Richard Branson: Ukraine protests

Jan 24th, 2014 | By | Category: News, Politics, Protests, Ukraine, United Kingdom

At the end of an engrossing panel discussion on the role of business in philanthropy at Davos, a Ukrainian businessman and politician spoke about the need for solidarity with Ukraine. It was particularly apt as the event was organised by Victor Pinchuk, the prominent Ukrainian businessman.

After months of protests in Kiev, two activists were killed in clashes with police. Another protester has been found dead in a forest, after reportedly being abducted and tortured by police with a fellow protestor.

Opposition leaders have met with the government but both sides have not reached an agreement. An uneasy truce must be turned into a more substantial peace. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko has said he would lead protesters “on the attack” if elections are not called, while President Viktor Yanukovych is calling for an emergency session in parliament. The leaders of both sides must be big enough to compromise and quickly.

I wholeheartedly agree with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said: “We expect the government in Ukraine to ensure democratic freedoms, notably the right to demonstrate, the protection of lives and the end of the use of force.”

The government must rescind anti-democratic laws, where they can jail people without them even being in the court; where they can close media outlets; where they are suppressing freedom of speech; where they are blocking democracy and fighting their own people.

The Syria conflict, and many other conflicts around the world, started with a handful of people being killed and now hundreds of thousands have died. Now is the time to stop Ukraine escalating into a similar nightmare.

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