The Power Struggle In Ukraine- Emre Güntekin (06.02.2014)

The Power  Struggle  in Ukraine

In Ukrainian, streets have been home of  hot clashes which has been continuing for nearly two months. The tension between the West and the East shows its affect in the power  struggle on streets. The tense relations of the masses who decided to change the line of Ukrainian politics and the elite rulers drives Ukraine to threshold of a civil war.

2004: Orange Revolution

Ukraine have always had a special position among the Eastern Bloc country. In USSR, Ukraine was the second biggest economy while Russia takes place on the top. Today, after the end of cold war, Ukraine turn into a front for the war between Russia, that thinks Ukraine as an important economic partner, and Europe ,which wants to  absorb the Eastern Bloc countries into its periphery.

This clash is not new. In 2004, the pro- EU  opposition had risen up under color of the recent president of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych’s rig the elections. After the strong reaction of opposition, Parliament of Ukraine had cancelled the elections and in the repeated elections, Victor Yuşçenko who is one of  the important opponents today, became president. This process was called Orange Revolution by the affect of the orange color which is used by Yuşçenko during the elections. After Ukranir, similar Colorful “Revolution” processes have been seen in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan in which pro-Russia politicians were in the power. When we come back to Ukraine story, in 2010 Victor Yanukovych was chosen as president again and vanquished his opponent Yuşçenko. One of the most important factor of Yuşcenko’s defeat is the government who come to the power  with the “orange revolution” failed to satisfy the demands of the  masses and assertion of corruption they  involved.

What’s going on in Ukraine?

In last two months, Ukraine turns back to the political tensions of  nine years before. In the streets, between the protestors and “berkut” (riot police), there almost happens a street war.

The ignition point of the events was that the  rejection of free trade agreement with EU by the president Victor Yanukovych. It will be helpful for the readers to list the events chronically.

·  19 November 2013:The rejection of the draft resolution which includes the release of  former prime minister Yulia Timoschenko who is in jail now, to be treated in Germany

·  21 November: By giving the justification of  national security, the free trade agreement of EU,  is suspended. EU had wanted the release of Timoschenko as a perquisite. The Prime Minister Mikola Azarov explained that they would improve economic relations with Moscow instead of EU. Russia, was putting pressure on Ukraine for preventing the agreement with EU.

·  24 November:The most massive street protests after the Orange Revolution in 2004 occured. More than one hundred thousand people protested the rejection of free trade agreement in streets: “I want to live in Europe, Ukraine is a part of Europe.”

·    1 December:Timoschenko sent a message to his supporters “Go to Kiev by car, plane or by walking. Gather people in 1 December in Kiev.”

·    1 December: In Kiev, a court forbid all the demonstrations in Kiev until 7 January.

·    3 December:Nikola Azarov said that those demonstrations were  sign of an attempt to coup d’état … “This has all the signs of a coup,” Azarov said. “That is very serious. We are patient, but we want our partners not to feel that everything is permitted.”

·    9 December: Lenin’s sculpture in Kiev, in Shevchenko Avenue destroyed by the demonstrators. Some place occupied by the demonstrators was emptied  by the police.

·  11 December:  High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union,Catherine Ashton  was welcomed  by protestors  in  Independence Square.

·  12 December:The minister Victor Yanukovych expressed that he wanted  to sign the agreement but he wouldn’t tell the time.

·  17 December:Russia gave a discount in the price of natural gas from 400 $ to 268,5 $. Also, Moscow decided to invest 15 billion dollar to Ukrainian government commotion to help Ukraine.

·  19 December:“It is very important. This is our internal matter,” Yanukovych said. “Some countries should not meddle in our internal affairs and should not believe that they can be the bosses here.” Said Yanukovych and added   “I am categorically against having someone come here and teach us how to live,”

·  17 January:Government  approved a series of resolution which bans protests.

·  19 January:After the approval of the resolution , the demonstrations which have been proceeding for  last for two months reached to the top.  Demonstrators claimed that  the police used real bullets and improvised explosive devices. Then, it was declared that demonstrators stabbed a police  and caught two police officers hold in pledge in  the building of the municipality.

·  20 January:In order to find a solution to political crisis it was explained that the committee of wise men  would establish

·  22 January:In Kiev, during the attack to the barricades  held by the demonstrations two people died.

·  23 January:  The demonstrations spread other areas in Ukraine. In Lviv, after the occupation of governership by demonstrators, governor had to sign his resignation.

·  23 January:  Victor Yanukovych met the leaders of opposition.

·  25 January:  It is stated that during the demonstrations in the last five days, five demonstrators died.

·  25 January:The minister Yanukovych proposed Prime Ministry  to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of opposition party called Svoboda  , and vice presidency  to Vitali Klitschko who is the old boxing champion and the leader of the party called  Ukranian Democratic Alliance for Reform.

·  27 January: Prime Minister Mikola Azarov resigned.

·  28 January: Yanukovych stated that the resolution bans the protests might be cancelled, and on condition that demonstrators’ clear out the barricades and stop attacking the state institutions, made a promise of  amnesty.

·  31 January:The Ukrainian Army demanded from Minister Yanukovych to stabilize the crisis taking  the required precautions.

The Roots of the Crisis

Member of the Committee of Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense Policies Sergei Karaganov gave an interview to BBC and summarized the causes of the  crisis; “For nearly 20 years, Russia and the European Union have been conducting on the former Soviet space a zero-sum game,”  (26 November, BBC ). The fall of the Eastern Bloc gave an opportunity to  Western capitalism to enlarge. Like in a scene in the movie, which is about the fall of Berlin Wall named “Goodbye Lenin” , after the fall of the wall,in one night Coca Cola appeared  on the streets of Berlin. Like Berlin, many other important regions particularly Ukraine  jump in the deep end to free market economy until Russia left its passive politics with Putin and start to aggressive politics in order to regain its old area of hegemony.

After the 1990s, the fall of USSR brought the bad life standards. From the time 1990 to 2000, in ten years, while gross national product decreased from 90 billion dollar to 31 billion dollar in the country, the parasitic oligarchs, who live on the wealth of the period of USSR,  increased in number incredibly. According to the research of the journal called Wprost  ,which is published in Poland, in just last year, the number of dollar billionaires raised from 15 to 24 in Ukraine. Together with the  rise of the number of the billionaires is accompanied by the rise of poor millions of people. After the economic crisis in Ukraine in 2009, unemployment had tripled and reached to %9.

During the financial crisis of 2008 highly effected Ukraine, and especially dependent directly to the Russian natural gas in energy importation caused that she could not pay her debts. The relation between Russia and Ukraine was already becoming worse, became completely strained after Russia  Russia had  stopped the flow of natural gas. This  step of Russia played role in paralyzation of   the iron steel industry , increase in  unemployment  and decrease of the  salaries of  the working class in Ukraine. Ukraine answered this step by closing the pipelines which provide Russia transit passin to Europe and the problems of Russia and Ukraine turned into an international issue. One of the most annoying problem of Ukraine in today’s political crisis is that Russia would not hesitate to use its economic power over Ukraine  in case of  Ukraine becomes closer to EU. Especially, Russia’a carrot-stick tactic was highly effective in Yanukovich’s last minute move of retraction the agreement.

No matter how deep the crisis between the countries, it looks like it is not possible neither for Russia nor Ukraine to break  off their relations. The Russian naval base which located in the coastal city of Ukraine, Sevastopol, is one of  its doors to Blacksea. According to the agreement signed in 1997 after the Orange Revolution , president Victor Yuşçenko expressed that in 2017, they won’t renew the agreement  that includes hiring of Sevastopol Port to Russia for 20 years. Also he imposed restrictions to the movements of Russian ships. However,  the strategy of Russia changed after Yanukovych had been appointed president again and signed another agreement that is supposed to last for 25+5 years in 2010. We can see how Ukraine’s strategically importance in the words of Putin “ we are one nation, two states.”

Divisions in Social Structure and Political Actors

Economic and political tensions make itself apparent in exceedingly in the social life. Now there is critical social break-up between the North and the South ,the West and the East of the country.  As well as the disturbance created by dependence to Russia, the close relationship between EU and Ukraine after Orange Revolution also failed to fulfill the expectations of most of the people gets problems into a mess.

The politic opponents mainly consists of  the politicians who caused frustration in the past  or nonpolitical names which newly entered to the political arena. Two of the most  important opponents Victor Yuşçenko and Yulia Timoschenko , had rearranged the political system appropriate to international capitalist system and IMF  playing a role in decrease in the life standards. At the same time their names involved in the claims of corruption. On the other hand, another important actor of the opposition is old world boxing champion Vitali Klitchko and one-time futboller Andriy Shevchenko. Even these, show us that the opposing movement in Ukraine is actually quite a shallow one. It is easy to see that these actors ,which supports developing relationship with EU and full membership, won’t be able to find a way out from the growing social conflicts and political divisions within the society. With the political names which had already been tested and lost in the past , Ukraine will keep struggling in a big whirlpool as it does today. Also, the weakness of  left and socialist movement pave the way for  dominant class social opposition centre on the war between dominant classes. It is hard to find a leftist element except Communist Party  which is a painful memory from USSR era.

Fascist which gained important power in the opposition movement will be an alternative to consider  for the masses which lost its hope about both  EU and Russia. Especially, Svoboda (Freedom Party) gained a great success in the  election, draws the attention by its radical practice in the opposition movement. Svoboda increased its votes ten times and gained 10% and achieved to form a  group in the parliament in 2012. It was that American senator John McCain’s share  the same rostrum with the leader of Svoboda ,Oleh Tyahnıbok while his visit to Kiev .

The members of  the party led  the event of destruction of  the sculpture of Lenin. Svoboda has all the a fascist party should have.  A  strong anti-Semitism, an ardent young mass,  anti- Russi attitude, ascribing great importance to the national characters and incidents of Ukranian history. In the beginning of January ,fifteen  thousands members of Svoboda organized a march to celebrate the birthday  of Stepan Bandera who cooperated with Nazis during the World War II.

It is hard to say something certain about what will be the consequences of the current protests in Ukraine. Possibility of civil wars is being expressed frequently in Western media and this is not impossible. There is a fact that whatever happens the winner is not going tı be the poor proletarians who has been forced to live in poverty in Ukraine .

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