Keeping up with the news about what’s going on out on EuroMaidan is a full-time job in itself. There are literally thousands of updates, reports, and full news analyses that have been posted since EuroMaidan kicked off on Thursday 21 November. Protestors hit the streets immediately, wasting not a minute of precious rallying time on European Square.
What turned into a couple thousand people was quickly tens of thousands that weekend, with demonstrators also taking up space on Maidan Nezalezhnosti – a quieter more intimate atmosphere as compared to the rallies just 500 metres down the road. Despite the Adidas gang being shipped in from the east, the rallies, for the most part, were peaceful, and remained as such throughout the entire week. There was still hope, after all, that our dear and fearless leader would change his mind at the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius on 28 –29 November.
Unfortunately, reason, among others, is a trait Viktor Yanukovych has lacked throughout his life, whether with regard to his presidency, his participation in what resulted in charge of robbery and assault in his earlier years, or nearly any other underhanded decision he has ever made – of which there have been many.
What began as disappointment in changing political gears, escalated to civil warfare when the order was made to send in the Berkut on students peacefully exercising their right to protest in the early morning hours of 30 November. Videos of the violence went viral – the country was in an uproar.
Many have argued that since the failed Orange Revolution of 2004, the country continues to suffer from a strangling air of apathy; as such, the reaction of Ukrainians in these last weeks is one no one could have predicted. If you have been down to what is known the world over as EuroMaidan, you’ll have noticed that barricades close off all exit points within a mile radius; various buildings, including the Kyiv City Administration and the Trade UNI0N buildings, have become homebases for people to catch a bit of shut-eye or snag a hot meal; a main stage keeps demonstrators entertained, inspired and active – thanks in no small part to morning aerobics classes, while a secondary stage, dubbed Open University, has been set up offering classes in history, business, law, and more, everyday from noon until 20.00; there are collection points for food, water, warm clothing, and wood stationed around the square; tours have begun for those fearful of walking about on their own; there is garbage collection – never has there been such a concerted effort to keep the city clean of refuse; and there is always someone on watch at any one of the numerous barricades. It is, for all intents and purposes, an village of rebellion.
While the number of people ebbs and flows on an hourly basis, there are always thousands upon thousands of likeminded people actively engaging in their right to peaceful protest, including The Three Wise Men, or the Opposition – Vitaliy Klitschko, Arseniy Yatseniuk, and Oleh Tyakhnybok, who have been very vocal and very visible throughout this last month, as well as, perhaps surprisingly, Ukrainian singer Ruslana – EuroMaidan’s dark horse, or energiser bunny as some call her.
Attracting people from all over the country, even the most unlikely of places – Donetsk, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Odesa, EuroMaidan has grown organically, and what was once an action in protest over the president’s decision to turn his back on Europe and make moves toward Russia, has turned into a movement in favour of fair, honest and legitimate government.
What’s interesting is that the international news downplays this aspect of the revolution, preferring to focus on the divide between Russia and Europe, with Ukraine caught in the middle. Perhaps this explanation is easier to swallow for the West, a part of the world, which – more or less – deals in democratic government. This certainly seems to be the case with all of the Western political personnel giving Ukraine their full and undivided attention in recent weeks, calling on Ukraine to continue its fight toward Europe.
A Free Land
While the eventual path toward the EU is what the majority of Ukrainians may feel is the right one, one of the biggest objectives in this fight for the country is to get rid of, once and for all, the backhanded, corrupt, fraudulent, duplicitous individuals currently sitting in power, who have been siphoning off billions from the country’s bank accounts for years. The question is, is it possible?
Like anything in this country, the answer isn’t always so straightforward. There is the geographical divide: in simple terms, the East and South have always been bastions of Russian power and influence, while the central and Western parts of the country take a westward leaning stance. From Donbass, President Viktor Yanukovych plays on this division, more often than not keeping his constituents most especially in the East plied with Russian propaganda. A large part of the populace in these areas continues to support him because they see him as being one of them. It should be noted here, the majority of the Ukrainian people do not have anything against Russia or its people. It’s the country’s, or rather Putin’s, political practices, many of which have trickled westward, Ukraine is fed up with.
Then there are the economic woes of the country, a large majority of which can be attributed to the current government and, more specifically, the Yanukovych family tapping into the state budget, among other genius scams. Currently, the country owes something to the tune of $17 billion, there are Russian gas payments that must be paid within the year and there is next to nil growth forecast for 2014. You’d think that this in itself would be enough to oust the current government. However, with Yanukovych on a mission to try and squeeze cash from wherever he can – including the IMF, the European UNI0N, Russia and even China, he’s not going to go down without a fight. So what happens next?
For Our Freedom
Sanctions seem like the right place to start. However, Serhiy Arbuzov, First Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine, has made claims that Ukraine will indeed sign the coveted Association Agreement with the European UNI0N closer to March of next year, buying the president a little time at least in a ship that is sinking oh-so-quickly.
On a trip here over 10 –11 December, EU Foreign Policy chief Catherine Ashton took the bait, saying, “Yanukovych made it clear to me that he intends to sign the Association Agreement.” In essence, what that means is that the EU will not only continue talking to the sultan of skullduggery, but they will not be imposing sanctions. Clearly, the EU doesn’t know much about how things work in this part of the world, or the baroness would be showing her teeth, instead of sporting that lovesick puppy dog look she was caught on camera with last week.
But she is not the only one: a visit from Senator John McCain last weekend prompted serious talks about sanctions too. Unfortunately, he wouldn’t guarantee their implementation. Even Canada, a country with the second largest population of Ukrainians in the world, has yet to double down on Yanukovych’s game. And despite pressure from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, which argues, “Canada should, together with its US and European allies, impose personal sanctions on those responsible for...violations akin to those provided for in the Magnitsky legislation,” no action has been taken.
So where does all of this leave the country? It’s a good question. Unfortunately it’s not one I have an answer to. Except to say that Ukraine’s glory most certainly has “not yet perished”. In fact, it is more alive today than it ever has been.
The Ukrainian National Anthem
Sche Ne Vmerla Ukraina (Ukraine's Glory Has Not Yet Perished) was first written as a patriotic poem by ethnographer Pavlo Chubynsky in 1862, who was influenced by the words and themes of Poland’s national anthem, Poland Is Not Yet Lost. Music to accompany the text was written by Western Ukrainian composer and Greek Catholic priest Mykhailo Verbytsky in 1863, and a year later, the work was performed for the first time at the Ukraine Theater in Lviv.
It was taken up as Ukraine’s national anthem when Ukraine first proclaimed its independence from Russia in 1917, and then once more in 1991, after its break from the Soviet UNI0N. The words are as poignant today as they were back when they were first written, triggering waves of patriotism among its choralists. For those who might not know the words but would like to join in whilst standing on Maidan with hand on heart, check out the transliteration below.
Ukraine’s glory has not yet perished, nor her freedom.
Upon us, fellow compatriots,
Fate shall smile once more.
Our enemies will vanish
Like dew in the morning sun.
And we too shall rule, brothers,
In a free land of our own.
Souls and bodies we’ll lay down,
All for our freedom.
And we’ll show that we, brothers,
Are of the Cossack nation!
Shche ne vmerla Ukrayiny
Ni slava, ni volya.
Shche nam, brattia molodiyi,
Zhynut nashi vorizhenky,
Yak rosa na sontsi.
Zapanuyem i my, brattia,
U svoyiy storontsi.
Dushu y tilo my polozhym,
Za nashu svobodu.
I pokazhem, shcho my, brattia,
by Lana Nicole