Despite the gains of the Orange Revolution, the spectre of tyranny is once again hanging over
From his first days in office Yanukovych was determined to undo the results of the Orange Revolution, the protest movement in 2004 that forced him to quit the presidency following a disputed election.
Seven months after his inauguration, he revived the pre-Orange Revolution constitution of 1996, returning many powers to the presidency. The revolution's leaders still active in politics,
Tymoshenko, who served as prime minister twice and was an unsuccessful challenger for the presidency in 2010, was given a seven-year jail term for abuse of office.
As far back as 2001, she faced charges of corruption but these were dismissed. Tymoshenko's trial in 2011 was thus perceived, both in
Today many Ukrainians believe that Yanukovych wants to turn
Internationally, the Ukrainian leader has alienated his country's key partners. The West is unusually united in demanding the release of Tymoshenko.
Some European leaders are planning to boycott the European Football Championship in
The IMF has frozen negotiations with
Observers can only wonder what strings might be attached: further control over Ukrainian pipelines or other economic assets, political loyalty, enforced membership in
International isolation of
Most ordinary citizens believe that
Citizens are also concerned by government back-tracking on rights and freedoms. Sixty-six per cent do not support Yanukovych and only 16 per cent support his party. No ruling party in the West could win elections with such figures, yet there is no loss of confidence by the Party of Regions. Control over the judiciary, administration and the media helps.
It remains to be seen how much more tolerance a society with a track record of civil protest will show towards blatant curbs on pluralism. It is equally unclear how well the opposition will be able to articulate society's anger. Despite being somewhat tarnished by two stints in power, Tymoshenko could have served as a rallying point for the opposition, but she is likely to be behind bars for years to come.
Civil society is trying to preserve some hard-won freedoms: sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. For now they can only shout that the state is depriving millions of Ukrainians of a European future.
(Orysia Lutsevych, Robert Bosch Fellow at Chatham House's
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