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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid