Three years ago, on December 1, 2013, hundreds of thousands of protesters – some estimates ranged from 200,000 to 1 million – peacefully demonstrated at Independence Square in Kyiv following President Viktor Yanukovych’s November 30 decision not to sign an Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius that was hosted on November 28-29.
Hundreds were injured in clashes between protesters and police, with the protesters outraged over incidents of police brutality at what would be known as the Euro-Maidan, later called the Revolution of Dignity.
Although the protest began to secure Ukraine’s course toward Euro-integration, protesters demanded a complete overhaul of the government that had been plagued by corruption and mismanagement, with calls for the ouster of Mr. Yanukovych and the Cabinet of Ministers led by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
During the upheaval, Mr. Yanukovych flew to China on December 3 to secure additional loans for the tanking government, and Mr. Azarov called for charges to be filed against the Euro-Maidan participants.
Ukraine’s Parliament held a vote to dismiss the Cabinet, but failed to gain enough votes, with another vote possible only after the next parliamentary session in February 2014.
Disappointed EU leaders expressed their feelings toward Mr. Yanukovych during a signing ceremony where Georgia and Moldova initialed their respective EU Association Agreements (Ukraine had done so in 2012). EU officials seated him in the back corner of the audience, farther away from the center than the foreign affairs minister of Blearus.
The European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton and Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Fule condemned the excessive use of force against protesters in Kyiv. In their statement, the EU leaders underscored: “We call on Ukraine, also in its capacity as chairmanship in office of the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], hosting its Ministerial Conference on December 5-6 in Kyiv, to fully abide by its international commitments to respect the freedom of expression and assembly.”
Similar reaction statements to the events in Ukraine were issued by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Ukrainian National Association, the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations, the Ukrainian American Bar Association, Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate and the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., among others.
In Washington, nearly 200 protesters gathered in front of the White House on December 1 to celebrate the 22nd anniversary of Ukraine’s referendum on independence from the Soviet Union and to show solidarity with the protesters in Kyiv. Similar events were held in New York that attracted nearly 2,000 participants; others were held in Parma, Ohio, and Hartford, Conn., among others.
Ukraine has designated November 21 as the Day of Dignity and Freedom, which marks the beginning of the Euro-Maidan protests.
Source: “Hundreds of thousands take to streets of Kyiv, protesters support Euro-integration, express outrage over police brutality,” by Zenon Zawada, The Ukrainian Weekly, December 8, 2013.