As the long-festering political situation in Ukraine deteriorates, with something like an open rebellion taking hold in the Western part of the country, amid rumors that martial law may be declared imminently, the government in Kyiv announced today that beleaguered President Yanukovych is meeting with three opposition leaders, including the well-known boxer Vitaly Klitschko of UDAR. Klitschko has published a brief op-ed in the German tabloid BILD, which nicely encapsulates his position. Titled “I fear for the next few days,” it follows:
I fear for what imminently faces us in the course of the coming hours and weeks in Ukraine.
Through his stonewalling tactics and bogus negotiations, ruler Yanukovych has strengthened those wishing to react by resorting to violence on the streets. He alone would therefore be to blame for any renewed bloodshed.
These are his disreputable tactics: He invites us in order to gain time. Now he is promising to reshuffle his cabinet. What he has likely never realized is this: What matters most of all to us demonstrators is him, and his own resignation!
When I talked last night to furious demonstrators in front of the burning barricades, they just wouldn’t let me go. I can understand these people, as the president has been ignoring their demands for the past two months.
What I do know, though, is this: If people now react to the police by resorting to violence, then there will once again be more deaths. I have no wish to be responsible for even more people having to lose their lives in Ukraine.
This is why I want us to widen the protests in every region, in order to bring about our goal of a peaceful coup In the process, I support the demands for a peace conference, voiced by the likes of EU Parliament President Martin Schulz. There can be no solution without international mediators.
What I say to my supporters at this time is this: We have already come a very long way. And the day will come when Yanukovych has to resign. I will continue to fight for these people. And I am fighting to be there for them as their president one day. As the president of a free and open-minded president.
My brother Vladimir is giving me his constant support in our peaceful protests, today he is once again on his travels. When the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe occurred, we were living just a few hundred kilometers from there.
Since we heard nothing from our government about the disaster and the dangers, we sailed paper boats on contaminated waters. Our father, who held a high-ranking position in the military and was responsible for the clean-up operations, later died of cancer.
We will no longer tolerate lies from governments. We want to be genuine democrats. We want freedom for Ukraine.
I hope that Klitschko’s call for a peaceful resolution of the crisis takes hold. But, given the thuggish nature of the Yanukovych regime, and the increasingly alarming rhetoric emanating from Moscow backing up that thuggishness, I am concerned. That said, Klitschko’s call for internationalizing the budding conflict, demanding an EU role in resolution, is the proper course. Let us hope cooler heads prevail, this is a genuinely alarming situation for Ukraine and Europe.