The decision Russia made to send military force to Crimea worries many Taiwanese. Taiwan Explore, a blogger who devoted to introducing Taiwan, explained the parallels between Taiwan and Ukraine and why many Taiwanese feel worried about themselves when they watch the news about Ukraine these days.
Latest stories from Quick Reads + Eastern & Central Europe
Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski visted Iran past weekedend and found out even a polish news site is filtered in country.Later he found out Iran censored his remark on censorship.Green Voice of Freedom tweeted Polish diplomat slams internet censorship during a news conference with Iranian FM Javad Zarif.
— GreenVoiceOfFreedom (@IranGreenVoice) March 7, 2014
The Strumica Carnival took place in Macedonia from March 1-3, 2014. This traditional celebration [mk] was first mentioned as early as 1670 by Ottoman travel writer Evliya Çelebi and this year was featured by NBC News in a report about twelve similar events around the world.
Photo-activist Vanco Dzambaski shared his photo gallery from this year's Carnival events on Flickr.
The popular Maidan Translations blog republished a Facebook post by Dmitry Tymchuk, Head of the Ukrainian Center for Military-Political Studies, that describes several alleged international violations and “irregular actions” since late February 2014. Tymchuk begin this run-down by saying:
For instance, on February 28, at 8.45 a.m. the flight of more than 10 military helicopters was monitored by the technical observation post located on the cape of Takil from the direction of the Russian Federation to Ukraine.
Three helicopters (two KA-27 and one Mi-8) landed at the Kacha airport and passed through the border and customs established procedures according to an application made preliminarily. The rest of the helicopters came down near the airport; herewith, there was no answer received on the border detail chief’s appeal concerning the necessity of passing the established formalities by these helicopters, which arrived without a preliminary made application in violation of relevant agreement.
The chief of the border detail of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine made a statement of Ukrainian border violation by aforementioned helicopters.
A group of Macedonian Twitter users are organizing a blood drive on March 17, 2014, in Skopje. This is the second action event of this kind – the first took place on September 13, 2013.
Минатата акција 102-ца дојдоа да даруваат крв, од кои на 75 им беше дозволено. Да собереме дупло овој пат!
— Крводарители (@krvodariteli) January 22, 2014
Last time 102 people came to donate blood, of which 75 were allowed [to give blood]. Let's have twice as much this time!
Mobilization for the event is taking place on Twitter through hashtags #крводарители and @krvodariteli – meaning “blood donors,” as well as through a Facebook event page, Three influential websites, and various bloggers who are supporting the action by spreading word and distributing the event banner, whose design is also a donation by @banekoma.
Swiss skier Darío Cologna was awarded the gold medal on the 15-kilometer freestyle cross country ski race in the 2014 Winter Olympics held in Sochi, Russia. But in Peru he made the news due to a moving and exemplary scene: he waited for more than 20 minutes at the finish line for Peruvian Roberto Carcelén to shake his hand and hug him, for he knew Carcelen had competed although he had two broken ribs.
Carcelén broke two ribs during training, and nonetheless he decided to participate in a 15 kilometer race because he had already announced these would be his last Winter Olympics.
On Twitter, the news didn't go unnoticed:
VIVA el espiritu olimipico!.costilla rota y llego a la meta,Roberto Carcelen de Peru,quien creen lo esperaba en meta? http://t.co/C3B8r3kjGd
— Diego Arcos S. (@DiegoArcos14) febrero 14, 2014
HURRAY for the Olympic spirit! Broken rib and he made it all the way to the finish line, Roberto Carcelén from Peru. Who do you think was waiting for him at the finish line?
Un momento tan dulce que la nieve casi se hace raspadilla. Roberto Carcelén compitió hoy en Sochi – Rusia http://t.co/CzQOJCzjNf
— La Mula (@lamula) febrero 14, 2014
A moment so sweet that the snow almost became snow cones. Roberto Carcelén competed today in Sochi – Russia.
A video by WITNESS on the Human Rights Channel of YouTube wrapped up some of the most significant protests and human rights abuses of 2013. Dozens of clips shot by citizens worldwide are edited together to show efforts to withstand injustice and oppression, from Sudan to Saudi Arabia, Cambodia to Brazil.
A post on the WITNESS blog by Madeleine Bair from December 2013, celebrates the power of citizen activism using new technologies including video, while readers are reminded that the difficulty of verification and establishing authenticity remains a big obstacle.
“Citizen footage can and is throwing a spotlight on otherwise inaccessible places such as prisons, war zones, and homes,” says Bair. “But given the uncertainties inherent in such footage, reporters and investigators must use it with caution.”
As anti-government protests that started on November 21, 2013, burden Ukrainian life today, a vintage photo blog takes a look back on another harsh period of the country's history – through 52 amazing color photographs [photo] of everyday life in Ukraine in 1942.
In 1942, like many other European countries, Ukraine was under Nazi occupation. As InfoUkes reminds readers:
Hitler appointed the Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946) head of the Ostministerium (East Ministry) in charge of administering the territory of Ukraine. Before the war Rosenberg was pro-Ukrainian and anti-Muscovite (Russian). He planned to establish a Greater Ukraine state taking territory from Western Russia. However, Hitler had a different idea. He thought Ukrainians should get no preferential treatment and personally appointed Erich Koch to rule Reichskommissariat Ukraine (eastern Ukraine) with an iron fist.
Koch, as a member of the superior German Herrenvolk master race, started a reign of terror and oppression in Ukraine. Koch often said that the Ukrainian people were inferior to the Germans, that Ukrainians were half-monkeys, and that Ukrainians “must be handled with the whip like the negroes.” He once said that “no German soldiers would die for these niggers [Ukrainians].”
The photos on Vintage Everyday, however, show a different side of the story. However cruel the times, people have a tendency to do everything in their power to lead normal lives, even in a Nazi-occupied Ukraine and with World War II raging on all fronts.
Colombian blogger Javier Moreno typed “[Name of country] is” on Google search to see auto-complete suggestions for each country in Latin America and Europe. He modeled his experiment after the English version of the Google search “Why [country] is.”
From his search in Colombia he got results like “Ecuador is dangerous,” “Brazil is a Latin country”, “Bolivia is God's people,” “France is socialist,” “Belguim is expensive,” and “Spain is different.”
He added his results to two maps in his blog Rango Finito [es].
Ucrainica Marginalis published an overview of the four largest misconceptions about #Euromaidan, written by scholars Sofiya Grachova & Stephen A. Walsh. What this overview points out is the vast gap between how international media and outside spectators view what is happening and the message that Ukrainians involved in Euromaidan protests are trying to get across to their government and the world.
Listed as the largest misconceptions are:
Misconception #1: Ukraine is divided between east and west.
Misconception #2: Ukrainian protests are about joining the EU.
Misconception #3: Protest forces in Ukraine are dominated by the far right.
Misconception #4: The protests should cease immediately and give way to negotiations between the regime and the leaders of opposition political parties.
In Ukraine, several filmmakers united to produce a video chronology of the events that came to be known as the Euromaidan protests. “BABYLON'13″, named after a bar in which the filmmakers came up with the idea for the project, is a collection of short documentaries reflecting the development of the mass protests and particular incidents during the rallies.
20-year-old Raul Oaida from Romania has built what many dreamed of as children – the world’s first life-size LEGO car. The car, including the engine which actually runs, was built using 500,000 LEGO pieces. The vehicle can only achieve a speed of some 20 to 30 kilometers per hour, but – it runs on air!
The young Romanian, a self-taught tech genius, paired up online with Australian entrepreneur Steve Sammartino, who procured the funds for this project on Twitter and got twice as many investors as needed in just days. The car was built in Romania and then transported to Australia, where the two unlikely partners met for a test drive.
The engine of the car is also entirely made of LEGO. It has “four orbital engines and a total of 256 pistons.” According to the project website, the top speed isn’t very impressive, around 20 to 30 km. “We were scared of a Lego explosion so we drove it slowly,” the founders wrote. Steve and Oaida say that the project was possible only because of the internet. The two even met online, when Steve accepted Oaida’s Skype request. “I’m teaching him about business and he’s teaching me a bit about physics,” Steve told the press.
A Roma Holocaust center is planned to be opened in the southern Hungarian city of Pecs by the end of 2014. The documentation center is the joint effort of the local municipality of Pecs and the Hungarian Roma minority, and will also collaborate with the Pecs University in teaching students about this often forgotten part of European 20th century history.
The Roma Holocaust, also known as Porajmos in Romani, was an attempt by Nazi Germany to exterminate the Romani people in Europe. Approximately between 1933 and 1945, Roma citizens from many European countries were persecuted, imprisoned, stripped of their nationality, often transported to other Nazi-occupied or Nazi-collaborator countries, where many were killed. The numbers have mostly been downplayed by Nazi collaborators, but the estimated number of Roma killed during that period in Europe is between 220 thousand and 1.5 million.
West Germany recognized the Roma Holocaust in 1982, but formal recognition and marking of this Holocaust have generally proven to be difficult due to lack of recorded collective memory and documentation of the Porajmos among the Roma, a consequence both of their oral traditions and illiteracy, heightened by widespread poverty and discrimination in this day and age, all of which makes the opening of this center in Pecs paramount in commemorating this tragic portion of Romani and European history.
“European institutions should safeguard the right to free, independent and pluralistic information”. The quote, from the Media Initiative website, summarizes the main idea behind a pan-European campaign that aims at urging the European Commission to draft a Directive to protect Media Pluralism and Press Freedom.
The Media Initiative is running a European Citizens’ Initiative - a tool of participatory democracy “which allows civil society coalitions to collect online and offline one million signatures in at least 7 EU member states to present directly to the European Commission a proposal forming the base of an EU Directive, initiating a legislative process”. The petition is available in 15 languages and can be signed online:
Protecting media pluralism through partial harmonization of national rules on media ownership and transparency, conflicts of interest with political office and independence of media supervisory bodies.
A short video presents the campaign:
On January 16, 2014, Ukrainian Parliament adopted a series of bills with a severe violation of the voting procedure. Nevertheless, on the eve of the same day the bills were signed into law by President Yanukovych.
Below is an infographic by civic movement CHESNO [uk, en] outlining the major legislative initiatives valid as of January 17, 2014.
Scholars and researchers of the Russian Internet can rejoice this week, for Russia's leading search engine, Yandex.ru, is now the second website in the world, after Bing in the United States, to gain access to Facebook firehose data [ru]. This means that Yandex can now search Facebook's streaming API and provide live results for all public posts. The new deal with Facebook is limited to users based in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Turkey. Currently, only Yandex's blogs-specific search feature is capable of returning Facebook results, but the company's spokesperson told TechCrunch on January 13, 2014, that Yandex hopes to incorporate Facebook links in its general Internet search results soon.
Vasyl Pawlowsky, an independent consultant and English-language curator of Maidan Monitoring, a website set up and maintained specifically for following events and news from Euromaidan protests in several cities throughout Ukraine, reports in a blog post that the crowdsourced site is not available due to a DDoS attack, allegedly organized by authorities wanting to stop such information flow regarding the protests.
Pawlowsky also tells of a recent two-day meeting in Karkhiv, dubbed the All-Ukrainian Euromaidan Forum, held by Euromaidan organizers to coordinate activities of the several protest locations throughout the country, but mentions the lack of structure in this coordination:
Форум закінчився . Через годину їдемо на Київ-Львів . Коротенько про головне . Жодної , наголошую ЖОДНОЇ !!! надструктури не було створено ( це принципово ) В Харкові зібралися представники Євромайданів для аналізу ситуації в Україні . Розробили питання безпеки ,координації, комунікації Майданів . Працюємо далі . Слава Харкову ! Слава Україні !
The Forum is over. In an hour we are driving form Kyiv-Lviv. Shortly about the most important. No, and I emphasize NO!!! overseeing structure was created (in principle). In Kharkiv the representives of the Euromaidans to analyze the situation in Ukraine. To develop matters of security, coordination and communication of the Maidans. We continue our work. Glory to Kharkiv! Glory to Ukraine!
One of many newly set up blogs following Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, which have entered their second month, has collected several graphic images of injured, bleeding protesters from the past several weeks of protests and speaks of the disturbing violations of basic human rights, such as beatings of citizens and journalists in Ukraine during the peaceful rallies. This blog post in particular calls attention to statements from several human rights watchdogs and the fact that, other than several violent police crackdowns on protesters, some participants of the protests are still being held in custody by police:
In December alone, according to Kharkiv Human Rights Group director Yevhen Zakharov, more than 50 journalists were assaulted – mainly by police – including 40 on Dec. 1 alone, when a large rally erupted in central Kyiv in response to a violent police crackdown on Independence Square the day before. [...]
Despite an amnesty law in force concerning EuroMaidan protesters, four activists remain in custody for taking part in rallies, according to Kharkiv Human Rights group member Halya Coynash. She identifed the four as Yaroslav Prytulenko, Andriy Dzyndzya, Viktor Smaliy and Volodymyr Kadura.
On December 18, 2013, American musician and composer Sean Lennon (son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono) shared a photo on his Facebook wall, depicting a pianist playing John Lennon's famous song “Imagine” to the rows of Ukrainian riot police. In a week, the photo has gathered over 16,900 likes and has been shared over 6,100 times.
The artistic action that took place in Kyiv, Ukraine, during ongoing EuroMaidan rallies. It was conceptualised and implemented by non-partisan activists of the group called Euromaidan's Civic Sector [uk].
BestPozitiv.ru, also known as “Tol'ko Pozitiv” (Only the Positive), is a Russian website that promises to “fill you with positivity every day” by bringing its viewers “the most interesting” videos, GIFs, photographs, lists, and other multimedia “that the Internet has to offer.” The site aggregates everything, from memes of cute cats replete with whimsical rhymes to photos of ships with amusing names.
Here are a few of the best highlights from Tol'ko Pozitiv:
Photos of “Russia in all its glory,” depicting quirky scenes from the Motherland, capturing the lovable zaniness of Russian culture.
After almost two years in federal custody, Pussy Riot's two most famous members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, will hold their first post-prison press conference [ru]. The event will be hosted by the online TV station Dozhd and take place on Friday, December 27, 2013, beginning at 2:00 PM Moscow time (5:00 AM US Eastern Time). Those interested in watching can tune in at www.tvrain.ru [ru] and Twitter users are encouraged to submit their own questions using the hashtag “#askPussyRiot“. Though the discussion will be in Russian, questions can be submitted in English or other languages.
While the pardoned Mikhail Khodorkovsky [Global Voices report] doesn't appear in any hurry to set up Twitter or Facebook accounts and join Russia's chattering classes, the recently amnestied Pussy Riot band members [Global Voices report], Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, are already micro-blogging up a storm. Of course, unlike the former head of Yukos, they didn't spend the last 10 years in prison — as Khodorkovsky noted in his press conference [ru], both Facebook and Twitter didn't even exist when he was arrested.
Alekhina opened a Twitter account, @malehina [ru], and has already tweeted 82 times. A sizable portion of these tweets, however, are a seemingly random collection of pithy sayings, like:
Всегда выбирайте самый трудный путь — там вы не встретите конкурентов!
— Мария Алехина (@Malehina) December 24, 2013
Always choose the most difficult path — there you won't face competition!
Tolokonnikova, on the other hand, resumed tweeting from her old account @tolokno [ru]. Her tweets are also eclectic. For instance, a few hours ago Tolokonnikova wondered [ru] why Russian prisons ban eyebrow tweezers — one can go to solitary confinement if found with a pair. (I am no expert on Russian prisons, but the reason is likely the same as why they are banned on airplanes.) At the same time, she appears to have mixed feelings about her early release during the holiday season:
Меня выпустили – а завтра бы Рождество с моими протестантками осужденными встречали.
— Надя Толокно (@tolokno) December 24, 2013
I've been released – but otherwise tomorrow we would be celebrating Christmas with my Protestant convicts.
According to her official website, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has officially joined the Maidan Civil Movement, a newly formed civilian organization stemming from the Euromaidan movement, just as the protest that began in Ukraine in November 2013 enters its second month.
Tymoshenko, jailed in 2011 for allegedly “exceeding authority”, is considered by many around the world to be a political prisoner, while Ukrainians are divided on their opinions of her. Most Ukrainian citizens condemned her imprisonment in 2011, some claiming that the current regime's only reason for doing so was to remove her from politics after current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential election, with Tymoshenko as his opponent in the run-off round, by just 3.5 percent.
In a YouTube video posted by Ukrainian Channel 5 and released on Tymoshenko's official site, the founders announce the new Maidan Civil Movement's inception before thousands of protesters gathered in Kyiv's Independence Square:
Tymoshenko's photograph has been gracing many posters and billboards related to the Euromaidan protests in recent weeks, and the jailed former prime minister's daughter has recently, along with other supporters, demanded the immediate release of her mother amid the growing anti-government demonstrations in the country. Other protesters are requesting that Tymoshenko's image be removed from any Euromaidan-related visual materials, not explicitly against Tymoshenko's person and image, but rather as a continuous request by the civilian movement to keep the protests unrelated to any political party or figure.
A recent post titled “Yulia Tymoshenko Isn't Who You Think She Is”, Policymic.com explains Tymoshenko's role in the country and the on-going protests:
Ongoing protests are not about Tymoshenko. Although, how she was treated has further undermined people's trust in the president and his regime, and this is reflected in their calls to keep politics (existing slogans of political opposition) out of Maidan. As an example, a petition was recently started on Avaaz to remove her portraits from the infamous Christmas tree. Currently, people see existing political opposition, including Tymosehko's “Fatherland” party, as part of the political problem rather than its solution. However, as of yet, the civil society is unable to offer new leaders of their own. A workable solution will have to come from their collaboration, but an effective recipe has yet to be found.
Coolpolitics in Portugal announces [pt] an open call for European journalists who want to go on a reporting trip to Brazil in 2014. Twenty-one young reporters from Portugal, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom and Bulgaria will be selected to take part of three different groups that will cover events in Brazil, before and after the World Cup, while collaborating with Brazilian peers.
The Beyond Your World website explains the application process and the expected outcomes of this international reporting and training opportunity:
Ongoing demonstrations, the upcoming World Cup, preparations for the Olympic Games and approaching elections; 2014 is considered to be a very important year for Brazil. Consequently, many beautiful stories are out there and are waiting to be covered. Beyond Your World would likes to make a big contribution with this special project. We want to take this incredible opportunity to explore and tell stories in and from Brazil, not only by giving young journalists the chance to gain experience overseas, but also enabling them to work together with colleagues from different countries.
Deadline for applications is on January 10, 2014. This project - a cooperation between Lokaalmondiaal and the Brazilian media organisation Canal Futura - is part of the training program Beyond Your World which “seeks to inspire and enable the next generation of journalists to cover international development issues”.
Below is the English translation of the full original statement:
Digital Euromaidan Manifesto
We, the Ukrainian Internet users united by Euromaidan principles of non-violent resistance state:
In the digital age, when Internet becomes the main source of information for millions of Ukrainian citizens and no one is able to limit the users with physical borders, the attempts of Ukrainian government to prevent the development of the society and force us to live in the age of television are bound to fail. The development of our society outruns the burnout of current government with its derogatory treatment of citizens. In a digital age it is impossible to hide one’s incompetence, fraud and corruption. In a digital age using brutal physical force becomes one’s condemnation. We will keep reminding about it. We will remember.
- To encourage citizens to participate in the protests demanding the prosecution of those responsible for the brutal crackdown on Nov. 30 rally and the resignation of the government;
- To continue providing comprehensive coverage of protests and acts of civil disobedience in Ukraine;
- To counter information attacks by the Ukrainian Presidential Administration and the Kremlin against the participants and ideas of Euromaidan done through media outlets controlled by the government;
- To stick to ethical principles and avoid publicizing unconfirmed, provocative and sensational information.
We are convinced that:
- The future of Ukraine depends on the efforts of every one of us;
- Our strength lies in unity and openness to the world and innovations;
- Significant portion of Ukrainian Internet is in solidarity with the values of Euromaidan.
- The attempts of the government to turn people’s attention away from Euromaidan’s demands to prosecute those guilty of using force on Euromaidan;
- Any attempts to manipulate public opinion;
- Biased coverage of Euromaidan by some Ukrainian and Russian media outlets.
We respect different opinions and are ready to engage with our opponents by the way of facts and reason. We will continue taking part in the acts of civil disobedience both on Euromaidan itself and in the informational space.
Together till victory! Glory to Ukraine! #євромайдан
Kyiv. December 19, 2013
Hungary, like many other countries in the region, has an on-going corruption problem on almost every level of governance. A new project created by investigative website Átlátszó.hu and Transparency International, Fizettem.hu, has taken on the task of collecting reports from citizens about cases of bribery and corruption in the country.
How much cash do corrupt police officers in Hungary take to ignore a misdemeanour or traffic violation? What is the cost for doctors take better care of a pacient in hospital? How much does the average Hungarian pay to get something done faster in government agencies? The anti-corruption website that aims to answer these questions was launched in December 2013 and collected over one hundred stories from users in just days. The project's goal is not only to raise awareness and draw wider attention to cases of corruption on all levels, but also to collect enough specific data to generate a more concrete picture of corruption in Hungary, so that it can be used in fixing these issues. The website explains:
A Fizettem.hu oldalon megoszthatod a saját történetedet arról, hol, mikor, ki és mennyi kenőpénzt fizettetett veled, esetleg te önszántadból miért érezted úgy, hogy adnod kell. Sőt, azt is megírhatod, ha visszautasították, vagy te utasítottad vissza a felajánlott összeget. A beküldött történetek előzetes moderáció után kerülnek ki az oldalra és szükség esetén anonimizáljuk ezeket. A történetben bevallott összegek alapján folyamatosan nyomon követjük, hogy az egyes szektorokban mennyi kenőpénzt fizetnek az emberek. A történetedet a BEJELENTEM gomb alatt tudod megosztani.
The Fizettem.hu page lets you share your own story about where, when, who and how much in bribes you paid, or explain why you felt the need to give them. In fact, we accept reports if your bribe was rejected or you refused to pay the asked amount. The stories are set aside after moderation and, if necessary, some are posted anonymously. We monitor based on the amounts declared in the story, calculating on average how much people are paying bribes to each sector. The story of the notifier [user] can be shared using the button below.
December 14, 2013, marked six months of anti-government protests in Bulgaria, where protesters still gather daily in Sofia and other cities, demanding the resignation of the current government, led by the Socialist Party.
After the previous government stepped down after similar protests in February 2013, the new government, elected in May, soon met with similar citizen dissatisfaction and new protests began on June 14, 2013.
The Sofia Globe gives detailed insight into the reasons for the six-month long protests and why, unlike protests from Turkey to Ukraine, they have been receiving less attention from international mainstream media:
The story of the months from June 14 to December 14 is much more than that of the catalyst that first brought out Bulgarians to the streets in mass indignation, the abortive appointment of media mogul Delyan Peevski to head the State Agency for National Security.
It is also the story of how the government and the parties in power have conducted themselves, and the extent to which this may eventually bring about their downfall ahead of the long three and a half years still remaining to the current administration’s term.[...]
Still on the question of the outside world, anti-government protesters seize eagerly on what international media coverage there has been. Such stories are shared and reposted on social networks, a morale booster for the protest participants. Ironically, the very fact that the protests have been largely peaceful, with the very few exceptions where police have been ordered to get tough on anti-government protesters, makes the story hugely less sexy than events elsewhere, from Istanbul to Kyiv and beyond.[...]
This picture of a situation in which no one is winning, neither a discredited government nor those opposed to it, cannot be complete without noting that no political force currently lacking seats in Parliament seems to be making genuine gains. [...]
But while there is a standoff, as the current BSP government refuses to give up, the six-month mark being reached on December 14 shows that the anti-government protesters are not ready to give up either.
Amidst ongoing Euromaidan rallies throughout Ukraine, repeat elections have been held in five troubled single-mandate constituencies in the country, where results could not be confirmed during the 2012 Parliamentary election.
In order to increase the transaprency of the electoral process, a non-government organization, Civil Network OPORA [uk, en] is preparing to live stream the process of establishing election results at the five respective District Election Commissions. This is how the organization describes it on their website:
Attention! At 8:30 pm, online streaming from every of 5 district election commissions (223, 94, 197, 194, and 132) will be organized by Civil Network OPORA. Voters, observers, and journalists will be able to monitor the receipt of protocols of precinct election commissions in 5 problematic districts and record the results of count. [...]
The streaming will be available at the site of Civil Network OPORA: www.oporaua.org
What most media and people following the recent developments in Ukraine know as “pro-EU” or “anti-Russian” protests after the Ukrainian government backed out of a historical agreement with the European Union that was to bring Ukrainians one step closer to Western Europe, are in fact protests that seem to have been in the making for the past several years.
In terms of corruption, Ukraine ranks 144th out of 177 countries, tying with Nigeria, Iran and the Central African Republic on that list. Dissatisfaction and outrage runs deep among Ukrainian citizens, many of whom were, according to a recent study, ready to leave the country to improve their living standards. Sophia Opatska, CEO of the Lviv Business School, explains in detail on the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) Knowledge@Wharton website why the people of Ukraine are taking action and demanding the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych and his government:
In the last couple of years, Ukraine has been in a recession. Although the current government outlined plans to make improvements and reforms, only a small number of people close to the president’s family has experienced any benefits.[...]
Meanwhile, small- and medium-sized businesses have constantly felt intense pressure from tax departments, while reports have surfaced about corruption in state administrations and the courts. The country suffers from low levels of investment, a small number of new business projects and an out-of-date economic structure.[...]
At the same time, the system of social justice in Ukraine is in tatters. On the night of November 30, Ukrainian authorities used brutal violence against a group of students and young people who had been peacefully demonstrating against the government’s U-turn decision. This shows how Ukrainians’ personal security is not assured and citizens can easily be humiliated by the authorities. During the last 22 years of Ukrainian independence, there have been many political games, agreements and trade-offs between parties and politicians, but these social boundaries were not crossed.
On November 30, Ukrainians woke up in a new country. Social media and smartphones allowed us to see the cruelty and violence perpetrated by the authorities, and civil society reacted immediately, with nearly half a million people staging a peaceful demonstration in Kiev the next day. This enormous support came as a surprise to the authorities and opposition leaders.