Posts Tagged ‘viktor yanukovych’

U.S. HOUSE BACKS UKRAINE’S ‘DEMOCRATIC, EUROPEAN’ HOPES

February 11, 2014

Radio Free Europe on February 11, 2014, reported that the U.S. House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a resolution expressing support for “democratic and European aspirations” in Ukraine and calling on authorities there to respect democratic rights and free protest detainees. Excerpts below:

House Resolution 447 also states support for “the people of Ukraine[‘s]…right to choose their own future free of intimidation and fear.”

The resolution also calls on Ukrainian authorities to respect the rights of those Ukrainians protesting in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine in support of a democratic future for their country.

Ukraine has been rocked by demonstrations since President Viktor Yanukovych balked at signing the association agreement in November.

The U.S. resolution also “calls on the Government of Ukraine to bring to justice those responsible for violence against peaceful protesters, and to release and drop criminal charges against those detained for exercising their democratic rights.”

It says Washington should consider targeted sanctions against officials who either engage in or authorize violence against protesters.

The resolution was introduced by Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York. It passed on February 10 by a vote of 381-2.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, said those responsible for the use of excessive force against antigovernment protesters in Ukraine should be brought to justice.

Muiznieks visited Ukraine February 5-10, when his team interviewed dozens of people who were injured or detained during the protests and also met health professionals who had treated people for injuries.

In a statement on February 10, Muiznieks said: “It is not necessary to crack people’s skulls and knock out several of their teeth in order to apprehend them. At the same time, it is not necessary to aim rubber bullets at persons’ heads in order to bring a crowd under control or counter violence by protesters.”

He also voiced concern over cases of abductions and the use of nonofficial individuals to police demonstrations.

UKRAINE OPPOSITION APPEALS FOR AID FROM WEST

February 3, 2014

Daily Telegraph of London on February 2, 2014, reported that the opposition movement in Ukraine requests financial aid from Western powers that have pledged support for the protest movement against President Viktor Yanukovych. Excerpts below:

Ukraine’s opposition has called for international mediation and appealed for financial aid from the West for the first time in their protests against President Viktor Yanukovych.

Vitali Klitschko, the boxer-turned-politician, told crowds at a rally attended by thousands in Kiev that they needed Western powers, who have already pledged their support for the opposition movement, to get involved in negotiations with Mr Yanukovych so there are “no misunderstandings”.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a former foreign minister, went further, calling for aid: “We spoke to our Western partners and told them that we need real financial aid,” he said.

“They are ready to do it. By ‘we’, I mean the Ukrainian people. Not a single kopeck should go to the Yanukovych regime,” he said.

The country is struggling to break free of a painful recession and Russia has put its $15 billion (£9 million) package on hold until a new government is formed.

Protesters seeking Mr Yanukovych’s resignation held one of their largest gatherings in recent weeks on Sunday, with about 30,000 people assembling at the main protest site in Kiev’s central square.

The opposition is pressing for more concessions from Mr Yanukovych, including the immediate and unconditional release of all the scores of protesters arrested so far.

Mr Klitschko said they were “hostages” and called for the scrapping of an amnesty law approved by Mr Yanukovych last week that only allows the release if occupied official buildings are vacated within two weeks.

“The Ukrainian people have shown and have proven that they are able to defend their decision on Europe despite repressive measures being taken,” Mr Klitschko said.

The protest movement is also asking for a presidential election scheduled in 2015 to be brought forward to this year, while demonstrators in the streets want Mr Yanukovych to resign immediately.

UKRAINE ACTIVIST SAYS HE WAS KIDNAPPED IN LATEST ATTACK ON PROTESTERS

February 1, 2014

Fox News on January 31, 2014, published an AP report on police opening an investigation into the kidnapping of an opposition activist, who said he was held captive for more than a week and tortured in the latest in a string of mysterious attacks on anti-government protesters in the two-month-long political crisis. Excerpts below:

Dmytro Bulatov, 35, a member of Automaidan, a group of car owners that has taken part in the protests against President Viktor Yanukovych, went missing Jan. 22.

Bulatov was discovered outside Kiev on January 30. He said his kidnappers beat him severely, drove nails into his hands, sliced off a piece of ear and cut his face. He said he was kept in the dark all the time and could not identify the kidnappers. After more than a week of beatings, they eventually dumped him in a forest.

“They crucified me, they nailed down my hands. They cut off my ear, they cut my face. There isn’t a spot on my body that hasn’t been beaten,” Bulatov said on Channel 5 television. “Thank God, I am alive.”

Bulatov’s face and clothes were covered in clotted blood, his hands were swollen and bore the marks of nails.
Opposition leader Petro Poroshenko rushed to the hospital where Bulatov was taken.

Police said the car he was driving when he disappeared had been found.

Automaidan members had come under tremendous pressure during the protests, with their cars burnt and activists detained, harassed and threatened.

Bulatov is among three activists whose disappearances have shocked the country, especially after one of them was found dead.


European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton issued a statement saying she was “appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture and cruel treatment” of Bulatov. She also condemned the death of Verbitsky.

“These are but two cases of the continuous deliberate targeting of organizers and participants of peaceful protests,” Ashton said. “All such acts are unacceptable and must immediately be stopped. It is the authorities’ responsibility to take all necessary measures to address the current atmosphere of intimidation and impunity which allows for such acts to take place.

All unlawfully detained people have to be released and perpetrators brought to justice.”

Negotiations between the authorities and the opposition on finding a way out of the crisis appeared to have stalled on January 30, after Yanukovych took an unexpected sick leave and told opposition leaders that it was now up to them to make concessions.

Yanukovych’s allies in parliament also passed a bill offering to grant amnesty to protesters, but only after they vacate scores of government buildings they have seized across the country. Yanukovych signed the bill into law on January 31, but the opposition has rejected the offer, saying it amounts to Yanukovych taking demonstrators as hostages. It has insisted that protesters must be freed without any conditions.

KILLED PROTESTER MOURNED IN UKRAINE AMID CRISIS

January 27, 2014

Fox News on January 26, 2013, published an AP report on thousands of Ukrainians chanted “Hero!” and sang the national anthem, as a coffin carrying a protester who was killed in last week’s clashes with police was carried through the streets of the capital, underscoring the rising tensions in the country’s two-month political crisis. Excerpts below:

Mikhail Zhiznevsky, 25, was one of three protesters who died in clashes Wednesday.

“He could have been my fiance, but he died defending my future so that I will live in a different Ukraine,” said Nina Uvarov, a 25-year-old student from Kiev who wept as Zhiznevsky’s body was carried out of St. Michael’s Cathedral.

The opposition contends that Zhiznevsky and another activist were shot by police in an area where demonstrators had been throwing rocks and firebombs at riot police for several days. The government claims the two demonstrators were killed with hunting rifles, which they say police do not carry. The authorities would not say how the third protester died.

Meanwhile, protests against President Viktor Yanukovych continued to engulf the country, now beginning to spread to central and eastern Ukraine, the leader’s support base.

In Dnipropetrovsk, 240 miles southeast of Kiev on the Dnipro River, several hundred demonstrators tried to storm a local administration building, but police drove them back with water sprayed from a fire truck in subfreezing temperatures, the Interfax news agency reported. In Zaporozhets, about 45 miles down river, demonstrators gathered outside the city administration building.

Zhiznevsky’s body was then carried several hundred yards to Independence Square in central Kiev, where protesters have established a large tent camp and held demonstrations around the clock since early December. Crowds shouted “Yanukovych is a murderer!” and “Down with the criminal,” a reference to Yanukovych’s run-ins with the law during his youth. The coffin was then carried to the site of Zhiznevsky’s death at barricades near the Ukrainian parliament.

A crowd on late January 25 besieged a building, throwing fireworks, firebombs and rocks, near the protest tent camp where about 200 police were sheltering. By early the next morning, a corridor was created, allowing police to leave.

On January 26, activists were cleaning up the devastated Ukrainian House building, sweeping broken glass and furniture, but also the trash left there by police.

The overnight outburst came soon after opposition leaders issued a defiant response to Yanukovych’s offer to make Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of their top figures, the country’s prime minister…He vowed protests will continue.

About half of Ukraine’s people favored deeper integration with the EU, according to polls, and many Ukrainians widely resent Russia’s long influence over the country.

In the past week, demonstrators have seized government administration buildings in a score of cities in western Ukraine, where Yanukovych’s support is weak and desire for European ties is strong.

Zhiznevsky was from Belarus, a neighboring ex-Soviet country where hardline President Alexander Lukashenko has jailed and harassed his opponents. Vladimir Neklyaev, a Belarusian opposition leader, came to Kiev to bid farewell to Zhiznevsky.

“Ukraine is showing Belarus an example of how one should fight for freedom,” Neklyaev said. “I am sure that our countries have a common future in Europe, where neither Ukrainians nor Belarusians will die.”

Despite an offer to release activists and stop more persecutions, the government continued a crackdown, with over 40 detained in the central city of Cherkasy after a protest, according to prosecutors.

UKRAINIAN PROTESTERS OCCUPY GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS – PRESIDENT UNDER INCREASED PRESSURE

January 24, 2014

Fox News on January 24, 2014, reported that protesters have erected new barricades and seized a government building in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev while also maintaining the siege of several governors’ offices in the country’s west, raising the pressure on the government after a critical meeting with the president.

After meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych, opposition leaders told the crowds that he has promised to ensure the release of dozens of protesters detained after clashes with police and stop further detentions. They urged the protesters to maintain a shaky truce following violent street battles in the capital,…

…some protesters were still resistant. Early Friday, the protesters broke into the downtown building of the Ministry of Agricultural Policy, meeting no resistance.

On January 23, demonstrators again set aflame barricades of tires that had been quenched when opposition leaders offered the deadline.

The clash site is a few hundred yards away from the protester tent camp on Independence Square, where around-the-clock demonstrations have been held since early December.

At least two people were killed by gunfire at the clash site on Wednesday. Demonstrators had pelted riot police with barrages of stones and set police buses on fire, while the officers responded with rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades.

Enraged protesters stormed government offices in three western Ukraine cities on January 23, forcing one governor to write a letter of resignation, as demonstrations intensified outside Kiev.

The president called a special session of parliament next week to discuss the tensions, telling the parliament speaker: “The situation demands an urgent settlement.” But there was no indication that the move represented a compromise, since the president’s backers hold a majority of seats.

Support for Yanukovych is virtually non-existent in western Ukraine and most residents want closer ties to the 28-nation EU.

In Lviv, a city in near the Polish border 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Kiev, hundreds of activists burst Thursday into the office of regional governor Oleh Salo, a Yanukovych appointee, shouting “Revolution!” and singing Christmas carols.

After surrounding him and forcing him to sign a resignation letter, an activist ripped it out of Salo’s hands and lifted it up to the cheers and applause of the crowd. Salo later retracted his signature, saying he had been coerced.

Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters smashed windows, broke doors and stormed into the governor’s office in the city of Rivne, shouting “Down with the gang!” — a common reference to Yanukovych’s government. Once inside, they sang the national anthem.

Angry crowds also besieged government offices in other western regions.

Meanwhile, anger spread after a video was released online appearing to show police abusing and humiliating a naked protester in what looked like a location close to the site of the Kiev clashes.

In the video, a young man, his body covered in multiple bruises, wearing nothing but socks, is made to stand on the snow in freezing temperatures, while a policeman punches him in the head and others force him to pose for photos.

The Interior Ministry issued a statement, apologizing “for the impermissible actions of people wearing police uniforms” and launched an investigation into the incident.

The opposition maintains that as many as five people died in the clashes, but say they have no evidence as the bodies were removed by authorities.

The Interior Ministry said Thursday that 73 people have been detained, 52 of whom are being investigated for “mass riots” — a new criminal charge that carries a prison sentence of up to eight years.

The United States has revoked the visas of Ukrainian officials linked to violence and threatened more sanctions. …it welcomed Yanukovych’s face-to-face talks with the opposition as a “necessary first step toward resolving this crisis.”

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said January 23 that if the situation in Ukraine does not stabilize, the EU “would assess possible consequences in its relationship.” Barroso also said he had received assurances from Yanukovych that the Ukrainian leader did not foresee the need to impose a state of emergency.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UKRAINE OPPOSITION SNUBS TALKS – PRESIDENT YANUKOVYCH MUST TAKE PART

January 21, 2014

Wall Street Journal on January 20, 2014, reported that efforts to solve the political crisis in Ukraine foundered as opposition leaders refused to take part in talks with the government unless President Viktor Yanukovych joined the discussions. Excerpts below:

Hundreds of protesters, mostly masked and wearing helmets, lined up opposite riot police for a second day, throwing Molotov cocktails and cobblestones, and banging on makeshift drums. Police tossed stones back at protesters, fired rubber bullets and sprayed water on the ground in front of their lines that turned to ice in freezing temperatures.

Both sides said dozens had been injured since the clashes.

The escalation came amid frustration among younger and more radical protesters with the week long occupation of Independence Square in central Kiev, which has yielded few concessions.

Thousands of demonstrators have stood on the square since November to demand the government resign after it walked away from a trade and political deal with the EU and accepted a Russian bailout instead.


Opposition leaders have criticized the violence but said it was a result of Mr. Yanukovych ignoring their demands, including for snap presidential elections.

“I call on all citizens and patriots to defend their country and their future,” opposition leader and former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko said. “Get in cars, minibuses, buses. You’re needed here so that Ukraine wins and not Yanukovych.”

After talks with Mr. Klitschko, Mr. Yanukovych ordered his national security adviser to arrange talks between the government and the opposition.

Mr. Klitschko said the opposition wouldn’t take part unless Mr. Yanukovych did. Opposition leaders sent their deputies to talks with Mr. Yanukovych’s representatives with a list of demands including repealing the new laws.

Some in the opposition say they are concerned that the offer of talks, announced late Sunday night, was a ruse to calm tensions and buy time before launching a crackdown.

CLASHES ERUPT AT KYIV RALLY

January 20, 2014

Radio Free Europe on January 19, 2014, reported a tense standoff between antigovernment demonstrators and riot police continued overnight in Kyiv following clashes in the Ukrainian capital. Excerpts below:

The violence on January 19 came after tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Independence Square in defiance of new antiprotest legislation.

Protesters attacked police with sticks as they tried to push their way toward the parliament building, which had been cordoned off by rows of police and buses.

Stun grenades were used and smoke was seen above the crowd.

One police bus was destroyed and set alight. The flames of the burning bus could be seen from far away.

As clashes continued reports emerged that boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko had met with President Viktor Yanukovych at his presidential residence outside Kyiv.

Klitschko later tweeted that Yanukovych had agreed to set up a committee to settle the political crisis.

On his website, Yanukovych said that he had tasked a working group — headed by national security head Andriy Klyuev — to meet with opposition representatives on January 20 to work out a solution to the crisis.

The White House urged an end to the violence, with National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden saying that Washington was deeply concerned and urging “all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation.”

Hayden said Ukraine’s government “has moved to weaken the foundations of Ukraine’s democracy by criminalizing peaceful protest and stripping civil society and political opponents of key democratic protections under the law.”

She called on Ukraine to repeal recent legislation limiting protests, to remove riot police from downtown Kyiv, and to start talking to the opposition.

“The U.S. will continue to consider additional steps — including sanctions — in response to the use of violence,” Hayden said in a statement.

The new legislation — signed into law by Yanukovych on January 16 — bans any unauthorized installation of tents, stages, or amplifiers. It also prohibits protesters from covering their faces or from wearing construction hats.

The legislation allows for prison terms of up to 15 years for the “mass violation” of public order.

The new laws also require nongovernmental organizations to register as “foreign agents” if they are funded from abroad, mirroring a similar rule on the books in Russia.

The new legislation was passed by a show of hands in the parliament after the opposition blocked access to the podium and the electronic voting system.

Opposition lawmakers said the way the laws were passed was unconstitutional and declared the legislation null and void.

Also on January 16, opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk declared the start of opposition-sponsored referendums and elections for new government bodies and officials in Ukraine.

“We are starting popular voting on the lack of confidence [in the government] and over the dismissal of [Ukrainian President] Viktor Yanukovych,” he said.

He also said a popular vote would be held to elect an alternative Kyiv City Council and mayor of Kyiv.

Tensions remain high in Ukraine since Yanukovych’s abrupt decision late in November not to sign a deal with the EU, sparking some of the biggest protests in the country since the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Yanukovych allegedly changed course after pressure from the Kremlin, which has since offered financial aid and cheaper gas to cash-strapped Ukraine.

Analysts say the protests do not appear to have shaken Yanukovych’s hold on power. But Yanukovych’s decision late on January 17 to sack his chief of staff, analysts say, indicates that tensions are simmering within the Ukrainian leader’s inner circle.

The president’s office gave no reason for the dismissal of Serhiy Lyovochkin.

The AFP news agency quotes an unnamed Ukrainian official as saying Yanukovych’s spokeswoman, Darka Chepak, is also considering stepping down.

“Turmoil in regime in Kyiv. Reports of resignations, dismissals and general uncertainty,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt wrote on Twitter.

UKRAINE’S SECOND ORANGE REVOLUTION – FREEDOM-SEEKERS ARE RESISTING MOSCOW’S MEDDLING ONCE AGAIN

December 15, 2013

Washington Times on December 12, 2013, published an article by Jeffrey T. Kuhner on the second Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Who lost Ukraine? This is the question many Western policymakers are asking following recent dramatic events in the former Soviet republic. The country’s pro-Kremlin leader, President Viktor Yanukovych, is on the verge of permanently consigning Ukraine to Russia’s sphere of influence. This would be a major victory for Russian strongman Vladimir Putin — maybe his most dangerous achievement so far. If Ukraine falls under Moscow’s orbit, then Mr. Putin will be close to attaining his central geopolitical goal: restoring a great Russian empire. Hence, what hangs in the balance is not just the fate of Ukraine, but Eastern Europe as well. Excerpts below:

Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving protesters have poured onto the streets of Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. A statue of Vladimir Lenin was toppled. Police forces have raided the headquarters of opposition parties.

The deal, however, was more than simply about free trade. It signified Ukraine’s desire to join the West and fulfill its civilizational destiny.

This is why Russia objected. Behind the scenes, the Kremlin exerted tremendous pressure. Mr. Yanukovych was compelled to not sign the treaty.

Mr. Putin made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: Take the money — and the Kremlin’s terms — or suffer the fate of former President Viktor Yushchenko, who was poisoned (and his face badly disfigured) for standing up to Moscow’s imperial designs. Mr. Yanukovych is afraid of being poisoned. He has surrounded himself with an entourage of food tasters, especially when traveling abroad.

The Kremlin’s thuggish tactics have worked. Mr. Yanukovych is now planning to have Kiev join Mr. Putin’s pet project: reviving the former Soviet empire through the creation of a Eurasian customs union comprising Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova.

When students protested Mr. Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the EU trade pact, he called in the riot police. On television, millions of Ukrainians saw the horrible pictures of students being savagely beaten. Many were then imprisoned on trumped-up charges. The state-sanctioned violence sparked national outrage, triggering the mass protests that threaten to overthrow the Yanukovych regime. The scenes are eerily reminiscent of the 2004 “Orange Revolution,” when pro-democracy Ukrainian patriots succeeded in overturning a rigged presidential vote.

At a conference on Ukraine in Ottawa, Canada, several years ago, I warned the Ukrainian students in the audience that Mr. Putin would never let Kiev go. Some laughed, claiming I was a virulent Russophobe. The joke is now on them.

Putin is nostalgic for a monstrous totalitarian regime responsible for the deaths of more than 40 million — including the genocidal terror famine known as “the Harvest of Sorrow,” which claimed between 7 million and 10 million Ukrainian lives. Ukraine was the cradle of anti-communist resistance within the former Soviet Union.

This is why Soviet leaders, such as Josef Stalin, sought to smash any semblance of Ukrainian nationhood. Stalin waged a war against the Ukrainian peasantry in the hopes of breaking Ukraine’s backbone. He failed, but this explains Mr. Putin’s obsession with subjugating Kiev. He has never forgiven Ukraine for its fierce opposition to Soviet domination.

Mr. Putin despises Ukrainian nationalism. At a 2008 NATO meeting, the Russian strongman told then-President George W. Bush, “Ukraine is not a real country.” Rather, Mr. Putin said, it was a “gift” from Moscow. He publicly refers to Ukraine as “Little Russia.”

Yet, his bellicose revanchism masks a deep fear. If Ukraine were to escape Moscow’s grip and become part of the European community, it would pose a mortal threat to Mr. Putin’s rule. Ukraine is a large, Orthodox, Slavic country that neighbors Russia. A democratic and prosperous Ukraine — anchored in Western institutions and based on the rule of law — would reveal to the Russian people that a viable alternative to a mafia state exists. Ukraine’s example would spill over, forcing Russians to confront Mr. Putin’s authoritarian kleptocracy.

The protests in Kiev are more than just about the future of the Yanukovych regime. It is about fulfilling the dreams and hopes of the Orange Revolution. It is a battle for Ukraine’s heart and soul. Ukrainians now face a stark choice: Continue sliding toward the Kremlin’s moral darkness and political abyss or stand tall as a member of the European community of nations. Embrace the old hammer and sickle or the blue and yellow. Patriots should rise up. They have nothing to lose but their chains.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio host on WRKO AM-680 in Boston.

ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTERS IN UKRAINE TOPPLE LENIN STATUE – “GOOD BYE COMMUNIST LEGACY!”

December 9, 2013

Fox News on December 8, 2013 published an AP report on angry anti-government protesters toppling a statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin in the center of Kiev and blocking key government buildings amid huge street protests, raising the stakes in an escalating standoff with President Viktor Yanukovych. Excerpts below:

It was the biggest protest in the former Soviet republic since Ukraine’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution in 2004…

The West pressed for a peaceful settlement.

Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians flooded the center of Kiev, the capital, to demand Yanukovych’s ouster after he ditched ties with the EU in favor of Russia and sent police to break up an earlier protest in the nearly three-week standoff.

“Ukraine is tired of Yanukovych. We need new rules. We need to completely change those in power,” said protester Kostyantyn Meselyuk, 42. “Europe can help us.”

Packing Independence Square as far as the eye could see, Ukrainians waving European Union flags sang the national anthem and shouted “Resignation!” and “Down the with Gang!” in a reference to Yanukovych’s regime.

“I am convinced that after these events, dictatorship will never survive in our country,” world boxing champion and top opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told reporters. “People will not tolerate when they are beaten, when their mouths are shut, when their principles and values are ignored.”

As darkness fell, the conflict escalated further with protesters blockading key government buildings in Kiev with cars, barricades and tents.
The protests have had an anti-Russian component because Russia had worked aggressively to derail the EU deal with threats of trade retaliation against Ukraine.

About a kilometer (0.6 miles) from the main square, one group of anti-government protesters toppled the city’s landmark statue of Lenin and decapitated it Sunday evening.

Protesters then took turns beating on the torso of the fallen statue, while others lined up to collect a piece of the stone. The crowd chanted “Glory to Ukraine!”

“Goodbye, Communist legacy,” Andriy Shevchenko, an opposition lawmaker, wrote on Twitter.

The demonstrations erupted last month after Yanukovych shelved a long-planned treaty with the 28-nation European Union to focus on ties with Russia. They were also galvanized by police violence and fears that Yanukovych was on the verge of bringing his country into a Russian-led economic alliance, which critics say could end Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“It’s not just a simple revolution,” Oleh Tyahnybok, an opposition leader with the national Svoboda party, told the crowd in a fiery speech from a giant stage. “It’s a revolution of dignity.”

Yet a solution to the crisis appeared elusive, with the government making no concessions and the opposition issuing contradictory statements on how to proceed.

Heeding the opposition’s calls, thousands of protesters blocked the approach to key government buildings in Kiev by erecting barricades, setting up tents and parking vehicles, including a giant dump truck.

“We are extending our demonstration. We are going to fight until victory. We will fight for what we believe in,” opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told protesters on Independence Square, which was drowning in a sea of flags.

The West, meanwhile, scrambled to avoid violence and urged dialogue.

In a phone conversation with Yanukovych, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso stressed “the need for a political” solution and dispatched EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to Kiev next week to mediate a solution. Yanukovych also discussed the crisis with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The protest Sunday in sub-zero December temperatures took place on Independence Square, known as the Maidan, in an echo of the Orange Revolution. Those protests annulled Yanukovych’s fraud-tainted presidential victory in 2004, and ushered his pro-Western opponents into power. Yanukovych returned to the presidency in the 2010 vote.

During a huge demonstration a week ago, several hundred radical protesters hurled stones and attacked police as they tried to storm the presidential office. That prompted a violent breakup by the authorities in which dozens were beaten and injured, including peaceful protesters, passers-by and journalists.

NATIONS IN TRANSIT 2013

June 20, 2013

Freedom House has published Nations in Transit 2013: Authoritarian Aggression and the Pressures of Austerity, a comprehensive, comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia. Excerpts below on Ukraine:

This edition covers the period from January 1 through December 31, 2012 and measures progress according to the following indicators: electoral process, civil society, independent media, national democratic governance, local democratic governance, judicial framework and independence, and corruption.

…in Central Europe, a public backlash against unpopular austerity measures de¬stabilized several governments in 2012, testing the durability of democratic institutions. Despite frequent government changes and heightened political polarization, most states in the region were able to respond to mounting pressure without significantly straying from core democratic norms.

Notable Trends in Nations in Transit 2013 include:

abuses in Ukraine

The president’s concentration of power in the executive branch and misuse of the judiciary for political purposes has undermined the system of checks and balances, threatening Ukraine’s pluralistic political model with growing authoritarianism.

Viktor Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election, and a Constitutional Court decision later that year reversed 2004 constitutional amendments that had shifted power from the presidency to the prime minister and parliament. According to the revised charter, the parliament is no longer authorized to appoint and dismiss cabinet ministers, though it retains the right to confirm the prime minister, who is appointed by the president. In practice, the parliament lost its authority over the executive branch.

Former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, leader of the opposition party Batkivshchyna (Fatherland), was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2011 for “misuse of power,” and one of her key allies also remained in prison during 2012 after what were widely seen as politically motivated trials. Nevertheless, three major opposition political forces—Batkivshchyna, the United Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR), and Svoboda (Freedom)—secured a combined 50 percent of the vote during the 2012 parliamentary elections, demonstrating a strong desire for change among voters.

Yanukovych has rearranged the structures of national governance, putting an emphasis on personal connections and the predominance of the executive over the legislature and judiciary. His close entourage, known as the Family (with the president’s son, Oleksandr, playing a key role), occupies important positions in the government, which dramatically strengthens its position in the economy and politics.

The parliamentary elections held on 28 October were widely recognized as a step backward from previously achieved democratic standards. An election law adopted a year before the vote introduced a mixed proportional/majoritarian voting system that favored the ruling Party of Regions, allowing it and its coalition allies to sustain a slim majority even though most of electorate did not vote for it. Party of Regions candidates in majoritarian districts benefited from administrative resources, contributing to international monitors’ conclusion that the elections were characterized by “the lack of a level playing field.”

The imprisonment of Tymoshenko and a key ally, former interior minister Yuriy Lutsenko, barred them from running in the elections.