Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 23
By Elena Kosolapova - Trend: What began as mostly peaceful demonstrations in support of Ukraine joining the European Union last November had gradually percolated into open clashes between protester and security forces, culminating with the deaths of at least five people.
Hundreds of people have been injured in the clashes this week. The number of injured police officers is also very high. Up to five rioters were killed including four who died from gunshot wounds. Meanwhile the Interior Ministry denied that security forces have used fire-arms against protesters.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the shots could have been done by provocateurs willing to aggravate the situation. Tension is so high that Ukrainian insurance companies have started to insure citizens against death and injures in mass disorders.
The chaos is such that decisions taken by the Ukrainian leadership are ignored by the people and even by regional authorities.
Ukrainians from all over the country are boldly breaking new anti-protest laws passed by the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) last week and the mayors of some Ukrainian cities such as Lviv and Ivano-Frankivs said they would not observe the "illegal" laws.
Ukrainian opposition leaders have issued an ultimatum to President Viktor Yanukovych, after talks on Jan. 22 failed to resolve the political stalemate. They demand the government's resignation, snap elections and the lifting of the new anti-protest law. The president has 24 hours to respond to the demands or pro-EU protesters would be "on the attack" in Kiev.
Prime Minister Azarov in respond to the demand urged opposition to move away from the language of ultimatums.
Confrontation of supporters of different political forces is not a new phenomenon in Ukraine. A similar scenario took place in late 2004 -early 2005.
Those protests began after the 2004 presidential elections were marred by massive corruption, voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud. The events dubbed as the Orange Revolution ended up with a change of leadership and the departure of Viktor Yanukovych, who was elected but never made it to the presidential office. However, this time around Yanukovych made it to seat of power duly elected.
Differential of ideas within different political parties in Ukraine can be traced back through history. The country's territory for a very long time was divided between neighboring countries such as Russia, Poland and Lithuania and endured their influence. The culture, architecture, religion and even language in various Ukrainian regions differ as a result. Moreover the industry of Eastern and Southern regions is oriented on Russia and other CIS member countries, meanwhile Western regions have very strong links with Europe. That is why many experts note there is a danger of the country's split into two or even three parts.
Although conflict and civil strife is not new to Ukraine, the scale of confrontation this time is far more dangerous. The government has no intention of surrendering. And their opponents are determined-against all odds -- to go on.
The great fear now amongst many Ukrainians is the risk that the leaders of the opposition parliamentary factions Vitali Klitschko, Arseniy Yatseniuk and Oleh Tiahnybok will be unable to stop the violence as they do not represent the interest of all the rioters.The streets of Kiev are full of aggressive rioters whose aims completely differ from democratic and pro-European ones of opposition leaders. In fact neither government nor opposition leaders control the situation and the show is run by the embittered crowd. That is why it is impossible to forecast the result of the clashes.