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What You Need To Know About The Ukraine Protests

The basics of the current Kiev protests that have led to Thursday being named the bloodiest day since Ukrainian independence from the Soviet Union.

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Kiev, Ukraine is currently the location of violent clashes that have led to 75 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

Via reddit.com

Ukraine’s health ministry have declared that 75 people have died and 571 more have been injured in violence since Tuesday. Oleh Musiy, the head doctor for the opposition movement announced that 70 protesters died on Thursday. The interior ministry declared that three members of the police force were also killed on Thursday.

Today the EU Foreign Affairs Council met in Brussels and declared that "The European Union is appalled and deeply dismayed by the deteriorating situation in Ukraine. No circumstances can justify the repression we are currently witnessing."

Evgeny Feldman/AP

They called for an immediate end to violence, urging opposition leaders to distance themselves from violent protest. They also noted that a state of emergency or the use of armed force against protesters must be avoided and that Human Rights violations must be brought to justice through the council of Europe International Advisory Panel.

In November last year, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych looked poised to sign a free trade and association treaty with the European Union but pulled out in a U-turn move.

Many felt that the agreement (at the Eastern Partnership Summit, Vilnius, Lithuania) would have paved the way for Ukraine to be assimilated into the European Union, though only 40% of the country was in support of the treaty.

Some believed that President Putin was acting as a pupper master, in control of Yanukovych.

Via ctvnews.ca

Russia backed Yanukovych during the 2004 Orange Revolution after his election was ruled fraudulent. Vladimir Putin views Ukraine as essential if Russia is to become an economical rival with the EU, China and the US.

In December, Russia committed itself to an emergency $15 billion aid package with a 33% discount on Russian natural gas, though the Kremlin withdrew when it became clear that the crisis was becoming unavoidable. On Monday, it was announced that Russia would continue with a $2 billion payment to Ukraine.

After the November meeting, hundreds of protesters marched on Parliament.

GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images

The protesters demanded the resignation of the presidential administration. The police retaliated to smoke bombs and stone attacks by firing teargas canisters at protesters.

For the past three months, anti-government protesters have stayed firm in Independence Square (also known as "The Maidan").

The protesters are split across the political spectrum.

The three opposition party leaders: Arseniy Yatsenyuk from Fatherland, the major opposition often viewed as part of the political establishment; Vitali Klitschko of the Udar movement, in favour of an EU alliance; and Oleh Tyahnybok of Svoboda, a far right grouping, have all united to co-ordinate the protests.

Right-wing groups, including Right Sector and Common Cause have also been involved in the protests, being responsible for the majority of violent clashes with the police.

The conflict also has the potential to create a rift down the geographical centre of Ukraine.

Via Twitter: @stepan_klimov

Ukraine politically, is a country split between the strongly anti-Yanukovych West and the government sympathetic East which is dominated by heavy industries supporting Russia. However, while authorities this week stopped Kiev-bound trains from the West of the country, railway tracks in the East were blocked by protestors aiming to waylay government military backup from reaching the capital.

On 18th February, violence broke out that was sudden and unexpected.

Both sides have blamed each other. The day before, the government and protesters had agreed to an amnesty for arrested demonstrators with the proviso that protesters leave government buildings.

Yanukovych had introduced new-anti protest laws in an attempt to end the demonstrations. The laws stipulated that the government must permit protests, threatening protesters with prison sentences of up to ten years and introducing fines for helmets or masks. The protest from this point has been transformed from a pro-EU demonstration into one some now view as a fight for human rights and against government corruption.

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s security service announced nationwide “anti-terror” operations.

The head of the state security service Oleksandr Yakimenko claimed that hundreds of firearms were being seized from offices of the interior ministry, municipal builds, army units and depots. Mr Yanukovich appointed a new head of the armed forces.

In the early hours of Thursday, a firefight between a radical vein of protestors and the police led to 10 being declared dead.

Via theguardian.com

The protestors then charged the hill to the south of the square where snipers were positioned, firing on the crowd. Violence escalated with masked protesters throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at armed police. The day has been named the bloodiest since independence in the former Soviet country.

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