Ukrainian politics in the throes of street violence

Florent PARMENTIER & Cyrille BRET – 1st september 2015

Following his interview on France 24, Florent PARMENTIER answers the questions of Cyrille BRET on Ukrainian politics in the aftermath of the violent protests in Kiyv on 31st August against the law taken by the Parliament in compliance with the Minsk 2 Agreements.


CB : what are the political movements involved in the violent protests that took place yesterday in Kiev? Are Pravy sektor and Swoboda to be tagged « fascist parties »?

FP : the Kiev protestations of August 31th 2015 are the result of several factors.

First, the post-Euromaidan political majority was not able to deliver enough to meet citizens’ expectations. The President’s popularity has sharply dropped over the last year, and the Representatives, elected in October 2014, are not in a better shape. Clearly, the institutions are contested by radicals such as Swoboda or Pravy Sektor.

Second, the level of tension is natural in a war-torn country, but it is now at a high level, from discourses (“the moderates betray national interest”) to acts, with weapons coming around.

Third, the process of decentralization has ignited the barrel power; Kiev was supposed to decentralize following Minsk 2 provisions, but part of the public opinion did not accept it.

Definitely, Swoboda and Pravy Sektor are far-right parties, but they remain very marginal so far in the electorate. It remains to be seen if they can capitalize on the protestations or if they will be marginalized.

CB : President Poroshenko seems to be fighting on two front lines at the same time : will he end up squeezed between the Russian front and the separatist forces to the East and the Lviv region along with the radical nationalists in the Rada to the West?

FP : so far, except for the separatist-controlled area, President Poroshenko was able to unite a large majority in Ukraine around a post-Maidan consensus. As in Russia, national pride has raised over the last few months in Ukraine, even in territories which are less concerned with Ukrainian nationalism. His main risk is to be squeezed because of a lack of results, more than anything else.

Now, the current political majority has to fight against enemies outside Ukraine, within Ukraine (with the ultra-nationalists), and to prove that it can reform the country, both on the political and economic levels. Decentralization is only one of the challenges before Ukraine.

CB: from the Orange Revolution of 2004 to the current prostests and from the Maidan square occupation to the fights in the Donbass region, the Ukrainian political scene appears to be engulfed in armed violence. Will riots and urban fights be the core of Ukrainian politics int the years to come?

FP : in the 20th century, Ukraine has suffered from the Holodomor and the Second World War, two periods of mass massacre. This terrible history could have hampered Ukraine’s development after 1991. However, Ukraine has not hosted any separatist conflict before 2014; by contrast and to various extent, Russia, Georgia, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Armenia have witnessed open conflicts on their territories. No conflict occurred in Ukraine, even in Crimea. Conflicting views and interests were settled in a peaceful way in 2004, when the elections were reorganized without casualties.

As for rioting and urban fights, it is true that the current events will have lasting effects on the destiny of Ukraine. Weapons have circulated thorough the country, without control, which might bring instability to the country. But the Mukachevo clashes in July between Pravy Sektor and the authorities remain the exception rather than the norm: State forces will marginalize paramilitary forces in the long run.




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