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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More