Ukraine's Maidan Revolution: Five Years Later

We're now five years on from the mass protests on the Maidan, Kiev's central square, where Ukrainians with widely diverging values and visions of their country's future braved bullets to oust then-President Viktor Yanukovych, Moscow's man in Kiev. My friend and fellow Signal author Alex Kliment was in Kiev at the time, and you can see some of the photos he took here.


During weeks of demonstrations, more than 100 were killed and 2,500 injured in clashes with police. Yanukovych then fled to Moscow under cover of darkness, and Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Crimea. A continuing Kremlin-backed insurrection in two of Ukraine's eastern provinces has killed more than 10,000 people.

Five years later, what is the lasting impact of Maidan, known widely in Ukraine as the "Revolution of Dignity?" Putin's military response to the demonstrations prevented an imminent move by Ukraine to more deeply integrate with European institutions. But Russian military aggression also made enemies of millions of Ukrainians, many of whom were ambivalent about their country's centuries-old relationship with Russia before Putin's land-grab in Crimea and the Russian-fueled separatist uprisings in the east.

Yet, despite European sympathy with the country's isolation, Ukraine's many internal problems have allowed little progress toward possible membership in the European Union. With an election approaching next month, political infighting, corruption, and public cynicism run deep. The low-level conflict with Russia continues.

A poll conducted in December suggests a sharp division of opinion on what the Maidan protests were all about. In the survey, 52 percent of respondents said they have a positive view of the protests. Some 47 percent said demonstrators were angered by Yanukovych's bid to block Ukraine's integration into Europe, and 35 percent called it an opposition-led coup.

Finally, according to Amnesty International, justice for those killed in the Maidan by police and government snipers has not come. The rights group says 288 individuals have been charged and gone to court. Just 52 cases have produced a verdict. Of 48 convictions, just nine people have been sentenced—and not one of those imprisoned is a former police officer.

This is an election year in Ukraine, and voters will be looking for presidential and parliamentary candidates who can move the country beyond its chronic problems and current stalemate with Russia. Each candidate will face the question of how best to explain the lessons of Maidan and their importance for Ukraine's future.

It was inevitable that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would make India's elections a referendum on Narendra Modi, and now that the vast majority of 600 million votes cast have been counted, it's clear he made the right call.

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Among the 23 men and women now seeking the Democratic Party's nomination to take on Donald Trump in next year's election, the frontrunner, at least for now, has spent half a century in politics. Former Vice President Joe Biden, first elected to the US Senate in 1972, is the very epitome of the American political establishment.

Yet, the dominant political trend in many democracies today is public rejection of traditional candidates and parties of the center-right and center-left in favor of new movements, voices, and messages. Consider the evidence from some recent elections:

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It's Friday, and Signal readers deserve at least one entirely upbeat news story.

José Obdulio Gaviria, a Colombian senator for the rightwing Democratic Center party, is an outspoken opponent of government attempts to make peace with the FARC rebel group after 50 years of conflict.

On his way into a meeting earlier this week, Gaviria collapsed. It was later reported that he had fainted as a result of low blood pressure probably caused by complications following recent open heart surgery.

A political rival, Senator Julian Gallo, quickly came to his rescue and revived him using resuscitation skills he learned as—irony alert—a FARC guerrilla. CPR applied by Gallo helped Gaviria regain consciousness, before another senator, who is also professional doctor, took over. Gaviria was taken to hospital and appears to have recovered.

Because some things will always be more important than politics.