Yanukovych attempts a violent and deadly cleansing of Kiev’s center

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy went to Kyiv where she met with representatives of the Ukrainian opposition. Ashton then met with Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine both pictured here not watching at each other. (EC Audiovisual Services, 05/02/2014).

Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy went to Kyiv where she met with representatives of the Ukrainian opposition. Ashton then met with Viktor Yanukovych, President of Ukraine both pictured here not watching at each other. (EC Audiovisual Services, 05/02/2014).

Towards the end of last week Russia decided to unblock the $15 billion aid package to Ukraine it had withheld, when President Viktor Yanukovych invited the opposition to participate in the government. Yanukovych had resorted to this public relations opening to opposition leaders, in order to end the stalemate of the three-month old protests. Public relations or not, the Kremlin didn’t see it that way and refused to risk its money with some Ukrainian politicians Russia couldn’t control, despite the fact that all the powers rest with the President and the Kiev government has rather a supportive role, just executing the orders of the head of the state.

Aid exchanged for lives

No need to think much to conclude that the deadly attacks of police and Interior ministry forces against the protestor camps in the center of Kiev the last 48 hours, must have been decided in Moscow. Seemingly, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, while enjoying alone the Sochi Games, he ordered the cleansing of the center of Kiev, thinking that there is no gain while paying for a country and leave the center of the capital to the other contester. At least 25 people have died so far in this last attempt to end the protests in a wave of police and in many ways military violence. It’s the people who oppose Yanukovich’s last minute decision to sign an economic and trade agreement with Moscow, rejecting the Association Agreement with the EU, the two sides had spent two years to prepare at a high cost to Brussels.

Of course, Russia didn’t ask questions about functioning democracy and the rule of law as the EU did, nor had it any objection to let Yanukovych win the next Presidential election, using all the means at his disposal. Putin knows one thing or two about that. The $15bn Russia set aside for Ukraine is a lot of money to risk in an election. So Putin must have conditioned the continuation of the rescue program, with the cleansing of the Independence Square and a number of government buildings protestors have occupied for weeks. Moscow is not accustomed like the western capitals to hide its real wishes and instead acts, head on, to clear the field and control the ground. It was like that in the Soviet time and after some ‘lost’ years it’s again the same.

The EU intervenes with a Press release

Yesterday, the European Union issued a statement signed by the EU High Representative Catherine Ashton. It’s along the same lines the EU has followed all along the three-month long Ukraine’s political stalemate, asking all sides to refrain from violence. However, it’s the first time that the EU intervenes directly in the internal developments demanding a constitutional reform and a Presidential election. It reads “A solution should include the formation of a new inclusive government, progress on constitutional reform and the preparation for transparent and democratic presidential elections. The EU stands ready to assist Ukraine in this process”.

It seems though that the deep division of the country, between the west- and the east-inclined parts of the population and regions, has weakened, in view of the destruction it caused during the last three months. Understandably, the people are now disillusioned with the prospect of either side winning. The utmost destruction the confrontation caused and the catastrophic state of the economy have brought real chaos the population cannot stand anymore. Nevertheless, this leaves President Yanukovych in the lead.

Is it a civil war?

That’s why the President backed by Moscow attempted to clear the situation on the ground the last 48 hours. It won’t be neither the end nor a new start though, for this split country. As long as Ukraine’s political elite remains deeply divided and powered by individual drivers, without a minimum of patriotic consensus, they cannot draft and implement a sustainable political and economic plan for an exit from the abyss. Consequently the country will continue drifting between east and west until it finds common denominators of its own.

The tens of lost lives though speak of a real civil war Ukraine has not yet avoided.

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