International

Sisters and Brothers

Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian has an excellent piece on Ukraine:

The learning chain of Europe’s velvet revolutions is fascinatingly direct. One of the most active groups in Ukraine’s democratic opposition is called Pora. Pora means “It’s time”, which is exactly what the crowds chanted on Wenceslas Square in Prague in November 1989. The student activists of Pora received personal tutorials in non-violent resistance from Serbian students of the Otpor (“resistance”) group who were in the vanguard of toppling Milosevic. Those same Serbs also helped the Georgian vanguard movement Kmara (“enough is enough”). On Tuesday, a Georgian flag was seen waving on Independence Square in Kiev. In Tbilisi, the rose-revolutionary Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili interrupted his first anniversary address to speak a few words of encouragement, in Ukrainian, to his “sisters and brothers” in Kiev. Now the Ukrainian opposition has asked Lech Walesa, once the leader of Solidarity, that Polish mother of all east European peaceful revolutions, to come to Kiev and mediate.

The tricks on the other side are familiar too. Most important of all is the grotesque abuse of state television to favour the pro-Russian candidate, Viktor Yanukovich. (State television stations are today’s Bastilles.) Then heavy-handed interventions from Moscow, including two visits by the Russian president and former KGB-officer Vladimir Putin. Intimidation. Censorship. Lies. Dirty tricks, including a novel variant in which Yanukovich supporters were apparently given multiple voter registration cards so they could “vote early and vote often” in several different constituencies. The Ukrainian opposition refers to them ironically as “free voters”. Miners from the Donbass region are reportedly being bussed in to sort out these pansy urban liberals. (Something very similar happened to keep Ceausescu’s successors in power in Romania.) Then there are the incredible turnout figures, as in east European dictatorships of old, including one marvellous return of more than 100%.

He goes on to highlight the continuing importance of the idea of Europe and indeed the European Union for Ukrainians and others in that region noting that These days, the most fervent pro-Europeans are to be found at the edges of Europe, and none more so than westward-looking Ukrainians.

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