Ukraine in Focus

What started as a demonstration in support of a pro-European course for Ukraine and developed into powerful civic protests against a criminal authoritarian regime culminated in a serious international conflict after Russia annexed Crimea and continues to threaten the stability and territorial integrity of Ukraine. On this blog, curated by Tatiana Zhurzhenko, critical commentators connected to the Institute or its partners are sharing their views on the current crisis.

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    When Empires Collapse – Reflections on the Crisis in Ukraine

    Despite the many obvious differences, the current turmoil in the Middle East and the Ukrainian crisis have something in common: both reflect the problematic legacies left behind when centuries-old empires collapse and the successor states appear less stable and viable than originally imagined.
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    Ein Historiker im “Information-War”: Karl Schlögel im Interview

    Die russische Annexion der Krim und der "unerklärte Krieg" in der Ukraine haben selbst Experten überrascht. So auch den Historiker und Russland-Kenner Karl Schlögel. Der russische Präsident Wladimir Putin verfolge heute eine völkische Politik, die an das "Dritte Reich" erinnert, sagte er in einem Interview.
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    The Ukrainian School of War

    The ongoing turmoil in Ukraine has frequently been compared to the Yugoslav crisis of the early 1990s – and, indeed, there are many similarities. But, when it comes to understanding why the conflict between Ukraine's government and Russian-backed separatists has persisted – and why, after a year of increasingly brutal fighting, a resolution seems so remote – the differences are far more important.
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    A Deadly Game of Hide-and-Seek: Why a Diplomatic Solution in Russia/Ukraine War is Nowhere in Sight

    When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emerged after negotiations in Berlin on January 21, he had a simple message for the media: there may be thousands of people killed in the ongoing war in Ukraine, but you have no proof that it is done by Russian troops or Russian weapons.
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    Kharkiv Talks in a Viennese Kitchen – On Revolution, War and Literature in Ukraine

    The Ukrainian Revolution and the war in the east seen through the eyes of a Kharkiv intellectual.
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    Luhansk: The case of a failed cultural revolution

    In 2013, the seemingly hopeless task of bringing art to the provinces finally started to bear fruit in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine. One year on, the activists, artists, journalists and writers responsible are exiles in their own country, writes Konstantin Skorkin.
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    Putin on Ice

    Global temperatures are rising, but the former Soviet Union’s frozen conflicts show no sign of a thaw. On the contrary, the ice is expanding. Russia’s support for the election held by separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk – key cities in Ukraine’s Donbas region – indicates that the Kremlin has decided to create another semi-permanent “mini-Cold War,” this time in rebel-controlled areas of Russia’s most important neighboring country.
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    Putin’s New Nostalgia

    As Russian military convoys continue the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has chosen to rehabilitate the alliance between Hitler and Stalin that began World War II. Speaking before an audience of Russian historians at the Museum of Modern Russian History, Putin said: “The Soviet Union signed a non-aggression agreement with Germany. They say, ‘Oh, how bad.’ But what is so bad about it, if the Soviet Union did not want to fight? What is so bad?”
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    From Borderlands to Bloodlands

    Since the armed conflict in Donbas between the Kyiv government and pro-Russian separatists, the common discourse about "two Ukraines" separated by history and values looks like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Scepticism about the viability of Ukraine as a nation-state, shared by so many observers inside and outside the country, now appears well-founded.
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    Ukraine: How to Close the Door on Putin

    The European Union must develop a 10-year plan for Ukraine. This plan will also define what Europe itself will be a decade hence. In tribute to Europe’s pivotal politician, who has clearly led Europe’s evolving policy towards Ukraine, we might call it the Merkel plan. If it succeeds, a characteristically European version of liberal order will have prevailed over the conservative, nationalist recipe for permanent, violent disorder represented by Vladimir Putin. If it fails, Europe fails again.
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    Die Rettung der Ukraine in zehn Schritten

    Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Westen und der Ukraine waren während der vergangenen fünfundzwanzig Jahre vom Konditionalitäts-Paradigma geprägt. Eine Annäherung Kiews an den Westen im Allgemeinen und die EU im Besonderen war abhängig von den Demokratisierungs-, Liberalisierungs- und Reformanstrengungen der Ukraine. Zwar stellte der Westen für derartige Leistungen Belohnungen in Aussicht. Diese waren jedoch gering oder uneindeutig oder beides.
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    Russlands Rolle und Ziele in der „Ukraine-Krise“

    Die Motive für die Einmischung des Kremls in innerukrainische Angelegenheiten sind eher innen- als geopolitischer Natur. Es geht um die Stabilität des Putin-Systems und nur zweitrangig um russische Außenpolitik. Putins Strategie ist die einer sozioökonomischen Untergrabung und weniger einer politisch-militärischen Unterwerfung der Ukraine. Moskaus Ziel ist nicht eine Zerstörung von außen, sondern die Zersetzung des ukrainischen Staates von innen sowie eine damit einhergehende Sabotage der EU-Assoziierungspolitik in der ehemaligen UdSSR.
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    The Orthodox Component in the Russian Support for Eastern Ukrainian Separatists

    Due to the recent tragic events in Ukraine and the ongoing military conflict in the East of the country, Orthodox Christianity has become increasingly important to Western observers and journalists in their attempts to explain the Russian support for the Eastern Ukrainian separatists.
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    The 1914 in the Wars of 2014

    There is war in Europe. No, I'm not using the historic present tense to evoke August 1914. I'm talking about August 2014. What is happening in eastern Ukraine is war – 'ambiguous war' as a British parliamentary committee calls it, rather than outright, declared war between two sovereign states, but still war. And war rages around the edges of Europe, in Syria, Iraq and Gaza.
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    Putin’s Losing Streak – The Malaysia Airlines Disaster and the New Sanctions on Russia

    Putin’s march into Ukraine last spring did not change the world. It barely even changed Europe. The EU hesitated to label the aggression as an act of war. And, although the United States and the EU agreed to impose sanctions on Moscow, the real debate in Western capitals was not how to respond, but rather, how to express resolve while doing as little as possible.
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    Moskaus Waffen und Lügen

    Der Abschuss des Passagierflugzeugs über der Ukraine und die fast 300 Todesopfer werden die Haltung Moskaus im Ukraine-Konflikt kaum beeinflussen. In Europa aber könnte sich eine härtere Gangart durchsetzen. Fraglich ist, ob das reicht, den sinnlosen Krieg zu beenden.
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    The Autumn of Nations 1989 and the Ukrainian Winter 2013-14

    The triumphal narrative of 1989 presents the revolutions in Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Romania as a wave of civil resistance and broad popular opposition to the local communist regimes. This narrative, however, often obscures the fact that the fall of these regimes was only possible because Moscow’s grasp on its satellites had weakened.
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    In Ukraine, the Future of the Russian Orthodox Church is at Stake

    It is hard to judge, from today’s perspective, what strategy the Patriarch of Moscow will pursue with regard to Putin’s politics towards Ukraine. But what can be said for sure is that in Ukraine, the Russian Orthodox Church’s approach to pluralism is at stake.
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    Ukraine: The Edge of Democracy

    This Sunday, millions of men and women will go to the urns in Ukraine to exercise their civil right to vote for a new president. Opinion polls show that the vast majority of Ukrainians throughout the country wish to remain in Ukraine and want to take part in the election.
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    In Europe’s week of 30 elections, only one is pivotal – and it’s not in the EU

    If Ukraine can hold a democratic election for its president next Sunday, there's a hope it can return to peaceful negotiations.
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    How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare

    Though some deride Russia for backward thinking, Putin's strategy in Ukraine betrays a nuanced understanding of 21st century geopolitics.
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    “Ukraine: Thinking Together” – an international conference in Kyiv

    At an international conference in Kyiv, taking place between 15 and 19 May, European, American and Russian intellectuals will meet their Ukrainian counterparts to discuss the meaning of Ukrainian pluralism for the future of Europe, Russia and the world.
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    Putin’s Useful Idiots

    Western intellectuals have long had a soft spot for Russia. Voltaire, the French teacher of tolerance and a great friend of Catherine the Great, said that he would gladly move to Russia, though only if its capital were Kiev, not icy St. Petersburg.
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    Europa und die Ukraine: Vergangenheit und Zukunft

    Die Ukraine hat keine Zukunft ohne Europa. Aber Europa hat auch keine Zukunft ohne die Ukraine.
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    Putin’s World

    The West is now living in Putin’s world. It is there not because Putin is right, or even because he is stronger, but because he is taking the initiative. Putin is “wild” while the West is “wary.” While European and American leaders recognize that the world order is undergoing a dramatic change, they cannot quite grasp it. They remain overwhelmed by Putin’s transformation from CEO of Russia, Inc., into an ideology-fueled national leader who will stop at nothing to restore his country’s influence.
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    Ukraine: Russian Propaganda and Three Disaster Scenarios

    As the Ukrainian presidential election scheduled on May 25 gets closer, Kremlin's window of opportunity for invading the country and derailing its European course is gradually narrowing. The rhetoric of Russian President Vladimir Putin justifying the Anschluss of Crimea and unscrupulous meddling in Ukraine's internal affairs has been based on the premises that there is no legitimate government in Kiev, that it is being run by a gang of Nazis and anti-Semites who took power by coup d'etat and terrorised Russians and Russophones all over the country.
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  • Russie: le retour de la politique post-impériale

    En un mois, entre la chute du régime Yanukovitch et l’annexion de la Crimée à la Russie, Vladimir Poutine a réussi a transformer ce qui était au départ le choix entre deux ensembles commerciaux en un choix géopolitique et "civilisationnel". C’est en ces termes que le président russe lui même formule les enjeux et, en bafouant l’intégrité territoriale de l’Ukraine, affirme la puissance d’une Russie qui se pose en s’opposant à l’Europe.
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    The Russian Godfather

    Russian President Vladimir Putin is behaving like a Mafia boss. In invading, occupying, and finally annexing Crimea, he pointed Russia’s guns at Ukraine and said: your territorial sovereignty or your life. So far, extortion has worked – and Putin knows it.
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    The struggle for Ukraine has just begun

    Remember, remember: this is about the whole of Ukraine, not just Crimea. Vladimir Putin knows that. Ukrainians know that. And we must not forget it. There is nothing we or the Ukrainian government can do to restore its control over Crimea. The crucial struggle is now for eastern Ukraine.
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    Far-Right Forces are Influencing Russia’s Actions in Crimea

    In opinion polls held in anticipation of the presidential elections scheduled for May 25, the leaders of the Ukrainian far right receive the support of 2 percent to 3 percent of Ukrainian citizens. None of the leading candidates remotely resembles a nationalist. If elections are held, the winner will likely be a chocolate magnate or a former heavyweight boxer, neither of them remotely nationalist.
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    Ukraine, Crimea and the Unmaking of Empires

    Here is another way to think about what is happening in Ukraine: as the latest chapter in the self-decolonisation of Europe. After dismantling the Soviet empire at the end of the short 20th century, Europeans went back to finishing off the Austrian-Hungarian and Ottoman ones, including successor states such as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Now it is the pre-Soviet Russian empire that is being challenged. Think of Russia's president as Tsar Vladimir the Last.
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  • The Languages of Ukraine and the War for Russian “Compatriots”

    In the course of the recent dramatic events in Ukraine, great emphasis has been put on the language question. In this essay, I intend to clarify some crucial issues: I will demonstrate that Vladimir Putin’s allegations regarding the suppression of Russian speakers in Ukraine are part of a complex network of continuing propaganda, and I will confirm that Putin’s recent political moves are the result of an ideology that is dangerously close to that of Nazi Germany.
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    The Bloody History Between Poland and Ukraine Led to Their Unlikely Solidarity

    On 20 February, the young Ukrainian activist Aleksandra Kovaleva posted an open letter to European politicians on Facebook. "Yanukovych fucks you all this time, he fucks us also, but we at least trying to resist," she wrote. "You’re too old, you’re blind to see what is happening, you are deaf and can not hear the screams." The letter was a cri de coeur, evoking the anger, hurt, and disappointment of thousands on the Maidan.
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  • The Age-Old Connection Between Russia and Ukraine Is Over

    In the cafés, in the shops, on the streets of Kiev everyone is asking the one question that matters in one particular way: Will there be war? No one can quite finish the question: Will there be war with Russia? That such a thing could even be: a war between Ukraine and Russia.
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    The west must act on Ukraine – but nobody wants to pay the price

    Sanctions on Russia are vital for the credibility of democracy, but politicians believe citizens will not tolerate economic sacrifice.
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    Leave Us Alone, Putin! A plea for peace by two eastern Ukrainian teachers

    Ukraine now has a government that has undertaken constitutional reforms to create a parliamentary democracy and has scheduled presidential elections. Like other countries, Ukraine is home to a number of political parties with different views of the future of the country. We believe that these differences should be resolved in peaceful discussion and free elections among Ukrainians themselves.
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    Russian Revisionism. Putin’s Plan For Overturning the European Order

    Russia’s willingness to violate Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty is the gravest challenge to the European order in over half a century. The conflict pits a vast nuclear power against a state equal in size to France, an autocratic regime against a revolutionary government.
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    Revolution in Ukraine: Take Three

    The main threat to the revolution comes not from Crimean separatism nor from far-right groups, writes Mykola Riabchuk. The biggest threat comes from within: from old habits and oldboy networks. New politicians are needed to avoid repeating the missed opportunities of 1991 and 2004.
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    Russia, Stop the War Against Ukraine!

    The Demos of Ukraine was fighting against a neo-feudal oligarchy and proved to the whole world that real democracy is alive today. A new Europe was born on Maidan — a Europe of solidarity, dignity, self-organization and freedom. Russia's invasion is a military counter-revolution as an answer to the Ukrainian democratic revolution,
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    Beneath the Hypocrisy, Putin is Vulnerable

    How can Europe respond to the immediate problem of military intervention in Ukraine and the more fundamental political challenge to European values and achievements?
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    After Yanukovych – Maidan’s Next Fight Will Be To Preserve a Ukraine Safe for Minorities

    Russia has likened the protests to pogroms, but Jews have joined the movement because what’s at stake is an independent future.
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    Has the West Already Lost Ukraine?

    When, on Saturday, Ukraine’s new leaders thanked all of those who had contributed to the overthrow of President Viktor F. Yanukovych, the European Union was one of the last to be cited. And deservedly so: At the height of the crisis, the most the union was ready to do was announce sanctions against individual members of Mr. Yanukovych’s regime
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    Affluent Poles Looking at Ukraine – Too much Lecturing, not enough Support

    Poland has become a part of Western Europe – for better or for worse. In the face of the escalating Ukrainian conflict it definitely seems for worse. The Poles have become wealthy enough to forget where they were 25 years ago. The memories of our own poor condition are so faded that we can no longer empathize with the Ukrainians’ violent struggle. And yet it seems so easy to keep convincing everyone in Brussels that Poland will teach its European partners to think in terms of solidarity.
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    Ukraine’s Promise of Peace Overtaken by Fresh Tragedy

    The tragedy about the crackdown in Ukraine is that the day of violence began with the promise of peace. Tuesday was the day that the Ukrainian parliament was supposed to begin discussions on the basic constitutional change that is needed as a first step towards resolving the present political crisis and restoring normal governance to the country. More tragic still is that a broad consensus exists, within and without Ukraine, as to how a political exit from the crisis could be arranged.
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    Dreams of Europe

    There are two Europes, writes Volodymyr Yermolenko: a Europe of rules and regulations, and a Europe founded upon faith in the European idea. And of course, as recent events in Ukraine show, the European idea extends well beyond the formal frontiers of the European Union.
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    Ukraine Stands on the Edge. We Should Do More to Bring It Back

    Ukraine has not yet died – as the country's anthem observes. But the face of Ukraine today is the bloodied, scarred face of the opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov. Comparisons with Bosnia are still far-fetched, but think of this as a political Chernobyl.
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    Don’t Let Putin Grab Ukraine

    VIENNA — As Russian leaders, diplomats and commentators ponder the division of Ukraine, we must begin to ask what this would actually mean. If the present crisis ends with the fragmentation of the Ukrainian state, the result will be disastrous for all concerned, including Russia. The risk is that, in conditions of chaos and in the absence of a decisive Western stance, Russia could follow the logic of its current commitments to a very dangerous conclusion.
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    Zerstörte Illusionen

    Im Protest gegen die herrschende Elite in der Ukraine bilden sich neue Allianzen heraus. Trotz zerstörten Hoffnungen werden der gesellschaftliche und der politische Wandel längerfristig nicht aufzuhalten sein.
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    Gewalt in der Ukraine: Vor unseren Augen

    Worauf warten wir noch? Wie können wir helfen? Diese Fragen stellt sich der Schriftsteller Martin Pollack, wenn er dieser Tage seinen Freund Juri Andruchowytsch auf Videos sieht, wie er auf dem Maidan in Kiew steht.
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    Das Schicksal der Worte

    Sie rufen einen an und schreiben einem. Schreiben einem und rufen einen an. Lasst uns dies und jenes unterschreiben, sagen sie. Eine Erklärung muss her, sagen sie, lasst uns eine Erklärung anfertigen, die es in sich hat! Wie sie alle gleichzeitig und ausgiebig an unserer grandiosen Erklärung kauen werden, die noch dazu die Unterschriften solch respektabler Leute tragen wird, und wie sie dann um Verzeihung bitten, losheulen und beteuern werden, dass sie so etwas nie mehr tun. Na dann!
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    Was der Westen über das rechtsextreme Element des Euromaidan wissen sollte

    Viele im Westen stellen derzeit Fragen zur Beteiligung der ukrainischen Ultranationalisten an den Euromaidan-Protesten in Kiew. Manche angeblich linken Websites – wie zum Beispiel die „World Socialist Web Site“ – verbreiten dreiste Lügen über die Euromaidan-Proteste und die Rolle, welche die extreme Rechte dabei spielt. Diese Websites versuchen die russischen Imperialisten, die alles ihnen Mögliche tun, um die Ukraine ihrer bereits geschwächten Unabhängigkeit zu berauben, zu verharmlosen.
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    Statement of the Ukrainian Centre of the International PEN

    We call our international colleagues not only to express their support for Ukrainian writers and journalists, and their solidarity with the Ukrainian people. We call on you to mobilize your democratic societies and increase pressure on your governments to take a tougher stance against a regime that is leading its country to further violence and bloodshed.
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    Both Your Houses. Protest and Opposition in Russia and Ukraine

    There is one central similarity between Euromaidan and other recent movements across the world: protesters' self-reliance and distrust of politicians who pretend to represent them is what gives their movement its democratic credentials, but it is also a weakness. In many ways, Ukraine's Euromaidan is rather unlike the wave of mass protests in Russia that followed the rigged election to the State Duma in December 2011.
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    Ukraine: The New Dictatorship

    On paper, Ukraine is now a dictatorship. President Viktor Yanukovych, in having the deputies of his Party of Regions endorse an extraordinary packet of legislation, has arrogated decisive political power to himself. After hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians spent weeks in the cold demonstrating for basic human rights and a stronger association with Europe, the president has responded with a violation of human rights and a rather sad imitation of Russia.
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    On Maidan

    It is too early to sum up or to reflect theologically upon what is going on at the Maidan in Kyiv. First, everything is changing rapidly and the next day the Maidan can be completely different or can perish altogether. Second, to properly reflect on such an event as the Maidan, some time should pass. Nevertheless, it is already clear that the Maidan, regardless of its future, has changed the country, the society, as well as the relations between the Ukrainian churches and the Ukrainian society.
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    Die EU und der russisch-ukrainische Konflikt

    Die europäische Staatengemeinschaft hat sich zum Partner der Ukraine erklärt und möchte sich mit ihr durch den größten Außenvertrag ihrer Geschichte assoziieren. Um dieses Abkommen trotz des ukrainischen Neins auf dem Ostpartnerschaftsgipfel von Vilnius doch noch realisierbar zu machen, muss Brüssel allerdings Konsequenzen für seine Russlandpolitik ziehen.
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    Ukraine: Putin’s Denial

    Can we imagine large numbers of people spending cold nights in a tent for the idea that Russia and Ukraine are one nation? Confronting policemen? Getting beaten by clubs? Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians in Kiev and throughout the country are spending nights in the cold and risking arrest and pain to show that they care about Ukraine and its distinct future. But they hope it will be a European one, not a Russian one.
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    Ukraine: Across the Dividing Lines

    After a couple of failed attempts to push out protesters from the centre of Kyiv, Ukrainian authorities changed their tactics. They declared the goodwill for roundtable talks with the opposition, released most of the detained protesters from custody, and fired four top officials arguably responsible for the bloody beating of students on November 30.
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    The Folly of “Imperial Integration”

    In recent years, one may have witnessed a widening gap between the discourse promoted by the Russian leadership regarding the creation of a Eurasian Union incorporating Russia, the states of Central Asia, and, presumably, Ukraine and the growing discontent of the Russian public.
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    Who Lost Ukraine?

    Karl Marx famously remarked that major historical events occur twice – the “first time as tragedy, then as farce.” In Ukraine, sadly, tragedy and farce are inseparable.
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    Maidan & Beyond: Some Preliminary Conclusions

    “Would anyone anywhere in the world be willing to take a truncheon in the head for the sake of a trade agreement with the United States?”, asks Tymothy Snyder acerbically in his article “A Way Out for Ukraine?” knowing the answer perfectly well.
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    A Way Out for Ukraine?

    Would anyone anywhere in the world be willing to take a truncheon in the head for the sake of a trade agreement with the United States? This is the question we Americans might be asking ourselves these last few days, as we watch young Ukrainians being beaten in Kiev for protesting their own government’s decision not to enter an association agreement with the European Union.
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    Who is the Biggest Supporter of Ukraine?

    Oleh Kotsyuba (Krytyka, Ukraine) speaks with Sławomir Sierakowski (Krytyka Polityczna, Poland) about the events in the aftermath of Ukrainian President’s decision not to sign the Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.
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    Provoking the Euromaidan

    Far-right agents provocateurs have been infiltrating the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine, and provoking the police and protesters to violence. Anton Shekhovtsov reports
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