Ukraine : fire and death, in the name of Europe?

In Europe, all eyes are turning to Ukraine. There has already been over 50 deaths, and the entire country has become a battleground. Even some of the country’s Olympic athletes, who have been training for four years for the end, have decided to stop competing and go home.

Protesters clash against police forces in the streets of Kiev CC/Flickr/tandalov.com

Protesters clash against police forces in the streets of Kiev
CC/Flickr/tandalov.com

After a quick meeting yesterday in France between the different EU member states, three foreign affairs ministers (from France, Germany and Poland) have met with Ukrainian officials today in Kiev. Officially, these ministers here to discuss sanctions, but there is only one objective for them: stop the violence.

Yet how did we get here? Protesters are chanting slogans such as “Ukraine is Europe,” and international media have underlined the fact that Ukrainians may have more belief in the EU than the population of its older member states  (let’s say France, for example).  One thing should be clear though: the question has never been whether Ukraine would be part of the European Union. The country is nowhere near applying for membership. What was behind the trade agreement was a search for influence.  

Small EU-related commentary/question here: where is EU Foreign Affairs chief Catherine Ashton, and why didn’t she join the member states representatives? Surprising and revealing, given the fact she was in Ukraine earlier this month.

Looking back: 4 months of protest!

August 2013: Russia stops all Ukrainian imports at the border for customs inspection. Hint from the Putin government: this state of affairs may become permanent if Ukraine were to sign a trade agreement with the EU.

November 13, 2013: the Ukrainian Parliament refuses to consider the liberation of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

November 21, 2013: Ukraine puts a stop to its negotiations with the EU in favor of its relationship with Russia. First street protests with people chanting “Ukraine is Europe.”

November 23, 2013: Protests continue despite the attempt of Ukrainian PM Mykola Azarov to blame this decision on the International Monetary Fund. Tymochenko calls for the population to react “as if it was a coup.”

November 30, 2013: first violent confrontation between demonstrators & police forces. Thirty-five people are detained.

December 8, 2013: hundreds of thousands of protesters crowd the streets of Kiev and destroy the statue of Lenine.

December 11, 2013: the Ukrainian capital is under lockdown with thousands of police riot officers controlling the streets.

January 22, 2014: Police kills two demonstrators when shooting at the crowd, and another dies from a fall. These are the first deaths of the protest.

January 28, 2014: the government attempts to diffuse tension by repelling anti-protest laws that had allowed for the bloodshed a week earlier.

February 16, 2014: the protesters leave the Kiev City Hall they had been holding in exchange for the release of 234 jailed demonstrators.

February 18, 2014: 25 die among protesters and police after anti-riot lines were attacked outside of Parliament.

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