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Ukraine Burns And Teeters Between EU And Russia – Here’s What You Should Know About The Violent Revolution

Image courtesy of snamess via Flickr, modified by Curiousmatic. 

In late 2013, unrest in Ukraine manifested in the form of angry protests on the streets of Kiev. In following months, protests became violent and deadly – here’s why.   

Updates 2/21/14: Deal signed between president and opposition to end crisis, day after up to 100 are killed

On Wednesday, February 19, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych proposed a cease-fire.  The truce proposal was only hours later met by a brutal collision between the opposition and Ukrainian police, leaving at anywhere between 18 and 100 dead, CNN says.

After a long night of negotiations Thursday evening, a political deal was signed on Friday by both the president and opposition representatives, agreeing to put end to the bloody crisis.

The deal will restore the nation’s 2004 Constitution and make reforms that, when complete, will lead to new elections held no later than December 2014. Illegal weapons will be handed over, acts of violence will be investigated, and protestors will step down from their occupied spaces.

Here is the agreement in full via the Gaurdian:

Concerned with the tragic loss of life in Ukraine, seeking an immediate end of bloodshed and determined to pave the way for a political resolution of the crisis, We, the signing parties, have agreed upon the following:

1. Within 48 hours of the signing of this agreement, a special law will be adopted,signed and promulgated, which will restore the Constitution of 2004 including amendments passed until now. Signatories declare their intention to create a coalition and form a national unity government within 10 days thereafter.

2. Constitutional reform, balancing the powers of the President, the government and parliament, will start immediately and be completed in September 2014.

3. Presidential elections will be held as soon as the new Constitution is adopted but no later than December 2014. New electoral laws will be passed and a new Central Election Commission will be formed on the basis of proportionality and in accordance with the OSCE & Venice commission rules.

4. Investigation into recent acts of violence will be conducted under joint monitoring from the authorities, the opposition and the Council of Europe.

5. The authorities will not impose a state of emergency. The authorities and the opposition will refrain from the use of violence. The Parliament will adopt the 3rd amnesty, covering the same range of illegal actions as the 17th February 2014 law.

Both parties will undertake serious efforts for the normalisation of life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and unblocking streets, city parks and squares.

Illegal weapons should be handed over to the Ministry of Interior bodies within 24 hours of the special law, referred to in point 1 hereof, coming into force. After the aforementioned period, all cases of illegal carrying and storage of weapons will fall under the law of Ukraine. The forces of authorities and of the opposition will step back from confrontational posture. The Government will use law enforcement forces exclusively for the physical protection of public buildings.

6. The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Poland and the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation call for an immediate end to all violence and confrontation.

Kyiv, 21 February 2014

Signatories:

President of Ukraine: Viktor Yanukovych

For the Opposition: Vitaliy Klichko, UDAR, Oleh Tyahnibok, Svoboda, Arsenij Yatseniuk, Batkivshchyna

Witnessed by:

For the EU – Poland: foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski; Germany: foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier; France: foreign minister Laurent Fabius

For the Russian Federation – Vladimir Lukin, special envoy

Why is there civil unrest in Ukraine?

Protests in Ukraine began on November 21 due to the government backing out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia – a decision that upset citizens aligned with the EU, according to the BBC.

The Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, which had been in negotiations for years and included a free trade area, had its preparations suspended by Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych in November.

This not only angered many Ukrainians, but caused the EU to postpone talks until the nation proved its commitment to signing, the NY Times reports.

Resulting protests and civil demonstrations earned the name EuroMaidan, which firstly demanded closer integration with the EU, and later expanded to condemn perceived government corruption and abuse of human rights.

Ukraine-Russia relationship

Ukraine’s complicated history and relationship with its larger neighbor, Russia, plays a large part in the government’s reluctance to solidify allegiance to Europe by entering the European Union.

Despite vast popular support of the trade agreement with the EU, according to the International Business Times, Ukraine has ties with Russia in the form of cheap natural gas – meaning alignment with the EU could cost a quarter of its economic exports and 400,000 jobs. Not to mention Russia had cut off this supply before for political purposes in the winter of 2006.

Russia’s pressure on Ukraine led to an agreement between Vladimir Putin and President Yanukovych that would slash gas prices sold to Ukraine. It also ensures Russia’s purchasing $15bn of Ukraine government bonds, according to EuroNews.

According to the BBC, this controversial aid agreement, though frowned upon by many, will strategically help Ukraine avoid bankruptcy.

Anti-protest laws and violence

Protests that started with occupation of Kiev’s Independence Square on November 21 eventually infiltrated the Russia-influenced east Ukraine, the BBC says.

Millions of protesters continued to occupy streets of various Ukrainian cities, often organized through social media. December protests resulted in violent crackdowns and detainment. On January 22, two were killed, with more injured on both sides.

The violence may have been in part due to the anti-protester legislations passed on the 16th of January, which effectively banned public protest and placed lofty punishments of imprisonments on participants. Fortunately, these laws were repealed shortly after the prime minister’s recent resignation on the 28th.

The opposition, still resistant, demanded the president’s resignation and early elections, which are not scheduled until 2015. The president instead proposed a power-share to opposition leaders, offering lead protester Arseniy Yatsenyuk the role of prime minister – an offer they considered insufficient, the Washington Post says.

Political deal reached

After a long night of negotiations on 2/20/14, a political deal was signed on Friday the 21st by both the president and opposition representatives, agreeing to put end to the bloody crisis.

The deal will restore the nation’s 2004 Constitution and make reforms that, when complete, will lead to new elections held no later than December 2014. Illegal weapons will be handed over, acts of violence will be investigated, and protestors will step down from their occupied spaces.

What are your thoughts on EuroMaidan and the still uncertain future of Ukraine? Tweet us @curiousmatic.

Jennifer Markert