Revolution in Ukraine
A look at the Euromaidan movement
Article: Eman Bare – News Writer
It has been over two months since demonstrators in Ukraine first started their anti-government ‘Euromaidan’ movement protests.
The Euromaidan movement is the name that has been given to these protests. It’s a wave of civil demonstrations, and wide spread protests calling for the resignation of the current president, Viktor Yanukovych.
The protests that have gripped Ukraine for the past few months have been the largest the country has seen since the ‘Orange Revolution’ of 2004.
At the heart of the movement is a whether or not the country will forge closer ties with Europe or Russia.
The initial protests began last November, when the government decided to not sign a pact that would result in the country creating stronger ties with Europe, moving away from the influence of Russia.
The current president, Viktor Yanukovych, has been in office since February 2010. His party, ‘ Party of the Regions’ has a very pro-Russia stance, which has proved divisive.
The eastern European nation shares a large border with Russia, totaling to almost 2,300 km. It also shares a border with Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and the Black Sea.
The country has a population of 45 million people and was known as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1922-1991. In 1991, with the fall of the USSR, Ukraine became an independent nation.
The question remains, what really sparked these nation wide protests?
The Government of Ukraine had spent years working on a landmark trade deal with the European Union, which would have served as a leeway for the country to join the EU.
However, the government backed out of the deal last November. The deal would have required Ukraine to adopt hundreds of EU standards and regulations as well as a reform program.
The return for Ukraine would have been the abolishment for citizens to need visas, as well as other benefits.
Eventually, Ukrainian officials did admit that the reason that the deal with the EU was not signed was because of pressure from Russia. Ukraine was threatened by Moscow with harmful sanctions in order to prevent the country from becoming influenced by Western powers.
This decision led to a split between the populations of the Russian-speaking eastern regions and the pro-European western regions.
After the decision was made, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the sudden backing out of the decision.
In addition to protests, this decision by the government was met by opposition leaders declaring that the current government had betrayed the people after suddenly backing out from the pact after years of negotiation.
The clashes between the protestors and government have been intensifying in recent weeks. In late January, three people were killed in anti-government clashes; this is believed to be the first fatalities since protests began.
The increase in protests are believed to be caused by new anti-protest legislation than bans nearly all forms of protests in Ukraine, and allows for long jail terms for those who block public buildings.
Since last December, there have been hundreds of Ukrainians camped out in Independence Square in Kiev. Additionally, there has been up to 200, 000 people participating in some of the wider protests.
These new legislations have shown no sign of ending the protests, however it is expected to create an escalation in violence in the country.