Ukraine bans protest as parliament turns into brawl
posted at 3:21 pm on January 16, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Looks like the tensions in Ukraine have turned from bad to worse. With the government of Viktor Yanukovich embarrassed by thriving demonstrations in the capital — reminiscent of an earlier political failure — over his turn toward Russia rather than the West, the Ukrainian parliament passed a ban on outdoor demonstrations.
Yeah, that’ll stop them:
Supporters of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich rammed a sweeping law through parliament on Thursday in an attempt to curb anti-government protests, sparking an outcry from the opposition and raising tensions on the streets.
The law, backed by 235 of 450 lawmakers, said unauthorized installation of tents, stages or amplifiers in public places in Ukraine would be punished by a fine of up to $640 or by up to 15 days in detention.
People and organizations who provided facilities or equipment for unauthorized meetings would be liable to a fine of up $1,275 or by detention of up to 10 days.
Yanukovich’s refusal in November to sign a free trade deal with the European Union in favor of boosting ties with Ukraine’s former Soviet master Russia brought hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians out on to the streets in protest.
Thus the turn toward Russia and Vladimir Putin continues. Until recently, this was a rational economic dispute, with valid arguments going either direction on Yanukovich’s decision to snub the EU in favor of Russia. It turned much darker, though, when Yanukovich threatened to shut down the entire Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church if priests continued to offer prayers and religious services in tents around Independence Square.
This development is just as provocative, and just as indicative of the nature of Yanukovich and his supporters. They want to rule, not govern, and want to silence dissent. That echoes the authoritarian environment in Russia, and should remind Ukrainians of the definitely-not-good-old-days of Soviet domination.
Yanukovich still has to sign the bills, and Bloomberg warns what will happen when he does:
As scuffles between lawmakers left one with a split lip and another with an injured forehead, bills were approved to keep closer tabs on mobile-phone use and make actions such as putting up tents in public places illegal. Parliament had originally convened to discuss the 2014 budget, which was adopted without debate as opposition parties sought to block the session.
The new laws, which require President Viktor Yanukovych’s signature, risk inflaming street rallies that began two months ago when the government snubbed a European Union co-operation pact in favor of closer ties with Russia. Demonstrators demanding the dismissal of the government and snap elections have vowed to maintain their makeshift tent camp in downtown Independence Square until presidential elections next March.
“The laws are aimed at resolving the political crisis by using police methods and neutralizing the activists,” said Volodymyr Fesenko, head of the Penta Political Analysis Center in the capital, Kiev. “The opposition and demonstrators should firmly demand that the president doesn’t sign them.”
Yanukovich’s supporters in the parliament didn’t brawl to produce bills he didn’t want in the first place. The Guardian has pictures from the fight. If they have blood on their hands from the fistfight, just hope that passing this bill won’t produce a deluge more of it on the streets.