Wednesday morning update: The truce has already broken. It’s being reported that 35 additional protesters have been killed.
When I woke up this morning and checked the Espreso TV feed the first thing I saw was a Ukrainian Armored Personnel Carrier being set alight by a molotov cocktail. As I type this Wednesday afternoon the sun has gone down in Ukraine and there appears to be relative calm in Independence Square. The barricade fires set by opposition members last night are still lit. There are still the circa 20,000 people packed into what was previously an opulent memorial park which hasn’t seen this level of physical devastation since the second World War. A woman I don’t know the name of is singing to the opposition members on a stage. This was the case last night as well with people breaking loudly into song and others carrying up the tune.
At 5:09 EST, the BBC reported that Ukrainian President Yanukovych declared on the presidential website that there was a truce between his government and the opposition. However, that didn’t stop the busy rebuilding of barricades by those in Independence Square and no one is leaving.
What Led Up To This Truce Declaration?
25 have been killed, 425 more have been injured in clashes between opposition members and the police.
Earlier today it was being reported that the Ukrainian military was planning a counter-terrorism action against “radicals” among the opposition movement with Ukrainian Security Service head, Aleksandr Yakimenko claiming “over the last day more than 1,500 firearms and 100,000 rounds of ammunition have come into the hands of criminals.” The BBC was also reporting that the Ukrainian military would likely be employed in an attempt to secure government weapons depots. These claims were seen by many as increasing the likelihood that the military would become involved in clearing Independence Square. President Yanukovych promptly sacked Col Gen Volodymyr Zamana, the head of the Ukrainian military. It remains unclear as to whether it was a result of Mr. Yakimenko’s discussion of a possible counter-terrorism action or not.
Tuesday and Wednesday morning’s events were catastrophic for any negotiations between opposition members and the Ukrainian government and today saw the most open involvement in the conflict thus far from the EU with several members calling for targeted financial sanctions against those behind the “repression” in Ukraine referring to Ukrainian President Yanukovych and those high in his government. Protests have been ongoing since November 2013 and have only intensified thus far. This is widely seen as an attempt by the West to gain some leverage over the Ukrainian government in order to push them towards negotiations.
Additionally, according to the BBC’s Daniel Sandford, the end result to last night’s fighting is that the police in Kiev have been able to take over a corner of Kiev’s Independence Square which is still mostly occupied by the circa 20,000 individuals involved in demonstrations.
Attempts at peace talks between opposition leaders and the Ukrainian government met with failure last night but today’s truce may mean that a second straight night of street fighting can be avoided.
President Obama, speaking from Mexico, made the following statement in regards to last night’s events:
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the violence that’s taking place. And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to ensure that that violence ends. But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protestors in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak
freely about their interests without fear of repression.
“And I want to be very clear as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that we’re going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protestors. We’ve also said we expect peaceful protestors to remain peaceful and we’ll be monitoring very closely the situation, recognizing that with our European partners and the international community there will be consequences if people step over the line.
Western diplomats from France and other nations, as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, were to be in Kiev on Wednesday to try and open up talks between the warring sides.
Why Is Ukraine Deeply Divided?
Ukraine is deeply divided both ethnically and ideologically because Ukraine has been dominated by Russian influence since circa 1918. Later, under Stalin, the USSR as a policy encouraged ethnic Russians to move to and settle in the Ukraine while, at the same time, millions of Ukrainians died due to starvation. In other, similar circumstances this has been referred to as colonization or occupation. Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Russian Federation has generally sought to keep countries formerly under its economic influence firmly there. See Romania and Poland. Yes, this is the short answer. See here for the long answer.
I’m Hearing A Lot Of Discussion About Ethnic Russians and Ukrainians, What Does That Mean?
I don’t know if this is really a question anyone has but I could imagine it coming up since ethnicity means color to many in the US. Yes, they’re all White and ethnically distinct in the same way that Congolese and Somalians are Black but ethnically distinct. Color is not ethnicity.
As of the time of this post there was still some skirmishing taking place in the streets but nothing like last night. Below the picture is the Espreso TV livestream.