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Ukrainian protests in London - 3
Photo: Darya Malyutina; Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0
 
Members of the Ukrainian diaspora protesting in London

 

Ukrainians living in London have been very active since the early days of Euromaidan. Motivated by a desire to help compatriots back home and make Ukraine a democratic country, free from corruption, authoritarianism and Russia’s meddling, they have organised numerous protests, the last three of which were connected to the MH17 air disaster. Darya Malyutina, a London-based migration researcher, who has focused on the transnational politics of the Ukrainian activist community, takes us inside their feelings and actions.

Just hours after the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in eastern Ukraine, a few dozen Ukrainians laid flowers in front of the Dutch and Malaysian Embassies in London. This group of activists then headed to the Russian Embassy and demonstrated there because, according to circumstantial evidence, the plane seemed to have been downed by a surface-to-air missile apparently launched by Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk area.  On 20 July, three days after the tragedy, they gathered with flags and banners for another rally in front of the Russian embassy, chanting "Putin is a terrorist!" "Where are the British? Where are the Dutch and the Malaysians? Why aren’t they protesting with us?", they asked. On 21 July, they were at Whitehall, in front of the prime minister’s residence, calling for sanctions to be imposed on Russia. 

In fact, since the end of November 2013, when Euromaidan started in Kiev, protesting has become a common way of expressing political agency for members of Ukrainian communities around the world. The MH17 crash, an event which may yet have further massive international consequences, was one of the most critical points in the Ukrainian crisis; the diaspora reacted immediately.

Published in Contentious Europe
Tuesday, 29 July 2014 00:00

Good Reads – 29/07/2014

Two of E&M's editors share articles that recently got them thinking about Europe. Diána kicks off by suggesting an interesting interview and also a book review that might just make you look at the news in a completely different way. Then it's over to Edgar, whose picks include an article on the difficulties of observing Ramadan in Norway.

Diána, Managing editor

diana

Little green men with faces

When we read it was 'pro-Russian separatists' or 'Ukrainian rebels' who shot down the MH17 plane flying over their disputed territory, it is often extremely difficult to imagine who those people on the ground are and why they see it as a realistic political option to call their territory The People's Republic of Donetsk.

The fighters themselves often seem to be missing from media coverage. From a European point of view, it can easily seem rather confusing, almost absurd, to be willing to embrace the authoritarian ways of the Russian leadership. This is why an interview with one of the so-called 'little green men' – the imported fighters from Russia – is an immensely interesting read. In the article, Artur Gasparyan, an Armenian-born former fighter, tells us about the details of his service, the complete anonymity of Russian recruitment and the often extremely chaotic conditions of the fighting involved.

Though the interview is not completely clear on certain points – personally, I'm not sure I understood why he was willing to talk and whether his position about Ukraine has now changed – one message comes across plainly: that for many in the post-Soviet world the very category of separate nation states still does not make sense. In their eyes, there are no 'Ukrainians', only 'Slavs'. For Gasparyan and the others still fighting for the Soviet Union, twisting time and space is possible in the present. However alarming that thought may be, this is an angle we need to tackle if we wish to understand what is going on along those borders.

Published in Good Reads
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