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Analysis, book reviews and photography from Abkhazia and the wider Caucasus — updates when time permits

Some thoughts on the Ukrainian crisis

For what it’s worth:

  • There can be no doubt that Viktor Yanukovich and his government are autocratic and corrupt, and that the opposition has faced harassment and worse. Simultaneously, Yulia Timoshenko in particular has been unduly martyrised by some. Her trial was politically motivated, but that does not in itself mean that she is innocent accross the board. She should receive proper medical care and a fair retrial, but not immunity from all future prosecution.
  • Ukraine is a deeply divided country. Despite the enormity of the protests, it cannot be taken as a given that the opposition enjoys the support of a majority of Ukrainians. Therefore, the most desirable outcome is not a change of government per se, but good elections and a political system that is not winner-take-all.
  • Strangely, as popular uprisings go, the protesters do not have an overly strong case. Occupying and damaging government buildings (indeed entire city centres) has a revolutionary quality to it, which can be acceptable as a protective measure when the government is itself acting illegally, for example in the case of election fraud or police violence (like on 30 November). But failure to sign an international agreement, however symbolic, does not legitimise revolution. At the same time, the protests are hugely important for planting the seeds of structural reform.
  • Given the economic choice Russia presented him with, Yanukovich’s decision not to initial the association agreement with the European Union may have been rational. The European Union must itself avoid presenting the issue as a choice between being a European country and being with Russia. Ukraine is European even if it never associates itself with the EU. If it wants to associate Ukraine, the ultimate goal for the EU should be to sign (the equivalent of) an association agreement with Russia itself.

All open to correction by anyone better informed.

Filed under: European Union, Russia, Ukraine, ,

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