By Mariel Navarro and Mike Khokhlovych
Vladimir Putin’s plan to re-establish the Soviet Union has hit a problem with Ukraine. For over three months now Ukrainians have been protesting against the pro-Russian government and in favour of the EU. Although the knot of the conflict is tightening every day, the Ukrainian people will never become Soviet citizens again.
Ukraine is a state where drunk drivers blame victims for getting hit, where middle schoolers pay bribes and rural hospitals lack even the basic tools for public access. It is a country where policemen rape women and throw their bodies in the lake and where the president is a twice-convicted felon.
Located geographically between Russia and the European Union, Ukraine hangs in a limbo of political indecision as to the course of the country. A majority of the population is seeking European integration while the rest stands for falling back into the Customs Union, a neo-USSR under Russia’s patronage. After 22 years of independence, Ukraine’s process of de-sovietization is still incomplete.
On November 21, 2013 pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an agreement guaranteeing association of Ukraine with the European Union. The treaty should have put Ukraine on a track towards becoming an EU member state within ten to twenty years. Frustrated with the government’s policies, people gathered at the Maidan, the capital’s main square. By November 24th some hundred thousand people were protesting.
Afraid of rebellion and looking up to Putin’s methods of political coordination, the president ordered the police to crack down the protests. The result was an unprecedented level of violence against the few protestors on the square, on the night of November 30. This in turn sparked a wave of even more massive demonstrations attended by 500,000 people who, by now, were protesting directly against the government and the thuggish police brutality.
Despite the continuing civil unrest and violent collisions of protestors with the “Berkut” special forces, it is safe to say that the Euromaidan has been unsuccessful in its attempts to bring down the government. The three opposition leaders, including ex-boxer Vitaly Klitschko, request the Maidan to refrain from seizing government offices, but at the same time have shown incompetence in regulating the issue in a peaceful way.
In spite of the prime minister’s resignation on January 28th, the Ukrainian parliament still hasn’t adopted a new Constitution allowing it to limit the president’s power and enforce the EU treaty. With the political stalemate going on as long as it has, the country’s future looks as uncertain as ever. Optimistic scenarios include the peaceful forming of a new parliamentary majority while the pessimists claim that the country could be split in half, with the East being economically and politically occupied by Russia. With Yanukovych unwilling to abandon his multi-billion dollar residency, there is a high chance he will do anything to keep his position.
However, despite the outcome of the political conflict, Yanukovych has lost. Even if the president prevails, the people have made clear that they are no longer willing to live by Soviet means. When the Lenin monument was taken down by the protestors, with it fell Ukraine’s Soviet disposition. Troubled as it may be in every imaginable sphere, Ukraine is Europe.