Ah, Ukraine! Home of beautiful churches, Black Sea resorts and, thanks to the great work of Comrade Stalin during collectivization, approximately 4.23 tractors per capita! (Some of which even still run!) Located in Ukraine are incredible cities known throughout the world, like Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Sevastopol and, of course, Chernobyl.
Despite these achievements and monuments, Ukraine has a problem.
Since November 2013, protests have been raging all over the country, concentrated in Kiev, its capital. The movement is called “Euromaidan,” which to the average reader should conjure up visions of thousands of attractive Eastern European women protesting … something or other. (Ideally for the right to be topless in public, and ideally through the medium of civil disobedience.)
Unfortunately for our average reader, the reality is that “maidan” is Ukrainian for “square.” As in, Independence Square (Ukrainian: Maidan Nezalezhnosti) in Kiev, where the biggest protests are taking place. While this is certainly a letdown from our initial impressions, we would do well to remember the words of Huey Lewis and the News: “It’s hip to be square.” So let’s talk about Euromaidan.
The protests are centered on the rejection of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement, which provided a significant groundwork for Ukraine to join the European Union. Last November, the government decided to discard the eight years of work that went into the agreement and instead join the new “Customs Union.”
The Customs Union is a Russocentric economic union currently made up of Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, with intentions to expand membership to all ex-Soviet countries. Founder Vladimir Putin described it as “totally not a new Eastern Bloc, guys, I swear. Look, just because I said I wanted to include former Soviet states doesn’t make it an Eastern Bloc. Those are your words, not mine.”
Eurocentric Ukrainians are understandably unhappy about their government throwing out eight years of work and voiced their opinion about it through protests last November. The government shut them down. Protesters responded with bigger protests and were violently put down. This, of course, resulted in even bigger protests, which were also violently put down. Last month, the Ukrainian government decided to put an end to it all with a series of anti-protest laws, which were universally condemned by the international community and resulted in bigger protests, which were put down with riot police and the army and all sorts of other methods we expect in a modern, first-world democracy. Blockades were erected. Protesters were shot. Both protesters and police threw Molotov cocktails. One group of protesters vowed to get medieval all over the riot police, and actually built an eight-foot trebuchet.
So four months of bitter cold, eleven deaths and literally thousands of injuries later, here we are. Protesters are now not only calling for the restoration of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement, but also the impeachment of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and immediate new parliamentary elections. Most of the anti-protest laws have been repealed, but recently passed “amnesty laws” essentially give the Euromaidan movement a set date to dissolve by or arrested protesters will not be given amnesty.
So why do we, in the West, care? Well, the obvious answer would be that, ostensibly, we care about the democratic process and the rights of the people to assemble. That’s why we went into Iraq and Afghanistan, right?
The real answer to that question is, “we don’t.” Apart from a token condemnation of government actions from the U.S. (who want to limit Russian influence) and from Germany (who could always use another insolvent EU member state to exploit), there has been very little international response. Perhaps the most significant event to occur during the protest was in December, when Vladimir Putin bailed out the Ukrainian government, in a move he described as “totally coincidental, guys, I don’t want to influence international events. No sir-ee bob, I do not.”
And so the protests continue onwards with very few signs of concession from the government. The constitution has been altered now, making EU membership essentially impossible. Plus, political instability has historically been a barrier to EU membership, and new elections and widespread protests aren’t really indicators of stability.
There are no easy answers to Ukraine’s situation. I would hope that the protesters get their way, but even if their demands are answered, EU membership has been set back by many years. It remains to be seen how the situation will pan out.
Editor’s note: This article, while based in truth, is satirical in nature and includes some fabricated and exaggerated facts.
Justin Roczniak is the op-ed editor of The Triangle. He can be contacted at [email protected].