Nearly a year ago, at the 16th EU-Ukraine summit, one would not have predicted that today the Ukrainian people would be fighting for their rights and Kyiv would be aflame with anger on all sides. As the Ukrainian government reneges on promises made, the streets are lit by fire – bringing light to the madness and the blood spilled. With the number of dead rising in the streets, the world must be concerned with Ukraine’s future.
While a year ago Ukraine was praised by EU leaders as exhibiting a familial set of values to ‘other’ European countries, the turmoil in Kyiv streets on February 18 of this year reveals the precarious nature of the politics in Eastern Europe. Caught between Russia, and the European Union, the fate of Eastern Partnership countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Belarus) was to be discussed at the Vilnius Summit in November 2013. Coming up to the summit, the Ukrainian people, as well as other Eastern Europeans, were faced with economic threats from their largest trading partner Russia, lighting a fire in the regional politics which has contributed to today’s fight and blood.
On November 21, 2013, the Ukrainian government stopped all progress towards the Association Agreement as well as the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area between Ukraine and the EU. This was done despite the shock of the Ukrainian people, who immediately massed in Independence Square, referred to as Euromaidan, and have since demonstrated displeasure with their government insisting upon reforms. What began as a fight for European rights, the Ukrainian fight has merged into one against dictated laws, corruption, use of force, Russian influence, and of course the current government.
Around the world we saw images of different areas of Kyiv, and governmental buildings being occupied by the opposition. About three weeks ago, we saw what had appeared to be an ease in the tension as the current government made concessions which appeased the opposition into stopping many occupation efforts in Kyiv. With promises of constitutional revision and a new prime minister, among other things, the protests seemed to grow quiet. Until February 18, 2013, when despite these promises made to the Ukrainian people, the Verkhovna Rada or the Ukrainian parliament did no put the potential changes on the agenda for discussion.
This indication of political backtracking served for the Ukrainian people as the match to relight the fire of protest, but this time the government seemed prepared with blockades and barriers blocking access, jammed electronic signals, as well as shows of violent force and ultimately blood being shed. With tanks on the streets, snipers on the roof, and tear gas, the streets of Kyiv have turned into a battleground within 24 hours. Slowly the death toll is climbing, yet despite the ever-present danger, more Ukrainians are taking to the streets, fighting for their beliefs. The number of deaths at the current time hovers around 20, and the number of wounded is even higher. For the Ukrainian people, the fire lit streets of Kyiv reveal the chaos of blood being shed, and the desperate hope for a less smoke-filled future for Ukraine.
By Natasha Levanti