Ukraine's Crisis


Mira Milosevic is a writer and lecturer at Instituto Universitario Ortega y Gasset


On January 22, the protests against the Ukrainian government claimed the lives of three victims according to official sources or five according to the opposition. The sorrowful fact is tragically ironic because it happened on the Day of National Unity which celebrates the independence achieved in 1919. But there are at least two more paradoxes: 1) The protests began last November because of the refusal of Victor Yanukovich's government to sign the agreement with the European Union and its correlative approach to Russia, but they soon became a campaign against the terrible economic situation and the corruption of the political class, demanding the resignation of Yanukovich and the calling for early elections; 2) Although none of the three representatives of the opposition–the boxer Vitali Klitschko from the Punch party, the technocrat Arseniy Yatseniuk from the Fatherland Party and the nationalist Oleg Tiagnibok, from Freedom–enjoys widespread acceptance (Klitschko, the most popular, has only the support of 13% of the population) and the three lack a clear agenda beyond getting rid of Yanukovich, they have become the negotiators and representatives of the indignant.

The opposition's resort to street violence has been key to the government's change in attitude, which ignored them while protesting peacefully. Yanukovich has offered everything except his own head, for fear that the protests expand and fracture the territory: the resignation of Prime Minister Mikola Azarov (who called the protesters 'terrorists') and which entailed the dissolution of Parliament; the suspension of the so-called 'dictatorship laws' (a copy of the Russian laws resulting from Putin's authoritarianism), who acted as the trigger for the violence, the change of the 2011 Constitution by the 2004 one, which put greater constraints on presidential power, and finally, the release of those arrested during the protests in exchange for the eviction of protesters from public spaces and government buildings. Yanukovych's offer is late: what it offered is not enough for the opposition, which will only be appeased by his resignation.

The current Ukrainian crisis reflects a decline in the country's democratisation process because, since its independence from the former USSR in 1991, it had always managed to solve its problems peacefully. Although Yanukovych's kleptocracy and his affinity with Russia symbolise all the ills of Ukraine, no political force seems capable of implementing the structural changes needed. Although the economic agreement with Russia sought to strengthen the current president, it seems highly unlikely that he will win the elections scheduled for 2015 after this crisis–in the doubtful event that he remains in power until then.