February 9, 2014
Some people are schocked by this title? Please read on, it comes straight from a Ukrainian proverb. Let me first introduce this unusual guest post on my blog, coming from demonstrations in Kyiv.
Ukraine’s turmoil, civil war or second orange revolution – pick your own view – is often featured on EurActiv. This refers to positions from government, opposition, Russia and the EU. And also two recent Opinion OpEds by young activists:
Anna Yavorska’s ‘The Good, the Bad and the downright ugly: a personal analysis from Maïdan’. It has been the best read and best commented over the last few days: congratulations!
Anna Gots’ ‘Ukraine’s frustrations turn into violence: in the name of the nation?’. Anna is former président of AEGEE-Kyiv and now on the board of the sudent association AEGEE-Europe (disclosure: I was myself in the founding generation of AEGEE, starting AEGEE-Köln in 1987. By the way, we believed in a really united Europe even before the Berlin wall fell: do listen to student leaders…).
Anna Gots provided further reactions ‘from the front’. For security reasons, other last names are withheld. This contribution does not fit the EurActiv format, but might be quoted in future coverage. In the spirit of offering them a platform, and not waiting, I decided to publish it here, on a non exclusive basis, without any editing, also not for English. Readers and notably journalists may re-use these quotes and contact the writer/coordinator Anna Gots if they wish.
During the 28-29th of January Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) created even more discussion than before. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov has submitted his resignation, and 9 of the 13 laws passed irregularly on 16th of January were repealed, specifically those that restricted personal freedoms. There were the laws permitting conduct of judicial proceedings in absentia, criminal responsibility for traffic violations identified by automatic means (i.e. speed & red light cameras), and criminal responsibility for administrative violations during football matches. 9 of 11 laws were repealed and 4 new laws were passed, including 2 proposed by the communists about (a) “denying or excusing the crimes of fascism” and (b) “responsibility for defacing or ruining memorials honouring those who fought against Nazism during WWII”.
It might seem like a “win” for many, but it is only a brilliant move from president’s side. First to sign the laws from 16th of January and after two weeks of violence to repeal them, saying that protesters got what they have been fighting for. However, Yanukovych is still president, and free to appoint a new Prime Minister and cabinet of ministers, and he has not yet signed that repeal of the illegal laws. At most, one or two of the scores of the arrested and detained have been released, as the amnesty law has not made it through the Rada. The government continues to hold that the amnesty can only be considered AFTER the protesters relinquish all occupied facilities and places.
Meanwhile, the situation in other regions is very different. While the government buildings were occupied by protesters and police decided to join citizens on the West, the majority of those who live in the East, do not support protest. Aleksey, Sevastopil, tells about the protest from his point of view: “I come from Crimea – the most Russian area of Ukraine. It was a part of Russia from near 1775 till 1954. 90% of population is ethnic Russian. 50-60% of Crimeans still believe that Yanukovich is that strong king for them, who is not democratic, but at least does something! It doesn’t matter that he steals our money, but he is a handsome man (I hope you understand my irony). So Crimeans in fact mostly are just holders of Ukrainian Passport but don’t feel themselves as Ukrainians. But! 40% of Crimeans don’t believe in Yanukovich, he is not strong for them. These people were abroad and know about other level of life, about the possibilities for business abroad and so on. They don’t want Yanukovich as President, and they think that Maidan is a bad thing nowadays, but a good thing for the future – because we are becoming free in our mind, and the country will be better without corruption, bribes, kickbacks and power in hands of real bandits. Now in Kyiv people are fighting against low standards of life and the bandit power of Yanukovich. Fight for democracy and freedom! And there are riots against people who call themselves police. But they are not in fact. Nobody respects police in Ukraine. And nobody wants to help them. They discredited themselves many times before Maidan, and on Maidan as well. If you ask a young person why he wants to serve in police, he will answer – for power and money, since justice and order are empty sounds for him. And yes! It is a revolution! Because people seriously want to kick down the regimen of Yanukovich.”
Stas Zmievsky, Kharkiv :”Along with the fact that people in my region are tired of the system as well, most of them don’t support current situation in Kiev because originally it was started from EU integration that is not so popular demand here. Also part of the people don’t see that much difference between current government and the opposition. We have local demonstrations from 500 to 5000 people in the city with 1.5 million population”.
At the same time, in Kyiv, where the main events take place, the opinions are also very different.
Olga, Kyiv: “There is a group of people that want to overthrow the legitimate president who was appointed on our democratic elections 4 years ago. Thus, they are trying to illegally get rid of our government and are surprised that legal force is taken against their action. Moreover, instead of sticking to truly peaceful protests, they arm themselves and build a fort in the center of Kyiv. For what they call “protection”, they burn tires the smoke from which not only gives a new shade of black to the architecture around them, but also poisons the air, they destroy the road beneath them to get rocks to throw at the police, and take over government building to keep themselves warm. However, these people are mostly expressing their opinion against something, without presenting a clear plan for the future. Even if the president is overthrown, what comes next? Who will be our next president? And where is the guarantee that the illegally appointed president won’t be overthrown in a year and Ukraine will have to face this all over again? Nobody has any answers. The opposition? There are three big parties and it will be another battle to decide just which one of them will get to be king. Let me make something clear. Our president is by no means perfect and not everything he does is good. Nevertheless, he is better than nobody and he was elected legally. If anybody wants a new president, he needs to be elected through democratic elections as well.”
Roman, Kyiv, agrees: “Its difficult to find common reason for all people, everyone has own stimulus. But all the people have one goal to change life in Ukraine and develop the country. Regardless the fact that we live in Kiev – center of “Maidan”, I think only up to 5-10% of people actively support Maidan, some people are “passive against” this events, and many people are “passive in favor”. And if we speak about this third biggest group – mostly people are passive because they don’t understand and support some instruments of Maidan, don’t believe opposition, don’t see the new strong leader and the exact result that has to be achieved – everybody wants change – but what kind of change?”
Moreover, during the two long months since the protests started, the mood of people that supported protest has changed, as there were a lot of different scenarios described in the media and supported by people. Roman, Kyiv: “If something happens, it means that someone needs it. I try to draw “fairytale” from my own opinion – but it can be like that :). The Ukrainian Big business with big money (that of course are closely connected to politicians or their friends/families) don’t want to share benefits, and decide to change government earlier or prepare 100% changes for 2015. Someone wrote a good scenario, not signing the agreement with EU was an occasion to start the performance, and time to time, when it begins to fade, some “actions” happening will support the process. And because it “accumulated” in people – the protests continues like snowball. It looks fantastic, but nobody knows how it is in real. And neither Russia nor EU will help us just for free. We have to choose our own strong way in development of the country and cooperation with both of our biggest neighbors. Historically, some parts of Ukraine were “very close” with Russia, some were “very close” with todays’ EU. And to show “back” to EU or Russia now, means to disappoint a part of the Ukrainian citizens that also have a right to be heard. Anyway we have independance for a bit more than 20 years – why do we need again connect to someone? ”
Olga also supports the opinion that nothing happens without the profit: “Everything that happens is profitable for someone out there. Our president has just refused to sign an agreement with the EU when this all started. I actually took the time and READ that agreement, though partially, I have to admit. Some parts are very controversial and clearly not profitable for us. And this is coming from me, a person who doesn’t have a law degree. Why does Europe even need us? We will never be equal there to take part in the decision making process. We will be the dumping ground for the products that Europe does not want to accept, we will be the basis of the US missiles and if anything goes wrong, we will be the battleground of any future war. This may sound dramatic, but look at what is going on now. Most believe that we have two ways to go – either European Union or the Union with such countries as Russia, China… Let us take a quick look. EU is complaining of youth unemployment; member states, such as Spain and Greece, are suffering from crises and cannot escape it after years of efforts. Let us compare to China, the superpower that has most the world production with huge market share and keeps only getting richer, Russia, the only country brave and thus powerful enough to stand against US; UAE, the country that had built itself up from scratch to glorious in the last 20 years. I think I will pick the striving side, not the ones swimming in crises”.
Talking about the future of Ukraine, the majority of Ukrainians, especially those who do not support the protests, are afraid that it will be like in the old proverb: “Geniuses prepare revolution, romantics make it, and the rascals – enjoying the fruits”.