Ukraine in Turmoil

Author: Anthony Monta

Euromaidan in Lviv | Wikimedia Commons

The Ukrainian government led by President Viktor Yanukovych is facing its twelfth day of popular protest and demonstrations following the President’s recent decision not to sign a landmark trade deal with the European Union.

Supporters of the trade deal (the Association Agreement with Europe) believe Ukraine’s future lies in western integration and the greater opening of borders to goods and travel. President Yanukovych however refused to sign the agreement on November 21 in Vilnius, arguing that financial incentives were too few and that an agreement would jeopardize trade agreements with Russia.

The scuttling of the deal has pushed Ukraine to a tipping point. Protestors put up barricades on Independence Square in Kiev, blockaded government sites and offices, called for a general strike, and defied bans on rallies. Protests drew as many as 350,000 people, the largest since the Orange Revolution of 2004. Demonstrators clashed with police, occupied a Trade Unions House, and demanded the ouster of the government. On November 30, the protestors and journalists were beaten by police.

Opposition leaders in Ukraine’s parliament failed today to secure a majority vote of no confidence to topple the cabinet of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. Officials in Ukraine’s western cities of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Ternopil called for continued strikes and protests. The mayor of Lviv for example called for its local police to defend the city against government forces.

Observing the forces at play and high stakes involved, members of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv see the protests as expressions of “complete distrust of and disgust with the ruling authorities. With their crude violence at night Nov 30th, it seems they lost all civic loyalty and their hypocrisy and reliance on brute power in the relationship with the society became manifest.”

Leaders of the university however have called for a peaceful resolution to the struggle: “the most challenging goal for now is how to convert the energy and solidarity of the millions in some practical steps and actions radical enough to change the balance of power in the country while keeping the peaceful character of the protest.”

Statement of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Response to the Government of Ukraine Suspending the European Integration Process
Statement of the Ukrainian Catholic University On the Provocations on the EuroMaidan
Photogallery – UKU students protest at Independence Square
Nanovic Institute partnership with post-Communist Catholic Universities

Follow the protests on Facebook

Additional recommended reading

The Economist
Sophia Opatska, CEO of Lviv Business School, UCU
Timothy Snyder, The New York Review of Books
Edward Lucas, How the West Lost Ukraine to Putin – Wall Street Journal
George Weigel, National Review Online
The Economist
Catholic News Service: Bishops lead protesters in prayer after night of police action in Kiev