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Protests

'We need a permanent EU mission in Ukraine'

Author Yuri Andrukhovych says the EU isn't paying enough attention to the situation in Ukraine. If democracy is to win in the current conflict, the bloc should set up a permanent mission, he tells DW.

DW: In spite of violence and massive intimidation, the demonstrations in Ukraine continue. What drives them?

Yuri Andrukhovych: The core of these protests consists of very smart people. These are people who understand these methods, the tactics of intimidation, very well. They also understand that the only way to resist is not to be afraid and to respond to any violence with a new wave of protests.

The protests have gone on since November 21, and some protesters have been there from the beginning. It is impossible for them to just walk away from Maidan Square. What they do there is a part of their lives, it is vital to them. I am sure that they will not tire and will not go away from there without achieving a significant result.

What is the result the protesters are expecting?

The Association Agreement with the EU should be signed. There must be early presidential elections. A technocratic government should save the country's economy and not to serve the president's cronies.

Kyiv protest camp
(Photo: Oleksandr Sawizki)

The protests in Kyiv show no signs of ebbing

You recently said that you had the impression that "death squads" had been allowed into Ukraine, to destroy the best of what the country has. What do you mean?

The journalist Tetyana Chornovol was one of the first victims. On the night of December 25, she was almost beaten to death. She writes about the subjects that are most sensitive to the authorities in Ukraine: about their homes, their property, their villas and palaces. And for that they got their revenge.

Since then, there have been dozens of such cases. It always happens somewhere outside the city. People are tortured by mysterious "civilians." They always ask the activists the same question: Who is paying for the Maidan? Is this American money or who is behind this protest? This reveals quite a lot. I do not know who they are, probably security forces. These people cannot imagine that there's a big idea behind this protest and very strong emotion.

Gas masks and goggles

When you go to the demonstrations, do you wear a helmet and padded clothing?

Yes, I've been doing it since January 22. The helmets were sold out in Kyiv, but I have a face mask to protect against tear gas, and goggles, which were distributed on the Maidan. Many of the protesters have already suffered eye injuries. The situation is still dangerous. When we hear that the escalation has to some extent been stopped, that's true on the one hand. But on the other hand, it looks as if the regime is just taking a break and retrenching.

How do you think the next few weeks will go?

It is very difficult to make a prediction. Everything is possible. At one extreme there could be violent confrontation with the destruction of the Maidan and a state of emergency, and at the other, the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. In my estimation, something will happen that lies between these two extremes. There is hope that parliament will produce solutions, but so far, parliament has been rather unproductive. Overall, the situation is tough. Every step that the state takes to approach the demonstrators is later withdrawn.

Catherine Ashton and Viktor Yanukovych
(Photo: REUTERS/Andrei Mosienko/Presidential Press Service/Handout via Reuters)

Andrukhovych says Catherine Ashton is only rarely in Kyiv

What support do you expect from abroad, particularly from the European Union?

I think that the EU should set up a permanent mission in Ukraine. Politicians and diplomats from the EU should maintain a constant presence in Kyiv, to monitor developments and act accordingly. It seems to me to be too little, when foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Commissioner Stefan Füle come to Kyiv for a day every few weeks, talk with the president and the demonstrators and then leave. Strategically, it is obviously important that Ukraine has the prospect of EU membership, although this is more of a long-term perspective.

Evidence of crimes against humanity

How, in future, will Ukrainian society be able to address the civil strife of the past few weeks?

I think it is necessary to set up a committee of experts to gather the facts and evidence of the crimes against humanity that have been committed. Foreign experts should also take part, because the scale is so vast that we cannot accomplish this by using our own legal skills and experience.

Everything should be investigated: Prohibited bullets were used, along with water cannons at freezing temperatures; there have been cases of torture; and as many as 40 people are still missing today. Ukrainian society will need this process to ensure that such a thing never happens again. It is very important that we draw a line to mark the end of this policy and these reprisals.

Ukrainian writer Yuri Andrukhovych is one of his country's leading intellectuals. He supports the protests against President Viktor Yanukovych and advocates a pro-European course for Ukraine.

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