At the same time in Kiev, stalwart Ukrainians in their thousands have spent day and night on "Euromaidan" protesting against the blocking of their road to Europe.
It is hard to imagine how someone can stand and sleep on the street in winter for entire days and weeks.
The determination of Ukrainian civil society should be admired, not only because the weather in Kiev is so poor; but because the prospect for change in government policy is also poor.
Having received a loan from Russia, President Viktor Yanukovych can wait until the extremely difficult conditions in which the protest is taking place break the opposition.
The next presidential election is some way off – according to the law, it should take place in the spring of 2015 – and the protesters have no new means of placing pressure on the government in the meantime.
Ten years ago, Jacques Derrida and Jürgen Habermas wrote their famous philosophical manifesto, which stated:
"It is from their own self-interest, to be sure, that the more closely co-operating member states of the EU will hold the door open. And the probability that the invited states will pass through that door will increase the more capable the core of Europe becomes of effective action externally, and the sooner it can prove that in a complex global society, it is not just divisions that count, but also the soft power of negotiating agendas, relations, and economic advantages."
Since then the EU has almost lost faith in itself.
For years, the brightest minds in philosophy and politics have been pondering how to rouse that spirit in an EU plunged into pessimism and national peculiarities.
It has taken the actions of brave Ukrainians to awaken it.
Nowhere before have so many people manifested support for the European Union as in Kiev.
If the European Union ever seeks to shoot an ad, it will find no better visual than the masses of Ukrainians protesting in the winter streets under the EU flag.
The Euromaidan protests have become a test not only for Ukrainian authorities, but also for all Europeans and their political elites.
Euromaidan is the missing proof for the necessity of the union that European politicians, worried by the decreasing popularity of the European community, have sought.
Today, philosophers and intellectuals from all over the world are returning to this dream, signing an appeal for a Marshall plan for Ukraine – a necessary condition for finally overcoming the deadlock that has lasted for years.
Ukrainians are not just fighting for themselves.
They are fighting for completion of the European project and the guarantee of geopolitical safety for the entire region.
The autocrat in the Kremlin is rightly worried about Euromaidan – he knows that it can serve as a prelude to an "Eroploshchad" in Moscow: that is, the success of Euromaidan represents an opportunity for democratic forces within Russia.
A Russia without Ukraine would become the last country in Europe to deal with the experience of losing an empire and assuming a distance from itself.
The EU can build a proper and mutually beneficial relationship only with a Russia that is not imperial, but democratic.
The road to this development leads through Kiev.
EU diplomacy has let itself be easily outplayed by Vladimir Putin's primitive methods.
Unlike Russia, it did not recognise Ukraine as a priority, and as a consequence Ukraine was offered very bad terms.
Less than a €1bn ($960 million) in direct aid could not compensate the economic consequences of signing the free trade agreement with EU and a trade war with Russia, especially since the EU also demanded the fulfillment of IMF loan conditions.
EU politicians' insistence that they are not interested in bargaining is unconvincing given what they do in Brussels on a daily basis.
Today no one can doubt that Ukraine is inhabited by European citizens, just like those in England, Germany or Poland.
As Derrida and Habermas noted: "What is already a fairly abstract form of civic solidarity, still largely confined to members of nation states, must be extended to include the European citizens of other nations as well."
Someone malicious could propose to the growing number of Eurosceptic politicians a hypothetical changing of places with the Ukrainians if they are so enamoured of gaining distance from the EU when there are those who dream of accession.
For now, however, the "geographically fortunate" can pout with impunity, without even wondering what their historical fate would be if they were to find themselves in the same place as Ukraine.
The condition for economic aid to Ukraine must be corruption-fighting reforms, but it cannot be prohibitive.
There should moreover be unconditional financial assistance to Ukrainian institutions (NGOs, universities, cultural institutions, thinktanks) as part of the cultural and social integration of Ukraine with the rest of Europe.
Even more so, if political integration encounters difficulties.
To that end, we appeal today to politicians and citizens: let us help Ukrainians to build a new Ukraine – and help us to build a new Europe and a fairer world.
Source: The Guardian