News / Europe

Ukrainian Opposition Accuses Yanukovych of Stealing EU Dream

  • Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv Nov. 29, 2013.
  • A view of a rally in support of integration with the European Union, as a supporter waves a European flag from a building top in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Students form a human chain from the Ukrainian capital to the western border during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • People warm themselves by a fire in a steel drum during a rally in support of Ukraine's integration with the European Union in Kyiv, Nov. 28, 2013.
  • Ukrainian Opposition Party protesters hold posters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in front of the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • Vitali Klitschko, WBC heavyweight boxing champion and chairman of the Ukrainian opposition party Udar, raises his arms as he and another opposition leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, try to gain entry to the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • People warm themselves at fires made in steel drums after a meeting to support EU integration at European Square in Kyiv, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Protesters demand Ukraine sign a trade deal with the European Union, European Square, Kyiv, Nov. 26, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)
  • Protesters wear gas masks during a demonstration to support EU integration in Kyiv, Nov. 25, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with riot police during a rally to support EU integration in Kyiv, Nov. 25, 2013.
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Reuters
— Ukraine's political opposition said on Friday that President Viktor Yanukovych had "stolen the dream" of closer integration with Europe as his supporters hailed his decision to spurn an EU free trade deal.

In a sea of blue and gold, the colors of both the EU and Ukrainian flags, some 10,000 protesters chanted “Ukraine is Europe” in Independence Square, the theater of the Orange Revolution of 2004-5 that thwarted Yanukovich's first presidential bid.
       
“Today they stole our dream, our dream of living in a normal country,” said heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, a contender for the 2015 presidential election. “The failure to sign the agreement of association is treason,” he told the roaring crowd.

Yanukovich's decision to suspend a deal that would have aligned Ukraine's economy more closely with Europe's by opening borders to goods, and set the stage for an easing of travel restrictions, was for many an opportunity lost.

“Europe was the way out of the mess we're in, the way out of
 the corruption that has overwhelmed our country,” said Andrey Dobrolet, 41, a lawyer.
       
“But now we see the real colors of the people in power,” he said, after an announcement that Yanukovych was leaving a summit in Vilnius without the free trade agreement that had been months in negotiation.

Some wiped away tears on Friday, huddling around oil barrels where wood, window frames and crates were being burned to keep protesters warm.
       
“I expected this, but the people will continue to fight and tensions will continue,” said Sergei Bandar, 61, a pensioner.

As pro-EU protesters sang Ukraine's national anthem, the slow melody was interrupted by a rival rally on another square some 200 meters away, where people cheered Yanukovych and his decision to strengthen ties with Russia.

Yanukovych loyalists

Here, on European Square, some 3,000-4,000 people, many of them bussed in from Yanukovych strongholds in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine, gathered near a hastily constructed stage, where singers sang popular songs and speakers warned of the dangers of European integration.

“If we had signed, we would have opened our borders and killed our own manufacturers,” said Anatoliy Bliznyuk, a parliamentarian from Yanukovych's Regions Party.
       
The two rallies reflected the linguistic and cultural split between the Ukrainian-speaking west, where support for the EU had been strong, and the predominantly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, from which Yanukovych himself hails.

The stage-managed look of the meeting led to accusations that the attendees had been paid to show up, a practice not uncommon in Ukraine, where the average monthly salary is around $400. No one was willing to speak to a Reuters journalist.

“No one can tell us what to do. We will build our own Europe in Ukraine. Are we worse than Europe?” Artyom Silchenko, a student, told a state television channel.

Despite the proximity of the two demonstrations, there were no reports of violence between protesters. But local media said five journalists had been beaten up b
'sportsmen', code for thugs enforcing the government's will on the street.
       
Yanukovych denies using any such tactics.
       
Some on Independence Square took heart from the fact that Yanukovych said he was only suspending plans to sign the trade deal, not canceling them altogether.
       
“I'm an optimist, we are located right next to Europe, and we have elections in two years' time,” said Roman Dashchaksky, 27. “Sooner or later, integration is inevitable.”

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: A. G. H. from: Ukraine
November 29, 2013 1:42 PM
I told you - this is happening... but VOA soft peddled it... let me tell you again - this is not going to get better...!!! we want complete separation from the depravity of the Mafia State. Russia is decaying faster than Iran. We feel stifled here, we want to get away from Russia. we only wish we could rely on the US... but the US seems to be under some foreign Islamic occupation - betraying all their friends and cuddling their enemies... so we must do this on our own... and if Putin think he can bring tanks into Kiev... well, let him try.

In Response

by: Bruno
December 03, 2013 12:49 AM
Sounds like you would just love living in the European Union go then rich boy go to Greece and stay there for 28 months and then come tell me how it was for ya.

In Response

by: Andrew Bain
November 30, 2013 3:15 AM
Obama has sacrificed Ukraine on behalf of his misguided Iranian policy - giving up Kiev to Putin in exchange for Russia's not intervening as the US stumbles over itself in the Middle East. And VOA is proving itself nothing but a waste of tax money as it fully supports this misdirection by soft-peddling the story: every other news outlet has already reported on this morning's violence while VOA appears to be still waiting for guidance how to spin this.

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