Pandemonium is erupting in Ukraine as protests escalated this past week. According to CNN News, protests began back in November after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign a European Union trade agreement, choosing instead an agreement that favored strong economic ties to Russia, despite the people’s objections.
Protesters are now demanding that the entire government resign, claiming corruption and abuse of power as their reasons. Yanukovych has tried to gain control of the situation and attempted to make peace, even reaching out to opposition party leaders. Yanukovych offered the position of prime minister to Head of the Fatherland Party, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
With this position, Yatsenyuk would have the power to dismiss the entire current Ukrainian government. Yatsenyuk denied the position, much to his followers’ dismay. Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko, a popular former heavyweight boxing champion, was offered the position of deputy prime minister. Klitschko rejected the offer on an open stage in front of protesters, according to CNN News.
He claims that the only way for anything to be resolved is if Yanukovych resigns. Klitschko plans on running for president in 2015.
While the protests have been on-going for over two months now, the situation has recently begun to drastically change. The president, according to Fox News, recently passed a protest law which has only fueled the fire, leading to the people’s demands for total government resignation. BBC News reports that protesters are now beginning to build barricades around the government buildings in prominent Ukrainian cities, including Chernivsti, Lutsk, Sumy and the capital city of Kiev.
In some places, such as in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk, approximately 1,500 people have barricaded themselves inside the regional administration building. The activists claim that their people need to escape the harsh weather conditions of single-digit temperatures and constant snowfall. The people gathered in Kiev’s main square, The Maiden, have voted to stop all government talks, as well as to expand the protest camps, according to BBC News.
Protests have recently turned extremely violent, with activists using firebombs, rocks and fireworks on the riot police, stationed just yards away from the barricades. The riot police, in turn, responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, causing dozens of protesters to be rushed to the makeshift medical triage area for treatment, Fox News reports. So far, at least two protesters have been killed in clashes with police.
Additionally, another protester was found dead in the snow outside of Kiev after being reported missing from a nearby hospital. Another activist explained that, while being detained by riot police at a barricade in Kiev, he was stripped, beaten and forced to stand naked in the snow while police taunted him.
Fox News reports that one activist, 33-year-old Denis Nakhmanovich, best summarized the feelings of the protesters upon saying, “The country is sliding towards dictatorship and we must stop that. Molotov cocktails are louder than any empty words from politicians.” The European Union has stated that they will become involved in the conflict this week, although some fear it may be too late.
Editor’s Note: Information from Fox News, BBC News and CNN was used in this news report.