The diplomatic war over Ukraine has continued amid claims of torture, as the U.S., EU, and Russia meet in Munich to discuss the crisis on streets of Kiev.
The President of the European Council fired one of the first shots by stating “the future of Ukraine belongs with the EU.” The Russians hit back by claiming that the world is being naive about the violence on the streets of Kiev, and who is committing it.
Others hit back at these claims by saying Moscow’s influence behind the scenes led to protests and the subsequent violent clashes, implying that Russia is trying to have its political cake and eat it too by acts of political aggression in the background and then crying foul over the consequences.
The U.S. has also made its case, that Ukraine must have an open and democratic government for its future security and well-being.
In the middle of these major power plays is a previously unknown activist, Dmytro Bulatov. A man who has claimed he was beaten and “crucified” after being arrested by the Ukrainian police. Bulatov was organizing convoys of vehicles to add weight to the protests in the cities when he was arrested. He claims he was repeatedly asked who was funding his activities, a line of questioning that is strongly reminiscent of the paranoia of the Soviet Union and its views on outsiders. Bulatov insisted that this was a spontaneous uprising by the people against the government’s policy of closer ties with Russia. Indeed, it is his torture claims that sit amid the diplomatic war over Ukraine.
The U.S. government has signaled its concern over Bulatov’s treatment, and many other reports of protester disappearances and the intimidation of journalists.
The European Union has renewed its offer of close economic, and likely subsequent political, partnership with Ukraine. European citizens may work, study, or travel without passports within the EU, and these opportunities strongly appeal to the youth of Ukraine, who are the bedrock of the protest movement. The tussle over Ukraine is also brought into focus by the situation in Belarus, another Russian neighbor, that is considered Europe’s last dictatorship. It is difficult for any western power to support Russian influence given these conditions and the conflict in Georgia a few years ago.
The U.S. expressed the view that Ukraine’s political and economic future cannot lay with just one country, and certainly not through coercion. The Russians responded by claiming that making such a choice was being forced on Ukraine, and Russia would have no part in it. However, this claim stands in contrast to the overarching political treaty that until the protests, would have cemented the Ukraine to Russia.
Russia has also repeatedly raised the issue of the far right in Ukraine. Some sections of the protest movement are associated with groups of neo-nazis that have used swastikas as symbols. These events are dismissed, however, as side issues carried out by hangers-on by both the U.S. and the EU, who see the overwhelming basis for the protest movement as pro-democracy.
Internal processes in the Ukrainian parliament have not broken down, and many are hoping that this issue will be resolved through dialog internally, bringing an end to the violence. However, Ukrainians were treated to the disturbing sight of a female lawmaker wearing a bulletproof vest while attending a session last week.
The diplomatic war for the Ukraine will continue, even amid claims of torture.
By Andrew Willig