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Ukraine: The deficit of effective communication

The deficit of effective communication, both in the international arena and inside the state, is among the main problems facing contemporary Ukraine. There is no frank dialogue between the Ukrainian government and the EU. The Ukrainian opposition and Russia completely lack dialogue. The government, opposition and civil society live in parallel worlds, and ad hoccontacts between them cannot replace the functions of normal communications.

January 17, 2014 - Maksym Khylko - Articles and Commentary

Photo by Wojciech Koźmic

This deficit of communications results in a misunderstanding of the real situation. The EU’s refusal to communicate in a trilateral format with Ukraine and Russia has actually expanded Moscow’s opportunities to use pressure and unofficial proposals. Moscow’s politics of ultimatums, economic sanctions, anti-Ukrainian propaganda and backroom deals have caused a significant decline in the number of Ukrainians who support closer cooperation with Russia.

The Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between Ukraine and the EU have been blocked because of a 15 billion dollar loan and a significant discount on gas. However, in the near future the Ukrainian people will associate all their possible economic and political woes with Russia, while the EU will link them with the unrealised hopes of prosperity. Will this benefit the long-term perspective of Russian-Ukrainian cooperation?

The government’s deficit of effective communication with Ukrainian society prevented the authorities from understanding that the non-partisan, pro-European protests of November 2013 have actually expanded the opportunities for the manoeuvre in the negotiations with Russia and consequently could strengthen the Ukrainian negotiating position. Meanwhile, the violent breakup of the protests on November 30th has narrowed such opportunities. Some days later, Kyiv rejected the European proposals of mediation in resolving the internal crisis, while the EU officials might convince the opposition to move from ultimatums to dialogue.

There is a deficit of dialogue within the opposition itself, as well as between the opposition politicians and the civil sector of the EuroMaidan, which results in mutual accusations. Civil activists criticise the politicians for their inactivity and unwillingness to give up ambitions, while the latter respond with accusing some activists in playing along with the authorities. The lack of communication led to the public showdown between the well-known opposition politician Anatoliy Grytsenko and the leader of the Batkivschyna Party, Arseny Yatsenyuk.

During the course of almost two months of internal political crisis, the government and the opposition have been speaking with the language of ultimatums and threats. There has been no room for compromise between the blocking of government buildings and private homes of state officials and the regular violence and criminal cases against the EuroMaidan activists. The tactics of forcing the opposition into the corner escalated the situation to the limit.

Under these circumstances, the decision of the Kyiv-Sviatoshynskyi District Court of January 10th 2014 sentencing three persons accused of preparing to destroy the Lenin monument to six years in prison led to clashes between the supporters of the condemned and the police. The clash continued near the district police department, and well-known opposition politician Yuriy Lutsenko was injured.

On January 16th, voting for the state budget was accompanied by clashes between the pro-government and opposition Members of Parliament. The pro-government majority also adopted the law to simplify the procedure of depriving the MPs of the deputy immunity and bringing them to criminal prosecution. The opposition leaders consider this to be a threat to the opposition MPs.

As of mid-January, there is no sign of establishing dialogue between the confronting parties, which seem to continue to rely on the tactics of wearing down the opponents. But zero-sum games have never been a good solution in either domestic or foreign politics.

Ukraine urgently needs dialogue at all levels: between the authorities and civil society, between the government and the opposition and between the opposition and the civil activists. There is also a need for a frank dialogue with Europe and Russia. Otherwise, Brussels, Berlin and Moscow might be tempted to discuss the Ukraine’s fate without the participation of Kyiv.

Maksym Khylko is a research fellow at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. He holds PhD in Philosophy and an MA in International Relations. Between 2001 and 2010, he worked as a political and media analyst and consultant.

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