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Monday, February 10, 2014

Ukrainian protests continue as opposition has held the tenth People’s Council and Parliament remains in a deadlock

Ukrainian protesters in Independence Square on Sunday
(Image: Kyiv Post)
Dozens of thousands of protesters have gathered on Sunday, 9 February, in Kyiv Independence Square for the tenth rally dubbed “People’s Council”, as Yanukovich’s regime and opposition still cannot find a solution of the deepening political crisis, and the talks seem to become in a deadlock, same as parliamentary debates over the Constitutional reform and fulfillment of the demands of Euromaidan.

Subday’s rally has started traditionally with the prayer, and then politicians, oppositional leaders, civic activists and artists have delivered their speeches from the stage.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of the oppositional leaders, has declared that oppositional leaders aren’t scared of losing their popularity by forming an interim government pressed to possibly take unpopular decisions and that opposition is ready to sacrifice the ratings for the sake of the county’s future. But at the same time there’s no place for trade for the ministerial positions, claimed Mr. Yatsenyuk, referring to the offers of Yanukovich of the position of Prime Minister to him.

Oleg Tyagnybok, another leader of the opposition and head of Svoboda (Freedom) Party, declared that the power is with the people and that the regime is close to fall. Vitaly Klichko in his turn has reminded again from the stage about the key demands of Euromaidan, including unconditional release of political prisoners and detained activists and the issue likely forgotten by other oppositional leaders during the talks with Yanukovich, which is Yanukovich’s stepping down and early presidential elections. In addition to that Vitaky Klichko has called for Yanukovich to come to Maidan personally and to see the people and to hear their voice and their demands.

Protesters on the barricades in Kyiv
(Image: Den')
Though the situation with the talks and resolving the crisis still remains tense, and there are new threats of possible attempt to disperse protesters or to provoke violence, as additional troops of riot police and “Berkut” (special security forces) have been deployed to Kyiv downtown, not mentioning the so called “titushki” (paid thugs used by government to attack and intimidate peaceful protesters). Thus, nearly thousand of these “titushki” have attempted to attack and remove some barricades on Saturday, but they retreated as self-defense units of Euromaidan arrived. Self-defense units have defended the barricades and have held after that march through the streets of downtown and governmental district, demonstrating that they re peaceful but ready for actions in case of attacks and provocations.

In addition to that, the units of self-defense have been already formed in several Ukrainian cities and regions becoming a part of the all-Ukrainian network, announced on 7 February by the oppositional MP Andriy Parubiy. Lviv, Vinnytsya, Ivano-Frankivsk, Rivne, Odessa, Ternopil, Poltava, Uzhgorod, Chernivtsi and other cities as well have joined the network.

Meanwhile debates continue in Ukrainian parliament as the MPs cannot find the silution of the crisis, and the team of Yanukovich works actively on creating the schemes to prolong the time, as Yanukovich has the meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Barricades in Kyiv downtown
(Image: Den')
The main issues being currently discussed in Parliament are the forming of the interim government and Constitutional reform. In addition to that, divisions are deepening within the pro-Yanukovich Party of Regions, as at least 30 MPs have announced they will join opposition and become actually against Yanukovich. The group was named “Democratic Platform” and is headed by Sergiy Tygipko.

Party of Regions reportedly plans an extraordinary meeting of the fraction to be held next week in order to discuss the candidacy of the head of interim government and to offer it during the following parliamentary session. Their candidacy for the PM’s seat is Andriy Klyuev, current Head of Presidential Administration and former Head of National Security and Defense Council, very controversial figure accused of being responsible for the dispersals of the protesters.

As for the second issue, the amendment of the Constitution, there are also divisions and fight within Parliament. Party of Regions claims it agrees to amend the national Charter, but insists on doing it according to all the legal procedures, with forming of the special Constitutional Committee, studying the draft by the Higher Constitutional Court and then voting in Parliament in two stages. These procedures could take a lot of time and the results couldn’t be earlier then in autumn.

Opposition though insists on the quick procedure of amending the Constitution and returning to the 2004 edition, but with several serious changes aimed to limit presidential powers in the country, as this step would help to ease the tensions within society and to resolve the crisis.
As for the propositions of the opposition regarding the amendment of the Constitution, they are about returning to the text of 2004 Constitution with the following changes:

-          Return to the term of “parliamentary coalition” with the possibility of the individual membership;
Volunteers on the barricades
(Image: Den')
-          Cancelling prohibition to be elected in Parliament for the people faced trials;
-          Easier procedure of parliamentary voting;
-          Liquidation of the vertical of administrative power, creating the local councils in the regions;
-          Changes of the presidential status with limiting of his powers (easier impeachment procedure, limiting the right to dismiss Parliament, to appoint and dismiss Prosecutor General and heads of SBU, no influence on the Constitution Court, National Security and Defense Council and Council for TV and Radio, limiting the power to impose state of emergency etc.).

Yanukovich team though is ready for these proposals and is also ready to stop their realization or at least to prolong the time. There are reportedly two scenarios prepared by Yanukovich’s team: either dismissal of Parliament (in case the new majority will be formed, and the control will be totally lost), or sending the amendments to the Constitution for expertise to the Venice Commission.

Opposition and many experts as well state that all these maneuvers are aimed to prolong the time, as Yanukovich has meeting with Russian President Putin in Sochi. Two presidents have met after the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, but the details of their meeting weren’t revealed by the both sides. But it became known, that the credit, which was so expected by the current authorities of Ukraine, is currently frozen by Russians. From the promised $ 15 billion Ukraine has got only the first tranche, $ 3 billion. The next tranche though will be only after Ukraine will pay for the Russian gas, stated representative of Russian Ministry of Finances.

Western countries are increasing their critique of the Yanukovich regime and threaten it with the personal sanctions, but now it is really serious issue, as Western countries are disappointed in the outcomes of the talks and absence with the problem’s solving, as the repressions and ignoring of human and civil rights and freedoms of Ukrainians continue. USA has already the list of the officials to face the sanctions, as several persons have already received travel bans with their financial assets frozen. Canada has imposed personal sanctions against representatives of Yanukovich’s regime. EU is also ready to impose sanctions, according to many European politicians.
Commemoration of the victims of the clashes
(Image: Den')

As for the recent scandal over the leaked telephone conversation between USA Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador in Ukraine Jeffrey Payatt, it had the opposite impact on the situation than it was possible expected by those who leaked the talk, stated EU politician Andreas Umland. Instead of dividing European politicians it united them and pushed to more active steps. Thus, Christian Democratic Party of German Chancellor Angela Merkel demands imposing sanctions against Ukrainian high officials if the crisis won’t be resolved in peaceful way in the nearest future.

Meanwhile, Euromaidan activists and riot police and security forces on Grushevsky Street, the site of recent clashes, are holding ceasefire, but representatives of the so called “Right Sector”, responsible for the starting of the clashes and supporting more radical action, claim that this ceasefire could be ended any moment and call for the total mobilization. Explaining their position, they claim that the regime doesn’t fulfill their demands, as detained activists are being released very slowly, and most of them also remain under investigation, just with the changes of cases and accusations. Thus, the situation is relatively calm currently, but tense, as ceasefire could be ended and there are also fears about possible force scenario and Russian involvement as well.