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    EU 'Lacks Courage to State the Obvious: Maidan Radicals Were Never Democratic'

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    Analyzing the problems in German and European policy toward Kiev, Freitag contributor Lutz Herden says that the main issue is that the EU's leaders still haven't worked up the courage to admit the obvious: post-Maidan Ukraine has not become a democratic state; meanwhile, radicals and nationalists have built up significant political clout.

    In his article for the German weekly, Herden suggested that Europe's policy toward its client state in Kiev has put it in an awkward position: Brussels has taken on the role of political sponsor, which has in turn forced them to turn a blind eye to some of the more unpleasant 'features' of Ukrainian politics and the Ukrainian political process.

    For example, the journalist recalled, while the events which took place in central Kiev in late 2013 and early 2014 have been categorized as a "democratic revolution" organized against "a corrupt oligarchy around President [Viktor] Yanukovich," it's not customary to discuss the "chauvinistic, sometimes fascist-like savagery" used by the Maidan protestors during the upheaval. This included nationalist protestors' use of imagery of iconic Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, at whom politicians, including from Germany, failed to take offense.

    Armed Eurointegration activists at the barricades in Khreshchatyk Street in Kiev, Ukraine, Feb 8, 2014
    © RIA Novosti. Andrei Stenin
    Armed Eurointegration activists at the barricades in Khreshchatyk Street in Kiev, Ukraine, Feb 8, 2014

    It was surprising, Herden said, to see European officials simply ignore the "revolutionaries'" use of Bandera as a hero figure, given his fighters' responsibility for the massacre of tens of thousands of Ukrainian Jews and Polish civilians in western Ukraine during the Second World War.

    At the same time, the journalist noted, the nonchalance with which European leaders accepted the change of power in Kiev leads to questions about their actual commitment to democratic ideals. After all, he recalled, President Yanukovych had been elected, under EU observance, in elections in 2010 that have been described as free and fair.

    Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Ukrainian leader's official visit to Germany, 2010.
    © RIA Novosti. Tatiana Firsova
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the Ukrainian leader's official visit to Germany, 2010.

    Furthermore, Herden suggested that throughout the Ukrainian crisis that began in 2014 following Maidan, European officials demonstrated a poor knowledge of history, including the fragile nature of Ukraine's statehood, and the country's fundamentally binational character.

    For instance, he noted, the loud international scandal surrounding Crimea, whose return to Russia in March 2014 soured relations between the West and Moscow, had historical roots going back decades. The journalist recalled that the March 2014 referendum was not the peninsula's first, and that in 1994 too, Crimea's inhabitants voted to secede from Ukraine, with a 78.1% majority voting in favor. 

    Before that, in 1992, the peninsula's regional parliament – the Supreme Council, declared independence with the intention of rejoining Russia, but was shot down by Kiev and by then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Nor is it impossible to forget that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev signed Crimea away to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1954, without parliamentary approval or popular plebiscite, Herden wrote.

    Russian President Boris Yeltsin (right) talks to the Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk (left) while on a walk in Dagomys park, 1992.
    © Sputnik/ Dmitryi Donskoy
    Russian President Boris Yeltsin (right) talks to the Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk (left) while on a walk in Dagomys park, 1992.

    As for the gruesome civil war which broke out in eastern Ukraine in the spring of 2014, there too, the journalist said, the history of the early Soviet Union, and Soviet leaders' transfer traditionally Russian-populated regions to the Ukrainian Republic in the early 1920s cannot simply be written off. After all, he noted, the fledgling self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics had their historical roots in projects such as the Donetsk-Krivoy Rog Soviet Republic of 1918. 

    Following the victory of the Maidan coup in February 2014, Herden recalled, the new authorities "made no secret of their nationalist Ukrainian orientation," and promised to abolish Russian as an official language. Authorities were emboldened by their Western patrons' failure to appreciate the Russian factor in modern Ukraine, thus "accelerating [the country's] disintegration."

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko listens to a serviceman at a checkpoint in the village of Pisky (Peski), near Donetsk, Ukraine, June 24, 2016
    © REUTERS/ Mykola Lazarenko/Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Pool
    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko listens to a serviceman at a checkpoint in the village of Pisky (Peski), near Donetsk, Ukraine, June 24, 2016

    Ultimately, Herden stressed, European politicians' ignorance and disregard for the facts surrounding the Ukrainian crisis has become somewhat of a 'distinctive attribute' of contemporary European politics: the superficial alliance that has formed between Brussels and Kiev has forced Europe to turn a deaf ear to the kinds of xenophobic and undemocratic rhetoric and behavior emanating from Ukraine's politicians.

    "Courage [to seek] the truth is the elixir of realpolitik," the journalist noted. And part of that courage must be to admit past mistakes and to fight against untruths, he added.

    Earlier this month, Ukrainian and European officials moved forward to amend the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement with an additional declaration, aimed to satisfy objections made by the Netherlands about Ukraine's prospects for membership in the supranational bloc. The addendum states that Association will not essentially lead to Ukraine's membership in the bloc, nor oblige EU members to provide financial or security assistance to Kiev. Amsterdam has promised to clarify the fate of the amended Association Agreement by early next year.

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    critical analysis, coup d'etat, ethnic minority, history, analysis, European Union, Stepan Bandera, Viktor Yanukovych, Germany, Europe, Ukraine
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