Saturday

1st Oct 2022

EU diplomats fear imminent crackdown in Ukraine

  • Bankova Street: 'Nobody believes you could drive a bulldozer there without the government's permission' (Photo: mac_ivan)

The EU has agreed to hold new trade talks with Ukraine, but some diplomats fear the Ukrainian leader is preparing to use violence to end protests.

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso agreed to the talks in a 30-minute phone call with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Monday (2 December).

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

He urged him to "show restraint" and to investigate who ordered a mini-crackdown on a group of pro-EU students on Saturday.

The talks on reviving an EU-Ukraine trade treaty will be led by Ukraine's deputy PM Serhiy Arbuzov, who says the EU should give Yanukovych €10 billion if it wants a deal.

Some EU diplomats believe the mass pro-EU protests will make him sign the treaty at an EU-Ukraine summit in March.

But others believe things are about to get worse.

"I would say there will be a 'pacification' of the Maidan [pro-EU protests] in the next few days," one EU diplomat told this website.

"He [Yanukovych] might hold off because of the OSCE ministerial on Thursday. But he might do it before the meeting, to show he is still in charge despite international pressure," the contact added, referring to a meeting of ministers from countries in the Vienna-based pro-democracy club, the OSCE, in Kiev this week.

For their part, Ukrainian leaders on Monday began to justify use of force.

Yanukovych said on TV that protesters are "bound by the laws of our state."

His PM, Mykola Azarov, said the protest "has all the signs of a coup … We are being patient, but we would like our partners not to feel a total absence of authority."

They spoke after demonstrators occupied government buildings in Kiev and built barricades in the city centre.

Saturday's mini-crackdown aside, men in plain clothes have been beating up protesters trying to get from regional towns to Kiev in recent days.

Oleksandr Sushko, a Ukrainian sociologist, told this website some anarchist groups are using the pro-EU rallies as an excuse to go wild.

But he added that agent provocateurs are also going wild to provoke police action.

Recalling one incident on Sunday, when demonstrators drove a bulldozer into riot police, he said: "This happened in Bankova Street, in the government district. It is one of the most heavily guarded areas in Kiev. Nobody believes you could drive a bulldozer there without the government's permission."

Political test

Yanukovych will face a political test when Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, meets on Tuesday morning.

Five MPs from his Party of the Regions, including Inna Bohoslovska, his one-time top cheerleader, have quit the party and joined the Maidan.

The opposition needs about 25 more defectors to call a vote of no confidence.

But EU diplomats believe the "rebellion" is being stage-managed.

"The confidence vote is a fairy tale. Yanukovych will never let it happen," one EU contact said.

"Just because you leave the Party of the Regions doesn't mean you stop working for the Party of the Regions. If his forces brutally end the protests, the EU and the US will react harshly. So he will need the 'rebels' to act as his channels of communication with the West," the source added.

If Yanukovych opts for violence, he can, in any case, count on Kremlin support.

Speaking in Yerevan also on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the Ukraine protests "don’t look like a revolution, but rather like 'pogrom'."

He added they have been "well prepared" by "well-organised and trained militant groups."

'CIA agent'

One of Putin's TV shows, Vesti, the same day in a "documentary" said Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt is a CIA agent who engineered the Ukraine events in revenge for Russia's defeat of Sweden at the Battle of Poltava in 1709.

"Russia TV gets most things wrong … not a stellar moment," Bildt tweeted in reply.

"The beauty is that it [the Maidan] is entirely self-organised, built on the seeds of various civic initiatives …. without any exogenous encouragement/$$," a contact from one US-funded NGO in Kiev told EUobserver by email.

Opinion

What is going on in Ukraine?

A broad desire to change the way their country is run is driving Ukrainians to the streets.

News in Brief

  1. EU ministers adopt measures to tackle soaring energy bills
  2. EU takes Malta to court over golden passports
  3. EU to ban Russian products worth €7bn a year more
  4. Denmark: CIA did not warn of Nord Stream attack
  5. Drone sightings in the North Sea 'occurred over months'
  6. Gazprom threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe via Ukraine
  7. New compromise over EU energy emergency measures
  8. 15 states push for EU-wide gas price cap

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  2. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  3. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  4. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries

Latest News

  1. Putin declares holy war on Western 'satanism'
  2. Two elections and 'Macron's club' in focus Next WEEK
  3. EU agrees windfall energy firm tax — but split on gas-price cap
  4. Ukrainian chess prodigy: 'We are not going to resign ... anywhere'
  5. Going Down Under — EU needs to finish trade deal with Australia
  6. MEPs worry Russian disinfo weakens support for Ukraine
  7. Everything you need to know about the EU gas price cap plan
  8. Why northeast Italy traded in League for Brothers of Italy

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us