Monday

25th Oct 2021

EU chairman blames Yanukovych for 'destabilising' Ukraine

EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has blamed Ukrainian authorities for “destabilisng” Ukraine, as protests fan out to the east and west of Kiev.

The Belgian politician, who chairs EU summits, spoke in Warsaw on Saturday (24 January) alongside Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“I strongly deplore and condemn the unjustified use of force and brutality by the Ukrainian authorities against demonstrators - with the vast majority still being peaceful demonstrators,” he said.

“Recent restrictions on fundamental freedoms … will only further destabilise the country,” he added.

The Polish leader also said it is up to the Ukrainian authorities to end "the cycle of violence.”

“The protesters do not question the unity of Ukraine. The opposition is not postulating a division of the country,” Tusk noted.

The meeting, in Warsaw, came amid escalating tension on the other side of the Polish-Ukrainian border, just 300km to the east of the Polish capital.

The opposition movement over the weekend rejected President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer to give two of its leading MPs big jobs in a government reshuffle.

Activists also seized control of extra government buildings, including, on Sunday night, the justice ministry.

Outside Kiev, protests have flared up in 15 other cities.

Most of them are in western Ukraine, where the majority Ukrainian speakers and Roman Catholics feel closer to the EU. But others are deep in Russophone and Christian Orthodox eastern Ukraine, in cities such as Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhya, in a sign of Yanukovych’s weakening grip on power.

The developments have prompted Ukrainian justice minister Olena Lukash to threaten to call a state of emergency.

Defence minister Pavel Lebedev - like Lukash, a pro-Russian hardliner - also made a statement.

He told Russian media that Ukraine’s constitution forbids the use of the army to suppress protests. But despite his reassurance, some Ukrainian activists saw the verbal intervention by the military chief as a veiled threat.

Van Rompuy and Tusk’s remarks go against Yanukovych’s line that the opposition is being driven by far-right extremists.

Tusk also risked angering Yanukovych and his main sponsor, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, by calling for €3 million of EU money to be channeled to opposition groups, or “the development of citizens’ movements.”

Meanwhile, Van Rompuy held up Poland’s economic growth since the fall of Communism in 1989 as an example of what Ukraine could achieve if it makes pro-EU reforms.

“Today, only 24 years later, Poland is three times more prosperous than Ukraine,” he said alongside Tusk.

The EU chairman also gave encouragement to the Ukrainian opposition at a gala event with Polish business chiefs.

Looking back to Cold-War-era divisions in Europe, he said: “Poland … should have been a member [of the EU] from the start. History decided otherwise. But the Polish people changed the course of history.”

“Nobody can prevent the Ukrainian people from seeing their dreams fulfilled one day,” he added.

Opinion

An open letter on the future of Ukraine

Intellectuals, artists and former foreign ministers, including Norman Davies, Andrzej Wajda and Bernard Kouchner, have urged European countries to support the Ukrainian opposition.

Opinion

Ukraine on the edge

The Ukrainian crisis is the biggest threat to European stability since the Balkan Wars.

News in Brief

  1. Timmermans cancels Moscow visit ahead of COP26
  2. Report: EU to open new mission in Kabul
  3. Bulgaria and Romania run out of beds for Covid-patients
  4. Afghanistan 'on brink of collapse', Sweden warns
  5. Far-right vigilantes stopped on Polish-German border
  6. Croatian right-wingers seek euro referendum
  7. Orbán accuses EU and US of election meddling
  8. Militants free international observers in Russia-occupied Ukraine

Opinion

Why Russia politics threaten European security

Russia could expand hostile operations, such as poisonings, including beyond its borders, if it feels an "existential" threat and there is no European pushback.

Analysis

Ten years on from Tahrir: EU's massive missed opportunity

Investing in the Arab world, in a smart way, is also investing in the European Union's future itself. Let's hope that the disasters of the last decade help to shape the neighbourhood policy of the next 10 years.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. Erdoğan orders out US and EU ambassadors
  2. EU banks play 'major role' in deforestation, report finds
  3. NGOs reveal 71 'revolving-door' cases at fossil-fuel giants
  4. Energy and gender in EU focus This WEEK
  5. Nato invite sees Nordic states stepping up security cooperation
  6. Lessons for the EU in Sahel, from Afghanistan
  7. EU states want more Belarus sanctions
  8. Gas price spike exposes rift at EU summit

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us