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Putin it Simply

January 29, 2014

The protests that began in Ukraine in November of last year are essentially taking place over one issue: democracy. Protesters demand the resignation of President Yanukovych because the latter turned his back on the EU in favor of Russia, thereby going against the wishes of many Ukrainians, in particular those living in thARMENIA-RUSSIA-DIPLOMACY-PROTESTe west of the country. Furthermore, the demonstrators are outraged by Yanukovych’s recent anti-protest laws, seeing these as a blatant violation of Ukrainians’ hard-earned freedom. Unfortunately, democracy is not a one way street, and the Ukrainians on the other side of the barricades claim that their opinions should be given the same weight as those of the protesters. Ukrainians from the east are enraged by the protesters’ demands for the President’s resignation, saying
that those who dislike Yanukovych should just wait out his term, much like the President’s supporters did under the former regime of Viktor Yushchenko. According to them, the pro-EU protesters’ calls for democracy are hypocritical, as they ignore the wishes of those (still fairly numerous Ukrainians) who support Yanukovych’s relationship with Russia. This clash between the opposition and the resistance may spell out civil war for Ukraine. President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as well as European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, have expressed support for the protesters’ cause, but have condemned the violent tactics that have become more and more common on both sides of the conflict. It is after these comments and Catherine Ashton’s (the EU’s Foreign Affairs Representative) Tuesday visit to Kiev, that Vladimir Putin came forth to denounce the West’s interference, saying that the Ukrainians are capable of solving their own problems and that Russia would never dream of interfering in the country’s affairs. Besides the chuckle that this comment probably elicited from most who are familiar with the Russian president, this statement indicates a more serious problem—Putin might have reason to feel confident in his carrot-and-stick approach to Russia’s relations with Ukraine. It remains to be seen if demonstrators and government supporters will be able to come to an acceptable consensus that will leave both sides feeling like they have a say in their country’s future, or if the fault lines in Ukraine will irreparably split the country between Europe and Russia.

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