Over the last two months, protests have been ongoing at Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. We had written about it here. But recently things have taken a turn for the worse and the country is heading towards a civil war.
Last Thursday, Ukranian President Yanukovych accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, and dissolved the government. However, the protesters who had earlier been demanding an overthrow of the Government, have not been impressed.
Arseny Yatseniuk, the opposition leader who was offered the Prime Minister’s job, turned it down for fear of his own life. The latest news from Kiev is that Yanukovych himself has taken a mysterious sick leave.
Lets Step Back A Little...
Protests broke out in Kiev in November, when President Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a deal which would have aligned the country with the European Union. Ukraine has longed to be part of the Western world. However,Yanukovych favored agreements with Russia that could have meant a move back for Ukraine towards its socialist past.
The brutal use of force on protestors has raised concerns in the international community. Several countries including the US have threatened sanctions if ongoing violence is not diffused. Yanukovych who had been banking on Russia to support his military action, is now unsure of Russian President Vladmir Putin’s support.
Yanukovych is also facing revolt from the oligarchs - the wealthy industrialists who had supported him in the past. Oligarch control the media in Ukraine. They have long been upset with the grab of power and money by Yanukovych’s son and close friends.
The Crisis Escalates
January 22 was the worst day for protesters when police and demonstrators clashed after the government passed a law severely restricting protesters' rights. In the fight, more than five people died and at least 20 went missing. Several were injured, but have refused to take medical help for fear of being abducted from the hospitals.
It is possible that Russia might have supported -- and even encouraged Yanukovych to take a heavy-handed approach against the protestors. However the crackdown has instead sparked genuine unrest among the public that is being backed by thousands of new protestors. Angry at Yanukovych’s laws and fed up with the ineffectiveness of the opposition leaders, ordinary Ukranians have now moved into the streets.
With the country on the brink of a civil war, the world on the edge.