News / Europe

Ukraine Protesters Urge General Strike

Protesters block the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers building in Kyiv, December 2, 2013.
Protesters block the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers building in Kyiv, December 2, 2013.
Reuters
Ukrainian protesters blockaded the main government building on Monday, seeking to force President Viktor Yanukovych from office with a general strike after hundreds of thousands demonstrated against his decision to abandon an EU integration pact.
 
Demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday, which saw violent clashes with the police, drew as many as 350,000 people, the biggest public rally in the ex-Soviet republic since the “Orange revolution” against sleaze and electoral fraud nine years ago.
 
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov accused the opposition of planning to seize the parliament, while Yanukovych appealed for calm, saying protests should be peaceful and law-abiding.
 
“Any bad peace is better than a good war,” Yanukovych said in his first comment on the mass unrest over the weekend. “Everyone must observe the laws of our state.”
 
In a sign that he felt the security situation was under control, though, Yanukovych announced he would stick to a plan to travel on Tuesday to China, from which he is seeking loans and investment to avert a debt crisis.

  • Protestors wave flags during a protest at Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters stand on the barricade in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters stand on a barricade in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters stand in front of Cabinet of Ministers' building in Kyiv, Dec. 2, 2013.
  • Protesters sleep on the floor as others look through a window for police inside Kyiv's city hall, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • A man throws a flare in the direction of Interior Ministry members during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kyiv, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with police outside the presidential office in Kyiv, Dec. 1, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with police at the presidential office in Kyiv, Dec. 1, 2013.

Yanukovych’s decision to abandon a trade pact with the European Union and instead seek closer economic ties with Russia has stirred deep passions in a country where many people yearn to join the European mainstream and escape Moscow's orbit.
 
The resulting unrest has hammered Ukraine's financial markets, underlining the fragile state of the economy.
 
The central bank was forced to intervene to prop up the hryvnia and threatened more action, underlining Kyiv's vulnerability as it seeks more than $17 billion next year to meet gas bills and debt repayments.
 
Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed outside actors for the protests, which he said amounted to an attempt to unsettle Ukraine's legitimate rulers.
 
“This reminds me more of a pogrom than a revolution,” Putin told reporters on a visit to Armenia.
 
Protesters in the capital remained defiant.
 
“We have no other choice but to defend ourselves and the gains we have made,” said Taras Revunets, at Kyiv's city hall, which hundreds of demonstrators occupied on Sunday.
 
With many worried that the unrest could endanger their savings, the central bank sought to head off panic withdrawals.
 
In a video statement, its chairman said the bank would not introduce any financial restrictions. “I urge everyone to have confidence in the banking system and maintain their savings,” said Ihor Sorkin.
 
Ukraine divided

Ukraine is divided between those who see stability in close ties with Russia and those who look westwards and see a more prosperous future with the European Union. Since his election in February 2010, Yanukovych has sought to straddle the divide, reassuring Ukrainians he could pursue close ties with Europe while managing relations with Moscow.
 
Even some supporters were shocked by the abruptness with which his government announced it was suspending work on a long-awaited pact with the EU in favor of reviving economic ties with Russia. Scenes over the weekend of police beating demonstrators hardened opinion against him.
 
“Yanukovych will do whatever Putin tells him to do,” said Oleksander, 49, on Kyiv's Independence Square, where protesters are setting up tented camps in preparation for a long campaign.
 
“He's been losing his legitimacy for a long time. His decision to send police in to beat up children was the last straw,” said Oleksander, adding he had voted for Yanukovych in the past and had joined the president's Party of the Regions.
 
Thousands of protesters listened to music and strolled through the city center on Monday behind makeshift barricades they had erected overnight from city benches, commandeered police barriers and parts of a giant artificial Christmas tree.
 
Traffic was cut off in central Kyiv but pedestrians still shopped and walked to work. Opposition figures made speeches at a central stage erected across from Independence Square. Orthodox Christian priests said prayers for the injured.
 
Police, who clashed with protesters at several spots around Independence Square during the weekend, have since withdrawn and were little in evidence in the city center on Monday.
 
General strike
 
Yanukovych's government struggled to show on Monday that it was still functioning, with protesters blocking the access road to the main government building with trash bins and other obstacles, and many employees turned back.
 
Former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko, now an opposition figure, said: “What is happening now around the government building is a strike.”
 
The National Bank and the finance and economy ministries were functioning, their press services said. City authorities, whose central premises were still in the hands of protesters, said basic services including public transport and hospitals were working normally in the city of three million.
 
Ukraine's debt insurance costs surged to the highest in more than two months. Its dollar bonds tumbled.
 
A spokesman for Azarov said employees were not able to enter the main government building in Kyiv and negotiations were under way to get them in. Azarov's deputy, Serhiy Arbuzov, appeared at a meeting with a parliamentary committee, saying: “I'm here to show the government is working.”
 
At the insistence of the opposition, parliament is scheduled on Tuesday to discuss and vote on whether to allow a motion of no confidence in the government. It needs to muster 226 parliamentarians for any vote and usually gets far less.
 
He defended the decision to walk away from the free trade deal with Europe, arguing among other things it did not do enough to protect Ukrainian producers and saying a Ukrainian delegation would go to Russia this week for negotiations on economic relations.
 
It was difficult to evaluate how much support the opposition's call for a general strike was receiving.
 
Alexei Ostrovsky, 36, who works in advertising but went to the protests instead of to work, said: “I decided I have to be here. I think my bosses will understand that and don't fire me.”
 
In Lviv, Ukraine's second city known for its pro-European outlook, authorities said those striking were mainly private businesses and students. The strike call was not having an impact on regional industry or public transport, they said.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: dima from: usa
December 02, 2013 4:43 PM
Independence is a good thing,when you can be independent!!! And also keep your suvernty, but Ukraine is not gking to gain anything by joining the EU just going to add more spending to the budget that they don't have and will dance under EU flute.


by: Jon Danzig
December 02, 2013 2:49 PM
In Ukraine they won independence in 1991, the same year as Latvia, another ex-Soviet Union country. But whilst Latvians were given a free vote on whether to join the European Union, no such opportunity currently seems possible for Ukrainians.

In Latvia they had to wait 60 years after being forced to join the Soviet Union, before the country could openly volunteer to join the European Union. How long will Ukraine have to wait?

I’ve just written an article about Latvia’s tortuous journey from one Union to another. It’s a story relevant to Ukraine, and to all people interested in the future of Europe.. and the history of how we got to where we are now.

‘Latvia: from Soviet Union to European Union’ www.ussr2eu.eu-rope.com


by: A. from: Ukraine
December 01, 2013 5:30 PM
We are ready to be the our own saviors. we want complete separation from the depravity of the corrupt Mafia State. Russia is decaying. We want to get away from the threats violence and intimidation of 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. This feels like a civil war coming on. and we will fight for our freedom...!!!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid