(Center for American Progress) After four weeks of mass protests, the Euromaidan movement in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev may be running out of steam. The bailout agreement of cheap gas and $15 billion in loans that Russia offered to Ukraine on December 17 has emboldened the government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Despite the Euromaidan’s popularity, organization, and overall discipline, the protestors that numbered in the hundreds of thousands on three consecutive Sundays—and tens of thousands more this past Sunday—were unable to compel their government to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. This agreement would have demanded a raft of political and economic reform in exchange for free trade and, eventually, visa-free travel.
But all is not lost. Ukraine is still nominally a democracy. Coming off the Euromaidan’s energy and organization, Ukraine’s opposition has a good chance to mount a compelling electoral challenge to Yanukovych in the February 2015 presidential election.
Ukraine’s protests were not only in favor of joining Europe, they were also an expression of discontent against a government that engaged in authoritarian backsliding from the moment it was elected in 2010. Beginning with an immediate recentralization of power, the Yanukovych administration has governed more in its own political and economic interests than those of the broad population. Protestors tend to view the government’s retreat from EU association on November 21 as a reflection of this trend. The unexpected brutality of a special police unit against a group of encamped protesters nine days later was the catalyst that gave the demonstrations their renewed force. […]
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