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Ukrainians could teach Europe real European values

Author : Richard Herzinger

Western European public can learn a lot from Ukrainians with their consistent pro-European orientation
21:32, 27 November 2018

112 Agency

The first protest demonstration took place on November 21, 2013 in the center of the Ukrainian capital after a statement made by the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych under pressure from the Kremlin. He said that the already prepared agreement on the EU-Ukraine association would not be signed. This brought to life Euromaidan, an impressive protest of people striving for European values - a democracy, a rule of law free from corruption, and a state of national self-determination. In the course of this movement, nearly one hundred protesters fell victim to repression of the special forces of Yanukovych regime.

They were destined to become not the only ones who gave their lives for the Revolution of Dignity, as this pro-European uprising is today called in Ukraine. Russia’s contradictory annexation of Crimea, which became its reaction to the end of Yanukovich’s domination in February 2014, was followed by the invasion of Eastern Ukraine by Russian hybrid forces disguised as “separatists” and the implantation of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics into the body of sovereign Ukraine . Since then, thousands of people have died in the war, almost half a million people have become refugees. On the eastern Ukrainian front, contrary to the Minsk agreements, which the EU insists on fulfilling, the people still die every day. But the aggressor Russia, which is not even called that in the Minsk agreements, is not going to release the loot from its hands. On the contrary, having held unlawful "elections" in the "people's republics", the Kremlin mockingly demonstrated that it did not comply with the Minsk agreement.

Five years ago, when the citizens of Ukraine with the flags of the European Union reached the Maidan, it was difficult to imagine that the onset of the new nationalism in Europe would question the European idea and the foundations of European unity. Today we are witnessing a paradoxical phenomenon: while the political leadership of Ukraine, as well as the reformist movements of the Ukrainian civil society, which grew out of the 2013/2014 uprising, are steadily "Euro-optimistic", the EU countries commitment to the idea of a united Europe is dangerously weakening.

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The Western European public has not fully realized how much Ukraine’s fate is connected with the future of a united, democratic Europe and how much it can learn from Ukrainians with their consistent pro-European orientation. Instead, the interest of the media in the Ukraine’s fight for freedom is fading, dissatisfaction with the pace of development of this country is intensifying, and the reaction to a real aggressive war in the center of Europe is dulled. In various political camps and groups of society, there are voices suggesting that in the name of peace, we need to come to terms with the violent seizure of sovereign European state territories by an authoritarian power.

Indeed, the lofty ideals of Euromaidan, when confronted with harsh reality, have faded noticeably. At the same time, the rise of Ukraine is hampered not only by the costs of the ongoing war and the ongoing subversive activities of the Russian side. Most of the problems have internal roots: the institutional reform of the post-Soviet system is progressing too slowly with a constant threat of relapse. Corrupt oligarchic structures penetrating the whole country continue to exist. Representatives of the political elite of the old school still have the levers of power. Still highly motivated civil society has not yet been able to create effective organizations and work in the center of political space. The West-oriented young generation needs time to create a new social mentality that could become a pillar for institutional reform.

There is a danger that numerous disappointments can distort the impression of many reform, implemented despite all the obstacles in a short time after Maidan. Probably the most important change since 2013/14 is the increased sense of national unity of Ukrainians. The widespread opinion in the West that the country is split into Ukrainian-speaking and Russian-speaking parts and therefore is not a single nation, on closer examination turns out to be untrue. Although in the east of the country, the Kyiv government is often subjected to harsh criticism, but only a few people again want to find themselves under the domination of Russia. The aggressive policy of the Kremlin unwittingly led to the fact that the national feeling of Ukrainians has strengthened.

The fact that the struggle for the introduction of democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine is inextricably linked with the desire for national self-determination and that all this is accompanied by a burning desire to join the EU indicates a fatal delusion of European skeptics and radical opponents of the EU. Their identification of the desire for "even greater Europe" with the restriction of national sovereignty is anti-historical and false. Moreover, for the first time in the history of the continent, the post-imperial structure of the EU guaranteed national sovereignty to small nations. That is why Putin’s regime, which seeks to restore post-imperial structures, regards the EU structure as an opposing antipode, and the new Ukraine, which understood this interconnection better than any other European nation, as a dangerous spear point of this structure.

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Discrediting the Revolution of Dignity by Russian propaganda, calling the revolution "fascist" – this process began from the very first day of the uprising and continues to this day. Products of Moscow disinformation factories are constantly infiltrating into our media landscape. So, recently, Western news agencies have spread the message that the Ukrainian parliament made the slogan "Glory to Ukraine" the official greeting of the Ukrainian army. At the same time, an explanation was given that with this gesture Kyiv reaffirmed its commitment to radical nationalist organizations that during World War II, collaborated with the Nazis and used the same slogan. Thus, an unverified assertion of Russian propaganda appeared in the German media saying that “Glory to Ukraine” is a “fascist greeting”.

The goal of this insinuation is clear - to link the modern Ukrainian leadership and all of Ukraine’s desire for independence with the evil spirit of national socialism. But in fact, the greeting "Glory to Ukraine" appeared long before the advent of fascism and national socialism as the slogan of the Ukrainian national movement. It appeared at the end of the 19th century and was used by the troops of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, which arose as a result of the First World War, and fought against the capture of independent Ukraine by the Red Army. Today, the slogan is also used by Ukrainians who have nothing in common with radical nationalist inclinations. The lack of knowledge about the history and present of Ukraine, as well as the widespread lack of interest in both, is another gate through which the Russian imperial narrative can penetrate our heads.

This does not mean that the really existing radical nationalist forces do not pose any danger to the young Ukrainian democracy. But, like other Eastern European countries that have freed themselves from the yoke of Soviet totalitarianism, it is also difficult for Ukraine to deal with the dark pages of national history. However, much more dangerous than the seizure of power by authoritarian nationalists seems to be a creeping weakening of the reformist energy in Ukrainian society, especially since the advantages of reforms sometimes have not reached the broad masses of the population. Many reforms are painfully perceived at the initial stage, for example, increased gas prices as a result of the energy sector reorganization.

Moscow did not abandon its attempts to drive Ukraine back into a certain mystical “Russian world”, a distorted view of which is used by Putin’s regime as a pretext for an aggressive expansionist policy. Russia is looking for new reasons to interfere in the internal affairs of Ukraine, since this country is more and more culturally withdrawing from its influence. One of the milestones of this process unnoticed by the West is the almost separation of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Moscow Patriarchate, which is still dominant, firmly embedded in Putin's power system. The fact that the independent patriarch of Constantinople recently blessed the declaration of independence by the Ukrainian Orthodox, prompted Vladimir Putin to declare that Russia would "protect the interests of believers in Ukraine." We heard the threat contained in the statement that now aggressive actions could be carried out under religious cover.

Read original article at Die Welt

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