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Troubles in Ukraine

Regarding the Ukraine, which has become a showdown between the West and Russia and where tensions haven’t improved after the Crimea formally seceded to become part of Russia, an agreement has just been reached between the EU, US, Russia and Ukraine.

Whether it holds remains to be seen, but for a long time tensions have been getting worse since violence has spread to other parts of the country. Armed men have taken over government buildings in cities in Eastern Ukraine, the Russian-speaking part of the country that has stronger ties with Russia, demanding increased autonomy or even seceding like the Crimea to join with Russia. Ukraine has launched operations to retake the buildings, but their troops have “defected” and vehicles have been captured by pro-Russian militias. It’s a sign that there are many Ukrainians, in the eastern Russian-speaking parts, which don’t support the new government in Kiev or its Western-oriented views. It’s a very tricky situation, with Russia still keeping tens of thousands of troops just outside of Ukraine’s eastern borders, while the US has issued warnings, making vague pronouncements about taking increased action. The EU seems toothless and uncertain.

To me, the troubles in the Ukraine raise two questions- the integrity of democracy, and the validity of Western media coverage, especially American.

I couldn’t help thinking that all this stems from a basic issue- the overthrow of a democratically-elected leader through unconstitutional procedures, which was basically a mass protest movement, one that was pro-West and supported by the West. I understand the previous president Victor Yanukovych, had angered millions of Ukrainians by refusing to sign a deal with the EU. But does this justify overthrowing a leader because he did something a lot of people don’t agree with? Especially if there were probably millions who may have agreed with it, or at the least did not have a problem with it. I am not supporting Russia or the confrontational stance of its leader Vladimir Putin, nor am I ignorant of the possibility Russia is heavily involved with the tensions. However,  the main point is if the protesters in Kiev got their wish in causing Yanukovych to flee. If this leads to civil war and the breakup of the country, will the protesters believe it was worth it?

This increasingly turbulent state of affairs in Eastern Ukraine reveals the deep chasm in the country, between the more pro-West capital Kiev and the West and the pro-Russian East. It was something Western media seems to have overlooked during the protests in Kiev against the former leader, in portraying this image of a people who were completely against Russia and desperate to join the EU. That might have been true, but I’m sure there were many Ukrainians who didn’t agree and to which the media generally ignored. Instead there were media stories about the mass protesters in the center of Kiev, the Maidan, and their heroism, ideals  and honest and noble dreams, in comparison to the backwards, oppressed and ignorant Russian speakers in the eastern part of Ukraine. At the same time, I admit that I trust Russian media much less than Western media, though that means the latter is held to much higher standards.

Besides Ukraine, there have been recent popular protests in Egypt, Thailand and Taiwan against governments that were democratically elected. Claiming noble aims, the protests attracted huge numbers, favorable media coverage from the West, and had serious impact on their countries, even to the point of overthrowing leaders. Some people see this as people power and laud it, but I see a mockery of democracy, selfishness and chaos.

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