Into the furnace: The situation in Ukraine

Lakeidra Chavis/ Editor-in-Chief

Jan. 28, 2014

Five people have been killed in less than two weeks due to violent protests in Ukraine, in a series of events that have taken the world by storm.

The origin of this conflict is anything but simple. The dissidence between a government and it’s people never is.

In 1919, the country signed a unification agreement that would unite the Ukrainian’s People Republic and the West Ukrainian’s People’s Republic.

Since then, people have gathered every year on Jan. 22 in the capital square to celebrate Unity Day. This year, the square was covered with smoke, gunshots and police, in a situation that was anything but unified.

The violence stems from a months-long conflict between the country’s citizens and President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to not sign a partnership with the European Union in late November. The plan had been in talks for years. The deal would’ve been a free-trade agreement between the eastern European country and the EU. Part of the agreement would allow a currently jailed and former prime minster to leave the country to seek medical help. Parliament refused to sign the bill on Nov. 21.

Nine days later the country erupted in protest in the country’s capital of Kiev.

Critics say that the decision was an attempt to make the country closer to Russia, to which it has strong historical ties. The majority of citizens that voted for Yanukovych in the 2010 election were in the east and south. The west and northern part of Ukraine, where Kiev is located, is for the EU agreement and is where the overwhelming majority of the protests are taking place.

In mid-December, Russia bought a huge amount of Ukraine’s gasoline to reduce consumer costs and provide a bailout loan in an attempt to calm things down, according to the BBC. On Dec. 25, a journalist was found dead and the images from the capital were of fire, violence and angry protesters.

For the past two months, mostly peaceful protests had taken place in the capital. But in an attempt to stop the protests, the government passed 11 laws that banned public protest on Jan. 22. That’s when all hell broke loose.

The United States and EU criticized the country’s laws. The EU advised the country’s administration “to fully respect and protect the peaceful demonstrators’ right to assembly and speech,” in an official statement early last week.

Last Sunday, protesters threw firebombs and fireworks at the Ukrainian House, a conference hall, and were pepper-sprayed by police.

One protester was found in the woods dead with torture wounds, according to NBC News. Three other protesters have been killed. A policeman was attacked and killed while traveling home.

Protesters have also overtaken a number of government buildings, including one of the Justice Ministries.

In a further attempt to curb the violence, the president offered his top rivals high positions in government, which they have refused, according to the Washington Post.

Just like all movements over time, the demands have increased, with protesters asking for a less corrupt government as well. But what the people are asking isn’t unreasonable, in fact, they’re basic human rights.

To silence those will only cause more uproar.

The implications this will have on the rest of the world are uncertain, as are the solutions to fix a country that has become deeply broken, both literally and metaphorically.

Conflicts, especially those that are foreign, tend to take on connotations that this is “how things have always been.” Often times protest efforts seem futile, spanning into years-long coverage in media.

Hopefully, this isn’t the case with Ukraine and if it is, let it not be in vain.

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