Ukraine’s people see oppression as the reason responsible for their revolution. President Yanukovich’s decision to abandon economic talks with the European Union gave the people a reason to mobilize, but the police brutality and anti-protest laws that followed initiated the revolution. The laws passed this January eliminating the people’s right to publicly demonstrate against their government especially infuriated Ukraine’s population and have directly influenced the severe escalation of violence on the streets. Ordinary Ukrainians taking part in the unrest believe that the government’s decision to organize such a large security crackdown proves that it is fundamentally at odds with the will of the people.
Peaceful protests initially erupted after a free trade agreement with the European Union was not signed by Yanukovich. Many Ukrainians used the opportunity to express their grievances with numerous other issues, including allegations of governmental power abuse and corruption. The crowds of hundreds of thousands provoked a massive police deployment that eventually resulted in skirmishes between protesters and security personnel. Shortly after, online videos went viral showing multiple instances of fully armored police mercilessly beating helpless citizens.
Ukrainians present at the protests became subject to tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets regardless of whether or not they were individually involved with the minority group fighting back against police. Fearful of rising violence and further injuries, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a series of anti-protest laws that made it virtually made it illegal for people congregate in public areas. The stated intention was to protect citizens and the police while simultaneously restoring order to the nation’s capital. Instead, the anti-protest laws solidified the beginning of the revolution by giving the Ukrainian people their best claim yet in accusing the government of oppression.
Not only did the anti-protest laws fail to stop mass demonstrations, they appear to have sparked an unprecedented trend of violence. No longer did protesters gather in unison to sing the Ukrainian national anthem, but rather they gathered to lead assaults against police. The police have become to the revolution the symbol of the government’s fight against the people. Why deploy force against the people after overwhelming evidence has surfaced showing the brutalization and torture of demonstrators at the hands of police? Ukrainians are now waging a full scale war against police, but many maintain the that the police are ultimately pawns of the government.
The revolution is currently spreading from Kiev to all areas of Ukraine. Recently, revolutionaries have taken control of multiple government buildings in both the capital and other cities. The government has hastily offered concessions, most notably an end to the anti-protest laws and the appointment of political opposition members to key positions in the administration. It even seems unlikely that Yanukovich will issue a state of emergency. The government is attempting to indulge the population in hopes of reaching a compromise, but the people of Ukraine do not want a minor alteration, they want an entirely new system.
Oppression is the Ukrainian people’s stated reason for the revolution, and oppression is the reason negotiation between the government and people is failing. Ukrainians genuinely believe they are at a crossroad and their current actions will determine the outcome of their country’s future. For the moment, revolutionaries control momentum because they appear to share a common cause. The people are one in the fight for change. As long as millions unite in the quest of obtaining freedom, the Ukrainian people will be in charge.
By Peter Grazul