Revolution of DignityIn November 2013, student protests in Ukraine turned into a full-fledged revolution against government corruption that has since been dubbed the Revolution of Dignity. Now, with a new government in place, the country is attempting to align itself with its European neighbors and become a stable democracy. With multiple roadblocks in the way, such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine will need to rely on its allies in order to achieve its goals.  

How the Revolution of Dignity Began

Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity started out as a series of student protests to pressure the prime minister to sign an association agreement with the European Union. However, as the protests raged on, they became a catalyst for the rest of the country to express its discontent with larger issues with the government like the regime’s power grabs and rampant corruption.  

Despite these issues, protests only became a revolution when violence broke out between the government and protesters on Nov. 29, 2013. After this point, the goal became to overthrow the government and establish a more democratic state, one free of corruption and acting in the people’s best interests. In 2014, the people in overthrowing the government, reinstating the previous constitution and holding new elections in May.

While the revolution was successful, it was not without consequence. The destabilization in the country helped lead to the annexation of the southeastern Crimea region by the Russian Federation. On top of that, while the previous regime was friendly to the Russian government, the new one looked for a more independent governance supported by the E.U. and other western allies. With tough challenges ahead, Ukraine needed to look to allies for help.

What Allies Are Doing to Help

Since the protests initially started to pressure the Ukrainian president to sign an agreement with the E.U., it comes as no surprise that the E.U. is a key ally in helping Ukraine handle its political turmoil. One of the first things the newly elected government did was pass the Ukraine-European Union Associated Agreement and join the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These moves strengthen the nation’s economic, political and cultural ties with Europe through mutually beneficial relationships.  

While the U.S. is not as geographically close to Ukraine as the E.U., it has a vested interest in keeping the region stable and independent. Currently, over $204 million is planned in foreign aid for Ukraine. Among this, 33 percent is for peace and security, 32 percent goes toward human rights, democracy and governance, 29 percent is for economic development, and six percent goes toward health. With this aid, the U.S. hopes to keep Ukraine free of Russian influence and welcome them into the western world.

Through USAID, foreign aid is being used to help out local communities of Ukrainians.  In 2017, the organization helped 50 communities effectively manage resources and become sustainable without the central government. This not only fights corruption but also helps improve the everyday lives of Ukrainians who face instability in the face of recent changes.   

Continuing Progress in Ukraine

The aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and the struggle with Russia has left many Ukrainians in a state of upheaval. With an uncertain future and violence a real possibility, it is key that allies help the country through this traumatic point in its history. The humanitarian impact of political uncertainty is often understated in the media, but it is real. While there are larger political reasons for Ukraine’s allies to help it, the aid these allies give to the Ukrainian people has an impact on the ground that can help save many lives.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

The anti government protests in Ukraine have resulted in the strengthening of authoritarian policies rather than democratic norms. Anti-protest laws were passed by Parliament to thwart the protest movement sweeping the nation.

The laws were quickly pushed through on January 16 by supporters of President Viktor Yanukovich. A show of hands was used to vote rather than the electronic voting system used customarily. Punishment for the crimes listed under the anti-protest laws can range from minor to quite hefty.

Jail sentences range between two years to 15 years for offenses that block entry into buildings or cause public disorder.

Blockading public buildings carries a five-year maximum prison sentence for violators. Masks or helmets worn during protests will get offenders fined or put under administrative arrest.

Lawmakers can also be implicated by the anti-protest laws because it is now easier to prosecute them. Dissemination of slander on the internet was made illegal as well. Violators will find themselves serving up to one year in corrective labor or paying a fine as punishment.

Protesters will have a more difficult time acquiring facilities or equipment for protests. Individuals and organizations will be punished for providing them for unauthorized meetings. Violations result in a fine as high as $1,275 or a 10-day stint in detention.

Tents, stages and amplifiers installed in public places without prior authorization will get offenders fined up to $640 or detained up to 15 days. Protest motorcades are not allowed to have more than five vehicles.

Foreign NGOs are not exempt from the anti-protest laws. Those that are not financed in Ukraine and participate in political activities there will be deemed foreign agents.

The Ukrainian government now has the power of the law to prosecute political opposition and end the protest movement. This is the political opposition’s fear. Batkivshchyna (Featherland) party leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said the anti-protest laws overthrow the constitutional system and are nothing more than a power grab.

Opposing politicians in Ukraine stand on a stage when they voice their support to protesters on the square. Such actions will now potentially land them in jail.

The anti-protest laws have only worsened the tension on the streets where protesters have rallied against the government since November 2013. The anti-protest laws are mainly aimed at getting protesters off the streets.

The number of protesters have decreased over time to several hundred people camped out on the Kiev central square or occupying public buildings like the City Hall. New life was given to the movement the Sunday before the anti-protest laws were passed when 50,000 people gathered in Kiev.

The court banned protests in Kiev after the vote, which means a possible police crackdown is underway.

Vitaly Klitschko is a former boxer and now a political opponent who is believed to be strong enough to unseat Yanukovich as president. He stated that Ukrainians have been denied civil liberties and rights. He revealed that the main objective of the Ukrainian people is a change of power.

Ukraine has fallen further away from democratic norms as its voting process in parliament has been expedited by a show of hands and freedom has diminished.

European Union ambassador to Ukraine Jan Tombinsky warned that democratic institutions lose credibility and the legal system is put at risk when norms do not go through the proper procedures. The United States Department of State has questioned Ukraine’s commitment to democratic norms.

The anti-protest laws will not go into effect until they are signed by Yanukovich.

Brittany Mannings

Sources: Aljazeera, Reuters
Photo: Voice of America