Community: Shaking Up Ukraine

While this month’s film review discusses a fictional revolution, there is a real revolution happening in Ukraine, with real bullets and real lives. We have hesitated to put forward an article on the developments in Ukraine since they are so complex and are changing so rapidly that a single magazine spread can barely address the key points and may be out of date within days. But we feel it is important that Parvati Magazine, dedicated to an awakened world, keeps its readers aware of this situation on the planet.

Viktor Yanukovych apparently won the presidency of Ukraine in 2004 in an election considered to have been rigged. Following protests called the “Orange Revolution”, that result was set aside in favour of Viktor Yushchenko. But in the subsequent elections in 2010, Yanukovych ran again for president, and won, defeating both Yushchenko and prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who claimed this election was also rigged. Soon after the election a number of criminal cases were brought against Tymoshenko and she was jailed in 2011. International observers considered this to be persecution.

The European Union signed deals on free trade and political association with Ukraine in 2012, but stated that the agreements would not be ratified unless Ukraine addressed concerns about “deterioration of democracy and the rule of law”, citing Tymoshenko’s case among others.

In November 2013, the Ukrainian government under Yanukovych moved to suspend preparations to sign agreements with the European Union. This came after Russia – seeking to build an alliance of ex-Soviet states – first offered significantly more financial incentive for Ukraine to partner with them than the EU was offering, and then imposed trade sanctions on Ukraine while it continued to consider the EU option.

When the Yanukovych government suspended these preparations and chose to seek a partnership with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, protests began under a movement called “Euromaidan”, calling for the resignation of Yanukovych and the restoration of the Ukrainian constitution as it stood from 2004 to 2010. This movement was characterized by younger, university-educated people, active on social media, seeing themselves as not different from other young people in the European Union.

When the police began dispersing Euromaidan protests with violence, the protests increased. At their peak, some 400,000-800,000 people protested in Kyiv last December. Protesters began destroying monuments to Vladimir Lenin. The protests continued into 2014. While much of the world’s attention was fixated on the Olympics in Sochi in February, dozens of people were killed in clashes with police. On February 20, the Ukrainian government authorized police to use live rounds, not just rubber bullets, in dealing with protesters.

On February 21, Ukraine’s parliament voted to impeach Yanukovych. A new government was formed in Ukraine under acting prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison and joined the Euromaidan movement. The 2004-10 constitution was restored. If this were a movie, you’d fade out here and roll the credits. But it’s not.

Yanukovych, who is disliked in western Ukraine but remains popular in eastern, Russian-speaking Ukraine, fled to Russia. Russia’s president Vladimir Putin stated that he considered Yanukovych’s impeachment to be illegal, the current government of Ukraine to be illegitimate, and that all treaties between Russia and the previous regime in Ukraine no longer applied.

The next stage of the drama is taking place in Ukraine’s southeastern peninsula of Crimea, largely populated by Russian speakers. Russian troops moved into Crimea in the tens of thousands and took control as of February 26. Soon thereafter, Crimea adopted a resolution to declare independence from Ukraine, with the option to join with Russia.

On March 16, a referendum took place in Crimea, with an apparent 95.5% in support of Crimea joining Russia. The Ukrainian parliament says the referendum is unconstitutional, and its prime minister threatens dire consequences for the Crimean politicians who called for a referendum. The United States and EU say the vote is illegal. Russia, however, recognizes the vote as legitimate and says its troops will stay in Crimea. Local television stations have been shut down, two being replaced by Russian state television.

The European Union has now suspended some talks with Russia. The G7 (G8 nations minus Russia) have issued a joint statement condemning Russia’s actions and suspended preparations for a G8 meeting that was to take place in Sochi this June.

This is where the situation stands as this issue of Parvati Magazine goes to print: angry and volatile, with increasing international attention and concern.

May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be at peace, may all be free. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.

by Parvati Magazine staff