Tensions Revisited in Ukraine
Published: Friday, February 28, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 28, 2014 12:02
As many have probably already heard, there have been escalating protests occurring in the Ukraine for months, coming to a head in the past few weeks with some of the worst violence the country has seen since its fight for independence 22 years ago. This past Thursday alone, reports have the death toll ranging from anywhere between 70 and 100 people, police and protestors alike. The unrest began when Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, passed on a big trade deal in the works with the EU in favor of a deal attached to a big bailout from Russia. Many citizens of Ukraine were very unhappy about the president’s attempts to snuggle up to Russia, enough for many to take to the streets in Kiev in protest, beginning the violence that has been rocking the country’s capital for the past few months.
The violence finally came to a stop when Yanukovych was ousted by Parliament on Saturday. His response: “I don’t plan to leave the country. I don’t plan to resign. I am the legitimate President.” Which is an interesting assertion, given that the majority of his country wants him gone and held responsible for the deaths during the protests: an arrest warrant has been issued for Yanukovych, charging him with mass murder for the deaths during riots. He has not yet been found, but it is suspected that he is hiding out in Crimea, the part of Ukraine that is still supportive of close ties with Russia. In the meantime, the country’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been freed from prison, originally put there on corruption charges when Yanukovych came to power. She played a big role in the country’s 2004 revolution, and her release and expected run for president are met with mixed feelings.
Making matters worse for Yanukovych, many Ukrainians toured the presidential mansion (valued at around $75 million) and stood in awe of the extravagance with which the president lived while the population around him struggled. Pictures of Ukrainians standing next to his gaudy statues, vintage cars, walking his private golf course and observing his peacocks, ostrichs and other wild animals have been circulating the internet. No looting occurred and nothing was stolen; according to Ukrainians, this is what Yanukovych did, and they have no desire to be like him.
All of this leaves the West and Russia in familiar positions, opposite one another on both sides of an issue. On one side, Russia in no way condones the actions of the protestors, citing that “radicals” are getting away with “illegal” acitivities, while the US has warned Russia not to intervene militarily. Yukonovych has claimed that worldly political leaders have not fulfilled their responsibility in coming to his aid, clearly hoping Russia will have his back at some point. At the same time, everyone is worried about stabilizing Ukraine’s current economic crisis. So what does this mean for the future of