Ukraine, Peace and Protests

The future of Ukraine’s ‘Party of Regions’ government looks unsure as thousands protesters continue to gather in Kiev after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a deal that would have seen the country entrench ties with the European Union.  

Reports of violent police containment measures and crackdowns on journalists have led many international leaders such as Angela Merkel and Ban-Ki Moon to call for peace and restraint as the country moves into its third week of protests.

Pro-European activists are concerned the rejection of the EU deal demonstrates the Ukrainian government is overly influenced by Russia, with three members of the governing party resigning in protest, and the opposition currently organizing to table a bill of no confidence in parliament on the 3rd of December.

Historically Ukraine has been oscillating between identifying with Europe, and identifying with the Russian bloc, with each side vying for its inclusion. At present the country is broadly split into a Ukrainian speaking pro-European west, and a Russian speaking pro-Russian east that is seeing geopolitical tensions increase within the country and the region.

The Ukraine-EU deal is especially controversial because the European Union has set the release from jail of Yulia Tymonshenko - the pro-European political rival of President Viktor Yanukovych - as a condition for the country’s ascendency to the EU. Achieving only a 3% victory over Tymonshenko in 2010, some reports suggest President Yanukovych is reluctant to release her until after the scheduled 2015 election in which he plans to run once again. [Times of India

The protests and unrest that have taken place in Ukraine throughout the past three weeks are symptomatic of larger trends in peace that have been experienced around the globe in recent years - namely that there has been a decline in hostility between states, and a rise in frequency and level of civil unrest.

In 2013, Ukraine’s Global Peace Index score experienced its greatest fall away from peace since 2008, when the country ranked 111 out of a total of 162 countries. This was mainly due to increased levels in the perception of criminality in society, and deteriorating relations with neighboring countries – specifically Russia. Additionally, Ukraine saw levels of terrorist activity, political instability, and military expenditure as a percentage of GDP increase during 2013, with the Political Terror Scale lowering Ukraine’s score as a result of ‘extensive political imprisonment’.

Interestingly, Ukraine’s two largest neighbours, Poland and Russia have consistently scored at opposite ends of the GPI spectrum. In 2013 Poland was ranked the 25th, and Russia the 155th most peaceful country out of a total of 162. Between 2008-2013, Russia has appeared in the 10 countries least at peace, while Poland has seen a slight increase in its peacefulness over the same period.

To find out more, compare levels of peace in Russia, the Ukraine and Poland here.





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