Ukraine opposition in disarray

December 24, 2013 - 8:45:11 am

A protestor reads a newspaper in the protest camp set up by the opposition at Independence Square in Kiev, yesterday.

KIEV: Ukraine’s opposition is in disarray after failing to offer a clear agenda to their supporters in response to the signing by President Viktor Yanukovych of a bailout deal with Russia, analysts say.

While the protests against the authorities’ decision to scrap an integration pact with the EU under Kremlin pressure have continued in the streets of Kiev, opposition leaders appear unable to harness this support in an effective way.

Last week Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to buy $15bn of Ukraine’s debt in eurobonds and slash its gas bill by a third to preserve Kremlin influence in its neighbour.

Tens of thousands rallied on Sunday for the latest major weekend protest against Yanukovych but the turnout was the lowest since the mass protests started on November 24.

“It is clear that Yanukovych has retained his standing and received an additional resource in the form of the deal with Russia,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Penta political research centre.

The protesters have occupied Independence Square — known in Kiev as the Maidan—since late November and erected barricades to prevent security forces from entering the area.

Several police attempts to shift the protest camp ended in failure and provoked outrage inside and outside Ukraine over the use of force against peaceful protesters.

While it seemed in early December that Yanukovych might not be able to withstand the protests, the Moscow agreement could be a turning point as the authorities seek to gain the upper hand.

‘There is no leader’

The three main opposition leaders — world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatsenyuk who heads the faction of jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and nationalist Oleg Tyagnybok — have appeared at a loss over how to respond. 

The three were taken aback by the lack of concessions offered in public by Yanukovych to the Kremlin for the help, which would have provided them with a major weapon to mobilise supporters.

“There is no leader, no personification of the Maidan,” said Ukrainian political analyst Vadym Karasev, adding the trio are also riven by internal divisions.

Their demands to punish policemen who beat up students during an early bid to disperse the protests on November 30 and the resignation of the current government are still unanswered.

“Only Klitschko wants early presidential elections, but there is no support from others,” said Karasev, saying the three opposition leaders had presidential ambitions with no desire to yield to the other.

Having missed the chance to shake Yanukovych from his perch, each of the opposition leaders may have already begun his campaign for the next presidential polls to be held in March 2015.

Experts believe that the opposition should have been more convincing in its closed-door negotiations with Ukraine’s oligarchs, who control a lot of pro-government members of parliament.


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