‘If Ukrainian demonstrations not a masquerade, Poroshenko could be overthrown’

Members of the Ukrainian national guard "Azov" regiment and activists of the Azov civil corp take part in a protest against local elections in pro-Russian rebel-held areas of eastern Ukraine under the Minsk peace agreement, in Kiev, Ukraine, May 20, 2016 © Gleb Garanich
The protests could be a way of allowing Kiev to say: ‘Look, we’ve got these terrible people protesting against us, but we’re nonetheless going to allow elections in Donbass, John Laughland, director of studies at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in Paris, told RT.

Thousands of ultra-nationalists gathered on Friday in front of the Ukrainian parliament in Kiev, threatening to oust MPs and President Poroshenko's administration if they allow elections in the Eastern regions of the country.

RT: The organizers of today's rally claim it's only the beginning. How far do you think these far-right protests could go considering they were the forces that played a decisive role during the Maidan uprising two years ago? 

John Laughland: It’s very important to recall that fact, and to also recall the fact that a month or two ago they killed a policeman outside the Ukrainian Parliament. These are indeed the same people who overthrew President [Viktor] Yanukovych two years ago. On the other hand, there has been a split, hasn’t there? Because part of the original Maidan group, including part of its most extreme elements, are firmly integrated within the regime. The Azov battalion… has been integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces a long time ago. 

Most importantly of all, the original commander of the armed Maidan rebellion, Andriy Parubiy, is now the president of the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada. So he is a very key member of the regime. So the people who are demonstrating today are either people who have been excluded from one reason or another from the new structures, or perhaps the whole business with demonstrations could be a way of allowing Kiev, Poroshenko, and so on to say: ‘Look, we’ve got this terrible people protesting against us, but we’re nonetheless going to give in and, in other words, allow elections or at least recognize them in Donbass.’ I don’t entirely rule out that these demonstrations may be, as it were, tolerated by government in order to show itself under pressure from the more nationalist elements in its own society. 

RT: What decision, in your opinion, should President Poroshenko take considering he's bound by Minsk Peace Deal he signed? 

JL: Again, it depends on how serious these demonstrations are: Are they just for show, or are they real? If they are for real, then these people will in due course try to overthrow him and there’ll be again blood in the streets of Kiev. The government is very fragile. It lost its prime minister a few weeks ago because the situation is so dire. The living standards in the country are in free fall – we all know that. It wouldn’t take much to push the new regime over. On the other hand, if it is just a masquerade, as I perhaps suspect, then they can march as much as they like.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.