Political crisis in Ukraine sparks demonstrations in Prague

Photo: CTK

Ukrainians at home and abroad wait with great anticipation to see if a re-election will be called. Yesterday, members of the Forum Ukrajincu or Ukrainian Forum and Czech Green Party members gathered together on Prague's Wenceslas Square to voice their concerns. The Green party took a clear stance- they were not there to show their support any specific candidate- their main concern were the democratic processes themselves. On the other hand, the Ukrainians at the gathering were clearly Yushchenko supporters.

Photo: CTK
I approached one of the women chanting "Yushchenko" to ask why she had come to the gathering. She spoke of the economic hardships that she faced. She said she wished that Ukrainians could work at home, she wished that they would not have go to other countries like the Czech Republic, Portugal or Italy to make a living. She wanted to be able to buy what I she needed, she spoke about having to leave her child and her my family behind in Ukraine. When she finished talking, I could not help noticing the tears in her eyes.

The demonstration on Monday was part of a larger series of demonstrations. Sunday drew a crowd of 2000 people and smaller gatherings have been set for the rest of the week. Green party organizer Matej Stropnicky spoke of the Czech Republic's hesitancy to take a clear stand towards the disputed election.

"In comparison with the situation in Poland for example, in the parliament of the Polish Republic, the political parties are very concerned about the situation in the Ukraine. However, here when the question was raised in Parliament by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, it was not taken up, the political parties did not want to discuss it. We feel that this situation is something that we have to talk about. We do not want to be passive and that is why we wanted to show support, not to any one of the presidential candidates but generally to the processes of democracy in Ukraine."

The demonstrations in Prague are part of a resolution put out by the Green Party in EU countries declaring support for democratic processes in the Ukraine. Similar demonstrations have also been organized in Warsaw and Budapest.

Viktor Yushchenko,  photo: CTK
In addition to the Green party, Czech politicians such as Freedom Union MP Tana Fischerova also came to the gathering to show her support.

"We hesitate a bit, about what is good because it is a struggle between two groups, two parts of the country. I do not see this struggle, I think democracy is the most beautiful thing we have, the most important thing. The problem is not the struggle between two parties but the struggle for democracy and that is the reason why I am here."

Senator Jaroslav Stetina was also present at the demonstration. He brought a message of support from former president, Vaclav Havel. One of the banners at the demonstration read, "Velvet Revolution for Ukraine." Stetina pointed to connections between Ukraine and the Czech Republic.

"We have to support democratic forces in Ukraine. The biggest problem is the possibility of the use of force against democratic forces in Ukraine. Of police, of the army maybe of the Russian army, I am very afraid of this."

Photo: CTK
You spoke to Havel earlier today, what did he have to say about the issue?

"Mr.Havel told me that he is also afraid of the possibility of blood and he supports Ukrainian democratic forces. This is a revolution, this is not a problem of the election, this is a problem of the future of Ukraine. This is a real revolution, we have choose what side of the barricade we are on, now."

Earlier we spoke to Czech journalist Lubos Palata who specialises in Central and Eastern Europe and asked him whether he believes that a victory for Yushchenko could really solve the situation in Ukraine.

"Well I have to say first of all, that a victory for Yushchenko or any sort of final resolution of the current situation is quite far. Only few people realize this. Second, a victory for Yushchenko would not mean any immediate changes for Ukraine. It won't suddenly become a normal democratic country where corruption disappears and which will gradually integrate into the west."

Do you see possibly a division of the country as a solution? Would a peaceful split up - something like the split up of Czechoslovakia - be feasible?

"I think that there is no chance of a peaceful division of Ukraine. That division would be definitely very turbulent, but I don't want to go that far. There is probably an alternative of a sort of autonomy for the eastern part, but even this is not very topical. What is vital at the moment is for the situation to calm down. Ukraine needs to have a president and a legitimate government before anything else can happen."

Well, however the situation develops, do you think that the events may have some direct impact on the Czech Republic or other Central European countries?

"I think it now really depends on which path Ukraine takes. If it stays stable and even joins the main European structures, it will be a positive development for the whole region. Ukraine is also a huge, potential market with a population of 50 million. If its economy recovers, it will be of great benefit for the whole of Europe, not only for Central European countries."