Ukraine is gripped by political crisis. There is no denying the fact, not after the crackdown on the Maidan when special troops raided the square in the small hours of Saturday morning to beat up the few hundred students and activists who stood vigil for Ukraine’s European future, when the Rubicon was crossed and hundreds of thousands of Kyivites left their homes to join the rally. There were so many the moving stairs at metro stations stopped, downtown traffic was jammed, and even walking down Khreshchatyk St. was sometimes a problem. Whereas previously the capital city of Ukraine disliked the regime but put up with it, now it was up in revolt, reinforced by thousands of protesters from other regions.
There was talk about another revolution. It is a possibility, even if premature. So far massive public unrest is clearly apparent.
Needless to say, the Ukrainian authorities are in a state of shock, even if trying to conceal it. This outburst on the part of the politically apathetic citizenry caught the administration completely unawares. In fact, the regime had been working in that direction, in a planned manner. Suffice it to recall the Kharkiv accords, the revival of the 1996 Constitution, the languages issue followed by Maidan rallies, and a number of other events that added to the critical mass of public disillusionment and protest. Yanukovych’s administration started by proclaiming the European course and kept saying it would be upheld, so when the head of state ditched the Association Agreement in Vilnius the whole Ukrainian society was outraged. A week ago 100,000 went out in the street. That was the first signal but the administration didn’t get the message and decided a crackdown would be enough to bully the activists into silence. That was when the Rubicon was crossed.
It is possible that the whole thing was a provocation, a planned and controlled operation, considering that the current regime has enough ill-wishers and to spare, not only within the opposition, but even within the president’s inner circle. If the administration’s crackdown was a predetermined act, this is proof that the regime is simply shortsighted.
The militia? Remember who murdered journalist Gongadze and beat up a public figure by the name of Podolsky? Interior Minister Kravchenko’s thugs in uniform. What has changed since then? By and large nothing. The lack of definitive legal assessment of these high-profile cases only gave the law-enforcement agencies the carte blanche, as evidenced by the Berkut special troops’ brutality on the Maidan on Saturday night when they beat up boys and girls, demonstrating a mentality of chronic impunity, even if under the command of a different interior minister.
In fact, it no longer matters whether what happened was a provocation or a planned action because the political crisis is gaining momentum. Now those “upstairs” have more important things on their mind. It is clear that the Verkhovna Rada will not be able to function normally. It is possible that the parliamentary majority will be reorganized and will retire the Cabinet. An emergency situation is another possibility. Anything is possible under the circumstances.
DURING THE CLASHES NEAR THE PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATION PETRO POROSHENKO TRIED TO DISSUADE THE PROTESTERS FROM CONFRONTING THE PROVOCATEURS
The big question is: Which way this tremendous public unrest will move, how its energy will be used? Of course, what is happening on the Maidan must be organized, otherwise there will be chaos. The effort must be coordinated and this takes leadership. Unwilling as the students were to let opposition leaders attend their thousand-strong rallies, they had to in the end. They had no alternative because their movement was immature. This is something the leaders of the parliamentary and outside opposition must realize. People have to trust them (some doing so consciously, others in another manner) and hope they will change their life in Ukraine for the better. Of course, this confidence is very different from that back in 2004, there is no longer that ardor and expectation that the new political leader will make all their dreams come true. However, they trust their energy and reluctantly expect their leaders to guide it in the right direction. They really want to believe that they won’t be disillusioned this time.
It was bitter to watch and hear all those on the improvised stand address the packed Maidan, all those who had once fought Kuchma’s regime and then had shaken hands with him, who had sold seats in parliament as per party slates, who had been in power but changed nothing, who had failed to break down the system. They were now making the same promises they had made on more than one occasion and failed to keep. Yes, there were new faces, outwardly politically clean, although their recent practical deeds made one wonder. Like when quite a few newly admitted opposition members suddenly had important matters to attend to elsewhere precisely when their votes were needed in parliament to retire Azarov’s Cabinet – which idea they were now enthusiastically supporting.
One thing is clear. Those trying to lead the protest movement will keep rocking the boat. The president’s silence or belated response will play into their hands. Under the circumstances the protesters are being increasingly supported by the European Union (considering that quite recently President Yanukovych had an opportunity to sign the Association Agreement and go down in Ukrainian history as a European integrator, but he didn’t have the guts). Polish members of the European Parliament also attended the Maidan and spoke to the protesters. Looks like the age-old come-lend-us-a-helping-hand trend will once again be in.
What course events in Ukraine are likely to take? There are lots of options, including a bad scenario. This is the year 2013, not 2004. There is a different atmosphere, different [political] realities. We have been witness to a number of provocations, including blood-shedding situations (thank God, there were no casualties!). Events, however, can get out of control. We must not let this happen.
Those in power still have an opportunity to settle the crisis. Unfortunately, they do not seem to be using this opportunity. They appear to be living in the past, protecting the monument to Lenin in Kyiv. The “sovok” Soviet mentality is still strong. Yet, like I said, they still have an opportunity to hear all those millions of voices and change their course, stop using and disillusioning the people, although some of them who addressed the Maidan were obviously cynically all out for keeping the old stand. The opposition must finally revise its principles and approaches in order to win society’s genuine confidence rather than that born of hopelessness.
THIS ONE READS “BERKUT – SHAME FOR UKRAINE!”
Last but not least, Ukrainians need the Maidan today. The rallies gathering thousands show that Ukrainians can overcome their distrust and apathy in regard to civil servants; that they can get organized for their own sake, for the sake of their future; that they want to live in a better country. So far, the man in the street (not the provocateurs and radicals) has proved that he is way above the politicians.
GETTING BACK TO EUROPE
Yurii ANDRUKHOVYCH, writer:
“Whether one needs to join the Maidan rallies is one’s own choice. I made up my mind and did just that after boarding a flight to Ukraine in Austria (where my scholarship program had just started). I did because I knew I couldn’t stay outside Ukraine when another revolution was taking shape. On the one hand, a million people leaving homes to join a rally would never need my presence. On the other hand, this point of view would make few if any revolutions possible.
“We have grievances concerning the opposition parties. This is normal. However, all [opposition] leaders and street protesters must unite when it comes time to topple the [bad] regime. Indeed, I have several questions in regard to the opposition’s action plan, but the fact remains that we all of us are out in the street, so we have to do what they tell us to do, for the good of our cause. I believe that what we did right or wrong will become clear with the passage of time. Right now I, as a rank-and-file protester, am doing as told because I believe in the Maidan and its impact [on the political situation in Ukraine]. Be that as it may, the Maidan is the only way to get Ukraine back to Europe. I am happy to see so many people there, more than sufficient proof of public support. Public responsibility is a predominant mood in Kyiv, as apparent as nine years back. And so I am here today and will stay here tomorrow and the next day – I think only God knows how many days the Maidan rally will be there, so I will stay for as long as it takes.”
VIOLENT ENERGY TO BE COORDINATED
Mykhailo ILLIENKO, film director:
“I’ve been on the Maidan since the outset. I know that any Maidan can alter the balance of power. I hope that this one will change it in favor of the Ukrainian people. The protesters out on the street appear to share a mind-boggling mystery. You look around and see the protesters’ faces; you realize that another, entirely new production is underway, like in the movies, except that this reality is far above what you can watch on the screen. You know, the hero of my movie, Firecrosser, was a nobody once, with a vague picture of his past and future, but he started working on this, then his status changed. Figuratively speaking, he became part of the environment. I know that people who joined the Maidan rally turned into locals, that all of them became friends. Their number is increasing, turning into critical mass. The [opposition] leaders must only coordinate this violent energy.”
UKRAINE WILL NEVER BE THE WAY IT WAS…
Andrii KOKOTOKHA, writer, scenarist:
“This tremendous public outburst, this incredible public pressure of the Maidan will surely have a powerful impact on the regime. Maidan is the only phenomenon Ukraine needs today. I know that this country will never be the way it was. I have been visiting the Maidan since last Thursday – and will keep visiting the square for as long as necessary. There are lots of men of the letters, artists, performers, filmmakers, other creative personalities out there. All of us are united by one desire. We want Ukraine to become a civilized European country, ruled by law. Of course, I want this situation to be resolved peacefully, without any law-enforcement measures taken. Yet, if this is a revolution, then I’m inclined to justify any radical slogans. However, someone should get this violent force under control.”
Interviewed by Vadym LUBCHAK, The Day
MAIDAN PROTESTERS DEMAND THE RESIGNATION OF THE OBLAST STATE ADMINISTRATION (OSA) CHAIR. HE HAS APPEALED TO VOLYNIANS FOR CALM
Members of councils at various levels and politicians representing Lutsk Euromaidan invaded the administration’s Oval Hall early on December 2, preventing it from holding its usual weekly meeting. The invaders included regional councilor Ihor Huz, known popularly as Volyn’s ‘eternal revolutionary,’ Svoboda party regional chair Anatolii Vitiv and former chair of administration under Yushchenko Volodymyr Bondar. They demanded talks with the OSA chair Borys Klimchuk and oblast council chair Volodymyr Voitovych. They agreed and went into another room to negotiate. The visitors asked both regional leaders to resign stating that the OSA chair represented “the criminal regime,” while the oblast council chair presided over western Ukraine’s only oblast council that failed to get a quorum to pass a resolution regarding Ukraine’s backing out of the European integration process. Klimchuk replied he would never yield to pressure from anybody, while Voitovych reported he would make another attempt to bring councilors together to discuss Ukraine’s European integration. Volyn police chief Oleksandr Tereshchuk, also present at the talks, reassured all that his agency would not demolish tent city on the Lutsk Euromaidan unless compelled by the law.
The OSA website published Klimchuk’s appeal to Volynians on December 1, following his three-day absence from the region while on a trip abroad. It reads: “I was in Lublin holding talks with Lublin Voivodeship marshal about further collaboration between Volyn and Lublin Voivodeship, bilateral as well as within Euroregion Bug. I can report to you that 32 projects within the EU Neighborhood Program Ukraine-Poland-Belarus are on track in Volyn. We wish to get increased funding for 2014-20 and are lobbying for new projects. I met in Lublin and then in my two days in Vilnius many politicians, administrators, businesspeople, and no one told me they did not want to see Ukraine in the European community. I agreed, stating my wish to see Ukraine in the European Union, too. The European values are Ukraine’s only way to the future. I want to emphasize, these are our values, too. Nobody has shut the door to the European Union for us. Moreover, I dare say that we face hard talks on the issue ahead... I think the vast majority of you, fellow Volynians, will understand my stance: calls for revolution, the violent overthrow of a legitimate government are a road to nowhere. I appeal... for restraint and tolerance. I agree with you that our highest duty is to keep calm, allowing everyone to live and work decently.”
At the time of this article going to press, several thousand people demonstrated in front of the Volyn Oblast State Administration.
By Natalia MALIMON, The Day, Lutsk
SEVERAL THOUSAND ON STRIKE
Young citizens marched in a several thousand strong column through the city’s central streets, singing the national anthem and calling all to join the strike. Students were cheerful, and the protest went entirely peacefully. Uzhhorod National University (UzhNU) faculty appealed to the public via social networks regarding the violent crackdown on a rally and beating of students at the Independence Square in Kyiv on November 30, 2013. It reads: “We support citizens who were using their constitutional right to peaceful assembly to promote the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU and at the same time express profound indignation at the actions of the police. Violence and peaceful assembly never meet in a state abiding by the rule of law. We support the UzhNU student organizations’ initiative to join the national strike.” It is now being signed by many members of the UzhNU faculty. Meanwhile, to ensure free use by faculty, staff and students of the UzhNU of their constitutional right to freely express, display, and make their own opinions, attitudes and beliefs and gather for their peaceful expression, the university’s rector Fedir Vashchuk issued the orders whereby absence of the UzhNU students and staff from the classes from 2 to 6 December would be considered a good cause absence.
By Viktoria ZHUIKO, Uzhhorod
KHERSON – EU! / Photo by Artem SLIPACHUK, The Day
OBLAST COUNCIL CALLS NOT TO ESCALATE TENSIONS
The main question on the agenda of yesterday’s session of the Kherson Oblast Council was the manifest to fellow countrymen, in which the deputies expressed their stand concerning the latest sociopolitical events in Ukraine. The manifest was approved by majority of votes, with the majority in the council made by the Party of Regions. However, present deputies from Batkivshchyna left the session hall before the voting after the oblast elects refused to give the floor for head of Batkivshchyna faction in the city council Volodymyr Mykolaiienko.
The text of the manifest is full of general phrases regarding “concern with the escalation of social tension.” At the same time the deputies respect the “constitutional right of every citizen for peaceful meetings” and condemn “all provocative actions which threaten lives and health of people, damage the national economy and international image of our state.” And recent events “are making Ukraine weak.” The deputies call on all political parties and civic organizations “to consolidate around the national interests” and “not to escalate tensions” in society.
Meanwhile the activists of local Euromaidan organized a piquet near the city hall. The opposition deputies wrote a text with a demand to Acting Mayor of Kherson Zoia Berezhna to convene an early session where the question “On sociopolitical situation in Ukraine” will be raised and give assessment to the “disgraceful actions of the government connected with the bloody dispersal of the peaceful meeting” in Kyiv. While the material was prepared it became known that the session of the city council would start at 16 p.m.
By Ivan ANTYPENKO, The Day, Kherson