Kiev — In Ukraine, a decision not to sign an agreement with the EU in November has now led to what some call a ‘new revolution’. There is a clash between the government, which is economically dependent on Russia, and the Ukrainian people, who desire to be Westernised.
The political crisis in Ukraine was triggered by President Viktor Yanukovych choosing to end talks with EU about an association and free trade agreement. The younger generation in the country wants nothing to do with a post-Soviet system – instead they want to ‘go West’. UK-based political scientists Kataryna Wolczuk and Roman Wolczuk stated in the Washington Post’s blog The Monkey Cage that the two options are “mutually exclusive.” It is only possible to choose one or another, and this is why the younger generation in Kiev are furious.
In an open letter published on Facebook, Ukrainian Oksana Poliakova based in Singapore wrote that the protests have come to be about much more than the EU. She said that suddenly the protesters realised that, “It was about the right to live in a country where what happened that morning would be impossible. Many people who had been skeptical now understood that if we do not protest, we will have the same situation as they have in Russia or in Belarus.”
In contrast with the 2004 orange revolution, these protests are organised by people from all over the country rather than by politicians. Most of the participants are civil activists and students. As the occupation of the Maidan square in Kiev, which began shortly after the President’s decision was official, is not controlled by the oppositional party, no one knows what the outcome are going to be.
The police entered the square on the morning of December 11 to try to move the protesters out of the way so that traffic could pass through the square. BBC News reports that it has been claimed that the police used violence.
The country’s current economic situation is a reason for why President Yanukovych wants to move towards Russia. An agreement with the EU would be hugely expensive. Meanwhile, Kataryna Wolczuk and Roman Wolczuk argue that ‘going West’ would benefit the country economically in the long term, but “turning away from Russia will incur economic costs in the short to medium term”. Russia can offer Ukraine financing as well as lower gas prices.
The new generation, however, were born into an independent country and they have been “exposed to life in the West” as claimed by Kataryna Wolczuk and Roman Wolczuk. Their message is ‘we won’t sell our freedom for cheaper gas’.
The activists are calling for the President to step down and to announce a new election. This is, however, according to The Economist, highly unlikely. The current government would probably not win and as a consequence Yanukovych might lose both his freedom and his wealth. The same paper writes that the protests will not stop until something has been achieved.
Meanwhile, one can wonder when the next move is going to be. The leaders’ primary position was that they refused to speak with the demonstrators as long as they were blocking the government buildings. The President has now been forced to take a different approach. In a recent statement published on his website he opened up to cooperate with all parties. He said, “For the sake of achieving compromise, I am calling on the opposition not to reject [talks], not to follow the path of confrontation and ultimatums”.
More recently, Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the EU, said on Thursday, December 12 that “Yanukovych made it clear to me that he intends to sign the association agreement”. This was after her trip to Ukraine where she met the President as well as the protesters. Meanwhile, the US considers sanctions to stop the violence associated with the protests.
Image Courtesy: Ryan Anderson (http://www.flickr.com/photos/97185651@N08/11070921845/in/photostream/)
Image Courtesy: Kruglenko Ingwar, Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic | Wiki Commons