Marco Levytsky, NP-UN Western Bureau Chief.
A pushback against Russia is one of the lasting consequences of the Euromaidan and its aftermath, says a Canadian expert on the country.
“It’s pretty clear now that it’s over. Ukraine is not going on the Russian side no matter what happens,” said Dominique Arel, an associate professor of political science and the Chair of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Ottawa, at the 55th Annual Shevchenko Lecture, March 10.
As a result, Ukraine is becoming more Ukrainian, both demographically and linguistically, and identifying with their own state and its orientation towards Europe, he added.
The other lasting consequence is the civic strength in resistance to authoritarianism that has developed as a result of both the Euromaidan and the 2004 Orange Revolution protests, he stated during the question-and-answer session.
The lecture, which is co-sponsored by the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Edmonton (UCPBAE) and the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) is usually held at the University of Alberta but was broadcast online this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his lecture, Dr. Arel focussed on the clash of narratives that have arisen from the Euromaidan and the role violence played in the outcome.
The violence that was carried out by the protesters was unprecedented in post-Soviet societies but came as a direct result of that perpetrated by the authorities, stated Dr, Arel.
He referred to the first day of protests on November 30, 2013 during which authorities attacked protestors causing 80 injuries among the protesters and suffered none of their own. On the next day the protestors reacted and as a result 165 protesters and 140 policemen were injured.
This, he said, was “the greatest mistake” committed by former President Viktor Yanukovych and “looked so irrational”. But Yanukovych “wanted to cross the line” and “send a message”. However, instead of dispersing, the protesters dug in their heels.
From December 1, 2013 until January 19, 2014 the Maidan protests were at a stalemate, but a second instance of mass violence occurred on the night of January 19-20 which were triggered by Yanukovych instituting repressive measures known as the dictatorship laws. This was accompanied by regional protests including the storming of the sites of central power in the oblasts. While this occurred mostly in western Ukraine, it spread to the south and east as well “which really unnerved the (ruling) Part of Regions (PRU)”.
Although the political leaders urged protesters against using violence, arguing that it would hurt their cause, protesters did so anyway, leading to a breakthrough in negotiations. As a result, Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov resigned, but no replacement was named. They also obtained amnesty but only on condition they left the Maidan.
“The aim of using violence was to break the political impasse. It was tactical with a political aim it was not gratuitous violence,” said Dr. Arel.
The third instance of mass violence was the sniper shootings on February 20 which led to a complete police withdrawal from the Maidan, massive defections from the PRU and, ultimately, Yanukovych’s flight to Russia.
By this point the PRU has imploded, and the defections led to the creation of a constitutional majority which removed Yanukovych from power.
This was irregular but considered legitimate by both Ukraine and western nations.
The Russian narrative, which is still followed in eastern Ukraine is that this was illegitimate as the parliamentary deputies were intimidated by the protesters.
“There is no direct evidence of that,” said Dr. Arel. “The evidence that we have was of a party that essentially had lost its own confidence.”
According to the Ukrainian and western narrative, the removal was legitimate because Yanukovych was responsible for creating the conditions that led to his removal.
Opening statements were delivered by CIUS Director Natalia Khanenko-Friesen, and UCPBAE Director and President of the Alberta Foundation for Ukrainian Education Studies Volodymyr Boychuk.