence groups. They already helped the police in breaking up pro-EU rallies in Zaporozhzhiya and Odesa among others.

It’s second revolution in Ukraine in ten years. They differ, of course: the first one was closely connected with political party – Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine, the second one does not have that kind of political affiliations. But the president they rebel against is the same: Viktor Yanukovych. Last time, there was Yushchenko at the front, now the revolution doesn’t have one leader, but many: Vitali Klitschko, nationalist Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the All-Ukrainian Union “Svoboda”, Yuriy Lutsenko, Petro Poroshenko. Present are nationalists, liberals, students, representatives of Orthodox and Greek Catholic Churches. In the words of Yuri Andrukhovych: "The Maidan funds itself, through its own love and its own hatred". But still, Euromaidan is not completely internally united and it does not represent the whole of Ukrainian people.

Another difference is that Orange Revolution started on Nov. 22 and was successfully finished on Jan. 23. Euromaidan started on Nov. 21 and continues while I write these words, on Jan. 30. There is no telling when, and how, it will end. 

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