Ukraine: 3 Developments and 1 Caveat on the Nation's Stability


Estonian Foreign Ministry

After days of bloodshed, Ukraine's government and the Euromaidan opposition have taken steps to end fighting and address some of the nation's underlying problems. Here are three major decisions they have made so far, and one caveat about the staying power of these changes:

1. The parliament stopped the troops

Last night, Ukraine's parliament convened and approved a measure to "immediately stop use of any weapons and special means against citizens" as well as "unconditional amnesty for all people detained or who might face possible persecution in the current unrest."

This is important for several reasons. First, it immediately de-escalates violence. The Interior Ministry had earlier this week allowed riot police and troops to use live rounds against protesters, and President Viktor Yanukovych was planning on deploying militarized "anti-terrorist" forces. Each time the government has used force, more people have joined Euromaidan, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of violence.

The decision also has political impact. As the Washington Post's Max Fisher analyzes, it "symbolically places Yanukovych, especially if he ignored parliament on this, outside of both the democratic processes and outside rule of law. He's stuck now – if he defies the resolution, he'll be basically labeling himself as anti-democratic, which will really badly weaken him institutionally."

2. The parliament also limited presidential power

One of the major issues that first sparked protests is a growing sense of disenfranchisement among Ukrainian citizens. Yanukovych has aggressively consolidated power for years. Shortly after he took power in 2010, the Constitutional Court of Ukraine amended the constitution to increase Yanukovych's authority.

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On Tuesday, opposition lawmakers attempted to reintroduce amendments from 2004, when a pro-western administration established a more limited government. The chairman of the parliament, a member of Yanukovych's party, blocked this effort, inflaming new riots.

Today, however, the parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of these reforms. Professor Mychailo Wynnyckyj of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla explains the power shift:

Ukraine just became a Parliamentary-Presidential republic again. This means Yanukovych still retains power over the army, and over foreign affairs (Defense and Foreign Ministers remain Presidential appointees), but the rest of the executive branch is now accountable to Parliament. A new formalized coalition majority must now be created in Parliament which will then appoint a new Prime Minister and approve all other Ministerial appointments.

3. The president agreed to early elections

While the parliament worked on those changes, Vitali Klitschko and other Euromaidan representatives met with the president for negotiations overseen by the European Union. Yanukovych signed an agreement that pushes forward Ukraine's next presidential elections from February 2015 to no later than December 2014.

Klitschko has long advocated that snap elections are needed to determine if Yanukovych is fit to rule and allow citizens a peaceful, democratic way to move the nation forward.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who participated in the talks, describes the resolution as a "good compromise for Ukraine" that "gives peace a chance [and] opens the way for reform and to Europe."

4. Caveat: Ukraine is not in the clear yet

Ukraine has faced unpredictable turns several times throughout this months-long affair. Tuesday's truce vaporized into the nation's deadliest days yet. This precedence makes it hard to say that Ukraine is on a definite path toward stability or regime change.

Many members of Euromaidan are adamant that Yanukovych must resign rather than have the chance to run again. If the various factions of the opposition do not remain unified and Yanukovych is reelected, renewed violence is not out of the question.

The opposition's successes in parliament aren't set in stone, either. As Wynnyckyj writes, "currently their factions do not formally have enough votes in Parliament to create a coalition. If [Yanukovych's party] can be re-instated as a monolithic entity, and then a deal struck with the Communists and some independents, the new majority may be just as pro-Yanukovych." 

Read more Reason coverage of Ukraine's revolution here.

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  1. Wait, is Putin okay with all of this?

    1. It buys him time to murder, blackmail and otherwise act behind the scenes.

      1. This.

        He can also try to incite eastern Ukraine — the Russian-speaking area — into some sort of separatist movement.

        1. That’s what I was expecting–some sort of civil war, with the Russians intervening because of their ethic brethren asking them to come in.

        2. He doesn’t need to incite Eastern Ukraine, Eastern Ukrainians already want secession without any prodding from Russia.

          1. This all seems familiar to me somehow.

            1. What’s Russian for ‘liebensraum‘?

              1. “Your comment does not appear to be written in an English script. Please comment in English.”

                1. I hate that. Oh, I can’t post something in Latin or Greek? Fuck that. If a classical education was good enough for the Founders of this great nation. . . .

              2. If you want to apply Nazi concepts you should at least be able to spell them. Space of love doesn’t sound especially threatening.

              3. “Love room”? I don’t think that was what you meant.

            2. Crimea has almost always been part of Russia, it’s only part of Ukraine today because Khrushchev drunkenly draw some lines on a map.

              1. What, the Russians don’t deserve to suffer for the sins of their Sovietness? Fine, let’s give France back to Germany, then.

                Just kidding–I don’t have a clue what should happen or even how strongly the ethnic Russians feel about this.

                1. While you jest, there actually has been a lot of bitching (from Libertarians) about how the Allies moved German colonists out of conquered territories after the war.

                  Granted, it was done rather humanely, but still, they simply had no right to be there (then again, Libertarians don’t believe in borders)

              2. Crimea has almost always been part of Russia

                Not in any sort of cultural sense. Crimea was annexed to the Russian Empire a little after Poland was partitioned and (partially) added to Russia’s domain, and a little before Finland was wholly annexed to the Tsardom. The Russian and Ukrainian populations of Crimea came after this annexation; Russian settlement in particular was enhanced by Stalin’s resettlement policies.

          2. That’s probably because the Eastern Ukraine is largely populated by Russian settlers who came in to repopulate the East and take Ukrainian lands after Stalin starved much of the area to death. Just sayin’.

        3. Would they separate b/c the Ukrainian govt is pro Putin’s puppet? Or am I reading Russian immigrants completely wrong and they love Putin? They left Russia for a reason.

          1. I don’t think they are Russian immigrants. They are Russian speaking Ukranians.

    2. I would imagine yes. The crisis is over. Ukrainians will (hopefully) stop dying in the streets.

      His man is still in power until, at least, the elections. And elections’ outcomes can be… managed.

      1. Man, I cannot wait for the Putin biopic.

    3. Wait, is Putin okay with all of this?

      You tea party thug!!

      You should really be asking if Kerry and Obama are okay with this.

      1. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a more irrelevant statement.

        The only thing saving the U.S. in the foreign policy arena is the knowledge that (1) the U.S. remains insanely ahead of the rest of the planet militarily, (2) the U.S. is still an economic juggernaut, and (3) Obama and his team are out in a couple of years.

        1. It read to me as though Corning was being sarcastic.

          1. Of course he was. As was I. My point is to insult Obama and Kerry, not Joshua.

        2. I don’t think we are a military juggernaut anymore.

          Oh sure, our Navy is pretty big, but the numbers and quality of our planes is decreasing.

          And the number of troops is decreasing (not to mention,t hey aren’t in shape to actually be used anywhere)

          1. Nonsense. We’d roll anybody in a conventional war.

            Rebuilding countries into viable democratic nations is a different matter and has nothing to do with being a juggernaut.

  2. Even with the caveat, this was a very surprising turnaround from just 24 hours ago. Ukraine does not have a solid history of democracy; the fact that the President decided to not go completely authoritarian by ignoring the Parliament completely was shocking.

    You would not have been criticized if you were predicting Ukraine turning into another Syria just yesterday.

    1. It is refreshing to see a legislature with some cojones, isn’t it?

      1. The more I think about it… I don’t think it had anything to do with the Legislature’s actions, to be honest.

        The Prez probably talked to his generals and his generals told him that bringing the military into the streets was a very bad idea.

        1. I doubt he told parliament to strip him of powers he fought not that long ago to get in the first place. There may be some political skullduggery going on, but, on the surface, it seems like a fairly gutsy move.

        2. “bassjoe|2.21.14 @ 3:17PM|#

          The Prez probably talked to his generals and his generals told him that bringing the military into the streets was a very bad idea.”


          Probably to the tune of, “If this goes on any longer, someone – maybe one of us – will probably shoot you.”

  3. Do we know how Groovus fared during all this hubbub?

    1. As far as I know, no one has heard from him.

      1. Surely I’m not the only one who thinks he’s behind all of this.

        1. I will be thoroughly disappointed if he’s not.

          My entire vision is him, in doctor fatigues, a stethoscope draped around his neck (that can double as a garrote, natch), with several scantily-clad women at his feet and another at his side lighting his cigar with rubles, all the while he issues commands to the protesters.

          1. Kind of like a manlier M*A*S*H. In fact, along with Putin’s biopic, I’d like to see the doc’s experiences in Ukraine dramatized in a film I hereby deem, S*M*A*S*H.

    2. No. He and I were corresponding for a while but he stopped responding to me about the time he stopped posting here.

      He found a lady friend and that seemed to be going well for him.

      Groovus, wishing you well, buddy.

    3. Is he really in the Ukraine or is it just a joke that he is in the Ukraine?

      1. He was there – he met a lovely local doc and they got hitched. He vanished from H&R shortly thereafter – he did keep in touch with sloopy for a bit longer, IIRC. But lately, I do not know of anyone who had contact with him.

      2. He really moved there.

      3. He once gave me an address and described the area; g-maps says he was right.
        ‘Course, he coulda been faking the entire thing, but I saw no motive for doing so.

      4. I always thought it was a joke. Was he at least ethnically Ukrainian? I can understand a Ukrainian returning home after studying/working in the US, but if he’s an American…

  4. FWIW, I now appreciate how strong that “do something” impulse can be. Just because i’m ethnically Ukrainian. I have no ties to the place beyond my great-grandparents having emigrated from there 100 years ago.

    but some of the pictures hit close to home: “why is my aunt standing in front of riot cops.”

  5. “unconditional amnesty for all people detained or who might face possible persecution in the current unrest.”

    This is important for several reasons. First, it immediately de-escalates violence.


    How does giving out a free pass to commit crimes de-escalate violence?

    1. Because the police were instigating most of it.

      1. That doesn’t make any sense either.

        They already had cop “cuz fuck you” amnesty.

        1. You miss the point. The cops are instigating and then arresting the people they instigate. Say a cop beats the shit out of you and you fight back. You think that being let out of jail and having charges dropped would be bad?

    2. Somehow, I don’t think most of the people detained actually committed a crime in the moral sense.

      1. I am thinking about incentives here.

        giving amnesty to violence in no way should de-escalate violence.

        The author is making the claim that legalizing violence will de-escalate it. It is absurd on its face.

        1. I am thinking about incentives here.

          I’m thinking the de-escalate may be from the first part (“immediately stop use of any weapons and special means against citizens”. Also, if you know you will not be tried for crimes, you may not fight as hard to stay out of the clutches of the powers that be. But I am only spit-balling here.

        2. I think he means that people being amnestied (I do not recall anything about future law enforcement) for actions during protest against what they view as an illegitimate government, would make a lot of people less riled up about what they would see as an unjust situation, hence few to none would feel impelled to go commit acts of violence or destruction in protest.

          1. Or, in short, “look, lets just go back to the beginning, but this time we’ll listen instead of shoot. Your part is you don’t come out and throw shit at us. Deal?”

        3. It de-escalates it because the remaining opposition would fight on if it knew it had nothing to lose. Assume for a second you’re told, “well, yeah, we’ll stop fighting…but you fuckers are still going to jail.” Would you stop fighting?

        4. That works in a more lawful situation, but when something gets to the point of being legitimately called a conflict, you need some amnesty or you won’t get peace.

  6. The early election should be settle by a boxing match.

    1. Agreed.

      And if the Russians interfere, we can see how truly tough Putin is, with Klitschko punching his face in.

      1. Klitschko is a joke. The EU loves to portray him as the leader of the opposition but the guy only has small support and barely even speaks Ukrainian.

        1. I just want to use him to punch out Yanukovych and maybe Putin. Let the Ukrainians elect someone more…articulate.

        2. Come on, with “klit” in your name, no one is going to take you seriously.

          1. So Vitaly Klitdestroyer shouldn’t run either is what yer saying?

  7. “2. The parliament also limited presidential power”

    Can we hire these guys?

  8. And just like every other country on Earth, they deemed that the new constitution would apply to everyone living there, whether they sign it or not.

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