Wednesday, August 24, 2016


How Will Euromaidan End? For Clues, Look To Past Protests By Ukraine's Neighbors

A woman holds a sign saying "Ukranian ladies are waiting for you on Maidan" as she takes part in a pro-EU integration rally in Independence Square.
A woman holds a sign saying "Ukranian ladies are waiting for you on Maidan" as she takes part in a pro-EU integration rally in Independence Square.
By Daisy Sindelar
Ukraine's Euromaidan protesters have pledged to stay the course until their political demands are met. So what are their chances? RFE/RL looks at the outcomes of two protests that achieved their aims in Georgia and Serbia -- and two, in Russia and Belarus, that didn't.

A masked activist at an anti-Saakashvili rally in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi.
A masked activist at an anti-Saakashvili rally in front of the parliament building in Tbilisi.

When it comes to public protests, Georgia is best known for its 2003 Rose Revolution, which unseated President Eduard Shevardnadze and led to the election of Mikheil Saakashvili, a pro-democracy upstart.

But six years later, Georgia witnessed protests of a different kind. The euphoria of the Rose Revolution was over. Discontent with Saakashvili was rife.

Critics accused the president of concentrating power in the hands of his allies and dragging Georgia into the disastrous 2008 war with Russia, a five-day conflict that ended with Georgia losing nearly 20 percent of its territory as breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence.

They were also angered by what they saw as Saakashvili's growing autocratic tendencies -- in particular his use of tear gas and riot police to crush 2007 antigovernment protests.

On April 9, 2009, some 50,000 protesters gathered outside the Georgian parliament for what would prove to be a 107-day protest. The protesters vowed to remain on the streets until Saakashvili resigned and cleared the way for early presidential elections.

Dozens of opposition allies were participating in the demonstrations, including former Saakashvili allies like Nino Burjanadze and Irakli Alasania.

Speaking on the first day, Alasania, the former UN ambassador, said the country had suffered under Saakashvili's leadership. "Saakashvili promised to bring prosperity to this country. But what we see now is unemployment and a faulty economy. People can no longer live like this," Alasania said.

The protesters were largely peaceful, and Saakashvili was wary of resorting to the strong-arm tactics that had drawn massive criticism in 2007. Still, the demonstrations occasionally erupted into violence, with clashes between protesters and police armed with truncheons.

The number of protesters began to decline, and on July 24, the demonstration dwindled to a close without securing its main aim, Saakashvili's resignation. But the political atmosphere had changed for good; Saakashvili was no longer seen as invincible.

Three years later, in 2012, his domineering United National Movement lost in parliamentary elections to the Georgian Dream opposition coalition led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili. A number of opposition leaders were catapulted to positions of power, including Alasania, who now serves as defense minister.

A year later, Georgian Dream candidate Giorgi Margvelashvili swept the presidential election with more than 60 percent of the vote, capping off independent Georgia's first peaceful power transition since the Soviet collapse.

For many, the vote represented a short-term defeat for Saakashvili's political career -- but a long-term victory for his democratic legacy.


The year 2000 is remembered as the year that the so-called "Butcher of the Balkans," Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, was ousted from power after 13 brutal years as an architect of the Balkan wars.

But the fight for his removal actually began in earnest two years earlier, with the student-led Otpor (Resistance) movement began devising a strategy for toppling the administration and introducing rule of law.

Otpor set its sights on the 2001 presidential election, hoping to legitimately topple the Serbian leader by building a credible opposition movement.

Milosevic, who would be ending his second term, unwittingly aided their plans by calling for early elections in September 2000.

Milosevic made the switch in hopes of taking advantage of a new law that would clear the way for him to serve a de facto third term and give the fractured opposition less time to mobilize.

But the strategy failed. Otpor, supported by the West, was able to unite 18 opposition parties and groups into a single coalition called the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS). DOS then rallied around a little-known candidate, constitutional scholar Vojislav Kostunica.

Milosevic charged into the elections, confident of victory: "I am expecting this election will bring good to our country and our people. I'm expecting the political scene will be clarified. It will prepare the ground for long-term stability and even faster economic development,"

IN FOCUS: For Ukraine's Neighbors, Euromaidan Is A Revolution For All

But as the votes began to be counted, it became clear that Milosevic's victory was far from assured. To the contrary, it was Kostunica who looked set to win a first-round victory with just over 50 percent of the vote.

Milosevic played for time, disputing the results before finally insisting, nearly two weeks later, that the vote should go to a second round.

The announcement sparked a riot. On October 5, just three days before the runoff, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators -- including a man driving a wheel loader, not the bulldozer that gave the riots their English name -- gathered on the streets of Belgrade. Many had traveled from cities and towns outside the capital.

Demonstrators occupied the federal parliament building and the offices of Serbian state television. Others taunted the largely passive police, accusing them of aiding Milosevic:. "You are protecting [Milosevic]! Shame on you! Let's go, brothers -- come here, come [police] commander, come commander! Nobody will hurt you," the protesters shouted.

Two days later, Milosevic relented, stepping down from the post. He was arrested six months later and transferred to The Hague to face charges of genocide and crimes against humanity at the UN war crimes tribunal. He died of a heart attack in March 2006, just months before his trial was set to end.

Kostunica served eight years as first the president and then prime minister of the renamed Serbia and Montenegro. But the country stalled under his increasingly nationalistic leadership; corruption and unemployment remain rife in current-day Serbia.

In an interesting historical note, the candidate who placed third in that historic 2000 contest is nationalist Tomislav Nikolic -- Serbia's current president and the man who managed to finally open accession talks with the European Union.


On the night of December 19, 2010, temperatures in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, dropped to a chilling minus-15 degrees Celsius. But that didn't prevent thousands of Belarusians from gathering on the city's Independence Square to protest the reelection of autocratic President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Lukashenka, who had just claimed an unprecedented fourth term in early elections, had warned that he would tolerate no public demonstrations. And he was good to his word.

Police and unidentified security forces swarmed onto the square, brutally beating and arresting hundreds of protesters, journalists, and even opposition presidential candidates themselves.

The next day, Lukashenka said more than 600 people had been arrested. The public protests, he said, were over. "I state here authoritatively: The wars in our country ended yesterday. There will not be any more tolerance of attempts to destabilize the situation in the country," Lukashenka said.

In the months that followed, courts handed down lengthy jail terms to a number of protest organizers, including Ales Byalyatski, the head of the Vyasna human right center; Zmitser Dashkevich, the leader of the Young Front opposition movement; and former presidential candidate Mikola Statkevich.

Hundreds of citizens and lesser-known activists languished for months in detention, as police continued to stage numerous raids at the homes of journalists and protest organizers.

At the same time, Lukashenka used the election-night unrest as a pretext to roll out harsh new restrictions on traditional media, public gatherings, and social communication tools like Facebook and Twitter.

In the spring of 2011, he ratcheted up the rhetoric after a massive subway bombing in the Minsk subway that killed 12 people. Lukashenka labeled the bombing a terrorist attack; two Belarusian suspects were quickly identified, tried, and executed. But many activists said the incident would be used to further crack down on the opposition.

Protesters have continued to pursue new and ingenious ways of calling for Lukashenka's ouster -- staging clapping protests, coordinating cellphone rings for mass "wake-up" calls, posting pictures of teddy bears on the Internet, and even wearing T-shirts with handmade slogans. But even such "novelty" protests have met with immediate crackdowns and arrests.

Dashkevich was released this fall, Byalyatski, Statkevich, and other political prisoners remain in jail. Western measures, such as EU travel bans and near-unanimous accusation of voter fraud in the 2010 elections, have done little to humble Lukashenka. Despite occasional squabbles, Russia continues to provide Minsk with fundamental support.

The struggling Belarusian economy -- still hovering uneasily between its subsidized past and a free-market future -- may ultimately prove to be Lukashenka's undoing, particularly as Russia's own finances take a turn for the worse.

For now, the "last dictator in Europe" continues to rule his country with an iron fist and an eye on reelection in 2015.


After the economic chaos of the 1990s, many Russians were seen as content to lay their political emotions aside in exchange for a sense of security.

That lull ended in December 2011, when mounting exasperation with then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin drove angry voters onto the streets claiming parliamentary elections had been massively rigged to allow his United Russia party to salvage their dwindling majority.

Putin had already announced his intention to return to another 12 years as president in elections the following year. What followed was a cold-weather season of the largest public protests Russia had seen since the Soviet collapse, and the greatest blow to Putin's aura of invincibility.

Adopting white as their signature color, participants in the "For Fair Elections" movement carried balloons, wore ribbons, and turned out in the tens of thousands for a series of major rallies calling on authorities to hold fresh parliamentary elections -- and on the public to vote against Putin. Many of the Moscow rallies ended on the city's Bolotnaya Square, giving the protests their name.

The protests spread to other parts of Russia, and took on creative forms as well. In February, the female punk group Pussy Riot staged its now-notorious anti-Putin protest at Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral, an act that led to two members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, being jailed for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred."

None of it was enough to prevent Putin from claiming victory in the March vote with more than 60 percent of the vote. The election sparked a fresh round of protests, including a massive Bolotnaya rally on the eve of Putin's inauguration.

But if Putin had allowed protesters a public voice in the run-up to the election, his return to the presidential post left him in a merciless mood. Hundreds of protesters were detained at the inauguration protests after clashes broke out between demonstrators and police.

A year later, more than a dozen Bolotnaya activists are still facing judicial procedures and other forms of pressure, including prominent organizers like anticorruption blogger Aleksei Navalny and Ilya Yashin, an activist from the Solidarity movement.

Putin, meanwhile, has only grown more resolute in his determination to silence opposition voices. Since his reelection, he has passed a raft of legislation imposing harsh fines on protesters, forced NGOs to register as "foreign entities," and criminalized virtually all public discussion of homosexuality -- all while declaring his appreciation for open dialogue:

"There are many points of view now about Russia's present and future. Such heated debates are normal for a free and democratic country, and this is the course our people have chosen. And so it is important to hear and respect each other, seek mutual understanding, and achieve compromises," Putin said.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: eric d from: ABQ NM USA
December 20, 2013 22:24
The success of the Ukrainean democracy movement also depends upon whether it's supported by "the West" & the US. Or whether "the West" & the US (the White House, the State Dept.)cave to Putin's political (& economic) pressure (as they have before, most notably in the Syrian catastrophe). I see the US press is starting to waver: those Ukraineans like the Svoboda Party are now called (shudder...) "nationalists" (& not "pro-democracy protestors), with implications that they're (gasp!) "right wing"! (...Next thing somebody will say they're homophobic, & that'll be the kiss of death...). But whatever "wing" the Ukraineans represent, they have the right to self-determination. And there's no doubt that Ukraine will be enormously better off (civil & human rights-wise) in the EU than in Putin's Soviet Russian Federation. So I, for one, applaud Sen. John McCain (another of those "right-wingers") & German FM Guido Westerweile for showing up on the streets in Kyiv, while Kerry & Obama were schmoozing with Putin...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 21, 2013 13:00
Dear Erik D., the problem of the Ukrainian opposition is not so much that it is "right wing". It is rather in that this opposition is splintered in a number of rival political groupings most of which hardly have any political clout.
Should today's opposition ever come to power in Ukraine, they are doomed to repeat the same thing they have been doing so successfully for 5 years between 2005 and 2010 (as they were in power): namely, to fight each other continuously and therewith discredit themselves in the eyes of the electorate. Majority of Ukrainians know it and it is exactly for this reason that they preferred the Party of Regions of Yanoukowitsch in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
Now that Yanouk. negotiated a pretty good (for Ukraine) deal with Russia, the level of support for him and his party is likely to increase.
In Response

by: eric d. from: ABQ NM USA
December 21, 2013 21:50
What's the price tag on that "pretty good" deal with Putin's (Post?)-Stalinist Russian Federation? Something like the price tag on the deals Pooty-Poot offers to Georgia (price: Abkazhia & South Ossetia)? Or the North Caucasus (levelling of Grozny & rebuilding as Ramzan Kadyrov's Russian fiefdom)? See, the whole price can't be measured in rubles. (Or euros, either.) The real price is in civil liberties & human rights, dignity & freedom. (Yeah, all that John McCain-style American propaganda jazz!). 'Cuz there's no doubt if Putin & Yanoukowitch (Polish spelling?) win, they will take this as a mandate to crush the opposition. And the splintered opposition parties will become even more splintered (after infiltration by the Ukrainean version of the FSB/KGB). An unlikely to recoup before the next rigged election...

Also, let's not forget that Vlad ("the Impaler") Putin was already a #1 KGB Man under the Old Soviet Communist dictatorship (one party only!). And he hasn't changed his modus operandi, just 'cuz it's now called "The Russian Federation." Whatever sins the Good Old (Bad Old?) EU & "the West" (US) are guilty of (& there's no denying them...), it's still gotta be better than Putin's never-ending Dirty War in Chechnya Dagestan Ingushetsia etc. (...Which, admittedly, has spread to the US, thanks to high-level collaboration, & is now called "the international war on terror"...)

But the relevant parallel here, I think, is Belarus, where Lukashenka has somehow managed to crush opposition protests, despite rigged elections & bad economics, simply by "liberal" use of the Good Old Soviet style KGB tactics. (...And yes, it's still called the KGB in Belarus...) There's a sorta long time-delay between the first Eastern European "color" revolutions that brought down the Soviet satellite regimes. And what's still happening in Ukraine & Belarus. But let's not go backward. Let's not re-establish the Greater Russian (Soviet) Empire. And let's hope the Ukrainean opposition can hold out long enough to bring down the Yanukovich/Putin conspiracy. With or without US "right-wingers" like John McCain. And then worry about what happens next...

PS: An' ain't it nice that Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) sometimes lets us whimpering cynics & grumbling ne'er-do-wells occasionally throw in a few nasty comments on world events, since we're unlikely to have any effect on anything Yanukovich (or John McCain, either) do...
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 22, 2013 19:27
Eric D. is saying: "Let's not re-establish the Greater Russian (Soviet) Empire". See, Eric, to me it looks like the spread of Russian influence in Eastern Europe and elsewhere (Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia etc) is just a logical result of the fact the Western powers - who had successfully won the Cold War 20 years ago - had not been able to use the fruits of that victory in a productive fashion. Instead of trying to establish a just intl order where there would be place for everyone, they just alientated many people by such criminal actions as bombing Yugoslavia, intervening in Afghanistan and Irak, torturing people in Guantanamo and spying on everyone via the NSA.
So, all of the above just clearly demonstrates that the US/EU are simply not sincere which makes people turn to other models of societal organization for inspiration. And the Chinese and Russian models are the ones avaiable at the moment. So, the spred of influence of these (and other) emerging powers is becoming a dominant trend of the 21st century (this year we have very clearly seen it prevail in Syria and in Ukraine).
In Response

by: eduard from: leamington
December 23, 2013 00:11
It still remains a mystery as to why a US senator would show up at a rally..(one of thousands accross the world) at all unless there was something significant in it for the US or at least his handlers (lieberman et al)...
One can only observe ,again ,that anytime he can do somthing that will compromise russian interests he is there.
stunted menatl faculty and all

by: American Troll
December 21, 2013 00:56
My heart bleeds for these people, but now isn't Ukraine's time. Russia is on long-term hospice care, and the first rule of hospice care is to keep the patient comfortable by avoiding unnecessary stress. Ukraine just isn't worth the short-term benefits (whatever those might be) of adding it to the European family balanced against Moscow's hysterical reaction. Ukraine will be a very different country by mid-century, because the fence-sitters will have fallen off the fence into the active pro-European camp, and the paleo-Stalinists will be deceased. In the meantime, in both countries, any idealists and dreamers who can't wait can flee abroad while the lunatics still run the asylum. Let them worry about national debt and poor economic stats instead of the next Orthodox/Slav supremacist pogrom or being sent to Mordovia because he didn't chuckle heartily enough at the Leader's televised jokes (and debt and poor economic stats as bonuses).
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 21, 2013 12:53
Troll is saying: "Ukraine will be a very different country by mid-century". Quite possible, Troll, what is highly unlikely, however, is that the EU will still exist by mid-century.

by: Bill Webb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
December 21, 2013 03:09
I would call these convulsions of a much more developed society than the slaughter than is going on in the ME. Islam is the difference. They want to establish a caliphate of decimated cities full of corpses and starving people?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 21, 2013 09:23
How will the Euromaidan end? What kind of question is that?! Now that Senator McCain visited this place and pledged his support for the protesters, there can be absolutely no doubt that this action will end the same way every action of Senator McCain ended - in a victory, of course!
Judge for yourselves: first Sen. McCain defeated the Vientamese Communists, then he defeated Barack Obama in the presidential election of 2008, then again he removed Bashar al-Assad from Syria and now - finally! - the day of reckoning has come for Yanoukowitsch :-)).
In Response

by: Bukayaw from: Frankfurt
December 22, 2013 01:21
Wow ! it is surprising ! Jhon macaine 's Victory it would be recorded in the Book of Genius !

Russia wheather you like it or not it is on the right track ! Empty rethoric does never and ever affect Putin. He is a world hero who truely defend the right and aspration of the international community. He is a true hero who building a modern Russia !Eukraine will colapse like Bulgaria and Hungary if it Joins Eu Forget the association Status.
I thefore hertly Salute President Janukowich and his supporters a right Choise ! The brotherly People of Eukraine and Russia never be a surogate of the so called western europes !

by: Fred Eidlin from: Prague, Czechia
December 21, 2013 21:03
All the EU needs to do to derail the Russian offer is find 15 billion Euros to help Ukraine avoid bankruptcy. Anyone have any other ideas?
In Response

by: quattrocchi from: france
December 22, 2013 13:07
pity our "brilliant brains " didn't think of it in time !!
now Ukraine is tied up feet and ankles to a brutal vertical power that will stand no rebellion (Sotchi over business will go on as usual : trials jail etc )
and Ukrainians are going to suffer many more yearts while Russian oligarchs will take over and reduce Ukraine to a miserable province .
Shame on EU leaders no long term views (of our own interests )
no regards for the demands of Ukrainian people everybody is afraid of the bear's claws !!no guts at all no wonder Europe is sinking !!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
December 22, 2013 19:17
Dear Fred, that's the whole thing: the EU is simply bankrupt, it does not have $ 15 bn! And these are the people who promise others "prosperity" if they join the EU. Look at Greece and their "prosperity" after having been EU members for 32 years: unemployment is 27 % of the population, the GDP has contracted by some 25 % over the last 5 years. That is the EU-style "prosperity" that awaits Ukraine in the case if it signs the Assosiation Agreement.

by: Stanislav from: Kiev
December 24, 2013 12:34
Hello, friends!
I'm writing to you from Euromaidan Ukraine!!! Everybody here needs
your help and support. We're suffering from injustice of government.
Every kind of help from you will be important and necessary! Please
don't be indifferent! We're going to struggle till the end!
Here are my webmoney
E419344934836 - euro
Z589052979822 - dollars

by: Andriy from: Ukraine
December 28, 2013 12:40
Dear foreign journalists! Please make a pressure upon your governments and state authorities. Unfortunately we can see that interest in Europe to the events in Ukraine is decreasing. In case of sanctions against at least one of Ukrainian oligarchs or ministers our way to freedom and democracy will become irreversible. A lot of powerful persons in Ukraine just wait for external signal. Ask (or demand) your governments to provide sanctions!

Please, we really need your help!

Free Ukrainian citizen.

by: Andriy from: Ukraine
January 08, 2014 11:04
Dear foreign journalists! Please make a pressure upon your governments and state authorities. Unfortunately we can see that interest in Europe to the events in Ukraine is decreasing. In case of sanctions against at least one of Ukrainian oligarchs or ministers our way to freedom and democracy will become irreversible. A lot of powerful persons in Ukraine just wait for external signal. Ask (or demand) your governments to provide sanctions!

Please, we really need your help!

Free Ukrainian citizen.

Most Popular

Editor's Picks