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Ukraine protests become deadly

by BRIANNA SICILIANO Photo/Video Editor

A civil uprising in Ukraine turned deadly on Wednesday, January 22, veering toward chaos after at least three demonstrators died while clashing with the police.

As President Yanukovich met with the three principal opposition leaders at the presidential headquarters, protesters and police battled on a street nearby. Burning tire flames leapt into the air beneath the fog of black smoke. Sporadic explosions and gunfire were also present as the standoff between protestors and police entered its third day.

Early Wednesday during the violence, two protesters were shot and killed. The general prosecutor’s office stated that they promised a full investigation, but generally put the blame on protesters, calling them “members of extremist-minded groups.” At least 300 protestors were injured.

“If over 300 citizens are injured, and multiple people died, don’t you think the government should step in and do something? Isn’t that sending a message?” said sophomore Danny Nasser.

The circumstances of the protestor’s deaths were unclear, but protesters spoke up and claimed that the police had opened fire on them.

A third man died after falling from an archway where protestors had been hurling rocks and firebombs from.

The conflict in Ukraine came into play in November when the country was trapped in a battle for influence between Europe and Russia. Yanukovich was attacked by demonstrators because of the promise he broke to sign political and free-trade agreements with the European Union.

All efforts at resolution have failed since then and protesters have been repeatedly distressed; first because of police violence and recently because of new legislation, which severely restricts political differences.

Violence seemed unavoidable for Ukraine; even other countries in Europe were unsure of what they could do.

The opposition leaders––who represent minority factions in Parliament–had initially frowned upon the idea of violence against the police. However, after the ineffective meeting with Mr. Yanukovich, the leaders demanded him to offer concessions within 24 hours. If he did not, they would join the confrontation.

While standing on the stage in Independence Square, a place protesters have occupied since early December, opposition leaders addressed the crowd with a sense of apprehension.

“I will not live in shame,” said Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the leader in the Parliament of Fatherland (who jailed former prime minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko). “Tomorrow we will go forward together. If there will be a bullet in the forehead, so be it. It will be honest, just and brave action. Viktor Yanukovich, 24 hours are left. Make a decision.”

Oleg Tyagnibok, the leader of the nationalist party Svoboda, which holds the most aggressive demonstrations, said Mr. Yanukovich did not appear to grasp the fullness of the situation.

“I hope that the citizens of Ukraine find peace and that their government takes the necessary steps for that to happen,” said junior Alexandra Uhrig.

The fighting between protesters and  police, which went on as the opposing leaders spoke, emphasized just how little sway the leaders  hold at this point.

“I express my deep regret over the loss of lives in the conflict triggered by political extremists; my sincere condolences to the bereaved families. Once again I ask people to resist the calls of political radicals. It is still not too late to stop and resolve the conflict peacefully. I ask people to return to their homes. We must restore peace, tranquillity and stability in Ukraine,” Mr. Yanukovich said.

Have you been following the violence in Ukraine? What is your opinion?

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