Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

Ukraine: Catherine Ashton meets civil society representatives - The violence ‘must stop’!

Yesterday representatives of the Ukraine’s National Platform together with the Civic Sector of Euromaidan, Student Coordination Council of Ukraine, Euromaidan SOS and other representatives of the civil society and media met with Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

The discussion was focused on the current developments in Ukraine, with the special attention to prosecutions of the civil society representatives. The participants have stressed that the negotiation process is lacking the representatives of the civil society, including only opposition and the government officials. To this remark Catherine Ashton asked who can become such a representative to which the response was that the problem is not about the personalities but the fact that the government officials insist on a dialogue only with the opposition. The speakers also pointed out that the process of negotiations has no trust whatsoever among those protesting as in parallel the government is increasing the numbers of special forces and continues to prepare the violent scenario. Civil society representatives also pointed out that the protest was peaceful until the government began using force against those protesting. In the policy domain they addressed the issue of limiting presidential powers, Constitutional reform, which is taking place already two years and stressed again that the struggle is not about the East and West of Ukraine but against the President who is trying to establish the dictatorship in the country.

The civil society representatives called upon EU to help with the sanctions against concrete personalities, MPs and local governors who were directly involved in the violation of human rights. First of all by checking their bank accounts, etc. Secondly, its limited movement of these personalities on the territory of EU; thirdly – organising the international human right watch group or mission. This is especially vital for those regions where a wave of terror and pressure is especially high, including private buildings and biting up of regular citizens. The representatives also drew attention about the situation of journalists. According to the most recent statistics 60 journalists were bitten only during the last week.

 Catherine Ashton said that the situation in Ukraine is number one on her agenda, also in her statement drew her attention to her discussions with the Presidents, to the Foreign Affairs Council, and bilateral talks with the Member States. ‘The situation here is of enormous importance to all of us’.

Later in her statement she mentioned the meeting with the civil society people – many young people especially – who are deeply engaged in the discussion on the future of the country. ‘I have to say that I have been very shocked by the reports that many have been giving me on the situation’, she stressed. ‘And of course one of the most important aspects that we need to address is the prevention of violence and intimidation. I am very worried about people who appear to be missing. There is much talk when you discuss this with many people about the concept of people almost being taken hostage. And wherever it comes from, the sense of violence and intimidation, it must stop’, the statement says. ‘It seems to me that from looking from the outside, from the information we have, that there is a real opportunity that must be grabbed right now, to get a serious dialogue going between different parties, people, in order to try and address the concerns the people generally have about the future of the country and to bring people together. And I really hope that this will happen – and of course if there are ways in which we can help we are pleased to do so, but this is and must be Ukrainian led, and it is really important that it goes forward’, the statement said.

On the short and longer term issues Catherine Ashton also talked about the Amnesty Law and its importance and then moving further forward, to think about forthcoming elections, free and fair elections, that will take place in the future and the importance of engagement of those who can help support that process.

 Time is really of the essence here, she concluded.

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