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Ukrainian unrest ‘is not a democratic process’

Published time: January 20, 2014 15:11
A protester sprays fire in the direction of the riot police during clashes in the centre of Kiev on January 20, 2014 (AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)

With only 50 percent of people supporting the current protests in Ukraine, the opposition has no clear moral authority to overthrow Yanukovich, Ben Aris, editor and publisher at Business New Europe, told RT.

RT: The EU and the US were quick to threaten the Ukrainian government with sanctions for using violence on protesters but why are they ignoring the brutality on part of the rioters?

Ben Aris: I think we went into a very difficult situation now and it’s not black and white as the coverage seems to be painting it. I think the thing we are going to take from the last night is that the opposition leaders have lost control over the situation. And the people on the square last night fighting were more of a mob than an organized protest along the lines they had about the government. Everyone is going to be focused on stopping the violence, stopping the fighting and getting to the negotiating table.

RT: We're hearing opposition leaders calling for a coup. Klichko even went as far as warning Yanukovich to “not repeat the fate of Gaddafi.” Why is the West silent about that?

BA: It’s not a democratic process. The problem that we face here is that Ukraine is actually divided fairly evenly. The last polls I saw say that 50 percent of people supported the protests, just over 40 percent were against them and around 7 percent were undecided, which means the opposition doesn't have a clear moral authority, a mandate from the people in order to change a government. Moreover, you have to remember at the end of the day that for all his ills, and he has many, Yanukovich remains the democratically-elected president and for the last 20 years we've been saying to the Eastern European countries that they need to respect democracy. However, here is the situation where the EU and the US say: “Forget everything we said for the last 20 years, let's support these guys because they are fighting for freedom.” So this is the same double standard going on here.

RT: The opposition leaders say they want Ukraine to be a European state but will the EU be happy about having revolutionaries as partners?

BA: There is an irony here, isn't it? They used to stand up for the values of democracy, and the opposition stood up for this as well. But Ukraine under its current leadership is choosing a much more authoritarian way of running the country. That kind of country would not make a good EU partner. I’m not sure, you could have been careful about what you wish for, if they did let Ukraine in, whether it would actually be a suitable member of the Union.

RT: The situation in Kiev overnight descended into a mob rule. Can the opposition leaders really control their supporters and the situation?

BA: I’m not sure they can. I think the violence that broke out last night was symptomatic of the frustration that some people on Maidan are feeling with the inability of the opposition leaders to deliver any change to force Yanukovich from office. Like I said, he is a democratically elected leader and under the Constitution you have to wait until the elections in 2015. That is really the only legal way of getting rid of him. But of course people are impatient, they want change now, and they are going to try and force it. But the problem is if you come down to force, Yanukovich has all the instruments of power in the form of the police and the army, and the protesters are not going to be able to force a change on Yanukovich. This has to be a negotiated change if there is going to be a change at all. And there is no reason why he should step down before the elections.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.