If you’ve been anywhere near a TV lately, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Kiev is burning.” Unfortunately that’s also a very apt, albeit short, description of what is going on in Ukraine. Over 26 people killed, and hundreds more injured. I don’t have anything too much of my own to add to the conversation, besides I hope the protesters succeed and get the government they need and deserve. I’m writing this post to help point people in the right direction to understand what’s going on in this conflict, and for that, I’ll let this Mother Jones article enlighten you:
The EuroMaidan protests, which started on November 21 in response to President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a European Union trade deal, have been going on for nearly three months. Early Tuesday, the US Department of State released an emergency message warning about escalating violence and potential “extraordinary measures” by the Ukrainian Security Services.
As the Washington Post’s Max Fisher explains, the conflict is fueled by sharp political and ethnic divides. A significant portion of the population wants closer ties to Europe, but Putin has been pressuring Yanukovych’s government toward closer economic integration with Russia.
The protests turned violent in late November, with police deploying batons, tear gas, and even attacking journalists. In mid-January, the government enacted a series of anti-protest laws restricting freedom of assembly and speech. Though Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned and many of these laws were later repealed, the damage was already done. Yanukovych, who had previously been linked to vote-rigging during the infamous 2005 Orange Revolution, has also been accused of corruption, mismanagement, and human rights violations. To many citizens, the laws only reinforced that view. Allegations of torture and disappearances continued throughout January as the protests spread.
For further understanding of the situation I highly suggest reading the rest of the Mother Jones article, and following their links to other articles as well, like Washington Post’s 9 questions about Ukraine you were too embarrassed to ask.
Now you understand a little more about the reasons for the protest. I believe it is important to know what is going on, even if it seems like we can’t do anything to help.
For those interested, you can find a link from the police side here, and a live feed from the protester side looking south here. Here’s a map showing you the fire-line, and giving more context to the feeds and where the photos below were taken. Warning: Some photos are very intense.
Context and photos from Vos Iz Neias.
Map from NY Times.