Understanding the Ukrainian Crisis: Part III – The Wrath of EuroMaidan
The election of Yanukovych and the events which led to his ousting
Mr. Seurat is our first featured columnist. He will be submitting weekly (or even bi-weekly) updates on current events. You may contact him at [email protected] with any questions.
We find ourselves now in the present decade. Viktor Yanukovych has seized the presidency in what is found to be the freest and fairest election in Ukrainian history1. His Party of Regions, a pro-Russian political party with its base in the Russian speaking majorities of the Eastern and Southern provinces, begins to move their country economically and politically closer to the Russian Federation, as well as the European Union. In the previous decade, the Ukrainian economy had experience rapid economic growth as the country strengthened its ties with both parties, and as such, it was expected that Yanukovych would continue this trend.
However, in November of 2013, the Rada (Ukrainian parliament) suspended talks with the European Union for closer relations after the EU demanded the Ukraine reform its political system and the Russian Federation suspended its exports (effectively beginning a trade war). This action served as the impetus for the EuroMaidan protests. Before the end of the day, Nov 21st, 2013, Ukrainians began to fill the streets of Kiev in opposition to the move.
As the winter wore on into December and January, the protests grew in size. What had begun as a small group of dedicated pro-EU activists grew into a sizeable coalition of opposition protestors2, calling for either continued talks with the EU or the resignation of the current government. The protests grew violent as opportunists and anarchists joined the crowds, inciting them to violence. As the Berkut Riot Police (as they are called) began meeting these violent protesters with heavy handed responses, the protests grew more and more deadly (just as in Ferguson, MI, where the peaceful protests were overshadowed by violent opportunists). By February, there was full on fighting in the capital, as Yanukovych finally gave the order to fire on the protesters following incidents of lethal force being exercised by protestors (Molotov cocktails, thrown rocks, and crowd beatings of officers who had strayed too far from the line.)
As international pressure from the EU and the United States grew, and as their safety was being increasingly threatened, Yanukovych and his party of Regions fled the capital and went into exile. In the absence of the leading party, and in an incredibly controversial and technically illegal decision, the remaining members of the Rada voted to impeach Yanukovych (the necessary super-majority of parliament was not present to begin Impeachment proceedings, as the Party of Regions had fled.)4
With the ruling party effectively destroyed as the Party of Regions scattered, a new coalition government took charge promising elections soon afterward. These have, as of August 27th, 2014, not occurred. The coalition is composed of the “All-Ukrainian Union ‘Fatherland’” party, or Batkivshchyna, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (led by Vitaly Klitschko), and Svoboda, or “freedom”.
What to expect in the next issue of “Understanding the Ukrainian Crisis”
Before moving on to the Crimean Crisis which followed these protests, we will address the interim government formed by these three parties and learn about their ideologies and platforms.
1: This is not saying all that much
2: It is important to note that no true leadership can claim to represent the interests of all protesters
3: In Ferguson, police have arrested many rioters from outside the Ferguson area who’ve been found to be taking advantage of the situation and looting stores.
4: http://www.rferl.org/content/was-yanukovychs-ouster-constitutional/25274346.html This article examines the legality of the move