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The very recent warning by Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk, the first President of Ukraine that “The entire world acknowledges... that the state [Ukraine] is on the verge of civil war” precisely indicates the muddled social and political condition of the nation. The concurrent protests by opposition leaders against the government and specifically [now former] President Viktor Yanukovych have reminded the world about the Orange Revolution of 2004 that took place against electoral fraud.
To be fair, this cultural division has more or less been present in Ukraine since many years, and had not caused any grave issues – far from it, this apparent east versus west division was used quite some in jocular contexts. So few thought that this undercurrent could transform itself into something more serious. Yet, the current state of Ukraine leaves no one in doubt what the issue is all about. The immediate wave of ongoing demonstrations and civil unrest gained significance in November 2013, in Kiev, when Viktor Yanukovych decided to make an association agreement with Russia, instead of with EU. As per the last minute deal, the Russian government contracted to buy Ukraine’s debt of $15 billion and agreed to provide massive discounts on natural gas imports. It’s not as if the deal was a con job. But as it happens generally, what fans the crowd’s fury is not necessarily a policy issue, but an on-ground policing issue. The protest in reality, and unfortunately, became a national east Ukraine versus west Ukraine movement when a group of students, peacefully protesting the Russia-incline of the President, were attacked viciously by the police on November 30. But more importantly, it resulted in almost a million people gathering at Independence Square by December 8, 2013, to show their protest against the government and the President.
If this was becoming unmanageable, Yanukovych added his part of the oil to the fire on December 16, 2013, by passing and bringing into force the Bondaenko-Oliynyk set of laws, which banned public protests in various forms. However, the government later on repealed nine of the twelve restrictive anti-protest laws.
Subsequently, on January 28, 2014, the Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov and the entire cabinet resigned. In a conciliatory tone, Yanukovych offered the top posts in his government to opposition leaders. But they rejected the offer. The worst fallout of these protests were that mayors of western aligned constituencies in Ukraine openly started revolting against the Yanukovych-led government. Exacerbating the situation, in some areas, protestors took control of the regional administration, and subsequently, Yanukovych fled to Russia, claiming he was still the President.
In a dangerous turn of events, the Russian military quiety reinforced its presence in key areas in Ukraine – claiming it was doing so to protect its interests – leading to the Americans coming all out to warn Russia, Many territories in Ukraine are also now announcing that they are prepared to fend off a military attack if Yanukovych (with Putin’s help) decides to seek help of the Russian army to regain control.
That said, it’s quite clear that the ongoing protest can be culled in one go if the Yanukovych coterie does not pull the Putin card and agrees to participate in neutrally managed elections. More so because the general angst is directed more against the Yanukovych than his government.
Amid political turmoil, and on expected lines, Ukraine has become the playground of global biggies. On the one hand, while Russia has slammed anti-government protestors for inflaming the crisis, Ukraine’s opposition leaders are continuously meeting with Western leaders to work out their plans of action.
At this position, it is very difficult to say that between the east and west divide within Ukraine, who will gain significantly from the crisis in Ukraine. But one thing is for sure that if the scenario continues in this way, then Ukraine will be the loser in every aspect. Already, the nation is on the edge of economic adversity. It’s just a push and pull and we could even see the Berlin Wall being recreated in Ukraine, with Russia ensuring that the wall grabs most of Ukraine.