While the whole world’s representatives gathered in South Africa to honor the late freedom fighter Nelson Mandela, president Yanukovych disregarded calls from the EU and the US and ordered the police to clear Independence Square, putting an end to Ukrainians’ democratic and European aspirations. The authorities even ignored the fact that Ukraine was receiving EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland just as the assault started.
The use of force prompted a very strong reaction from the international community. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the American government “expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv’s Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons.” According to him, this response is “neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people. As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better,” Kerry stressed.
The Day asked MEP Pawel Kowal for comments on the latest developments in the Ukrainian capital:
“The decision to use force against protesters makes it difficult to conduct a dialogue between the opposition and the authorities and between Kyiv and Brussels. It’s simple – Berkut on the streets or dialogue. If we have both, we fall into the political schizophrenia. Without unequivocal condemnation of the police action and punishing those responsible of it, is not possible to conduct negotiations. It can be expected that, as it was after November 30, the use of force would mobilize the Ukrainian society. Importantly, the police stormed the Maidan Nezalezhnosti during the visit of Catherine Ashton – it’s hard not to take this as an expression of a lack of willingness to negotiate on the basis of EU standards. Police action has been already condemned by Ashton herself and other diplomats, including US Secretary of State John Kerry or polish MFA. We cannot carry on a dialogue with the government which thus treats the citizens of their country.
“The worst thing is that there are less and less ways out of the current stalemate. As a Pole I’m glad when one is referring to roundtable. But as a historian I have confidence that citizens have the sense that allows them to tell real and artificial roundtables. As a politician I feel that there is no atmosphere in Ukraine on a comprehensive understanding of the opposition and the government for the roundtable. Neither party wants that. Instead of theatrical dialogue, technical government may work better. With strong warranty from the opposition and the authorities such a government could be able to carry out reforms and sign the Association Agreement. On the one hand it will help authorities to keep their faces, on the other – could be acceptable to the opposition.”
What consequences will tonight attack on Maidan have for Yanukovych?
“It is expected that protesters will mobilize. Also the time for Western diplomacy to conduct decisive action has come. Without President Yanukovych’s personal guarantees of ensuring the safety of the protesters there will be no chance to hold discussions with the European Union. When he declares a desire to return to negotiations on the Association Agreement and at the same time he accepts the police brutality against peaceful protests, than we cannot talk about any credibility. Without swift and decisive action of President Yanukovych, Ukraine may be doomed to isolation from the West. Then he will have only one solution which is agreeing to the Russia’s conditions. But then his negotiating position will also be weakened, which would mean the need to accept the terms of the Kremlin.”
What reaction can there be in Europe on recent attempt of Maidan crackdown?
“Europe’s response was clear – the condemnation of the police action. Ashton’s visit has been one of the last chances to quickly solve the conflict. The West is becoming more and more tired and confused attitude of the Ukrainian authorities. For more than three weeks whole EU is looking at thousands of people freezing on Maidan Nezalezhnosti under EU flags. The use of force against them only reinforces support of EU societies for the protesters. This is a very important factor, which in the case of the Orange Revolution largely decided its success.
The EU should address a clear offer for Ukrainian society. It is all about the abolition of visas – it is a matter that should be excluded from the political negotiations. The minimum plan is to simplify the procedure and issue only multi-entry, long term visas. You can do this easily, and we will show in this way that Ukrainian society is our partner.
“This is not the time to criticize EU’s actions, but the EU’s offer had serious shortcomings. There was no plan of support for the transformation of Ukrainian energy sector. European Union could make a really good offer – there is no place better than Ukraine to promote energy efficiency. The future of Ukrainian energetics is deciding now – will it go the ‘green’ or ‘dirty’ way. It is a matter that can be discussed independently of the Association Agreement, based on the European Energy Community, in which Ukraine is already a member.”