Ukraine’s Crisis Intensifies: Protests Grow More Radical, the Authorities More Repressive

24-01-2014

The first deaths have been reported – along with cases of torture and kidnapping – in two months of anti-government demonstrations and government recalcitrance in Ukraine. Since President Viktor Yanukovych applied the brakes to the country’s advancing Association Agreement with the EU, the country has faced political and popular turmoil, with opposing positions increasingly entrenched and demonstrations increasingly marred by violence. The ruling Party of Regions has de facto retreated from its European orientation with the adoption of repressive legislation curtailing basic freedoms and with President Yanukovych negotiating new agreements with Moscow. Weak in the parliament, the political opposition has appeared divided on the street. Byelections held in December 2013 yielded results at odds with those predicted by exit polls and were criticised by international observers; they may serve as a worrisome portent for presidential elections scheduled for 2015. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has said the EU must work towards a ‘political solution to the current crisis.’ EP President Martin Schulz has taken a particular stance on protestors’ calls for elections, saying that any ‘reasonable President’ who believes his voters stands behind him ‘would consider new elections’. While the EU has not articulated a clear policy on its Ukrainian Eastern Partner, it will need to do so to maintain its credibility as a promoter of democracy and regional actor.

The first deaths have been reported – along with cases of torture and kidnapping – in two months of anti-government demonstrations and government recalcitrance in Ukraine. Since President Viktor Yanukovych applied the brakes to the country’s advancing Association Agreement with the EU, the country has faced political and popular turmoil, with opposing positions increasingly entrenched and demonstrations increasingly marred by violence. The ruling Party of Regions has de facto retreated from its European orientation with the adoption of repressive legislation curtailing basic freedoms and with President Yanukovych negotiating new agreements with Moscow. Weak in the parliament, the political opposition has appeared divided on the street. Byelections held in December 2013 yielded results at odds with those predicted by exit polls and were criticised by international observers; they may serve as a worrisome portent for presidential elections scheduled for 2015. The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton has said the EU must work towards a ‘political solution to the current crisis.’ EP President Martin Schulz has taken a particular stance on protestors’ calls for elections, saying that any ‘reasonable President’ who believes his voters stands behind him ‘would consider new elections’. While the EU has not articulated a clear policy on its Ukrainian Eastern Partner, it will need to do so to maintain its credibility as a promoter of democracy and regional actor.