Saturday

28th Nov 2020

Merkel backs Ukrainian opposition as army warns of war

  • Most people on the Maidan square are peaceful, Merkel says (Photo: mac_ivan)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has thrown her support behind the Ukrainian opposition and urged President Viktor Yanukovych to deliver on his promises to roll back anti-protest laws.

"We think the opposition's claims are justified. It should be possible to protest freely. It should be possible to express one's opinion. And there is, I think, a great need for change in Ukraine," Merkel said Friday (31 January) during a press conference in Berlin.

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

She was speaking alongside Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who had travelled to the German capital to talk exclusively about the situation in Ukraine, where violence continues and where the army on Friday warned of civil war.

The Ukrainian President, who on Thursday went on sick leave, has given an amnesty to demonstrators and rolled back some of the punitive measures against protesters.

But Merkel said this "positive step" was not enough.

She criticised him for asking the opposition to leave the trade unions' building in Kiev, despite paying rent there.

"I have great understanding for the opposition not being able to deliver on this condition. Everyone thinks: how can I protest if there is no possibility to have a warm room, a logistical base?" she said.

Merkel noted that she phoned Yanukovych and told him that asking the opposition to leave its headquarters is a de facto ban on demonstrations.

The chancellor said German civil society was also "very much involved" in Ukraine and promised that "the democratisation of Ukraine will not fail because of lack of support from our side."

Both Merkel and Tusk ruled out sanctions so long as the EU is seeking to mediate between the two sides.

But Tusk admitted that as a neighbouring state, Poland is drafting contingency plans in case civil war breaks out in Ukraine.

"The countries bordering Ukraine, particularly the countries of the Visegrad group [Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic] are of course preparing for various scenarios," Tusk said.

A team of experts from the four Visegrad countries are also drafting contingency plans for potential interruptions in the gas supplies to Europe which transit Ukraine, he added.

"We are focusing on avoiding such situations, that these contingencies are not needed," Tusk said.

Ukrainian opposition leaders, including former boxing star Vitali Klitschko, are expected to travel to Germany for a security conference in Munich also attended by EU, US and Russian politicians.

EU foreign policy head Catherine Ashton on Friday said she was "appalled by the obvious signs of prolonged torture" of Ukrainian activist Dmitry Bulatov who was abducted by Yanukovich's security services.

“I was crucified, nailed. They cut my ears and face. And I have wounds all over my body. But thank God, I’m alive,” he told the BBC after being released from captivity.

His AutoMaidan group used cars to ferry supplies to protesters and visit the residences of Ukraine’s leaders accused of inciting violence.

The opposition say seven people have died in the protests. One activist’s body was found dumped in a forest, not far from where Bulatov was found alive.

Pro-European protests have been ongoing since November, when Yanukovych rejected a proposed partnership with the EU, opting for a Russian deal instead.

A German top official in charge of eastern European relations on Thursday blamed the EU for not taking Russia into consideration when offering these partnerships to former Soviet countries like Ukraine.

Romanian President Traian Basescu on Friday also told press in Berlin that it was the "EU's failure" not to have recognised that countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union had a different sensitivity to the EU and Nato than former Communist countries such as Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia or Romania.

"In our countries there was no opposition to Nato and the EU. But in all the Eastern Partnership countries [Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia] there is a sizeable parliamentary and public opposition to euro-atlantic integration," Basescu said.

EU red-flags Israel's Givat Hamatos settlement

New Israeli settlements around Jerusalem could do more harm to Middle East peace than Israel's recent deals with Arab states did good, EU foreign relations chief Josep Borrell has indicated.

Analysis

There is 'no Russia-Turkey alliance'

Talk of a grand Turkey-Russia realignment is premature, Nato and Russia experts say - despite Putin and Erdoğan's friendly ties.

News in Brief

  1. Brexit talks pick up pace once more
  2. MEPs back US trade detente
  3. Iran diplomat to stand trial in Belgium over 'France bomb plot'
  4. Trump says he'll leave if Biden wins Electoral College vote
  5. EU Parliament: Polish abortion ban risks womens' lives
  6. UN experts warn against racial profiling
  7. EU auditors raise red flag over maritime protection
  8. Four students charged in France's beheading case

Opinion

The under-reported power struggle at the top of the OSCE

An internal power struggle has undermined the world's leading international security body since the summer. The OSCE is due to finally get new leaders in December but the unprecedented power vacuum has hit at a crunch time for hotspots worldwide.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic climate debate on 17 November!
  2. UNESDAMaking healthier diets the easy choice
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersUN Secretary General to meet with Nordic Council on COVID-19
  4. UNESDAWell-designed Deposit Return Schemes can help reach Single-Use Plastics Directive targets
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council meets Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tichanovskaja
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to invest DKK 250 million in green digitalised business sector

Latest News

  1. Erdoğan jails hundreds for life, as EU weighs relations
  2. Italian energy giant director advising EU foreign policy chief
  3. Poland and Hungary say rule-of-law link needs treaty change
  4. Portuguese presidency to focus on social rights and India
  5. The under-reported power struggle at the top of the OSCE
  6. Poland hammered on women's rights in EU debate
  7. EU 'front-line' states want clearer migration rules
  8. Von der Leyen tells Poland and Hungary to go to court

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us