Through ice, snow, sleet and subfreezing temperatures, Ukraine’s protesters have braved the winter’s harshest elements to take a stand for their country’s economic future.
Amid fears of revolution, Prime Minister Even Azarov (who’s job was offered to the opposition) resigned on Tuesday. Although the action could mean potential presidential conciliations and greater parliamentary power, many protesters still stand firm on insisting President Yanukovyich steps down. If this were to happen, Russia has threatened to rescind its $15 billion bailout offer.
As reported earlier, their public presence in many of the country’s town squares erupted last November after President Viktor Yanukovych decided to break pending economic ties with the European Union for a much needed bailout from Russia. Although their protests had for the most part remained peaceful, violence escalated last week enough that protesters have seized government administrative buildings in several of the country’s prominent cities, particularly in the Western region that hadn’t supported him for president in 2010.
The violent clashes broke out three days after Parliament scrapped an anti-protest law by an overwhelming vote of 361-2, which sought to legalize police efforts to crack down the movement. After having failed to weaken the opposition by offering two leaders with positions as premiership and deputy premiership (which both refused), the law would have been one of the president’s last political moves to end the unrest. Instead, the move signifies a great political concession to the opposition and has fueled their revolutionary spirit.
President Yanukovyich has reiterated that arrested protesters won’t receive amnesty unless protesters return government buildings and abandon the square in Kiev. However, after three protesters were killed last week (which the police deny having an involvement in) and the government withdrew their proposed anti-protest law, violent unrest has only grown, raising concerns among the population and global leaders that the government could enact a state of emergency.
Vice President Biden, who spoke on behalf of the White House, condemned the use of violence by both sides, but warned that a state of emergency “would further inflame the situation and close the space for a peaceful resolution.” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also told Bloomberg that such a move “would trigger a further downward spiral for Ukraine which would benefit no one.”