In the shadow of the intensely violent Syrian crisis, the Ukraine has all the makings of following down that exact road: a populace dissatisfied with the government. It begins with peaceful demonstrations. The Ukrainian people’s reason for dissent is the government’s choice to refuse a trade deal from the European Union and go to Russia instead. The demonstrations increase in size in the capital city of Kiev and the government introduces legislature restricting those demonstrations.
The protest laws includes a ban on demonstrators wearing helmets, prohibits the setting up of tents and sound equipment, as well as limits the number of vehicles in a convoy to five. These restrictions are seen as a means of curtailing freedom of speech. A separate Ministry order authorizes the use of firearms by riot police, providing the spark necessary for igniting the powder-keg of clashes between demonstrators, who are now protesters, and the government. Thus is born the kind of civil unrest in the Ukraine that already engulfs Syria.
Within the span of a couple of weeks, clashes between riot police and protesters has already created a death toll and in a manner similar to that in Syria, has given rise to abuses by the authorities. Attacks on journalists ensue, as well as reports of people missing, detained, and tortured.
However, the abuses during this civil conflict are not entirely one-sided. Reports of demonstrators beating officers and setting fire to their buses as well as burning tires become known. This is relatively mild compared to the deaths of demonstrators from shootings by riot police, with still hundreds injured.
Representatives from the EU have called for cease-fires and an end to the violence, saying that this is never a solution for political differences. Disquieting incidents of protesters being kidnapped and taken to undisclosed locations arise, as does the reports of dead bodies being found. Survivors relay stories of being beaten and cut up by riot police.
The civil unrest is a baby Syrian crisis in the making, with all the exact ingredients to become a full-blown civil war.
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has met with the opposition in an attempt to negotiate a lasting cease-fire, but has not given up any real ground towards a peaceful resolution. The opposition leaders are also calling for early elections—or at least the removal of all the ministers, but that seems unlikely to happen. Meanwhile the violence continues.
As it stands, the country is divided between the west who want trade with the EU, and the east that is pro-Russia. Still, Kiev remains at the center of the controversy surrounding the government’s role in the clashes, who still maintains that the police are not using live ammunition.
Will there be a lasting solution to the civil unrest in the Ukraine? At this point it’s a hard situation to call. There is a strong chance of ending it all before more deaths occur if only all sides took a step back and a hard look at the Syrian crisis, realize they are headed towards a country reduced to rubble and a horrendous body count, and make serious progress towards a resolution everyone can live with.
Editorial by Lee Birdine