“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” John F.Kennedy
I woke up to another nightmare: more than 80 killed and over a thousand wounded in my home country Ukraine in Eastern Europe. I have found it unbearable to continue my daily routine here in Albany, when on the capital’s streets in Kyiv, where I used to live, riot police attacking peaceful demonstrators with live ammunition, when the roofs of the historic buildings occupied with snipers, when armored vehicles driving into the people, when former criminals paid by the government to loot, beat and kill pedestrians! All this is happening in the 21st century in the center of Europe! Ukraine hasn’t seen such violence since World War II.
The protests broke out on November 21st when Ukraine’s president halted signature of the long-planned Association Agreement with the European Union after the threat of trade sanctions from Russia. This treaty was supposed to bring Ukraine closer on its path to European integration.
Since Viktor Yanukovych became a president in 2010, Ukrainians have witnessed exacerbation of economic decline, rampant corruption in all spheres, police lawlessness, and deterioration of media freedoms and human rights. More than 24 percent of population live below the poverty line according to the United Nations Development Program.
Ukrainians looked to the EU in hope for improvement in their living standards and basic rights: better investment climate, better healthcare, better education, better qualities of services and better environment. As the news of the president’s dramatic U-turn, crowds poured into Independence Square in central Kyiv to tell the president that he was wrong about kowtowing to Russia and changing the country’s foreign policy vector. The Square became known as Euromaidan, because Ukrainians stood up for European values of rule of law and freedom.
However, Yanukovych was not listening. He turned deaf and blind to the genuine concerns of his fellow citizens. Then in the early morning hours of November 30 he answered. Not with offer for talks and dialog, but by sending the riot police with excessively brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in early morning hours as they slept.
Hitherto unseen shocking violence led to massive peaceful protests across the country, demanding the president to resign. Protesters flocked to Euromaidan despite negative temperatures. They created self-defense units, organized canteen, first aid help centers and even a library and open-air university lectures! The atmosphere despite the brutality remained positive.
The riot police periodically attempted to clear the square from protesters. In weeks of protests Yanukovych made no move to meet the demonstrators. In fact, he further aggravated the situation by agreeing a Russian bailout worth 15 billion USD. And then on January 16 the cynicism of the pro-presidential Party of Regions reached its apogee when it passed draconian laws, which threw the country back in times of Stalin’s repressions.
This week after a period of relative calm, the start of the winter Olympics (usually a time when countries agree on Olympic truce), after Yanukovych met with Putin in Sochi for the six time in two months, the order was given to undertake an “anti-terrorist” nationwide operation, using deadly force against demonstrators on 18 February.
The images flooding our newspapers, TV and social media tell their own stories. Fundamental principle of journalism is to report the truth and world media attempted to by giving voice to the protesters, opposition leaders and the government. The statements of the latter proved to be nothing, but total disinformation a-la-Cold War-Putin style propaganda. The truth is simple: Ukrainian people from all over the country came on the streets in November to stand for their rights, for better life, for their freedom.
As it always happens, the truth is not convenient for many players. It is not for the corrupt president Victor Yanukovych, whose son Oleksandr being a dentist turned into a billionaire over the course a year. It is not for the oligarchs (wealthy tycoons the backbone of the regime) with their property and business in the EU countries. It’s neither convenient for the European leaders who are uncomfortable about a thought of the explanation to their tax payers that their money is about to be spend on democratic and economic reforms in Ukraine’s. It’s not convenient for the president Obama, whose foreign policy has been complete failure in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s even not convenient for the UN Secretary-Genral Ban-Ki-Moon, who was one of a few international leaders at the Olympics opening ceremony, probably trying to talk Putin into any kind of solution for the protracted horrible war in Syria.
Ukraine is a member of numerous international organizations and human rights conventions, but all of them failed to prevent bloodshed in the country. Since November Ukrainians all over the world were pledging international community to impose targeted sanctions on Yanukovych and his supporters. But all they heard back was endless “deep concerns” and “worrying statements.” If world leaders addressed the issue before it escalated, we wouldn’t count dead bodies of the blossom of the nation now.
The history tends to repeat itself. Ukrainians were refused their right for state after WWI the League of Nations. Ukraine had to bear the yoke of horror and repression of the Soviet Union for 70 years. It relatively easy gained its independence in 1991, but now it is again on a brink of crumbling under the pressure from Kremlin.
Yanukovych must step down to stop bloodshed in Ukraine, a technical government shall be created before the early presidential and technical elections, UN and its financial agencies has to offer a comprehensive plan for Ukraine’s troubled economy.
It is already too late for returning the lost lives. The world community has its last chance to prove its reliability – to hold Yanukovych, the Party of Regions and his government accountable for the crimes against humanity at the Hague Tribunal. These are my thoughts as I go to bed tonight with another hope for a better tomorrow in Ukraine.
Although a deal has been reached since the article was drafter, I still worry about my home country. The early presidential election has been scheduled for the fall, Yanukovych remains in power until then. “You either sign this agreement,” said Polish Foreign Minister Radislaw Sikorski, “or you will have marshal law, military troops and will be all dead.”