Blood is shed these nights in Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian people occupy Maidan, the Independence Square in the heart of Kiev, to protest against Viktor Yanukovych, a president who stands for corruption, brutishness and a dedicated devotion to power, holding on to no matter the price.
In 2004 Ukraine already faced a similar scenario: the so called Orange Revolution. Thousands were on the streets to prevent the fraudulent election of Viktor Yanukovych as president, and in that they succeeded.
Yet two years later he and his party triumphed in parliamentary elections and he became prime minister. And in 2010 he again was elected president, as the desolate opposition was hopelessly at odds with each other.
Yanukovych clearly hadn’t expected to face a second Orange Revolution these days. What started after he refused last minute to sign a deal offered by the European Union, turned into a battle as Yanukovych decided to use force. Suddenly the crowds magnified to cry out loud against a government, that appeared to stand above the law. Suppression of press, intimidation and brutal police violence were his answers. And as those options proved to be unsuccessful and provoked a lot of international attention and even more support for the resistance in the streets, he switched strategy to play for time, bluffing still to be interested in a deal with the European Union. A deal that would have allowed for Ukraine to assume associate status, and thereby enjoy a free-trade deal with the 28 European states. But why would he want to refuse this deal in the first place? Because Russia offered more.
Debt-ridden Ukraine highly depends on Russia. The thread of a cut in gas supplies is simply a deadly one for a country subject to long harsh winters. Russia never got weary of emphasising the infinite friendship between the Russian and the Ukrainian people. But it is the Russia of Vladimir Putin, the man who described the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geo-political disaster of the 20th century, the man who termed Ukraine as “Little Russia” and told George Bush in 2008: “You don’t understand, George, that Ukraine is not even a state. What is Ukraine? Part of its territories is Eastern Europe, but the greater part is a gift from us.”
In Europe on the other side Ukraine has always been welcomed with mixed emotions. Yes, Ukraine is being considered an important, but also an uneasy partner of the European Union especially due to the unwillingness of the EU to further expand to the post Soviet space. But also because of the lack of democracy and the internal instability as well as the poor performance of the Ukrainian economy.
European people tend to hardly recognize Ukraine as a part of Europe. It is not a widely known fact, that Ukraine is Europe’s second largest country - and yes No.1 is Russia. Still Ukrainian people are often considered Russians, their language a Russian dialect and Ukrainian history Russian, Polish or Soviet history.
And Ukraine? Ukraine itself is a divided country. The crowds that dug in and grew are the Ukrainians who see Europe and the EU as their future. They are, for the most part, from Western Ukraine. In the industrialized East, Yanukovych’s stronghold, many voters are native Russian speakers and see their future with Moscow.
Home to 46 million people, Ukraine has been torn between competing impulses for the past two decades. Ukraine has a complicated relationship with Russia, and it’s hard to pin it down as positive or negative. Europe on the other hand has not offered Ukraine a full membership in the European Union either.
Ukraine has dreamed of sovereignty without ever truly confronting what it means. The name “Ukraine” literally translates as “on the edge.” Ukraine is on the edge between Europe and Russia. On the edge to an uncertain future. Where do you go, Ukraine? Quo vadis, Ukraine? A great internal fight is raging.
Find out more…