EUROMAIDAN - REVOLUTION OF DIGNITY

Maidan or Euromaidan as it was known, was a mass protest by millions Ukrainian citizens to save their country from corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych and pro-Russian politicians. 

Euromaidan was a defining moment in the history of Ukraine. One that could have taken them back to Russia's sphere of influence. These are the events leading up to, during and also the lasting impact of those events. 

 

This is the story of a remarkable nation standing up to corrupt politicians, a story of heroes, great sadness and ultimately triumph. 

Maidan Massacre and the Revolution of Dignity
Euromaidan students

In November 21st 2013, the Ukrainian government led by pro - Russian President Viktor Yanukovych and his Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, suspended the signing of a trade agreements with the EU. This was done against the will of the people and at a time when there was already deep suspicion of the Yanukovych government. The public did not take long to react. By 10 pm on the same day, at Independence Square, hundreds of protesters gathered, and the word “Euromaidan” was born and circulated on social networks. As the night progressed, the crowd steadily increased, and so did the anger.

Fearing the level of feeling and the ever increasing numbers, President Yanukovych orders the Ukrainian courts to prohibit public gatherings on Independence Square, European Square, St. Sophia and on Khreschatyk the main street in Kiev. The protesters, mostly made up of students at this point, ignored the government and began to set up camps. On November 22, Yanukovich and his government sent in militia as an excuse for preparing for the Christmas Fair, and tried to drive out the protesters and demolished their camps. Elsewhere in Ukraine further protests erupted and in the city of Lviv students voted to strike.

The first stages of Euromaidan were largely peaceful, driven mainly by students who demanded the government honor the promises made to integrate with the west. By the time of the march more than 100,000 people had arrived in Kiev to protest. This not only shocked Yanukovych and his government, but also the opposition and government agencies. At first there were two distinct camps protesting in Kiev (Kyiv).The first one, in Independence Square was more for “public” protests, and the second one in European Square, was the “political” camp where opposition leaders began appearing. On November 26th  both sides joined forces on the condition that politicians would not exploit the situation for their own political purposes.

Euromaidan Kiev Ukraine

The protesters made several demands, in particular the resignation of Azarov's cabinet, adoption of laws to allow for European integration, and signing the Trade Association Agreement with the EU. Yanukovych and his government simply ignored the demands and instead pursued their political agenda for closer ties with Russia. The protesters were given no choice but to either carry on protesting or abandon their cause. Many chose to return back to their cities, leaving just a handful of 500 hundred or so students. On the night of November 31st the regime of Yanukovych sent two thousand armed security forces who brutally dispersed the students in a cruel and ruthless manner. It was a grave mistake by the authorities and it acted as the catalyst for the second stage of Euromaidan. 

The next morning horrifying video and photographic images of unarmed students being violently beaten where broadcast not only in Ukraine, but also across the whole world. The sheer brutality and abuses of the state police set to ignite public fury  which caused an outpouring of social anger against the President and his regime. Now instead of just being a students movement the whole protest became a nationwide movement. On December 1st 2013 over half a million people returned to Independence Square in Kyiv. On the same day, a group of protesters occupied the Kyiv City State Administration Office and violent clashes took place on Bankova Street and surrounding areas. On December 11th more than a million people gathered in Kyiv to March against the government.

Berkut in Kiev Ukraine

The mood of the protesters changed, they were joined by opposition politicians in calling for the resignation of President Yanokovych and his government. On December 11th 2013 the protesters began setting up barricades to protect themselves from the ruthless military police called the "Berkut".

The protesters became more disciplined and organised, and they used social media which allowed them to establish centralized intelligence about what was happening on the ground. The crowds were swelled by ordinary people from all walks of life determined to oust Yanukovych and end the oppression of his government.

The government had assumed that the protests would fizzle out through the long cold winter but they were mistaken. On January 15th 2014 the parliament of Ukraine adopted dictatorial law in a desperate attempt to crush the protesters. On January 17th Yanukovych signs new laws banning anti-government protests. Instead it sparked a fresh wave of demonstrations, hundreds were injured in the unrest. This became the third stage of Euromaidan, violence had erupted and the government backed forces began acting unlawfully. Civil unrest accelerates and on January 23rd 2014 three protesters are killed by government forces.

 

Things deteriorate further and by February 19th 2014 the death toll rises to 26. Western governments meet and  threaten sanctions against the Ukrainian government. From February 18th to 21st, 2014, the bloodshed rose alarmingly. The government used weapons and positioned snipers against peaceful protesters, during which at least 88 Euromaidan protesters were killed. The death toll rose dramatically and resulted in a total of over 113 deaths, who are referred to as the “Heaven hundred.” They became the heroes of the “Revolution of Dignity.”

Maidan Protesters

On February 21st, the Euromaidan protesters reject an agreement between the opposition politicians and the President and threaten to storm the Presidential Palace, insisting on the Presidents resignation. Yanukovych realising the severity of his situation and his rapidly falling support from his own allies flees from Kyiv and resurfaces in Russia.The following day, Ukraine’s parliament votes 328 - 0 to remove Yanukovych from office and form a joint government with the opposition.

 

On February 24th Ukraine's parliament "Verkhovna Rada" indict Vikor Yanukovych for mass murder over the deaths of the protesters.

Russia refuses to assist in the return of Yanukovych and he remains a wanted criminal in Ukraine. Events begin to move quickly, on February 26th Ukraine appoints a new government and Russia moves 150,000 troops close to the border of Ukraine.

On 28th February 2014, Russian backed troops seize control of two airports in Crimea. On March 1st Vladimir Putin wins approval to invade Ukraine. Western Europe and America warn Russia of economic sanctions and political isolation, but send no troops to assist Ukraine. Crimea is annexed from Ukraine by Russia which begins a new phase of crisis. The success of the revolution only serves to drag Ukraine into a more serious conflict. Putin cannot allow Ukraine to succeed as this would highlight his failure and expose him to domestic pressure. The illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine remains an ongoing situation.

Written by Mark Stratford, updated 25/04/19

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