March 15, 2014
Take the Svoboda party, which gained five key positions in the new Ukrainian government, including deputy prime minister, minister of defense and prosecutor general. Svoboda’s call to abolish the autonomy that protects Crimea’s Russian heritage, and its push for a parliamentary vote that downgraded the status of the Russian language, are flagrantly provocative to Ukraine’s millions of ethnic Russians and incredibly stupid as the first steps of a new government in a divided country.
These moves, more than Russian propaganda, prompted broad Crimean unease. Recall that this crisis began when Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovich retreated on a deal toward European integration. Are the Europe-aspiring Ukrainians who now vote to restrict Russians’ cultural-language rights even dimly aware that, as part of the European Union, such minority rights would have to be expanded, not curtailed?