Ukraineby Representative John Shimkus
Posted on 2014-01-08
SHIMKUS. Mr. Speaker, for the last few years, Ukraine has been
working towards the signing of an association agreement with the
European Union to increase economic and political ties with the bloc
and to solidify democratic values and principles. The association
agreement was to have been signed on November 28 through 29 at an
Eastern Partnership Summit meeting in Vilnius.
On November 21, the Cabinet of Ministers in Ukraine unilaterally suspended negotiations with the European Union due to excessive pressure from Russia. Outraged by this, Ukrainians began to protest by creating European squares, or Euromaidans, across the country, including the capital of Kiev. In the early morning of November 30, the Ukrainian Government sent special forces to clear the Euromaidan in Kiev by using physical force and tear gas, resulting in many protesters and journalists with traumatic injuries and several still who are unaccounted for.
In response to the unprecedented use of force against peaceful protesters in Ukraine's history, several high-ranking deputies and officials in the governing party defected from the Party of Regions. Since then, protests have continued with a reported 1 million Ukrainians taking to the streets on December 1. Every Sunday since has brought at least 50,000 to the Euromaidan.
In the early morning of December 11, special forces, using chain saws and metal batons, broke through many makeshift barricades made of park benches and other available materials in order to encircle thousands of peaceful protesters on the Euromaidan in Kiev. In a 9-hour standoff with security forces, peaceful protesters on the Euromaidan stood their ground, singing the national anthem and praying every hour with local churches that were ringing their bells in support of the protesters.
In 2013, violence was used against more than 100 journalists in Ukraine, with almost half of the incidents occurring in December. On December 25, a well-known and respected Ukrainian journalist and civic activist, Tetyana Chornovol, was brutally beaten on her way home. Protest leaders tie her beating to her anti-regime reporting. Her severely bruised face is now used as a symbol of government repression.
The United States calls on the Ukrainian Government to respect Ukrainians' freedom of speech, their right to free assembly; and it calls on them to refrain from using force against peaceful protesters.