The Ukrainian capital of Kiev has been hit by the strongest protests and rioting yet, leaving at least 25 people dead after police clashed with protesters. The protests, which started after Ukraine declined to integrate further with the E.U. after pressure from Russia, have now crippled the capital and threaten to bring the government down.
Police forces launched at least two separate attacks on Kiev’s Independence Square, trying to dislodge protesters who had been occupying the area for the past several months. As police advanced using tear gas, they were quickly met by fierce resistance. Protesters used stones, petro bombs, and other weapons to try to halt police advances.
Ukraine: Kiev in chaos
As early as this past Monday, it looked like the protests might finally be winding down. Protesters abandoned government buildings in exchange for amnesty from prosecution, and the ruling government appeared ready to at least consider concessions.
A vote in parliament, however, caused another outbreak of violence after the President’s supporters blocked laws that could potentially curb the President’s power. President Yanukovych is blaming opposition leaders for the recent spat of violence, though protesters claim that government personnel instigated it.
At least 10 police officers and fourteen protesters died in the clashes. A journalist was also pulled from a taxi by armed men and shot. Several hundred other people were injured and required medical attention.
The President continues to urge dialogue and compromise. Opposition leaders and the President have been holding meetings, but so far no resolution or agreement has been reached. In the mean time, Kiev continues to face stiff pressure.
Ukraine: Russia sticks its nose in again
Russia has stated that the outbreak of violence is being caused by extremists and radicals. Putin’s office also claimed that radical elements are trying to stage a coup, and the protests are a part of an effort to violently overthrow the government.
The Opposition claims, however, that Russia is largely to blame for the current outbreak of violence. Russia put extreme levels of pressure on Ukraine to get it to back off from integrating with the EU through trade deals. Protests only started after Ukraine rejected the EU’s trade deal, which as since become a vocal point of the opposition.
The opposition and many protesters feel that Russia has too much power over Ukraine, and that the EU trade deal would have finally brought Ukraine out from underneath Russia’s shadow. Russia, on the other hand, has made it clear that it will not let Ukraine leave its orbit without a fight.