The Ukraine revolution has begun to dramatically spiral out of control. Following months of escalating violence, civilians and police alike are beginning to be killed on a scale that the country has not seen in recent memory. The current death toll is estimated to be as high as 100, with hundreds more injured. Both President Yanukovych’s administration and members of the political opposition call for calm, but continue to blame one another for the surge in violence happening in Kiev’s Maidan Square.
Political compromises have so far failed to bring about an end to the fighting. Influential members of opposition parties have already rejected Yanukovych’s offer to give them key government positions, including the post of Prime Minister. Those who support the opposition seem to be entirely unwilling to accept the idea of Yanukovych remaining in power at all. The opposition has called for early presidential elections, a proposal that is unlikely to be agreed to by the current administration. Ukraine’s political deadlock is catalyzing the increasingly deadly street violence because revolutionaries have a vested interest in seeing a change in the power structure and are likely to keep fighting until their demands are met.
The crisis has been further complicated by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry’s decision to authorize the use of live ammunition by police officers. The move comes as officials allege that radical members of the revolution have been using firearms against security personnel. The ministry claims that at least 13 police have been killed this week alone, many of whom appeared to have suffered gunshot wounds.
Until this point, officers had combated growing violence by demonstrators with rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons. Online videos have surfaced showing chaotic scenes where security forces are firing military-grade weapons against revolutionaries, many of which are only protected by makeshift shields made from trash cans and wood. Sniper fire has been reported throughout the capital, with both sides placing responsibility on the other.
As the Ukraine revolution begins to spiral out of control, international actors have been deepening their involvement in the outcome of the country. Although Yanukovych’s decision in November to pursue closer economic ties with Russia over the European Union sparked the initial wave of peaceful protests, the underlying cause of the revolution remains the peoples’ view of governmental oppression. Nevertheless, many nations have conflicting geopolitical agendas regarding Ukraine, which is economically and strategically important to both the West and Russia.
Following the recent outburst of deadly fighting, the European Union has placed financial sanctions and travel bans on those involved in provoking violence, including many Ukrainian officials. Additional sanctions are expected to include an arms embargo as well as the banning of sending Ukraine equipment deemed useful in quelling the unrest. Russia on the other hand has maintained support for Yanukovych throughout the crisis, and has made good on its first promised payment of a $15 billion economic bailout package. Reports by activists on the ground claim that Russia has been involved in actively assisting security personnel and Vladimir Putin has stressed his country will continue to financially back Ukraine’s dismal economy.
The revolution that is spiraling out of control shows no signs of losing momentum. People are beginning to be killed in large numbers, which makes the situation worse and the stakes much higher. Unfortunately, it is likely that such violence will continue as domestic leaders seem unable to find a political solution and foreign powers compete for influence within Ukraine. Peaceful protests once used in hopes of implementing change have disappeared and been replaced by outright violent conflict. Both sides are becoming increasingly entrenched against one another, making the possibility of a soon-to-come end to the fighting evermore dim.
By Peter Grazul