EuroMaidan, the mass pro-Europe movement that began in Ukraine on 21 November last year, is now into its second month. Initially, it began as a reaction to the government's suspension of the European Union Association Agreement, and demanded closer integration with the EU. Since then, the scope of the movement has broadened considerably; those involved now demand the impeachment of President Viktor Yanukovych, international sanctions against Yanukovych and Azarov government members, snap elections and breaking the grasp of Russian influence. It's clear now, that this has not just become a group of frustrated Ukrainians who want a closer relationship with the EU, in the words of Vitaly Portnikov who is the Council Member of the "Maidan" National Alliance and President and Editor-in-Chief of the Ukrainian television channel TVi, it is "changing the national fabric of Ukraine". As we delve deeper, we can see its grisly details.
Indeed, a spotlight now shines on the horrendous abuses being committed by the Ukrainian state. Attacks on journalists, activists, and in one case, a young mother, are widespread. In December, 50 journalists were physically assaulted by police thugs, with 40 reportedly being attacked on the 1st of December alone (according to Kharkiv Human Rights Watch). The most high profile of these attacks, was that of Tatyana Chonovol, who specialized in exposes on the lavish properties owned by Yanukovych as well as other members of the political elite. So of course, as is often the case with an authoritarian regime, she was brutally attacked. A shining example of post-Soviet democracy (!)
Whilst the commitment and the audacity of the protesters is certainly admirable and should provide an example to agitators, activists and angry people the world over, it cannot be denied that, unfortunately, the far-right, in particular the Svoboda Party, which has links to the BNP, is looking to steal the limelight. And they sure did when they met US senator John McCain (who was up to his typical careerist ploy of looking like he was interested in promoting in democracy and openness, which is completely what the far-right stands for, as Golden Dawn have shown us). These vile groups should be cast aside if the movement is to preserve its integrity and its credibility.
However, these issues aside, (I repeat) we must certainly hold high the example of the protesters. There are many problems with the European Union, that certainly cannot be denied; however, this to me makes me tremendously grateful for the being part of such a diverse European community, and clearly this is what the majority of Ukrainians want. Open borders, free trade with their European neighbours, and freedom from the grasp of Commissar Putin, the man who, in his own mind, still controls an invisible empire of Soviet republics (Belarus provides and vomit-inducing example of state Putinophilia).
The media coverage on the movement has certainly cooled recently. We should not forget that it is still going on and what it stands for. This isn't just a handful of Ukrainians rallying their government to move towards a set of their own personal demands, it gives us a positive example of the strength of the people versus the State. EuroMaidan, to me and to many others, is a modern manifestation of what genuine popular will looks like. Long may it continue.
(Sources: Kyiv Post, The Voice of Russia, One Europe)