Thursday, 12 December 2013

Together they are many

In Kyiv the protests known as Euromaidan are continuing against the Ukrainian government's decision to postpone the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU. This is the third week that the capital has seen widespread unrest; the biggest wave of protests since the Orange Revolution in 2004.

The past weeks have been fraught in Kyiv, with allegations of heavy-handed police tactics, pressure from Russia to turn away from European integration and serious divisions emerging in Ukrainian society. The toppling of Lenin's statue at the weekend by Ukrainian nationalists was a hugely symbolic moment and whilst it was lauded as a triumph by some it was labelled a betrayal by others. 

These are interesting times for Ukraine, a country that has been pushed and pulled in all directions since independence in 1991. There are some contradictions though; whilst the involvement of the party Svoboda has served to strengthen the pro-EU campaign in the country, the party itself might be at odds with some of the values promoted by the EU. Svoboda are essentially a nationalist, right-wing party in Ukraine, and some of the members are some seriously unsavoury characters. This has more to do with moving away from the Kremlin's shadow rather than moving towards liberal cosmopolitanism.  Somehow I can't see Svoboda backing EU legislation supporting minority rights...

Those on the streets in Kyiv are brave people though, not only having to face police brutality, but also the harsh Ukrainian winter. Of course it wouldn't be a Ukrainian protest without Ruslana, the Ukrainian winner of Eurovision 2004 who kept the crowds entertained at the weekend.

The anthem from the Orange Revolution and Ukrainian entry into Eurovision 2005, "Together we are many, we cannot be defeated" is perhaps now more pertinent than ever. Watch the performance which begins with the dancers in handcuffs, symbolising Ukraine's subjugation. By the end of the performance the handcuffs are broken, the subtext; Ukraine is free. Except nearly a decade on, Ukraine still isn't free. Torn between Russia and the EU and divided internally, Ukraine remains a battleground, of which the eyes of the world are on once again.

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