Q&A: Stand-off in Ukraine over EU agreement

Protests have gripped Ukraine since the government rejected a far-reaching accord with the EU in favour of stronger ties with Russia in November 2013.

They turned violent on 19 January, and deadly on 22 January in the capital, Kiev, where confrontation degenerated into rioting after the government brought in tough new legislation to end mass protests on the main square.

Opposition leaders and President Viktor Yanukovych then held talks, and on 28 January, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigned, and the Ukrainian parliament voted overwhelmingly to annul the anti-protest laws.

In another apparent concession, parliament then passed an amnesty law for detained protesters – but the opposition dismissed it and the demonstrations continue.
How bad is the violence?
Rioters hurl petrol bombs in Kiev, 22 January Independence Square has at times resembled a war zone

The scenes overnight on 19 and 20 January were some of the worst in nearly two months of demonstrations, with protesters torching police buses and hurling paving stones and petrol bombs at lines of riot police, while police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon.

Two people were shot dead at the site of the Kiev protest camp on Independence Square on 22 January. Another was found dead with torture marks in a forest near the capital. On 25 January a fourth protester was said to have died from injuries sustained in earlier violence.

The interior ministry reported on 28 January that one of three policemen stabbed by protesters in the southern city of Kherson had died.

Hundreds of protesters and police officers have been injured in the unrest. Protests have spread to a number of Ukrainian cities, mostly in the west of the country but also in Mr Yanukovych’s traditional support base in the east.

Scores of protesters – by one estimate, more than 300 – have been arrested since the protests began.

What caused the protests?

Pro-EU rally on Kiev’s Independence Square, 15 December The pro-EU rallies in Kiev in December drew crowds of some 200,000

The anti-protest laws certainly raised passion among the protesters. They had prescribed jail terms for anyone blockading public buildings and banned the wearing of masks or helmets at demonstrations.

But the original trigger for the protests was President Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a major partnership deal with the EU, despite years of negotiations aimed at integrating Ukraine with the 28-nation bloc.

Thousands of pro-EU Ukrainians poured on to the streets of the capital, urging President Yanukovych to cancel his U-turn and go ahead with the EU deal after all. He refused, and the protests continued.

When riot police first took action on 30 November, the images of them breaking up a student protest and leaving dozens of people injured only fuelled anger with the president and boosted the crowds in Independence Square.

The authorities sought to defuse the anger through measures such as the suspension of the mayor of Kiev and the release of detainees.

On 17 December, Russia and Ukraine announced a major deal under which Russia would buy $15bn-worth (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of Russian gas sold to Ukraine.

The deal appeared to take the wind out of the sails of the protest movement but when a pro-opposition journalist, Tetyana Chornovol, was beaten up by unknown assailants on 25 December, there was a renewed outcry.

Who are the protesters?

Boxer and politician Vitali Klitschko with raised fist at rally in Kiev, 1 Dec 13 Vitali Klitschko, with raised fist, hopes to become president in 2015. There are a number of main actors behind the rallies.

The protesters are mainly from the Kiev area and western Ukraine, where there is a greater affinity with the EU, rather than in the Russian-speaking east and south – though they include eastern Ukrainians too.

Vitali Klitschko, the former world heavyweight boxing champion and leader of the Udar (Punch) movement, has been a prominent demonstrator. He is very pro-EU and plans to run for president in 2015.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, parliamentary leader of the country’s second biggest party, Fatherland, is an ally of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister now in prison.

The far-right group Svoboda (Freedom) is also involved. Led by Oleh Tyahnybok (pictured second from left), it stirred unease on New Year’s Day with a torch-lit procession through Kiev.

Other radical right-wingers include Bratstvo (Brotherhood) and Right Sector.

How has the West reacted?

The US embassy in Kiev revoked the visas of “several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence” after the deaths on 22 January.

EU leaders expressed shock at the deaths and called on all sides to halt the violence. Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the EU Commission, warned that the EU’s relationship with Ukraine might have to be reviewed.

The EU’s official position on the agreement abandoned in November is that the door remains open for Ukraine to sign but it has put any new negotiations on hold until there is a clear commitment to do so.

Both the EU and US condemned the now-revoked anti-protest laws, saying they were incompatible with Ukrainians’ democratic aspirations.

They also warned Ukraine not to introduce a state of emergency. Amid the concerns, top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton brought forward a trip to Ukraine to 28 January. She expressed alarm at the authorities’ handling of the situation and shock at the deadly violence.

Is Russia pulling the strings in Kiev?

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (left) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, 15 December The gas deal was announced after nearly four weeks of street protests in Ukraine

To many observers, the deal struck between Russia and Ukraine on 17 December points to a carrot-and-stick approach by the Kremlin.

The 2004 Orange Revolution led to Mr Yanukovych’s removal from power after his election was judged to have been fraudulent. Russia backed him then – and backs him now.

For centuries Ukraine was controlled by Moscow and many Russians see Ukraine as vital to Russian interests.

Ukraine map

After the riots erupted on 19 January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the protests were “getting out of control”, and accused European politicians of stirring up the trouble.

What happens next?

Mr Yanukovych, who was democratically elected in 2010, still has a strong support base in eastern and southern Ukraine, and there have been street demonstrations by his supporters.

On 25 January the president offered the opposition a number of senior positions in the government – including prime minister – but the deal was rejected.

On 28 January, President Yanukovych accepted the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet, and parliament repealed the anti-protest laws.

On 29 January, parliament backed an amnesty law that would see arrested protesters released if their fellow protesters vacated occupied government buildings and unblocked streets and squares within 15 days. But the opposition refused to back it.

The stand-off appears set to continue, amid warnings that the country risks sliding into civil war.

Ed. note I have just noticed that things are so bad that one protester was taken out and beaten and left for dead in a forest. Fortunately he survived but instead of seeking medical treatment he presented his freshly beaten body to the media. It was absolutely chilling, and brings to mind the wrongness of the words of the song the revolution will not be televised?..Oh yes it will.

26 Responses to “Q&A: Stand-off in Ukraine over EU agreement”

  1. 1 Dalec

    These are your allies in the Ukrain boys and girls:


    “The political formation is known as “Pravy Sektor” (Right Sector), which is essentially an umbrella organization for a number of ultra-nationalist (read fascist) right wing groups including supporters of the “Svoboda” (Freedom) Party, “Patriots of Ukraine”, “Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self Defense” (UNA-UNSO), and “Trizub”. All of these organizations share a common ideology that is vehemently anti-Russian, anti-immigrant, and anti-Jewish among other things. In addition they share a common reverence for the so called “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists” led by Stepan Bandera, the infamous Nazi collaborators who actively fought against the Soviet Union and engaged in some of the worst atrocities committed by any side in World War II.

    While Ukrainian political forces, opposition and government, continue to negotiate, a very different battle is being waged in the streets. Using intimidation and brute force more typical of Hitler’s “Brownshirts” or Mussolini’s “Blackshirts” than a contemporary political movement, these groups have managed to turn a conflict over economic policy and the political allegiances of the country into an existential struggle for the very survival of the nation that these so called “nationalists” claim to love so dearly. The images of Kiev burning, Lviv streets filled with thugs, and other chilling examples of the chaos in the country, illustrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that the political negotiation with the Maidan (Kiev’s central square and center of the protests) opposition is now no longer the central issue. Rather, it is the question of Ukrainian fascism and whether it is to be supported or rejected.

    For its part, the United States has strongly come down on the side of the opposition, regardless of its political character. In early December, members of the US ruling establishment such as John McCain and Victoria Nuland were seen at Maidan lending their support to the protesters. However, as the character of the opposition has become apparent in recent days, the US and Western ruling class and its media machine have done little to condemn the fascist upsurge. Instead, their representatives have met with representatives of Right Sector and deemed them to be “no threat.” In other words, the US and its allies have given their tacit approval for the continuation and proliferation of the violence in the name of their ultimate goal: regime change.”
    Now i want to read you guys tying yourselves in knots in defence of the US support for these stinking fascists.

  2. 2 Byork

    dalec, you may as well accuse us of supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria. It would be just as wrong. We support those who want to stop the thuggery and oppression and bring about a more democratic system. It is not surprising that you would end up on the side of the Putin brand of gangsterism. You are way to the right of McCain, just as you were way to the right of Bush jr.

  3. 3 Dalec

    No Barry I am not on the side of Putin Gangsterism.
    I must admit that I am amazed that you would support a number of openly Fascist groups against Putin and co. You also are an apologist for the “Pravy Sektor” and its constituent organisations as you defend McCains presence at one of their rally’s.
    It’s a slippery slope Barry.

  4. 4 Byork

    dalec, for many years now I, and others here and at the old lastsuperpower site, have made the point that you do not reasonably represent what we actually think. Yet this is a basic requirement of proper argument and debate. I have wondered why, at times, I bother to respond to you when you do that.

    Too often you engage in a form of wishful thinking where you have us arguing a position that we do not and did not argue. A previous classic, from many examples, is your claim that we argued that Iraq would be a “land of milk and honey” after the regime change there.

    Now, you are accusing me of supporting “a number of openly Fascist groups” in the Ukraine. You do this, I believe, because, like anyone who is not good at arguing and who claims to be taking a left-wing line when they’re actually not, you fail badly when you have tried to tackle ‘our’ real point of view. It makes you look bad and perhaps you know, deep down inside, that the above is true.

    When one looks around the world, it isn’t too hard to see who are the oppressed and who is doing the oppressing in various situations. When one goes further into analysis, it becomes clear that there are oppressed people who should be supported and assisted (by whichever means works). It’s called internationalism, a core value of left-wing people. (Why do I even need to say this?)

    I still think you’re on the side of Putin, as your puerile generalisation about the opposition in the Ukraine indicates, and just as your view was the same as the ‘Mid-East’s dictators in opposition to the Iraq War.

  5. 5 Dalec

    Hi Barry, I suspect that t you will respond to this by attacking the source, perhaps you could break with tradition and examine the arguments?


  6. 6 Byork

    dalek, I don’t share the author’s great concern for Putin. So take that as an argument. I kinda like it when gangster regimes are destabilized. Here are some views from those who took part in the protests on the ground. To you, they are ‘Fascists’. To me they seem to be perfectly good people who are sick of being bullied, beaten up, denied their rights and bossed around. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/20/violence-ukraine-wrong-fighting-for-freedom-protesters and http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2014/01/29/canada_can_do_more_to_help_democracy_in_ukraine.html

    Excerpt (from the Guardian article):

    “People are afraid that under the new laws everyone will sooner or later be brought before the police or courts. People are angry that their voice is being ignored by both sides. They are frustrated that no one is ready to take responsibility and lead the movement. People are furious that President Yanukovych and his government have not only ruined the whole country, but want to take the most precious thing – our freedom”. “Fascist”? Really?

  7. 7 Dalec

    The fate of Putin is basically irrelevant.
    What is relevant is the future for the people of Ukraine – and of Russia.
    You should know that Kateryna Kruk – author of your second reference, is a volunteer for Svoboda – the party symbol until 2004 was: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/I%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%8F_N%D0%B0%D1%86%D1%96%D1%97.jpg
    Look familiar Barry?
    For a comprehensive account of the Ukraine mess go to:
    Same shit different flies
    Note the change of logo, but read the program carefully.

  8. 8 Byork

    dalec, at 11.54 today you said (above): “I suspect that you will respond to this by attacking the source, perhaps you could break with tradition and examine the arguments?”

    Yet this is exactly what you have done regarding the article by Kateryna Kruk. You have not even attempted to address her argument. I see nothing at all ‘Fascist’ about what she has written. If you want to convince people of your position, you’ll need to point out where she is wrong.

    And why those of us who stand with the people demanding greater freedom and who are on the receiving end of the baton are also wrong.

    We know already, of course, that in your world all that matters is where the US stands in relation to what is happening. You have an appalling track record as a result of this dogmatic formulation – on the side of some real fascists and autocrats.

    It is a vile and disgraceful form of politics.

  9. 9 Dalec
  10. 10 admin

    I have no idea how Dalec reached the conclusion from this news piece, that any or all commenting here would consider themselves/ourselves allies of any Ukrainian faction. I put this item up after seeing the beaten man on TV and I google searched to find out more. I thought it seemed balanced and educative.

    I do know nations want liberation, as do slaves from their masters. Isn’t the Ukraine to Russia as currently ruled by the gangster Putin as Ireland was to Britain? And as bound to fight for greater national and civil rights and economic freedom?

    It doesn’t surprise me that Putin is waging dirty wars in every direction he looks and that the masses are fighting back.

  11. 11 Byork

    As with the ‘blood for oil’ bullshit, the dalecs are hard to distinguish from the far-Right LaRouchians on the Ukraine. http://www.larouchepub.com/pr/2014/140203_ukr_fact_sheet.html

  12. 12 Dalec

    Relax Barry,
    There are plenty of far right nut bags that support your position on Iraq.What about Government of Israel?? Do you support Israeli actions in the ME Barry?

  13. 13 Byork

    The Government of Israel did not support the establishment of democracy in Iraq – they only supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and assumed, like the dalecs, that the US would simply replace Saddam Hussein with a more compliant dictator.This clearly didn’t happen. Iraq does not recognize Israel (just in case you didn’t know).

  14. 14 Dalec

    Barry, You know that I have no time at all for the LaRouchians.
    You attempt to slide out from under by asserting that the Zionist rulers of Israel ” did not support the establishment of democracy in Iraq – they only supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein”.
    They did support the invasion Barry in fact it is arguable that it was mostly for their benefit.

    They are your bedfellows Barry.

  15. 15 Byork

    The disagreement with your line was about democracy being established in Iraq. I would have opposed an outcome that didn’t establish the basic, though flawed and young, democracy that replaced dictatorship there. This was the issue and this was what the Israeli government didn’t want. Like your analysis, they couldn’t believe that the US meant it when it said its national interests were better protected by democracy than by dictatorship in the region.

    If support or opposition to the invasion itself, per se, regardless of democratic objective, was the issue you might have a point (but it wasn’t). So, this leaves you, not just with the LaRouchians (who you have ‘no time for’ but are impossible to distinguish from), but with just about every dictator and fascist in the region – they too opposed the invasion. They saw the writing on the wall.

    dalec, this is what happens when we fail to keep up with changes in the real world. You end up not just on the wrong side, but the worst of the wrong side.

  16. 16 Byork

    ROTFL! Even dalec’s line on Israel and the Iraq War is LaRouchian! http://www.rense.com/general29/poll.htm (There’s more but I’d just link to one).

  17. 17 Dalec

    Barry there are millions of ultra right wing totally nut bag sites out there that support your position on Iraq – so what?
    What is more important is the position of those who actually have state power or who are in a position to seize state power. My concern is about the dominance of Fascist groups in the Ukraine uprising. This is part of a pattern across Europe as the totally stupid austerity measures take effect. No doubt you are an enthusiastic supporter of “Golden Dawn” for example, but I am not.

  18. 18 Byork

    dalec, provide evidence for your claim that “ultra right-wing totally nut bag” sites supported the establishment of democracy in Iraq (which is my position on Iraq).

    It’s not just the LaRouchians with whom you share the same analysis and conclusions on important world events, it’s Golden Dawn too. So how dare you falsely claim I’m an “enthusiastic supporter” of theirs. You may have noticed that others can no longer be bothered. Unless you retract that false claim about me, then I’ll stop too.

    It’s hardly worth arguing with you if you keep making stuff up. What I believe in is truly their Worst Enemy. 😉 I just quickly checked one of their English language sites and it seems they oppose the Iraq War. No surprise there, as they are fascists and oppose democracy. The Golden Dawn recently sent a deputation of solidarity to Syria to meet with al-Assad. This site – Tahrir-ICN looks at how all the fascist groupings in Europe are basically behind the “Hands of Syria” line. http://tahriricn.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/syria-who-are-assads-fascist-supporters/ Haven’t checked it out in detail but the Administrator might like to note that we seem to have a lot in common with the Tahrir site’s Manifesto.

  19. 19 Dalec

    Hi Barry,
    1. Totally nut bag right wing sites that support your position can be found here:
    2.If you are offended by the “Golden Dawn” reference I apologise. I gathered from reading a previous post by one of the other trusties on this site that the line was that it did not matter what the politics of the group are so long as they opposed- (put your favourite enemy of the people here)- it is OK.
    3. I guess time will tell on Iraq, even you lot must be concerned.

  20. 20 Byork

    dalec, it’s not just an apology that is required but you really should start to understand and worry about the similarities between your own positions, as discussed above, and the overt and crypto-fascists, especially the LaRouchians. You think like them, talk like them, share the same basic analysis, and have the same policies on the issues we’ve been discussing.

    I don’t regard the link you provided as being “totally nut bag right wing” at all. Such ‘nut bag’ groups don’t do this, for one example (from your link): “During the George W. Bush administration, FDD expanded its democracy programs in the Middle East with U.S. government funding. One such program was the Iraqi Women’s Educational Institute (IWEI), a joint initiative of the American Islamic Conference, FDD, and the conservative Independent Women’s Forum. The mission of this short-lived organization was, according to FDD, to promote the participation of women in Iraqi society through programs on democracy education and coalition building”.

    From what I can gather from a quick read, FDD is right-wing but not nut-bag. Like a lot of pseudo’s, you revert to such labelling because you’re not capable of arguing a persuasive case. It’s also a way of trying to intimidate others into sharing group-think. If you disagree with me, you’re a “right wing nut bag”.

    “Time will tell” indeed on some things in Iraq. For instance, was the US withdrawal premature? But for all the ‘nut bag’ talk about blood-for-oil, one thing has been resolved: despite the best efforts of the ‘Not in my name’ mob and right-wing (pseudo-left) anti-imperialists, no US administration will ever again be able to impose a ruthless fascistic dictator over the Iraqi people again. Thank you, ‘Comrade’ Bush jr.

    dalec, you are to the Right of Bush jr and the FDD.

  21. 21 Byork

    dalec, if you wish to continue this exchange with me, then a retraction is still required – not an apology. A retraction of a false claim.

  22. 22 Dalec

    Ed. note; A clear example of distract attention from what the other is saying /asking and then bring in the accusations and abuse.

    Ah Barry I am tired of your abuse and accusations of right wing alliance.
    You can continue your trajectory of support for Imperial conquest and your self delusion that some-how US imperialism has become an enlightened supporter of global democracy. Its all a fantasy Barry.

  23. 23 Dalec

    1. Dalec ought to have retracted as byork correctly assessed.
    2. Dalec’s comment moved to 2013 global warming thread.
    3. Dalec can still comment here and has not at this stage been spammed.
    4. Rules of civil debate must be used and applied.

  24. 24 Dalec

    May I respectfully suggest that ST download and study this document:
    Is this the program that you support ?

  25. 25 admin

    OK, well that is better. But you still haven’t retracted, so I doubt Barry will talk to you. I looked at this article and quickly lost interest.
    1. I started to get a headache after the first 3 paragraphs and when I looked to see how much longer…I saw para after para of analysis that is pre 9/11. I don’t think you’ll get much of a bite to discuss that around here at the mo. A summary of the main ideas might have helped.

    Dalec, this is a ‘group blog’ well is trying to be a group blog – though it seems people are busy working on larger projects – Bill is working on a book as is Patrick – and others are busy being ‘gagged’ by circumstances. So this is a bit more of a news and discussion site as opposed to having posts written by ST authors. But get this though Dalec – there is no program that we all support and so it won’t be possible to throw stuff up and say “there I got you all.” Because you simply won’t have.

  26. 26 Byork

    Ho hum. Another far-Right group – the Citizens Electoral Council – taking the LaRouchian, Golden Dawn, et al, position on Ukraine and Putin. The pseudo-left, which takes essentially the same view, is vile. As Eric Burdon once sang: “When will they ever learn?” http://cecaust.com.au/releases/2014_02_14_War_Danger.html

Leave a Reply