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?

14 comments

Nat 16th January 2014 at 09:01pm

Thanks for the article. It really is a difficult time for the Ukrainian people. And a great challenge for all.

Norman Banfield 16th January 2014 at 10:01pm

These are good laws to remove the whiny loser children on the Maidan. Try pulling the stunts these orange misfits have been pulling in Ukraine but in Times Square. See how long it lasts! The Ukrainian government has tolerated more than enough! Everyone can have their say in the next election.

Andrew D 16th January 2014 at 10:01pm

Norman Banfield, sorry, but I can’t agree with you. Introducing such laws in such a way in front of the whole world is a huge mistake of the current government. I hope sooner or later those crooks will be brought to the courts.

Bill 16th January 2014 at 11:01pm

Norman… we talk like westerns… but don’t worry that communist or region party will win next turnament. Because nothing is true, election day is not true… we are too free probably.

Olia Stachnyk 16th January 2014 at 11:01pm

Change is never easy. It requires patience, dedication, fortitude, and taking advantage of the change by spotting the opportunity in the chaos. Look at the faces of the guards - they are sad and no one can tell me they want to be there. The challenge is to free them by being ourselves, smile, entertain them with our song and dance,  send love vibrations - It works, as seen with black history in the States and South Africa. When I was there in 1972 I saw the beginnings and never was surprised at their success.
DO NOT GIVE UP. GOD BLESS ALL THE UKRAINIANS. AND THE RUSSIANS. Love, Olia

Andreas Umland 17th January 2014 at 12:01am

Well done, Party of Regions! What an effective and innovative way of legislating! Yet: What now about implementing the new laws fully and consistently? Tens or even hundreds of thousands of court trials, convictions, confiscations and prisoners, across the country? Will Kyiv become a city of previously convicted “criminals” - thousands of Kyivites constantly going in and out of police stations, courts and prisons? Who is going to bring charges against, as well as catch, try, convict and imprison the thousands of new supposed “criminals”? Are the Ukrainian police, bureaucracy, procurators, judges, prison guards etc. ready to implement such laws with energy, consistency and discipline? How is that all going to play out in practice? How will the people react, if you really start applying these laws en mass? What about the European Court on Human Rights where many of the cases would eventually end up? Did you think that through?

Steve G. 17th January 2014 at 01:01am

Most of this stuff is already illegal in the west…

John 17th January 2014 at 01:01am

Steve G, I assume you’re new to this situation. There are two things you are missing:

1) while some of these things might seem reasonable ‘prima facie’, some of the measures such as banning any research on judges is blatantly a measure to suppress the truth about corruption. Maximum 6 years for blocking access to someone’s property seems grossly excessive. Banning vehicle convoys is just bizarre. Distributing news without being a registered news agency is now a crime - can you think of a legitimate reason for that? The banning of helmets which protesters wear in self-defence after the illegal beating of protesters in December - can you think of a legitimate purpose for that? Slander is now a criminal offence, not civil - this is not how it works in most countries. Religious bodies are being prohibited from expressing their opinions - can you think of any other country where that’s the case? The state now has the power to disable the internet for the entire country on a whim - can you think of any other democracy where that is the case? Police and other officials have been exempted from prosecution for all the crimes they have committed during the protest - can you think of a legitimate basis for this? That includes 2 murders, by the way.

2) Secondly, the tactics are generally to create as many laws as possible which might loosely fit a ‘target’, charge them and then have a corrupt court find them guilty of every offence and put them away for life. It is now illegal to demonstrate corruption of any judges, so they can take bribes with impunity. Can you think of any legitimate basis for this?

G. 17th January 2014 at 06:01am

Steve G.,
“stuff already illegal in the west”, is that bill was passed without voting - votes not counted or recorded - “235 votes in favor” was determined BY ASSUMPTION.
It could have been 220 - nobody would know the difference.  Anti-Constitutional, dirty tactics.

And the nature of these “laws”?  They’d give ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES for rampant abuse of power on every level by those who’s been already abusing with impunity power against people.

G. 17th January 2014 at 06:01am

3 seconds to assume number of votes “in favor”:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=5lYuFhxCTbg

David R. 17th January 2014 at 07:01am

“Normal voting procedures were disrupted”... they sure were - by the opposition. You conveniently failed to mention that the opposition lawmakers were blocking the voting consoles.

The Orange crowd loves talking about democracy, but that’s all they do - talk. Democracy goes both ways, and that sometimes means that you have to accept what you and your supporters don’t like. The current government was legitimately elected and has every right to implement whatever laws they like, within the bounds of the Constitution.

Katya 17th January 2014 at 08:01am

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH the TOUGH GET GOING!!

Hang in there Ukraine

Never give up and see what you started through and to the ‘opposition’ leaders NEVER let the people who have supported you down they are relying on you to be REAL leaders.  United ..everything is possible.


SLAVA UKRAINI !!

G. 17th January 2014 at 05:01pm

David R.: “you have to accept what you and your supporters don’t like…”

David R, accept this: There are 118-120 votes for “dictatorship law” + another <=20 didn’t fit in cadre.  Party of Regions uses special math and illegal way of counting to call it “235 majority”:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=648693418499907&set=a.153489211353666.23214.100000777646339&type=1&theater;
Please don’t talk about PoR and “bounds of the Constitution” - these two things do not mix.

Michael Brytan 17th January 2014 at 08:01pm

They are creating a police state to ensure that normal elections are never held and/or the results produce four more years of mafia (Party of Regions) dictatorship. 

The EU, USA and Canada need to start applying sanctions to the Oligarchs who fundamentally control the dictator.  they have to know that it’s not business as usual.

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