Not long ago Ukraine’s signing of a trade deal with the European Union seemed all but certain. In recent days, however, Ukraine’s Prime Minister rejected the trade deal with the EU, a move many believe was encouraged by Russia and Vladimir Putin. Now protesters are taking to the streets and have surrounded the parliament building. The Prime Minister is warning that a coup or revolution may be under way and is calling for restraint.
Russia’s opposition to Ukraine
From the very beginning, Russia has been strongly opposed to Ukraine’s trade deal with the European Union. Putin and his government have argued that Ukraine’s companies will not be able to compete with the EU’s and has threatened to curtail trade between the two nations. Initially, Ukraine took a strong stance and refused to back down from the trade deal, but now the Ukrainian government appears to have caved to Russia’s demands.
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Protests have been occurring for just over a week, following the Prime Minister’s order to halt preparations for signing the trade deal. Reportedly, the Prime Minister and his government now favor developing closer ties with Russia, long an important ally for the country. The European Union has refused to renegotiate the deal, while Russia has welcomed the move.
Trade deal rejection brings protest
Since the trade deal was rejected, the protest movement has started and gained momentum as thousands have taken to the streets to protest what they see as outside interference on Russia’s part. Thousands have emerged on the main square, Independence Square, in Kiev, the country’s capital. Hundreds set up tents overnight, and despite the government sending police reenforcement, protesters are refusing to back down.
The Parliament has now scheduled a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Azorov’s government, although it is unclear if the opposition has enough clout to successfully pass the measure. If they are able to do so, it may force the Prime Minister to fire the government and call for new elections. A few politicians in the Prime Minister’s department have switched sides, but so far more appear to be committed.
Russia condemns the protests
So far, Russia has condemned the protests, while the EU has stressed the need for restraint and dialogue. The United States meanwhile condemned reported violence against protesters and has called for both sides to observe the law. The Prime Minister has called for restraint and for both protesters and police to follow the law. He has urged against violence and for a peaceful resolution.
With Russia’s satellite states slowly gravitating away from Russia, the risk for future protests and conflicts will only increase. Many of countries just east of Russia have been moving towards the EU, while some countries in Central Asia have been moving towards China and Asia. This will create tensions are Russia looks to maintain its position and economic influence in surrounding regions.