SOME are calling it the most dramatic page in Ukraine’s history. The capital, Kiev, has been the scene of some of the most dramatic protests in recent history, leading to over 100 deaths before the masses were finally able to oust controversial president Victor Yanukovych.
Where did this come from?
In Nov 2013, the pro-Russian Yanukovych abandoned a political association and free trade deal with the European Union, choosing instead to consolidate ties with Russia, who have been seeking to gain influence over Ukraine. The move sparked relatively mild but large-scale protests in Kiev among opposition supporters who favoured closer ties with the West, but things were about to escalate very quickly.
Why the escalation?
After EU deal was broken off, Russia agreed to loan Ukraine US$15bil to help its failing economy, which was followed by pressure to crush opposition protests. In mid-January, Ukraine’s parliament passed restrictive anti-protest laws which the opposition labelled as “draconian”.
The real violence began on Feb 18. Around 25,000 protesters gathered in Kiev’s Independence Square, where devastating violence claimed over 100 lives in just five days. Uniformed snipers were caught on camera firing at protesters, and bodies have been found with single gunshots to the head.
Russia denounced the protests as an attempted coup.
Viva la revolution!
Yanukovych agreed a compromise deal with opposition leaders (which incidentally includes former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko) on Feb 21. Ignoring the deal, protesters continued storming presidential administration buildings with zero resistance.
Finally on Feb 22, the parliament voted for Yanukovych to be removed from power. Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, who was imprisoned soon after Yanukovych won the 2010 presidential elections amid allegations of electoral fraud, is freed and cleared to run for office. The parliament was given until today to form a new unity government.
Russia, meanwhile, have continued to apply pressure on the new government by staging military drills and sending fighter jets to patrol the border.