News / Europe

Ukraine Protesters Fell Lenin Statue, Tell President 'You're Next'

People climb up to the top of a pedestal after a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin was toppled by protesters during a rally organized by supporters of EU integration in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
People climb up to the top of a pedestal after a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin was toppled by protesters during a rally organized by supporters of EU integration in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
Reuters
— Anti-government protesters toppled a statue of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in Ukraine's capital and attacked it with hammers on Sunday in a symbolic challenge to President Viktor Yanukovich and his plans for closer ties with Russia.

The gesture rejecting Moscow's historic influence over Ukraine came after opposition leaders told hundreds of thousands of demonstrators on Kyiv's Independence Square to keep up pressure on Yanukovych to sack his government.

The protesters are furious that the government decided last month to ditch a landmark pact with the European Union in favor of closer economic cooperation with Moscow, Ukraine's Soviet-era overlord.

(Check out our Storify snapshots of the protests in Ukraine at the bottom of this post)

Yanukovych's sudden tack towards Russia has provoked the biggest street protests since the 2004-5 Orange Revolution, when people power forced a re-run of a fraud-tainted election and thwarted his first run for the presidency.

A man with a sledgehammer smashes the toppled statue of Vladimir Lenin in central Kyiv, December. 8, 2013.A man with a sledgehammer smashes the toppled statue of Vladimir Lenin in central Kyiv, December. 8, 2013.
x
A man with a sledgehammer smashes the toppled statue of Vladimir Lenin in central Kyiv, December. 8, 2013.
A man with a sledgehammer smashes the toppled statue of Vladimir Lenin in central Kyiv, December. 8, 2013.
”Yanukovych, you are next!” read a poster stuck on the plinth where the red granite statue of Lenin had stood. People hacked off chunks of the prostrate - and now headless - leader of the 1917 Bolshevik revolution to take home as souvenirs.

Cheered by the crowd, a woman planted an EU flag on the pedestal where the 3.5 meter high statue had stood since 1946.

Opposition leaders denied any link to its removal, clearly concerned that such an act could harm their cause. The spokesman of Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov called the felling of the statue “barbarism,” Interfax news agency reported.

The authorities and protesters have confronted each other for weeks, raising fears for political and economic stability in the former Soviet republic of 46 million people.

The demonstrators have erected blockades to defend the central Independence Square - now transformed into a tent village, sustained by donations of food and clothing - from any police attempt to retake it. They are occupying key public buildings and on Sunday erected blockades and tents on roads in the government district.

”This is a decisive moment when all Ukrainians have gathered here because they don't want to live in a country where corruption rules and where there is no justice,” said Vitaly Klitschko, a reigning world heavyweight boxing champion and leader of the opposition Udar (Punch) party.

Supporters of EU integration are seen at a rally earlier in the day at Independence Square in central Kyiv, December 8, 2013.Supporters of EU integration are seen at a rally earlier in the day at Independence Square in central Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
x
Supporters of EU integration are seen at a rally earlier in the day at Independence Square in central Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
Supporters of EU integration are seen at a rally earlier in the day at Independence Square in central Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
Ukraine's opposition accuses Yanukovych, who met Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, of preparing to take the country into a Moscow-led customs union, which they see as an attempt to recreate the Soviet Union.
 
‘Razor’s edge’

Yanukovych has said he decided to shelve the EU trade deal because it would have been too costly for Ukraine's struggling economy and the country needs more time to prepare. He says he is preparing a “strategic partnership” with Russia, but has not committed to joining the customs union.

We are on a razor's edge between a final plunge into cruel dictatorship and a return home to the European community,” jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said in a message to Sunday's rally, read out by her daughter Yevhenia.

”Don't give in, not a step back, don't give up, the future of Ukraine is in your hands,” the message read.

Last weekend, riot police beat protesters and journalists, drawing EU condemnation and swelling protesters' ranks.

Klitschko, increasingly seen as a national leader-in-waiting, told Sunday's crowd that their protests must remain peaceful, adding: “We do not want to be kept quiet by a policeman's truncheon.” He demanded the release of political prisoners, punishment of those responsible for last weekend's crackdown, the resignation of Prime Minister Azarov's government and early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
x
Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso urged Yanukovych by phone on Sunday to seek a dialogue with his opponents and to respect civil freedoms, the EU executive said. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton will visit Kyiv this week to help to find a way out of the crisis, it said.

Interfax news agency said Yanukovych also discussed the situation with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Kyiv and Moscow have both denied that Putin and Yanukovych discussed the customs union when they met in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi, but further talks are planned for December 17.

Yanukovych and Putin, who regards Ukraine as strategically vital to Moscow's interests, are widely believed to have struck a bargain whereby Ukraine will get cheaper Russian gas and possibly credits in exchange for backing away from the EU.

Protest nucleus

A group of protesters, chanting “revolution,” started erecting tents and barricades near the government building after Sunday's rally, apparently aiming to halt normal government activity next week. Riot police stood guard nearby.

”We will stay till our demands are met and there is a change of government,'' said a 22-year-old man draped in a Ukrainian flag who gave his name as Serhiy. “We don't want to be under Russia's thumb.”

Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
x
Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
Pro-European integration protesters attend a rally at Independence Square in Kyiv, December 8, 2013.
Independence Square, nucleus of the protest movement, is festooned with blue and yellow national flags and EU flags. People huddle around braziers to keep warm.

In a gesture sure to annoy Yanukovych, protesters hoisted a huge portrait of Tymoshenko onto a New Year tree, plastered with anti-government placards, that towers over the square.

The protest camp has been swelled by huge numbers arriving from Ukrainian-speaking western and central regions, where the opposition enjoys strong support.

A Tymoshenko ally, former interior minister Yuri Lutsenko, urged people in eastern Russian-speaking areas - the bedrock of Yanukovych's power - to join them. “We are the same people as you are, except they stole from you earlier,” he said.

Sales worker Sviatoslav Zaporozhets, 26, said the demonstrators were united by the desire for a change of government. “I don't want to go back to what my parents lived under in the Soviet Union,” he said. “When I am old, I want to live like people in Europe. I want to live in a normal country.”

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sunny Enwerem from: Nigeria
December 08, 2013 7:14 PM
Russia Again!!!!!!
Yanukovych and Putin, who regards Ukraine as strategically vital to Moscow's interests, are widely believed to have struck a bargain whereby Ukraine will get cheaper Russian gas and possibly credits in exchange for backing away from the EU.?????in my country Nigeria we call this move bribery and corruption lol.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid