Feature

Ukraine: A pro-Europe people with pro-Russia leaders

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are united in fury against President Viktor Yanukovych.

This is “a new revolution,” said Ivan Farion in Vysoky Zamok(Ukraine).A million Ukrainians have packed European Square in Kiev to express their “anger, pain, and hope.” They are united in fury against President Viktor Yanukovych, and not merely because he backed out of an agreement to forge closer ties to the European Union, choosing instead to pursue ties with Russia. His ordering a violent crackdown on that peaceful gathering is what really made him “illegitimate in the eyes of the protesters.” Now the protesters are appealing to those members of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions “who may not support the criminal policies of the current government,” asking them to “move to the side of the people” and “form a new, pro-European majority” in parliament.

In the meantime, the protesters have got to “maintain the moral high ground,” said Ivan Kapsamun in Den (Ukraine). The government has “paid provocateurs” lurking in the crowds trying to incite violence against the police and government buildings. Demonstrators have to be vigilant and denounce any actions the government could use to justify sending tanks against them. The struggle is taking place on the ground in Kiev, “but we must not forget our goal: European integration.” The EU needs to speak up, said Le Monde (France) in an editorial. We Western Europeans have been “blind for too long to what is at stake in the struggle for Kiev.” It’s time for leaders in Brussels and European capitals to “say loudly and clearly that they support the peaceful European aspirations of the Ukrainian people.”

It would take more than words to change Ukraine’s path, said Anatoly Medetsky in The Moscow Times (Russia). Ukraine needs a reliable trade partner—and the EU is not it. Ukrainian exports to both the EU and Russia fell last year, and the economy has been shrinking. Yet the International Monetary Fund would only give Ukraine a rescue loan with extremely harsh conditions attached, and Ukrainian leaders said that severity was “the last drop that tilted the balance in favor of Moscow.”

In fact, the EU doesn’t care about the Ukrainian people, said Nikita Krichevsky in Nezavisimaya Gazeta (Russia). Brussels is “whipping up hysteria over Ukraine’s rejection” of associate EU membership only because it wants “to annex a new market for sales of the EU member countries’ products.” Look at the countries of Central and Eastern Europe: After they joined the EU, they grew more slowly than when they were free and alone. Ukraine’s government knows that its people need to stick with Russia—even if the demonstrators in European Square don’t.

That’s why this protest is doomed to fail, said Peter Schutz in Sme (Slovakia). Hundreds of thousands of people may be in the streets this week, but “that does nothing to change reality.” The opposition may think that Yanukovych has been discredited, but “Russia’s Gazprom is rich enough to convince the Ukrainian voters, for example with cheap gas,” to choose Russia over the EU as its main partner. Even if Yanukovych is ousted, look in the next election for “another Russian puppet to become president.”

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