A Weekend in Kiev

United http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/dam/assets/140122161912-05-ukraine-protests-horizontal-gallery.jpg
United http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/dam/assets/140122161912-05-ukraine-protests-horizontal-gallery.jpg

It is quite extraordinary how a nation can move from one uncertainty to the next in a matter of days.  Ukraine has lurched in the last three months and in mere days  from uncertainty, to chaos, to fears of civil war on the 20th and 21st February and to somewhat uncertain jubilation in the wake of Ukraine’s parliament votes to oust President Viktor Yanukovych as opposition takes effective control of the capital, Kiev.

After the bloody carnage on 20th February left many fearing that  Ukraine was on the brink of civil war (this still cannot be ruled out) there is hope for the future in Ukraine. It appeared to be déjà vu, Assad’s regime’s snipers conducting similar butchery of protesters in March 2011 as carnage reigned in Independence Square. Watching it unfold on your laptop, you would hardly believe that Kiev was the centerpiece for Spain’s historic triumph at the 2012 UEFA European Championship. Certainly there was every reason to fear escalation and another victory for Vladimir Putin (potentially still plausible) as Ukraine seemed to be constructing an unfavorable road to ruin. 

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http://en.ria.ru/images/18681/97/186819720.jpg

Ukraine’s historic long weekend could have large implications for Europe, with both NATO and Russia placing high stakes on which way Ukraine will look to be it West or East. Ultimately from a Western standpoint the removal of decadent President Yanukovych is welcome. Any regime that uses brute force to stamp out legitimate protest has to be removed, the deaths of eighty killed and injuring of hundreds – the bloodiest day of the unrest in Ukraine – highlighting the rampant cronyism of Yanukovych’s, as Tymoshenko called it, dictatorship. Similarly the images that poured out of Ukraine all over the internet highlighted the luxury and lavishness Yanukovych lived in at the expense of the average Ukrainian taxpayer, something expected more of a corrupt African leader than a European leader, however Ukraine is well-known for being a hotbed for oligarchism.

The question is what next for Ukraine in the context of Europe? It is a relationship triangle with an extended and fragile history between Ukraine, Russia and Western Europe. Ukraine in particular has a bloody link with Russia, seen by Russian leaders and politicians as a key satellite/sphere of influence.  Thursday and Friday seemingly indicated that the battle in Ukraine was playing into Putin’s hand’s, that Yanukovych would potentially cling on to power, weakened at home and condemned abroad, but nevertheless another economic and political client of Russia instead of the EU.

This however appears uncertain now, as Ukrainian MPs pass a motion ordering both sides to cease fire, and subsequently the MPs adopted the resolution to remove Yanukovych from power yesterday. It is inspiring to think that Ukraine  is seizing the opportunity to no longer suffer interference from it neighbour and removing internal barriers such as Yanukovych  that prevent the removal of such interference. His interview calling the protestors ‘bandits’, ‘terrorists’ and illegitimate give an impression of a man cornered and bitter, such descriptions hardly convincing international audiences to have the conviction and belief to support his assumptions.

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The release of Tymoshenko (pictured above), the unexpected removal of Yanukovych from power, the planned elections for 25th May, and the formation of an interim government with plans to form a new government by Tuesday point to a hopeful outcome for Ukraine as a sovereign nation. There are fears of a split, that the country could descend into war, the Ukrainen East being Russian speaking and affiliated with Russia politics and influence, whilst the western parts of the country are more closely affiliated with Western customs and values. That is the heart of where things could still potentially go wrong for Ukraine. Putin’s archaic, outdated opinion that Ukraine is a non-state which belongs to Russia is something which will push the former closer to the objective of developing closer ties with Europe.

Russia and the US have been on opposite sides during the Ukraine crisis, which the US, along with the EU, backing the opposition.The European Union, too, has said it stands ready to assist a new government. It is a unique opportunity for Ukraine to remove the chains of gangsterism (even torture), the concentrated wealth of exceedingly powerful oligarchism, and become a fully-fledged law-abiding democracy. It is similarly a unique opportunity for the West to gain a political victory over Putin who has been masterminding Russia’s return to the international stage as a diplomatic influence and power equal to U.S.A and China. This was best exemplified by the Putin in September 2013 during the Syrian Civil War halting U.S ideas of intervention in the wake of the horrific use of chemical weapons. A repeat of 2008, when Russia steamrolled into Georgia would be unacceptable, as the consequences would be the creation of a black-hole in Europe that would potentially lead a region to ruin.

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This outcome will hopefully become increasingly unlikely and since yesterday’s dramatic events, there is a sense that diplomacy, peaceful resolution of the political upheaval and the restoration of economic balance to the country (the source of this Ukrainian revolution) will trump the unimaginable; the bloody violence on Thursday a teaser for the worst possible outcome for Russia, Europe and most importantly the Ukrainian people. One hundred years after the First World War ravaged Europe it appears that we may have actually learnt from our past, that history doesn’t necessarily have to always rhyme to the violence of man.  The situation will remain uncertain  long after this tumultuous weekend as Ukraine’s current turmoil continues to surprise us, but their is great cause for hope for the best possible outcome, a nice thought for a change.

Matthew Williams

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