Ukraine Stands up against the Regime
Viktor Yanukovych is losing the war against his people. It is now only a question of time.
The EuroMaidan has again spread throughout Ukraine covering the West and Central Ukraine. EuroMaidan activists, which were active in 46 cities and not only in Kyiv, have been taking over Regional Administrations buildings since yesterday. For now they have been capturing city administrations in 13 out of 24 Regional Administrations. The local police forces cannot stand against the pressure from their citizens. To sum up, half of Ukraine has stood up against the regime.
Yanukovych has very little support from the military forces. The Ukrainian military forces are made up of forces from the Ministry of Interior (which has 20,000 military men of regular forces and 4,000 of special forces, such as Berkut) and the Ministry of Defence (which has 130,000 military men). The Minister of Defence made a statement that they will not go against people and therefore Yanukovych cannot count on them. Moreover, in different cities and regions, policemen are resigning, individually or collectively. In Rivne, for example, the police simply felt the City Administration with the applause of the activists capturing the city hall. In Lviv, all of the Berkut forces have been dismissed. Support for protestors was also expressed by retired Generals along with ex-Security Service of Ukraine; they have condemned the attack on the protestors. People have start again to feel safe in their own country.
The EuroMaidan is united around a single leader, and this leader is Vitaliy Klitschko.On Sunday night, after Berkut blocked the peaceful protesters on their way to the Cabinet of the Ministers and the Verkhovna Rada, Klitschko went to speak to the angry protestors and tried to stop the violence. He has taken the initiative and went to Yanukovych the same evening, and after the negotiations have failed, he announced the national mobilisationon Monday morning.On Thursday morning (January 23), he also suggested that both the protestors and Berkut to cease fire until eight in the evening, helping his leadership role to be reaffirmed.
Activists have stopped the dialogue with Yanukovych as they stand firm on his dismissal. The EuroMaidan has voted on stopping negotiations which were led by the political opposition. They rejected Yanukovychs’ demands to make Hrushevskoho Street a buffer zone, to free the captured buildings, and to stop the “radical extremists” from further actions as well as to dismiss the EuroMaidan. Following this vote, the political opposition have called upon a peaceful protest and the extension of EuroMaidan including to Hrushevskoho. The Protesters feel empowered.
State of Emergency – Mission Impossible
The only thing that could save Yanukovych is the introduction of a state of emergency. Firstly, Yanukovych has no control over the military, who according to legislation, would have to take the control of the state. Secondly, he has no support from his own Party of Regions, which has to give consent in a vote in the parliament. According to some rumours, the Party of Regions cannot locate all of their MPs, and that is why the speaker has only scheduled the next session in a week’s time.
The moment to introduce the state of emergency has been lost, as now the dynamics are different. SinceThursday when the cease of fire was negotiated by Klitschko with the people on Hrushevskoho and with Berkut, the protests have laregely remained peaceful. Yanukovych knows only how to attack and bring fear. Therefore now he does not know how to deal with peace – Yanukovych is not comfortable with this situation.
Yanukovych has lost support within his closest circles. The oligarchs have taken a step back due to the pressure made by the United States as well as at the Davos Summit. We have also learnt that the circle of his advisors has become very narrow, as many did not support the crackdown. Yanukovych is surrounded not by the strongest players, but rather of his supporters, such as Olena Lukash, and Andriy Klyuyev. In order to gain stronger support he has started handing out awards to MPs, Generals, Church leaders, etc. Klyuyev, for example has been made head of the presidential administration; the previous one had to leave due to a disagreement with Yanukovych on the forceful EuroMadain dispersal.
What is the plan now?
Much has yet to be done by Ukrainians, both by supporting daily EuroMaidan movements, but also by making strategic plans. Local Ukrainians should stay active and not cede their positions. The ones in the regions should continue taking control of the regional and city administrations. The opposition leadership should keep constant contact with the military with an aim to ensure their constant support. As to the strategic planning, the Ukrainian expert community, which has lost contact with and influence on the authorities after the Party of Regions came to power, should now be preparing an action plan on how to get out of crisis.
International attention and pressure is also strongly needed. On the one hand, even simple statements of support (and not of deep concern!) are helpful for Ukrainians and gives them the feeling that they are not alone in their fights. On the other hand, while the EU Member States hosts most of the assets that belong to Yanukovych and Klyuyev, even threats of a potential freeze of their assets would be effective. Assets and money-laundered to the EU are the only weapons they have; as with this money they can bribe very corrupt officials in Ukraine and keep a hold on power. That is why Klyuyev has immediately reacted to one journalist investigation that disclosed his assets in Austria stating that the company was sold and does not belong to him or his family anymore.
The victory of the people over the regime is guaranteed if the current elements remain solid, meaning no tangible support by military to Yanukovych, active participation of EuroMaidan activists in Kyiv as well as throughout Ukraine, and strong pressure by the international community.
Dana Depo is a member of the Working Group of Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network of the World Bank Institute and external adviser to Anti-Corruption Action Centre in Ukraine. She is a graduate from the College of Europe and currently a Euro-PhD Candidate and former Marie Curie fellow specialising in EU-Ukraine relations.