Such a scenario may seem overly optimistic, but it is also true that in recent years Ukraine’s authorities have done much to reduce dependence on Russia, remain aloof of any integration projects, and keep the nation’s still biggest trading partner at a safe distance.
All of this is worrying to Russia, which still sees Ukraine as a valuable economic prize, and the symbolic heartland of the Kremlin’s new ideological project, the Russian World, which aims to tie the core Eastern Slavic lands in a union based on language, culture and a shared Orthodox faith. In terms of economy, Putin might be right – trade with Russia is down 18 percent this year, mainly on lower fuel imports to Ukraine. But in terms of political culture, or “civilization,” he can sleep easy: Ukraine is sliding ever further down the path of lawlessness and abuse of human rights that characterize today’s Russia.
On the same day the Russian dignitaries were visiting Kyiv, activists from radical feminist group Femen and a photographer accompanying them were roughed up by police and detained on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying law enforcement officials, respectively. They were tried the next morning, once Kyiv’s distinguished guests had left, and received a minor fine. This was not the only case involving Femen: Anna Hutsol, the group’s leader, was beaten twice the same day and had her laptop and dog stolen; a male Femen activist was brutally beaten only days earlier, resulting in a broken jaw and missing teeth.