High level political talks didn’t break the stalemate in Ukraine

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, participated in the 495th plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) with Henri Malosse, President of the EESC. Barroso attended a debate on the state of civil society in Ukraine and its expectations vis-à-vis the European Union in the presence of Ruslana Lyzhychko, Ukrainian singer, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2004 and Leader of the "EuroMaidan" protest movement. (EC Audiovisual Services, 21/01/2014).

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, participated in the 495th plenary session of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) with Henri Malosse, President of the EESC. Barroso attended a debate on the state of civil society in Ukraine and its expectations vis-à-vis the European Union in the presence of Ruslana Lyzhychko, Ukrainian singer, winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2004 and Leader of the “EuroMaidan” protest movement. (EC Audiovisual Services, 21/01/2014).

Yesterday Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych held talks with the leaders of the opposition as he promised to EU President Manuel Barroso during their telephone conversation earlier on the day. But this was all Yanukovych did to fulfil his promise to the EU leader. After many hours of talks, the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition coming out of the Presidential building reported a stalemate and couldn’t convince the protesters, that the talks can reduce the bloodshed in the streets of capital. Late last night protesters occupied the Ministry of Agriculture, not far away from the Independence Square in the centre of Kiev, where the barricaded heart of protests beats 24 hours a day.

Yanukovych is not backing from his position to align his country in a Moscow led economic union, instead of signing an Association Agreement with the EU as the protesters demand for six weeks now. Ukraine was negotiating with the EU this far-reaching Association Agreement for two years, but in the last-minute Yanukovych turned to Moscow and embraced a Eurasia Union, created by the Russian President Vladimir Putin two years ago. From that moment Ukraine is stuck in a risky path, with thousands of protesters gathering every day in the centre of capital Kiev.

Protests gathering momentum

Over the past days protests have attracted thousands more and have turned much more active. The government answered with excess police violence and actually passed a law banning the rallies. This development enraged the opposition and triggered more demonstrations. At the beginning of the week violent attacks of the police and the Interior Ministry forces, a kind of paramilitary corps, led to a number of deaths, at least five as the protesters reported. The news shocked the international public opinion and prompted strong reactions from western governments, against the Kiev authorities.

Now the people’s movement opposing Yanukovych’s choices demand nothing less than his resignation and new elections, which would eventually turn into a referendum about the country’s affiliation towards the West or Russia. Of course, the President rejects the demands and indirectly accuses the West of officiously backing the opposition and providing material in support of some activists who are at the core the peoples’ movement.

Brussels alarmed

Meanwhile, the EU authorities are alarmed with the violent suppression of the pro-EU movement and contemplate concrete action against the Kiev government. Sources in Brussels state that the EU may block trade and other exchanges with Ukraine, the country which until some weeks ago was ready to sign an Association Agreement with the Union. On Wednesday Barroso stated that, “We are genuinely concerned about where these developments are taking Ukraine and will continue following closely these developments, as well as assessing possible actions by the EU and consequences for our relations”.

The European Sting has been following very closely the developments in Ukraine. On 9 December Sting writer Suzan A. Kane wrote, “During the weekend, the new wave of pro-EU protests in central Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, against the government’s last minute decision to drop out from an agreement with the European Union and instead sign one with Russia, shows the deep division between the pro-western and pro-Moscow parts of the population of this country. For one thing, also yesterday, a pro-government rally was organised in a different square of the capital, albeit attracting smaller attendance”.

Towards the end of 2013, the Yanukovych government managed to organise some minor rallies in support of the Russian choice. However, during the past few days it’s more than evident that active support for the President is actually non-existent and the pro-EU part of the population is hugely larger and of course much more active.

Now the centre of the capital Kiev is practically re-barricaded by protesters and their means have become much more ‘effective’. They include missile like fireworks, Molotov cocktail , catapults as well as improvised means of protection. Many people in Ukraine and abroad are afraid that more clashes between people and police and the Ministry of Interior forces may lead to more deaths. It’s difficult to predict how this dead-end could be resolved.

 

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