European Council on Foreign Relations

Another Black Thursday in Ukraine

Ukraine’s ‘Euromaidan’ protests have now been going on for almost two months, since the original ‘Black Thursday' on 21st November, when the government decided to suspend negotiations with the EU. The authorities have now chosen another Thursday, 16th January, to try and bring them to an end, not (yet) with the physical force that has failed in the past, but with a new law banning more or less everything.

In farcical scenes in parliament, the bill was rammed through with ‘235’ votes in favour. Except there was no real voting. Normal voting procedures were disrupted; on several votes the tellers counted ‘235’ votes in a show of hands in just five seconds.

I will just list some of the things the government has banned. Basically, with no logic or attempt at credibility, they have attempted to criminalise everything the opposition has been doing in the last two months.

  • Ukraine has copied the Russian law requiring NGOs that receive money from abroad to register as ‘foreign agents’
  • Also illegal is taking part in peaceful protests while wearing a hard hat, any uniform or carrying some type of flame
  • As is setting up tents, a stage, or even a sound system,  without the permission of the police – which is basically the modus operandi of the Maidan
  • Driving in an organised group of more than five cars – this is because of ‘Automaidan’, the attempt to descend on government ministers’ houses in convoys of cars.
  • Blocking the access to someone’s residence
  • Slander
  • Group disturbance of peace
  • Organisisng mass disruptions or protests
  • Collecting information about judges – i.e. exposing corruption
  • The ‘government’ [exact agency not defined] can decide to ‘prohibit access’ to the internet
  • MPs can be stripped of immunity immediately, without due process
  • Denying crimes of fascism, or fascist accomplices is a crime – this presumably means celebrating war-time Ukrainian nationalists, as is the wont of the right-wing ‘Freedom’ Party

I could go on. The list is long. The authorities are gambling that the energy has gone out of the Maidan, and that there will be less foreign reaction than there would be if the brutal clearance of the Maidan were playing out on the world’s TV screens. So this is a real test for the West. In November and December the EU and US reacted late, but helped prevent real bloodshed. What now?

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