25th Mar 2018

Ukraine criminalises pro-EU protests

  • Kiev: The US is ready to trigger sanctions if there is a police crackdown (Photo: mac_ivan)

EU and US diplomats have voiced dismay after Ukraine on Thursday (16 January) criminalised almost every aspect of the pro-EU protest movement.

President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Party of the Regions rushed through the legislation via show of hands in parliament.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Reports say that electronic tellers in the Verkhovna Rada kept flashing up a figure of 235 votes in favour just a few seconds after each round of voting, before the hands could be counted.

The laws impose fines of up to $1,275 a head or 15 days’ detention on people who install or supply equipment, such as tents or loudspeakers, at opposition rallies, who wear masks, who make “extremist” billboards or who form convoys of five or more cars.

They envisage up to 15 years’ jail for people deemed guilty of “mass violation” of public order.

In broader measures, they ban collection of information, such as corruption dossiers, on judges. They let the government block access to the internet and make it easier to strip opposition MPs of immunity.

In a direct echo of anti-NGO laws in Russia, they also force NGOs which receive foreign funding to register income and classify them as “foreign agents.”

One Ukrainian opposition leader, boxer Vitali Klitschko, reacted by saying: "The people of Ukraine have been deprived of civil rights and liberties.”

The move also drew condemnation from the Lithuanian, Polish and Swedish foreign ministers.

Poland’s Radek Sikorski tweeted: “Ominous events in the Ukrainian parliament today. Has Ukraine decided to take the road away from Europe and European values?”

Sweden’s Carl Bildt said, also on Twitter, that there are “forces pushing [a] Belarus scenario.” He added: “Dark designs against democracy clearly behind what we saw in Kiev today. And ultimately against independence of Ukraine.”

The US state department said in a statement: “Both the process and the substance of the Rada’s actions today cast serious doubt on Ukraine’s commitment to democratic norms.”

The state department has a list of between 10 and 20 Ukrainian officials, including its interior minister, who are to face US travel bans or assett freezes if the situation deteriorates.

EU institutions are less hawkish, with EU officials saying that Belarus sanctions have done little to promote reform in Ukraine’s autocratic neighbour.

But some EU countries’ diplomats also believe that targeted sanctions on Yanukovych allies could work. “The EU is suffering from a Belarus complex. But the situation in Ukraine is completely different: Pro-Yanukovych oligarchs have much more to lose if they go on an EU blacklist,” one contact said.

The "Euromaidan" movement in Ukraine erupted after Yanukovych last year opted for a $15 billion Russian bailout instead of an EU trade treaty.

Between 500 and 2,000 people remain camped out in central Kiev each night.

EU diplomats in the city say there could be a repeat of last November’s events if there is a mass crackdown by police.

A police assault on 30 November prompted up to half a million people to join rallies. Fresh police violence outside a Kiev court last weekend saw 50,000 or so people come out.

“The winter weather has been mild up to now. But the big test [of the protest camp] will come when temperatures fall to minus 15 [degrees Centigrade] later this month or in February,” an EU source noted.

The contact said the “real heros” are isolated pro-EU demonstrators in regional cities in Russophone eastern Ukraine.

“They are beating beaten up and thrown in prison every day,” the source noted.


EU should confront Russia on Ukraine

The Europeanisation of post-Soviet Europe will only happen when Russia is either forced to or decides to let it happen. 

EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'

EU leaders demanded a permanent exemption from US tariffs on steel and aluminium - and ruled out any bilateral trade talks within the 1 May deadline set by Donald Trump.

News in Brief

  1. EU wants 'Paris' climate strategy within 13 months
  2. Workload of EU court remains high
  3. Spain's supreme court charges Catalan separatist leaders
  4. EU calls for 'permanent' exemption from US tariffs
  5. Summit backs guidelines for future EU-UK talks
  6. Macron support drops as public sector workers go on strike
  7. EU leaders condemn Turkey for illegal actions in Aegean Sea
  8. Parliament must publish 'trilogue' documents, court says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EUobserverStart a Career in EU Media. Apply Now to Become Our Next Sales Associate
  2. EUobserverHiring - Finance Officer With Accounting Degree or Experience - Apply Now!
  3. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  4. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  5. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  6. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  7. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  8. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  10. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights
  11. ACCAAppropriate Risk Management is Crucial for Effective Strategic Leadership
  12. EPSUWill the Circular Economy be an Economy With no Workers?

Latest News

  1. Nordic states discuss targeted Russia sanctions
  2. Commission sticks to its line on Barroso case
  3. Germany and France promise new Russia sanctions
  4. EU rejects US trade 'gun to the head'
  5. Tariffs and Turkey will top This WEEK
  6. EU leaders roll over Brexit talks amid Trump and Russia fears
  7. Europe needs corporate tax reform - a digital tax isn't it
  8. EU data chiefs rally behind UK over Cambridge Analytica

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressThe 2018 European Medal of Tolerance Goes to Prince Albert II of Monaco
  2. FiscalNoteGlobal Policy Trends: What to Watch in 2018
  3. Human Rights and Democracy NetworkPromoting Human Rights and Democracy in the Next Eu Multiannual Financial Framework
  4. Mission of China to the EUDigital Cooperation a Priority for China-EU Relations
  5. ECTACompetition must prevail in the quest for telecoms investment
  6. European Friends of ArmeniaTaking Stock of 30 Years of EU Policy on the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: How Can the EU Contribute to Peace?
  7. ILGA EuropeCongratulations Finland!
  8. UNICEFCyclone Season Looms Over 720,000 Rohingya Children in Myanmar & Bangladesh
  9. European Gaming & Betting AssociationEU Court: EU Commission Correct to Issue Guidelines for Online Gambling Services
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina Hopes for More Exchanges With Nordic, Baltic Countries
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementCondemns Facebook for Actively Promoting Anti-Macedonian Racism
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersGlobal Seed Vault: Gene Banks Gather to Celebrate 1 Million Seed Collections