Protests in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev are deteriorating rapidly with last night being of the bloodiest nights so far. The ministry of health says that 25 people have died and over 240 have been injured from the protests that started off peacefully in November.
Last night proved to be one of the most violent nights at police cleared the protesters from Independence Square using shotguns and percussion grenades. The protesters fought back with stones and fire to hold the square, they created a “ring of fire” using “blankets, tires, wood, sheets of plastic foam and anything else that might burn.” Thought it seems the government has reclaimed control of the square, at least for now.
The police reported earlier in the day that at least nine people, including two police officers, had been killed, but then raised this to 14, making it by far the worst day of violence in more than two months of protests and, for most Ukrainians, the bloodiest in living memory. The final death toll appears certain to be higher…
The violence, which will resonate for weeks, months or even years around this fragile and bitterly divided former Soviet republic of 46 million, exposed the impotence, in this dispute, of the United States and the European Union, which had engaged in a week of fruitless efforts to mediate a peaceful settlement.
A peaceful settlement looks well out of reach. The Ukrainian conflict also has a Cold War feel as American diplomats were caught in a recording trying to undermine Russia as well as Vladamir Putin reportedly urging the Ukrainian president to crack down on the protests fearing EU and American plots. Caught in the crossfire are the people of Ukraine.
As opposition leaders and the EU and US called for protesters to be protected the Russians urged a restoration of order and gave financing to the government.
[Ukraine President] Yanukovych had repeatedly pledged not to use force to disperse protesters, but after meeting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, he had clearly changed his mind. The fighting also broke out a day after Russia threw a new financial lifeline to Mr. Yanukovych’s government by buying $2 billion in Ukrainian government bonds.
Yanukovych was democratically elected president in 2010 but is considered by the opposition to be too corrupt to remain in office and his resignation is one of their central issues. After last night it seems he is more than willing to take whatever measures necessary to stay in office.
The ultimate outcome of the strife may be a breakup of the Ukraine into two countries – one leaning more towards Russia and one leaning more towards the EU.