Hours after the government of the Ukraine and civilian protesters came to a truce, violence once again erupted in the streets of Kiev. European diplomats believe the truce was broken by the government and have reached an agreement to put economic sanctions on Ukrainian authorities who are allegedly linked to the civilian violence. However, Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov said imposing sanctions on Ukrainian officials was a form of blackmail to President Viktor Yanukovych: a comment suggesting that Western help is frightening Russia’s powerful.
The protests in Ukraine began on Nov. 21, 2013 when President Yanukovych backtracked on signing an historic trade deal with the European Union, whose backers say would have led to greater economic and democratic inclusion for the nation. President Yanukovych instead announced a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, wherein Russia will pay a 15 billion dollar Ukrainian debt while simultaneously cutting the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas.
Following the announcement, protests broke out in Independence Square in Kiev on Jan. 22. The first two deaths of Kiev’s protests were reported that day. The situation looked hopeful this Wednesday after a truce was established, but the violence began again on Thursday, with some reporting a death toll of 100 people.
While prominent members of the European Union have been quick to defend the protesters and blame the present violence on the Ukrainian President, Russia has taken a different position.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said the “entire responsibility for…radical forces in Ukraine falls squarely on the opposition.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov said foreign diplomats from France, Poland and Germany were sent on an “uninvited mission” from the European Union.
The Russian ministry published a statement “demanding the [opposition] leaders on the streets…stop the violence in their country.” The document also said the protesters should “immediately resume dialogue with the lawful government.”
The extensive public dialogue pouring out of Russia is an attempt to assert prowess by President Vladimir Putin and his officials, in the region. When frightened, be fearful. Russian officials are justifiably defensive in the face of the protests.
In the last two decades, Russia has witnessed numerous “color revolutions,” or peaceful demonstrations across former Soviet Union states. While some failed, others succeeded. And the key ingredient in the successful revolutions was Western support.
Georgia’s 2003 “Rose Revolution” held massive protests demanding the resignation of then President, Eduard Shevardnadze. When the people took to the streets, diplomatic support for Shevardnadze weakened. Then US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles voiced support for the opposition. In addition, the United States Agency for International Development paid 1.5 million dollars to computerize voting in Georgia. The revolution ousted Shevardnadze.
Kyrgyzstan was witness to the “Tulip Revolution,” in 2005. The demonstrations, which turned violent, insisted then President Askar Akayev and his family be removed from the government. Givi Targamadze, a defensive diplomat for Georgia, asked the advice of successful protest leaders and went on to advise the Kyrgyz opposition front-runners. Governmental funds from the United States helped push this movement towards success. Akayev was overthrown.
Perhaps the most important “color revolution” to Ukraine today was Ukraine’s own “Orange Revolution,” which took place in 2004. The 2004 presidential election was found to be wrought with corruption by a number of domestic and foreign election monitors. The Supreme Court ordered a re-vote between the candidates: Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych.
The United States Department for the Endowment of Democracy offered monetary support to the opposition while the courts were deciding the fate of the election. When the re-vote occurred, it reversed the original outcome and Yushchenko took on the presidency.
The other candidate is Ukraine’s current President Viktor Yanukovych who assumed the presidency in February 2010, after what was considered a fair and free election. Protesters are again taking to the streets to see the end of Yanukovych’s rule.
Russian officials are threatened by successful protests in former Soviet Union states. President Putin has seen Western-supported protests put powerful ends to powerful leaders. And the present demonstrations in Ukraine are no different. The people are rising and the West is at their backs.
Russian officials’ vehement words for Western support of Ukrainian protests is a seemingly aggressive message, veiling the fear that if Russian people were ever to take up arms, Putin would be in trouble.
Editorial By Erin P. Friar