Sen. Murphy on Ukraine's "Turn for the Worse"

Jan 23, 2014

A line of protesters in Kiev on January 20, 2014.
Credit Mstyslav Chernov / Creative Commons

Protests in Ukraine have turned violent between anti-government demonstrators and the police. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy visited that country last month to meet with both sides.

“Things have clearly taken a turn for the worse in Kiev and across the Ukraine," Murphy said. "President Yanukovych has decided to essentially try to end these protests with anti-democratic laws that lock up protesters, and also, now, with violence on the square."

"This thing is as big and as messy a relationship as we get."
Sen. Chris Murphy

Despite hopes for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, Murphy believes it will end in one of two ways, neither good for President Viktor Yanukovych.

Murphy said, "He is either going to be forced from power through a violent revolution -- we hope to God that is not the path -- or he is going to lose an election in 2015. The U.S. pressure is essentially going to add on top to the pressure he is feeling from millions of Ukrainians who don’t want the kind of over-the-top leadership that comes, occasionally now, with violence from the Yanukovych administration."

Murphy, who is chairman of the Senate's Subcommittee on European Affairs, has supported the opposition since they took to the streets last year.

The spark came when Yanukovych refused to sign an economic agreement with the European Union, instead siding with Russia. "We have already started to revoke visas of certain high-ranking Ukrainian officials," Murphy said, "and our hope is that at some point, he gets the message that the only way to solve this crisis is through talks with the opposition, and perhaps re-committing himself to joining the European Union as protesters have demanded." 

Murphy said that if Yanukovych chooses to join the E.U., the United States will support Ukraine to "get their economy back on firm footing and help them deal with the inevitable reaction from the Russians."

But he said between this, Syria peace talks, Iran nuclear talks, and next month's Winter Olympics, the U.S.-Russia relationship is delicate. "This thing is as big and as messy a relationship as we get," Murphy said, adding that Russia has much more at stake in this conflict than the U.S. or the E.U.