Ukraine's Maidan Revolution: Five Years Later

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.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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