Tales of the New Cold War: When Ukraine was Moscow's red line. Part 2 of 2. Stephen F. Cohen @NYU @Princeton

Jan 03, 2018, 04:52 AM


(Photo:A barricade burning outside the headquarters of the internal defence forces in Lviv, caused by mass protests. )



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Tales of the New Cold War: When Ukraine was Moscow's red line. Part 2 of 2. Stephen F. Cohen @NYU @Princeton

A period of relative calm in the anti-government demonstrations in Kiev ended abruptly on 18 February 2014, when protesters and police clashed. At least 82 people were killed over the next few days, including 13 policemen; more than 1,100 people were injured.[58]

Crowds of protesters at a mass rally on Independence Square in Kiev.

A line of riot police in Kiev on 12 February. On 18 February, some 20,000 Euromaidan protesters advanced on Ukraine's parliament in support of restoring the Constitution of Ukraine to its 2004 form, which had been repealed by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine shortly after Yanukovych was elected president in 2010. The police blocked their path. The confrontation turned violent; the BBC, citing correspondents, reported that each side blamed the other.[59] The police fired guns with both rubber bullets and, later, live ammunition (including automatic weapons and sniper rifles), while also using tear gas and flash grenades in an attempt to repel thousands of demonstrators. The protesters fought with crude weapons (such as large rocks and bats), firearms, and improvised explosives (Molotov cocktails),[60] and broke into the headquarters of the Party of Regions. Police officers stormed the main protest camp on Maidan Nezalezhnosti and overran parts of the square.[59] The Trade Unions Building, which served as the Euromaidan headquarters, was burned down. Political commentators suggested that Ukraine was on the brink of a civil war.[61] Some areas, including Lviv Oblast, declared themselves politically independent of the central government.[62]

On 19 February, the authorities instituted police checkpoints, restrictions on public transportation, and school closures in Kiev, which the media referred to as a de facto state of emergency.[63]

On 20 February, Internal Affairs Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko announced that he had signed a decree authorising the use of live ammunition against protesters.[64] Central Kiev saw the worst violence yet, and the death toll in 48 hours of clashes rose to at least 77.[65] In response, the chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, Volodymyr Rybak, announced the next day that he had signed a parliamentary decree condemning the use of force and urging all institutions (the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Cabinet of Ministers, etc.) to cease immediately all military actions against protesters.[66] Parliament also suspended Zakharchenko from his duties.

On 21 February, President Yanukovych signed a compromise deal with opposition leaders. It promised constitutional changes to restore certain powers to Parliament and called for early elections to be held by December.

Despite the agreement, thousands continued to protest in central Kiev, and the demonstrators took full control of the city's government district: the parliament building, the president's administration quarters, the cabinet, and the Interior Ministry.[67][68] On 21 February, an impeachment bill was introduced in Parliament.[69] On the same day, Yanukovych left for Kharkiv to attend a summit of southeastern regions, according to media reports.

On 22 February, the protesters were reported to be in control of Kiev, and Yanukovych was said to have fled the capital for eastern Ukraine.[70][71] The parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, voted 328–0 in favour of impeaching Yanukovych and scheduled new presidential elections for 25 May.[72]