KIEV, Ukraine- Ukraine has experienced an overwhelming amount of hostility in recent months due to the broken cooperation deal between the European Union. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement would of replaced the previous deal enacted between the E.U. Ukraine in the early 1990’s. The argument is being made that the deal would benefit Ukraine’s economic expansion, and help bring Ukraine more into the political fold with its’ western European counterparts.
Viktor Yanukovych is the current Prime Minister of Ukraine. Despite coming close to a consensus on a deal, he pulled back at the last second, ultimately rejecting it. Yulia Yanukovych, the former Prime Minister, was fully in support of the deal, calling it a necessity to help bring Ukraine in the modern age. She was jailed in 2011.
A staunch supporter for the westernization of Ukraine, as well as the cooperation deal, the jailing was seen as political marginalization by the ruling regime. She was sentenced to prison for seven years on a supposed illegal 2009 natural gas deal with Russia. The deal was categorized as a routine governmental measure that was hardly a crime. The foremost part of the sentencing is that it excludes her from running or holding political office for ten years after she is released. Observers argue that it is an obvious ploy to prevent her from returning to power, due to her overwhelming support from the protesters through Ukraine.
The western portion of the country wants closer ties to the E.U. The nation has been struggling since it’s independence to become economically independent. Russia has been courting the nation to join it’s economic bloc rather than build a stronger economic trade presence with the European Union.
The decision has split the nation’s political officials, as the nation holds a lengthy historical relationship with Russia, being a member of the Soviet Union until its independence in 1991. Neighboring Belarus recently attempted a similar measure, resulting in strong repression from the government, and a strengthening it’s relationship with Russia.
With the collapse of the deal four years in the making, peaceful protests began, primarily in the nations capital of Kiev on November 21, 2013. Yanukovych has responded to the protests with harsh repressive measures. The protesters responded in kind, turning the once nonviolent state of affairs into what some describe as a near civil war.
Yanukovych denies these allegations, asserting his administration has not violated the civil liberties of the protesters. Amnesty International published the report “Euromaydan: Human Rights Violations During Protests in Ukraine” detailing an assortment of ways the administration deprived the protesters of their human rights, primarily through “excessive use of force by law enforcement officers,” unjust politically motivated show-trials, and “harassment of those who have complained about excessive use of force.” Yanukovynch’s trial was condemned as a show-trial of grand proportions.
Political officials have tried to find a way to persuade the populace from protesting, from the December 13, 2013 indictment of numerous governmental members involved in the violent police procedures of November 30, 2013. The Ukrainian Parliament seems to support civilian protesters, pushing throughout legislation that pardoned those involved in violent protests prior to December 19, 2013, the day the law was enacted.
The protests have led to the deaths of many protesters, and ways to dissuade the violence are complicated. The nation remains divided, with politicians who see the only way to maintain power is through force. Will the old Soviet bond with Russia prevail, or will the more Western leaning population win in the end?
Unless the government officials end human rights abuses against their populace and opposition groups, the unrest will likely continue.
– Joseph Abay