On the 21st of November 2013 Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his government dropped plans for his country to integrate with the E.U. The bill, which would also have freed the former Prime Minister Yuli Tymoshenko was rejected. The government instead opted to forge closer ties with Russia, happily eyeing a multi-billion dollar deal from its eastern neighbor. Mr. Yanukovych could never have imagined the repercussions of his actions. That same night Ukrainians marched in protest and a spiral of violence has rocked Ukraine’s capital of Kiev ever since.



Attempts to violently disperse protestors only served to heighten tensions, bringing in more citizens to rally against the government. Soon tens and then hundreds of thousands of protestors began marching in the streets of Kiev, camping in Ukraine’s Independence Square and occupying government buildings.

Since the early Pro-EU protests, the Euromaiden (the popular term for the protests) has become much more than just anger directed at Ukraine for not forging closer ties with the EU. Protestors, now joined by the government opposition, began calling for the resignation of President Yanukovych and his close ministers, a crackdown on government corruption and human rights abuse, and a return to the country’s 2004 constitution. Violent reprisals  by the police have left scores of protestors, and policemen dead. The introduction of anti-protest or “dictatorship laws” in January that heavily curtailed freedom of expression, while expanding government security powers proved ineffectual, were mostly repealed only two weeks later.

This past week, months of protest came to a violent head. Fighting between protestors and policemen on the 18th, 19th and 20th of February saw approximately 75 dead, with thousands injured. Neither side was able to declare victory. Then, on February 21st, a breakthrough. President Yanukovych and opposition leaders finally struck a deal. A new unity government including opposition members will be formed shortly, the constitution of 2004 (which significantly limits the President’s powers) was restored, a general protest amnesty was declared, and an election is promised before the end of the year.

A great victory for the protestors, maybe. It is unlikely the protestors will honor a promise to vacate their camps, many of them feel justifiably paranoid about the government’s intentions, and some have refused to leave until the President is deposed. Whether Ukraine’s government will follow through is also debatable; the authorities have certainly not been above using guile where brute force has failed.

Ukraine stands at the crossroads between east and west, Europe and Russia. But even after months of bloodshed it is still unable to choose a direction. Perhaps the country can emerge from this domestic turmoil stronger and more united than before. This author is not overly optimistic.