Protests in Kiev, November 2013. BBC World News/www.bbc.co.uk
Protests Continue in Ukraine
By Nicole Halseth, News Editor
According to the BBC, “a Ukrainian protester who says he was abducted and tortured has been put on a police wanted list, sparking a stand-off at the hospital treating him.” This new step marks one more development in what has become a persistently tense and violent situation in the Ukraine.
After being reported missing and allegedly being tortured for eight days during protests in the capital Kiev, protester Dmytro Bulatov is currently recovering at a clinic. Police, prosecutors, and supporters have all flocked to the clinic to await a decision.
Bulatov is a well-known anti-government protestor, and a leader with AutoMaidan, a prominent anti-government group that has been active in the protests in Independence Square. The group has allegedly blocked streets to police, picketed the houses of government officials, and driven protesters in AutoMaidan cars. Tensions continue to escalate, despite the passing of an amnesty bill for protesters which has not yet come into force. President Viktor Yanukovych signed the bill, which was passed by parliament at the end of January. The bill will ensure amnesty to detained protesters under the condition that all occupied buildings are vacated. More than 300 protesters have allegedly been arrested since the beginning of the protests. Yanukovych also signed a repeal of his anti-protest laws put forth on 16 January. President Yanukovych is currently on sick leave with a reported “high fever.”
The conflict in Kiev was initiated when Yanukovych favoured closer economic ties with Russia over a trade deal with the EU, which was abandoned in November. When the president decided not to sign a major partnership deal with the EU, even after years of negotiations, thousands of pro-EU protesters took to the streets in November 2013. After a major economic deal with Russia was announced on 17 December, followed by the beating of a pro-opposition journalist on 25 December, there was renewed opposition from the public.
Since the violence escalated on 22 January 2014, three protesters and three police have been killed and numerous others injured. Government buildings across the country have also been occupied.
The former Prime Minister, Mykola Azarov, and his cabinet have already resigned as a result of the situation on 28 January. Additionally, Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, is currently holding talks in Kiev with the President and members of the opposition to try and resolve the conflict.
Opinions about the protests vary, even among protesters. Many protesters want the conflict to end peacefully and democratically.
The protesters reportedly want new elections to occur, as well as a new president. They also want to address the level of corruption within Ukrainian society, and many remain divided over the extent to which they want their country to engage with the EU.
Meanwhile, the protests continue and hundreds of people remain in the streets of the capital and in camps in Independence Square (Maidan).
As news about the violence in Ukraine continues to flood international media, people and groups around the world wait for a hopefully peaceful resolution to this longstanding conflict.