10 years after the protests known as ‘Euromaidan’, Ukraine’s potential for joining the EU remains uncertain.
In February 2012, a large number of Ukrainian citizens gathered in Independence Square in Kyiv to express their desire for a European-oriented future for their nation. This event sparked a decade of unrest, upheaval and strife, leading up to the complete invasion of Russia in 2022.
Ten years after the demonstrations, Ukraine’s future in the European Union will be determined at an upcoming summit in Brussels.
In November 2013, due to strong pressure from Russia, Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign an association agreement with the European Union and instead signed a loan and energy deal with Moscow.
The choice he made caused anger among Ukrainian citizens who had hoped for a democratic future with the EU, separate from Russia’s political influence. A large number of demonstrators gathered in Maidan Square in Kyiv, holding up both the blue and gold flags of Ukraine and the European Union.
Dmytro Riznychenko, who participated in the protests, described living under Yanukovych’s rule in Ukraine as degrading. The government showed no concern for its citizens and openly displayed their corrupt pro-Russian beliefs. The demonstrators aimed to reclaim their dignity and fight for their right to freedom.
“Revolution of dignity”
Following multiple days of nonviolent demonstrations, Ukrainian law enforcement officers gathered to forcibly disperse Independence Square in a violent suppression of the expression of opposition. In retaliation, numerous citizens from all over Ukraine joined the protests. Despite harsh winter conditions, the protestors barricaded central Kyiv, while riot police were deployed to defend government structures.
In February of 2014, heavily armed riot police attempted to regain control of the capital. The clashes resulted in the deaths of 108 protesters, many of whom were shot by police snipers. The international community’s strong reaction led to the resignation of Yanukovych, who fled to Russia.
The uprising in Ukraine is now referred to as the “revolution of dignity.” Memorials have been erected in Independence Square to honor those who lost their lives during the events.
Olga Tokariuk, who now works for the British policy group Chatham House, took part in the Euromaidan demonstrations.
She informed VOA that they were completely unaware of what was to come. They could not have predicted Russia’s invasion and the ensuing nine-year-long war, resulting in millions of Ukrainians being displaced and thousands losing their lives. Tragically, many of the individuals who had protested on Maidan Square also perished in the conflict.
In March 2014, Russia aggressively took control of Crimea and instigated a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine, which ultimately led to a large-scale invasion eight years later.
The Ukraine elected a government that leaned towards Western ideologies after the revolution and expressed a desire to join the EU. However, Brussels rejected the idea, claiming that Ukraine was unprepared. According to Tokariuk, this decision had significant consequences.
Tokariuk stated that Ukraine faced significant consequences in its pursuit to join the European community, which it rightfully deserves to be a part of. Unfortunately, Ukraine was denied this opportunity for an extended period of time and was left in a state of uncertainty. As a result, Russia saw it as an opportunity to invade Ukraine on a large scale, as it was seen as a buffer zone.
The country of Ukraine is currently involved in a large-scale conflict with Russia. Over 10,000 innocent people have lost their lives since Russia’s invasion in February of 2022.
Next month, at a meeting in Brussels, European leaders will determine whether or not to formally negotiate Ukraine’s entrance into the EU. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine believes it is his country’s fate.
“In a televised speech on the anniversary of the Euromaidan protests, he stated that what was once a romantic dream twenty years ago and an ambitious goal ten years ago, has now become a reality that cannot be halted as our progress moves forward.”
Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, visited Kyiv to commemorate the anniversary and expressed his support. He also urged the 27 member states of the EU to support Ukraine’s membership.
Michel stated that Ukraine has made impressive advancements, despite being in the midst of a war, and is moving closer towards the EU. He emphasized that enlargement is a crucial investment for the EU, as it promotes peace, prosperity, and democratic principles. He assured that he will make every effort to persuade his fellow 27 members to make a favorable decision in December.
Analyst Olga Tokariuk emphasized the importance of the EU providing Ukraine with hope for the future.
Tokariuk stated that it was a grave error to prolong Ukraine’s time in limbo. True peace in Europe can only be achieved when Ukraine becomes fully integrated into both the European Union and NATO. This would greatly weaken Russia, as it would signify Ukraine’s permanent departure from their supposed sphere of influence.
It has been a decade since the Euromaidan demonstrations, and Ukraine has experienced loss and devastation beyond what anyone could have predicted.
“Given the intense and sorrowful events that unfolded, I, along with many others present at Maidan, sometimes question the worthiness of our actions. If we had known the aftermath, would we still have gathered at the square to protest? In most cases, the answer is ‘yes’,” Tokariuk shared with VOA.