Ukraine appeared as though the worst was behind it as sitting President Yanukovych agreed to make concessions and sign a ‘peace’ deal with the opposition. After an initial truce was announced Feb. 19 however, protestors and riot police faced off once again, and the blood flowed anew in the streets of Kiev. Despite the supposed truce, at least 75 were reported killed in Ukraine’s Kiev following the “agreement.” More than 100 were reported to be injured as the police now officially have received firearms and a green-light from Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko to use live ammunition in dealing with belligerent demonstrators. So as Ukraine has reached an agreement, the questions remains whether it is enough to end the violence and bloodshed in Kiev.
Ukraine’s demonstrations which begun with simple marches and open-air protests, initiated when President Yanukovych snubbed a deal for EU integration, now appear to be anything but simple demonstrations. Kiev is barricaded on multiple fronts, the government building once being used by opposition leaders as a home-base has been firebombed and completely destroyed, burning tires and debris line the streets of Kiev, and opposition members walk the streets looking like masked guerrilla fighters.
The lines of division within the country are not absolutely clear on every point with Ukraine’s oppositions splintering into different factions calling for varying degrees of change to take place. Initially, opposition members and demonstrators began to call for the immediate resignation of President Yanukovych after his decision to snub the EU. Recently however, after much violence, death and injury suffered by both sides, Ukraine’s opposition leaders appear to be considering concessions and early elections as somewhat satisfactory. Whether this will be accepted by demonstrators on the ground however is another story. Rumors are that the opposition is somewhat divided with some still calling for the immediate resignation of Yanukovych, and others considering concessions and negotiations.
Ukraine’s Yanukovych decided to back out of the EU trade deal in favor of closer ties with Russia. The decision appeared to be influenced in part by pressure from Russia’s Vladimir Putin placed on the Ukrainian leader to join the soon to form Eurasian Union, led by Russia. Putin did sweeten his “strong suggestions” by offering Yanukovych some $15 billion, which he later suspended however due in part to Yanukovych’s failure to adequately and quickly restore order in Ukraine. As the recent news of Ukraine reaching a ‘peace’ agreement appears, Russia and the international community will watch and wait to see if it can stop the violence in the streets of Kiev.
There is still yet another possibility in the crisis. The two are made up of Russian-speaking Ukrainians who favor further integration with Putin’s Russia, and the more nationalistic non-Russian speaking Ukrainians who view themselves as Europeans and support EU integration. With the violence not at all curbed by the announcement of a truce on Feb. 19, some believe that the two sides have gone past reconciliation. If this turns out to be the case, it could result in the nation splitting into two separate Ukrainian States, one further integrated with Russia while the other gets cozy with the EU.
At present the only thing that it is clear is that the violence on the ground is escalating with casualties and injuries mounting daily. Russia has gone as far as to claim that the demonstrations are the manifestation of a western-backed coup attempt. The US and EU on the other hand blame Ukraine’s leadership for an inhumane crackdown on the expression of the people’s “democratic will.” Unfortunately, the war of words and violence has acted as somewhat of a smokescreen from the actual issues at hand.
The Ukrainian opposition, while it appears disjointed to a degree, does have some clear-cut leaders. The three most visible leaders of the opposition are Oleg Tyagnibok, Vitaly Klitschko, and Arseniy Yatsenyuk. Vitaly Klitschko was the man being discussed in a conversation between US officials that was leaked to the press some weeks ago, which featured two US diplomats discussing sensitive details of the Ukrainian crisis. The US hinted that the leaked phone conversations were a result of “good Russian trade craft.” No evidence however was presented to support the implication that the Russians were behind the leaked conversations.
As the crisis continues on, it is unclear what will become of the nation which is caught in a political and economic tug-of-war between East and West. The major issue at present however, is whether Ukraine’s agreement, signed by President Yanukovych and opposition leaders, will be enough to to stop the bloodshed and violence in Kiev. Additionally, whether the agreement is enough to unite the divided nation remains to be seen. Time will tell if the loss of life in Ukraine is coming to an end, or if there remains yet more violence in store for Kiev.
By Daniel Worku