Ukraine’s protests

Our colleague Volodymyr Ishchenko wrote a piece in The Guardian to explain the current situation in Ukraine:


There is little doubt that Viktor Yanukovych’s rule is corrupt. It stands for the interests of the richest few in Ukraine’s highly unequal society and is responsible for the brutal suppression of opposition. The majority of protesting Ukrainians hope for a just, fair and democratic society, even if naively connecting this hope to an idealised “Europe”.

Yet Euromaidan, Ukraine’s pro-EU protest movement, has still not become a point of conflict between the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian society as a whole. According to the polls, support for Euromaidan is heavily concentrated in the western and central regions, while Ukrainians living in the east and the south of the country overwhelmingly disapprove. After mass violent clashes with the police started on Sunday, in which a leading role was played by a far-right network of groups called Right Sector, there is no doubt that people in the eastern and southern regions would condemn the protests even more. This is unfortunate because the agenda of the protest has shifted from a desire to be associated with Europe to the struggle against the police state after parliament ripped up the constitution and rushed through laws restricting, among others, the freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.

The Right Sector militants did not appear from nowhere, although many media and liberal protesters preferred to ignore their existence. They were active participants in the protest from the very beginning, interested not so much in European association as the “national revolution”. They efficiently infiltrated the volunteer guards of the tent camps.

On 1 December, they were the main force behind the violent attack near the presidential administration, contrary to the popular version that blamed government provocateurs. When, last Sunday, Vitali Klitschko, the most probable next president of Ukraine according to the polls, tried to stop clashes with police, he was booed. Many protesters, who could not imagine themselves throwing stones and molotovs at the police line before, joined the violence of the extreme right, frustrated at the lack of progress after coming each Sunday to listen to the same talks from opposition leaders.

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