The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, is blaming opposition leaders for the violence that has resulted in at least 25 deaths, and over 100 people injured. Protesters were given until 6 p.m. Tuesday to leave Independent Square where the peaceful protest has been held since November. As protesters showed no signs of giving up and retiring to their homes, police intervened shortly after and began firing stun grenades and water cannons at the protesters.
The protest began in November as President Yanukovich rejected a trade pact with the United Nations. The protesters believe the president has too much power, and has been leaning in support of the Russian regime ever since their recession, by taking a $15-billion bailout from Russia, instead of aligning with the European Union.
Ukraine’s location and land mass makes it desirable, for both the United Nations and Russia, especially given the downfall of their economy. Ukraine’s economy has been on a downhill slope ever since they parted ways with the Soviet Union. They then moved from a planned economy onto a market economy. A move that was difficult for the population and resulted extreme poverty. The eastern and southern parts of the country hold the largest Russian population in the country, thereby supporting the alliance with Russia. While the north and northwestern part of the country favors a westernized organization where parliament has more power. This has led to months of tensions between the government and the opposition, with stories of protesters being physically assaulted by police, and government enforcers.
President Yanukovych blames the opposition for not backing down even though talks have been made with the opposition leader, Vitali Klitschko. “This is an island of freedom and we will defend it,” said Klitschko. He does not believe the solution is to stand down, he believes Ukrainians have the right to a peaceful protest, and that negotiations can be made when the bloodshed ends. Another opposition leader, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has also made the same demands to the President.
Over 20,000 protesters united and build barricades out of bricks, rocks and wood in preparation for police attacks. Once the attack began protesters began defending themselves with bats, rocks, and anything available. Lastly resorting to creating firewalls made of tires in order to prevent the police from advancing. The Guardian reports that there were also police snipers firing from rooftops, along with stun grenades, and water cannons. It is also reported by The Guardian that ambulances and first aid is not being made available to the protesters.
Western Ukraine also became involved after the violence in Kiev, with protesters now attacking police and government buildings The United States has also been in talks with President Yanukovych. With the vice-president and secretary of state pleading for the government to stop the violence, in order to have negotiations with the opposition.
Following the deadly protest Klitschko had another unsuccessful meeting with President Yanukovych. The Presidents only negotiation is to have protesters end the protest. With neither party able to come to a settlement; the bloodbath will continue beyond 25 reported dead, until a third party such as the United Nations intervenes.
By Dony Lugo
Voice of America