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Ukraine: 5 Years on from Maidan
24 January @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
In January 2014, Ukraine’s then-President Victor Yanukovych passed a series of ‘anti-protest’ laws to quash growing unrest in the country. Within weeks, he would flee for Russia. This was the culmination of three months of protests, which had begun when Yanukovych refused to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union. Following Yanukovych’s toppling, Ukraine announced its intention to integrate closer to Europe.
Five years on, Russia’s war in eastern Ukraine, which followed its annexation of Crimea, continues – it is now one of the longest-running conflicts in Europe in almost a century. President Petro Poroshenko has implemented serious reforms but the pace has slowed markedly over recent years, particularly on anti-corruption measures. Much has changed in Ukraine since 2014, but much has remained the same.
By kind invitation of Lord Richard Risby, the Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to discuss the twin challenges facing Ukraine five years from Maidan: dealing with Russia’s war and undertaking domestic reforms.
Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko has been appointed as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by the President of Ukraine and she is also a Permanent Representative to the IMO. Natalia Galibarenko participated in numerous bilateral and multilateral negotiations of Ukraine, including in the framework of the EU, OSCE and other international organizations. Her diplomatic rank is Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary 1st class. She holds a diploma from the Institute of International Relations, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.
Robert Brinkley CMG – chairs the steering committee of the Chatham House Ukraine Forum. He is a senator (member of the governing body) of the Ukrainian Catholic University (UCU) and chairman of the Ukrainian Institute London, which is affiliated to UCU. He is chairman of the Advisory Board of the University College London School of Slavonic and East European Studies (UCL SSEES). He is a trustee of the Keston Institute, which studies religion in Communist and former Communist countries. Until 2011 Robert Brinkley was a British diplomat for 34 years. He served as High Commissioner to Pakistan (2006 – 2009), Ambassador to Ukraine (2002 – 2006) and as head of the UK’s worldwide visa operation (2000 – 2002). He had previously had two postings in Moscow (both in Russia and in the Soviet Union), as well as positions in Bonn, Geneva and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.
Lord Richard Risby – is a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom. He served as Member of Parliament for Bury St Edmunds from 1992 to 1997, and for West Suffolk from 1997 to 2010. He joined the House of Lords in 2010 and is currently the British Trade Envoy to Algeria.
On the 24th January the Henry Jackson Society was delighted to host our latest event, “Ukraine: 5 Years on From Maidan”. Our guest speakers included the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko and Robert Brinkley CMG who chairs the steering committee of the Chatham House Ukraine Forum. The event was chaired by Lord Richard Risby, a former Conservative Party Member of Parliament and the current British Trade Envoy to Algeria. The event centered on the attempts by the Russian state to coerce Ukraine into its sphere of influence as well as the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine.
Ambassador Natalia Galibarenko begun the event by describing the factors which led to the Maidan revolution. She outlined the anger and frustration amongst ordinary people who felt that they had been betrayed by their political leaders and who were attempting to draw Ukraine away from the European Union and an associated free trade agreement, towards Russia and its sphere of influence. The Ambassador then descried how Maidan had been used as a pretext for Russia achieving its historical as well as imperialistic ambition to seize Crimea. Russia’s invasion occurred against a background of complete state breakdown as the then Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovich fled the capitol leaving the state apparatus, including the military, without a central leadership.
The ambassador went on to describe the significant undertakings and achievements of the current Ukrainian administration under Petro Poroshenko. This includes a significant effort to combat the rampant corruption found at many governmental levels through the creation of anti-corruption bodies. Moreover, the current administration had sought to reform medical treatment and pension provision alongside judicial reforms to improve the overall quality of life in Ukraine. The ambassador admitted that significant challenges still remained.
With the close of the Ambassador’s remarks, Lord Richard Risby, spoke at length about his shock that such a situation could exist in Europe at present. Lord Risby stated that it was unthinkable that during the Maidan Revolution, Ukraine’s population could be subjected to such anti-democratic measures usually found in totalitarian countries. Not only that but being targeted for electoral interference, having parts of their state being annexed and the Eastern part of their country facing a well organised and pre-planned attempt to destabilize the country using special forces and proxy armies.
Robert Brinkley CMG commenced his remarks around current EU-Russia-Ukrainian relations. He stated that Russia’s tactic had spectacularly backfired. Russia may have acquired Crimea, but it had lost Ukraine. Since the Maidan revolution, Ukraine has moved significantly towards the West, both in terms of trade and in term of public opinion. This was underscored both by the signing of the Ukraine-EU Free Trade Deal as well as the rupture of the Orthodox Church between Ukraine and Russia.
Robert Brinkley went on to outline Ukraine’s strategic importance for Russia, both at a geo-political and economic level. Ukraine possess large quantities of fertile agricultural land which makes it ideal for food production. Similarly, it has an extremely large and expanding tech sector with expertise in areas such as cyber security and defense. The Ukrainian population is also well educated and highly productive. These factors underline the motivation for Russia to draw Ukraine into its orbit.
Both speakers went on to discuss their alarm and apprehension with regard to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany. The pipeline which is ostensibly built to improve Russo-Germanic relations has drawn significant criticism from Ukraine and other Eastern European Countries. The overwhelming amount of Russian Gas exported to Europe transits through Ukraine. This means that if Russia employs gas as an economic weapon, such as, halting gas exports to Ukraine during the winter, then by extension gas supplies to the West cease. Yet, by building a pipeline around Ukraine, Russia can isolate the country while maintaining a steady supply of gas to the West. Moreover, Ukraine would also lose significant transit fees which contribute to its annual budget.