Ukraine’s Euromaidan 2013
OTTAWA – Edmonton East Member of Parliament Peter Goldring has returned from Ukraine, where he was observing the ongoing EuroMaidan rallies in Kyiv.
As well as listening to demonstrators, political leaders and ordinary Ukrainians, Mr. Goldring spoke to an estimated 400,000 people in Independence Square.
Given concerns about the demonstrations in Ukraine’s EuroMaidan for association with the EU, and against an exclusive customs-trade pact with Russia, which were followed by an outbreak of brutal violence against demonstrators, a “take note” debate was called for in the House of Commons.
Following the debate, Mr. Goldring was concerned that the tone and context of the debates was sounding more anti-Russian and pro-Ukrainian, even on linguistics. Knowing that fully one third of Ukrainians are Russian-speaking, Mr. Goldring was concerned that the debate was reinforcing a false premise, which could be counter-productive at the least and negatively impact on Ukraine politically.
With Parliament recessed fully three days before intended, Mr. Goldring realized that this would be an opportunity in a freed-up schedule to leave immediately for Ukraine to confirm what exactly was happening and then to report to the Canadian government.
Mr. Goldring has much expertise to draw from, having been in Ukraine for the failed Presidential election (Nov. 21, 2004) and the entire Orange Revolution, lasting some 11 days, even speaking in Independence Square encouraging the demonstrators. As well, he has been an election monitor for every Presidential and Parliamentary election since and was also the chair of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group (and served on the executive of the group every year since 2004). He was the first Member of Parliament to recognize the Holodmor as a genocide (1998) and has hosted Ukrainian CUPP interns every year since 2004.
Arriving in Kyiv early Thursday December 12, 2013, paying his own way entirely, Mr. Goldring after checking in to his hotel went to the EuroMaidan rally in Independence Square, accompanied by Andrii Sorokhan, a former intern in Mr. Goldring’s office as part of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Program (CUPP). In the square he met with other former CUPP interns, organizers, volunteers and members of political parties, who all gave him a better understanding of what was transpiring so that he could report and speak about the issue with greater authority to the media and others. Mr. Goldring spoke at length with Ukrainian MP Rostyslav Pavlenko, who is in the same party as former world champion boxer now Member of Parliament Vitali Klitschko. Additionally, he had a lengthy meeting with Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Troy Lulashynk, who agrees with Klitschko’s claims that a majority (he says 50-60%, Klitschko says 70%) of Ukrainians, both Russian speaking and Ukrainian speaking are totally supporting the EuroMaidan initiative. This strongly suggests a breakthrough from previous linguistic and political divides: both Russian speaking Ukrainians and Ukrainian speaking Ukrainians standing together for what they believe to be best for Ukraine.
Mr. Goldring says no-one wants to turn their backs on trade with Russia, but that 70% do not want Moscow-centric trade exclusively, they want European Union inclusiveness and to trade unhindered with the world, as well as with Russia.
Mr. Goldring was asked if he would bring this message to the media and to express his support on stage at EuroMaidan to the hundreds of thousands in Independence Square on Friday December 13. The message he gave, though an interpreter, was as follows: “People of Ukraine, you are citizens of a great and independent country with a fantastic future! A future achieved if unfettered by external (uncontrolled) influences. You have many friends around the world who stand together with you. In Ottawa. In Edmonton. And here in Independence Square. We stand with you for what is right, in the face of what is wrong. We support you this day and always, to democratically and peacefully put forth your demands that your true destiny be fulfilled. We stand with you for wholesome economic and civil trade engagement. Not just with the East. Not just with the West. But with the world as truly a nation of the world. Slava Ukraine!” At the conclusion of his speech, the audience erupted into a chant which was interpreted “Thank You Canada,” repeated over and over many times. One reason given by several for structuring Ukraine’s judiciary and commerce along European Union guidelines is to break from the present Russian styles of top-down, authoritarian management of industry that allows for wide-scale corruption and money laundering that oligarchs profit from greatly at the expense of the poor in Ukraine. After the police beat up some 36 demonstrators and reporters, the demonstration grew to the point that some said one million people demonstrated on December 15 to support them in their demands: hold police accountable; release all protestors; release political prisoners (i.e. Yulia Tymoshenko) and for the government to resign. The last item is unlikely to happen, as President Yanukovych was duly elected in 2010, though there have been presidents that resigned in the past. Even the European Parliament has suggested that if a president has lost the confidence not just of his party but of the people, there should be early elections. Yanukovych’s options are limited. It appears unlikely that the President would acquiesce to a spring election, and even if the Prime Minister steps down, would that be enough to effect change? Mr. Goldring is suggesting another option, a referendum on Ukraine’s external trade and economic engagement if the President is not going to honour his election promises. That must be decided one way or the other because either choice appears to be exclusive. The European Union does not want Ukraine to be part of a customs and trade union with Russia because the EU would not be able to control people and material coming in from an open Russian border. Russia does not want Ukraine to be part of the European Union because they would not be able to control the EU. It seems reprehensible that Russia would dangle out lower gas prices for Ukraine, actually just to bring prices lower, in line with other countries it exports to, as a wedge (call it bribery or blackmail) to encourage Ukraine to sign up. This, however is well received by low income pensioners and the poor, and is a short term gain for long term pain, as Ukraine is expected to be self-sufficient in gas production in seven years by present large scale shale gas exploration and development projects. Mr. Goldring was told by executives of Alter Energy Group and Energy Solutions, who specialize in oil and gas specialized directional drilling, that Ukraine has large deposits to develop. The reason for a new election or at least a referendum is that President Yanukovych, now supported by his majority government caucus, promised the people who voted for him that his government would work towards a close economic engagement with the European Union. The government was elected on this premise and now not only turn their backs to the European Union against their electoral mandate but furthermore want to take Ukraine backwards in time to a modern-day version of a Soviet Union of exclusivity by the power of a disingenuous president and his majority caucus. The question clearly is: Do the people of Ukraine want to engage in an exclusive customs and trade union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan to the exclusion of the European Union and all others? Yes or no? Goldring says: “I do not believe for one minute that they do.” What do you think? Update: President Yanukovych signed an agreement with Russia on December 17, 2013 for $15 billion and lower gas prices. The facts of the reciprocal issues are not known at this time. If it ties Ukraine to a future customs union with Russia, I fear for Ukraine’s future.
1 - EuroMaidan rallies in Kyiv
2 - Maidan eye witness Wolodymyr Derzko warms up on EuroMaidan just before Berkut riot police storm the students