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Ukraine's Bloody Revolution

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photo credit: saritarobinson
photo credit: saritarobinson

On an icy evening, Yulia Tymoschenko addressed the Ukrainian people gathered in the centre of Kyiv. Denouncing the government's widespread corruption the influence of a parasitic oligarch elite, the leader of the centre-right party Batkivshchyna, or "Fatherland", stirred up the crowd. This time however, Timoshenko was weak, sitting in her wheelchair. Unlike the 2004 Orange Revolution, the former Prime Minister's address marked the end of weeks of violent confrontations between the government's forces and the Ukrainian people. Unlike 2004, blood had been spilled on the snowy pavement of the Ukrainian capital.

Tocqueville once said, "In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end". Like a romantic novel in which the lover's muse disappeared forever, the democratic aspirations brought about by the Orange Revolution faded away. Hopes were shattered as President Yushchenko and Prime Minister Tymoschenko fought for influence. Promises of a better future were wrecked as the government failed to address the socio-economic crisis devastating the country. People came to see in their new leaders the same corruption they had sought to combat...

The recent events that have shaken Ukraine, resulting in the demise of President Yanukovych and in the deaths of hundreds of citizens, raise a crucial question: what will be the end?

The spectre of the Orange Revolution still haunts the Ukrainian people. Today, it is essential that not only the West, but also the Ukrainians themselves, elite and laymen alike, work together to write their happy ending.

The people of Ukraine are stronger than ever. They have fought the very system in which they lived and struggled. In recent weeks, pacific rallies have transformed into organised units ready to give up their lives to defend theirs nation's freedom and sovereignty. However, like in 2004, the Ukrainian people are facing important challenges. The return of old political figures such as Tymoschenko, "Putin in a skirt" according to some, brings dark memories to mind. Moreover, the rise to prominence of extreme right groups and parties has exacerbated secessionist aspirations in the East of the country where Russian-speaking communities see the EU with suspicion and Russia with hope.

The upcoming elections must mark a true change in Ukraine's political organization. Powerful oligarchs, said to be "president-makers" like Rinat Akhmetov, have to be be scrutinized, their financial activities regulated, and their political interests controlled. All citizens must get involved in the political process to ensure a government accountable to its people. The new government must bring new faces into Parliament.

Finally, Russia and the West will also have important roles to play, both in guaranteeing political stability and financial help for the latter; and in furthering ideological and social cleavages for the former.

Ukraine has gone from an Orange to a bloody revolution. The Ukrainian people have defeated the political apparatus they had only questioned a decade ago.

It is too early to celebrate, but let's hope that this time the end of the novel will not only be written by the few but by the many.

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