Irish Times view on Ukraine’s Maidan revolution, five years on

Next year’s elections will be dirty and could be dangerous, and may not bring any positive change

Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovich (left) with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin in Kiev in 2010. Photograph:  Gleb Garanich/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine’s former president Viktor Yanukovich (left) with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin in Kiev in 2010. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/AFP/Getty Images

 

Five tumultuous years after the start of their Maidan revolution, and with presidential and parliamentary elections due next year, Ukrainians are taking stock.

When on November 21st, 2013, then president Viktor Yanukovich chose closer ties with Russia over a political and trade pact with the EU, reform-minded Kiev residents took to the streets; after riot police beat students on the city’s Maidan square nine days later, millions across Ukraine united in fury.

They deplored corruption in every branch of officialdom and demanded an end to rule by untouchable oligarchs and the politicians on their payroll.

Russia offered only more of the same, so Ukrainians raised the EU flag at rallies in dozens of towns and cities to show solidarity with what Europe meant to them. But if a nation so deeply linked to Russia became a healthy European democracy, then it could inspire similar change in its autocratic neighbour.

No major figure has been jailed for corruption since 2014; compromised judges, prosecutors and police officers remain in place

And so the Kremlin had to make it fail and pay a high price for turning west. Now Yanukovich is in Russian exile, Moscow runs occupied Crimea, and more than 10,300 people have died in the Kremlin’s undeclared war in eastern Ukraine.

Billionaire president Petro Poroshenko and Ukraine’s other post-Maidan leaders faced a tough task, but they have shown little desire to banish cronyism or make the state serve the people rather than enrich a discredited elite.

No major figure has been jailed for corruption since 2014; compromised judges, prosecutors and police officers remain in place; and those responsible for ordering attacks – some fatal – on scores of activists and journalists remain free.

Key reforms such as the introduction of a national anti-corruption bureau, electronic asset declarations for officials and a transparent e-procurement system, have too often needed heavy western pressure to come into force.

Next year’s election battles will be dirty and could be dangerous, and may not bring any positive change. It is to be hoped that Ukrainians will not have to return to Maidan to deliver another salutary message to their politicians.

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