By Michael Howerton
The violence and unrest that has paralyzed the Ukrainian capital city of Kiev for months reached a boiling point this week.
After anti-government protestors, angry at President Viktor Yanukovych’s growing authoritarianism and renewed ties to Russia, staged a last-ditch attempt this week to stand their ground in Independence Square, setting fire to the barricades surrounding their positions in the square, it seemed that it would only be a matter of time until they ran out of fuel and luck. Dozens were killed in clashes on Thursday alone.
But on Friday, Yanukovych blinked. He was under increasing pressure inside and outside the country — from Western leaders to stop the use of armed force against protesters, from growing popular support from Ukrainans who joined the protests, and from the heroism of those who withstood shootings, water and gas attacks and freezing weather but didn’t back down. Perhaps even Yanukovych’s own party realized that they had been too repressive and the situation was out of control.
He signed a deal that diminished his power, called for early elections and saw parliament release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, an outspoken Yanukovych critic who had been in prison for two years. The deal immediately showed signs of strain. Many said they would not be satisfied until Yanukovich left office.
On Saturday, Yanukovych fled Kiev after his own security guards seemed to turn on him. He denounced the protesters actions as a coup against the democratically elected government. Parliment declared the president unfit for office and called new elections for May.
One of the interesting tensions of the conflict is the fate of the Crimea section of Ukraine and whether its traditional leanings toward close neighbor Russia will force a split if the Ukraine begins to lean more towards the West and the European Union.
The future of the Ukraine has been the subject of intense debate in the 1World community for many weeks.
Over the past two and a half months of heavy polling, 1World voters have firmly declared that the Ukraine’s future lies with the West. Sixty percent of voters say that the Ukraine’s best path is to part with Russia and join the European Union.
As the protests gained traction over the past month, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of 1World voters, in voting that began on Jan. 28, say that they believe the protesters had the power to force real political change in the country.
And, in new and heavily trafficked polls that were opened just on Friday as events in the country reached a fever pitch, 56 percent said that the U.S. should impose sanctions on the Ukraine’s leaders, and 51 percent of voters said that Yanukovych was mainly to blame for the violence.
Seventeen percent of voters said they believed that radicals in the opposition were to blame for the trouble, and 15 percent said the West was responsible for the bloodshed, 8 percent blamed Russia, and 9 percent said they didn’t know whom to blame.
What do you think? Cast your vote on the historic events in the Ukraine here: