1. The current events in Ukraine are, as Tomáš Sedláček, former advisor to Vaclav Havel, has said “a major revolution happening on the European continent”. They concern all Europeans, not just Ukrainians.
2. Contrary to what Vladimir Putin maintains, the Russian-Ukrainian agreement of last December is a perfect example of an agreement with strings attached. The price of gas can be revised every three months and aid payments can be suspended. This is exactly what has just happened. In effect, this agreement amounts to putting Ukraine under Russia’s domination. Russia is heavily interfering in Ukrainian matters. Well and truly so.
« The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of a democracy…
a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not even dream of escaping. » 1
3. Continuing, as the EU is doing, to pretend it is able to deal with Russia as if it were a democracy is suicidal. No self-respecting specialist in Russian affairs would dare to describe the regime as democratic. The time has come to define it clearly as what it is: an authoritarian regime controlled by structures of force (silovicracy) in which arbitrary measures have been institutionalized.
4. Today’s Ukraine is not like yesterday’s Poland, Putin’s Russia is not like Gorbachev’s USSR and there is nothing about Yanukovych that would indicate anything like the tragic patriotism of Jaruzelski.
5. Viktor Yanukovych is not a free man. His election as President has not erased his penal past, especially not in Moscow.
6. The division of Ukraine is not geographical. The Russian minority makes up 15% of the whole Ukrainian population. The division is political – a predatory autocratic regime and its supporters on one side and on the other the countless victims of the system.
7. The decisions taken recently in Kiev (amnesty, resignation of the Prime Minister…) are purely cosmetic. They do not herald the start of an exit from the crisis.
8. Adam Michnik, historic opponent of the Polish Communist regime, said that “the EU has done what it could. What more could they do?” 2. However, the EU has still not done anything of real substance.
After Croatia, Bosnia and Georgia, it’s once again on the other side of the Atlantic (the USA and Canada) that the true gravity of the situation has been realized. With the exception of certain member countries such as Poland and the Baltics (three cheers for EU enlargement towards the East!), the EU has again chosen to play a waiting game. This can no longer continue.
The EU, as some members-States 3 wish, could immediately decide to:
– freeze, with immediate effect, the assets of political personalities and elite oligarchs, such as the departing Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his family; the Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko; the Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonid Kozhara; the first vice-Prime Minister Sergey Arbuzov; the Kluiev brothers – Andriy and Sergey – and their families; Rinat Akhmetov; Viktor Medvedchuk, friend of Putin and leader of the “Ukrainian Choice” movement; Dmytro Firtash; Oleksandr Yanukovych and his family;
– ban, with immediate effect, the afore-mentioned persons from entering or staying on EU territory;
– order an immediate inquiry into the European banks which have opened their doors toUkrainian figures who have not declared their political activities, whether direct or indirect;
– formulate proposals, keeping the case of Kaliningrad in mind, respecting the specific interests of the Russian and Ukrainian populations of the border areas of the two countries.
– offer President Yanukovych the possibility of asylum in an EU country, if he so wishes;
– lodge a formal complaint with the WTO over the new measures prohibiting the entry of Ukrainian products into Russian territory;
– suggest to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that they commission an inquiry on the abuse perpetrated by the forces of order towards the Ukrainian citizens at Maidan;
– create, with the IMF, a crisis management team tasked with drafting a proposal of emergency aid to Ukraine as an alternative to that offered by Russia;
– offer the Ukrainian authorities and opposition to include in their crisis exit strategy a referendum next spring, supervised directly by the OSCE and the Council of Europe, which would be to decide between signing an Association Agreement with the EU and the Customs Union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, so that the decision taken is that of the whole of the Ukrainian people and not of any particular political party.
Last but not least, to categorically declare that Ukraine has, as all democratic European countries who wish to have, every right to seek membership of the EU.
The EU should act with haste. It is at risk of handing over control of the European project to these new reasonable people who, dreaming of a new Yalta, have already decided that the Ukrainians would have to give up their ideals of the rule of law, democracy and freedom and just submit to the model of a dictatorship dressed up in the rags of democracy. Unless the EU starts defending the basic values of the European project in Ukraine with a newfound dignity, it is condemning itself to complaining fruitlessly about anti-European sentiments.