As opposition protests escalate in Ukraine, the county’s situation remains both violent and uncertain. On Sunday, opposition figures filled Kiev’s main square, demanding a restructuring of the government and removal of its leadership, currently headed by President Viktor Yanukovich.
The protests, which are entering their third month, originated in response to President Yanukovich’s decision to accept funding and natural gas subsidies from Russia, symbolically shifting his country closer to Moscow, and further from the European Union. Refusing to accept the opposition’s demands, President Yanukovich has jailed many protestors and passed legislation restricting protest meetings, which he only just repealed.
While we approve of President Yanukovich’s recent decision to sign legislation revoking restrictions on protest meetings, his response has been inadequate in light of the widespread human rights violations and restrictions on speech that still exist. And while we recognize the difficulties posed to the state by protestors remaining in state buildings and on the streets, we believe that the state should not see imprisonment as the solution to the issues at hand. Instead, the state has the responsibility to answer to its citizens and take their wishes into account.
To that end, we disapprove of President Yanukovich’s rejection of broad political and trade accords with the European Union in exchange for monetary support from Russia. The duration and potency of the opposition protests suggest that many Ukrainians wish to affiliate with Europe and develop their relationship with the West, and the Ukrainian government’s decision to ignore these desires is an abandonment of its responsibilities. Consequently, the government should accept the attempts of Europe and the United States to facilitate a resolution to the conflict, and should work to ensure that the wishes of the Ukrainian people are respected.
We likewise condemn Russia’s attempts to bully its way in Eastern Europe. The issue in Ukraine is only the latest in a troubling trend of Russian aggression with former Soviet Republics. With its own long-term growth prospects still on questionable footing, Russia should instead recognize the potential benefits of European integration and heightened economic ties with the West. At a minimum, Ukraine and its people deserve the right to make a similar choice for themselves.
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