Maidan: The Dignity of Revolution
December 2013 - February 2014
When President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine announced on November 21, 2013 that he would not sign a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union, thousands of people in Kyiv took to the streets in protest. They were angry that Yanukovych was instead pursuing closer relations with Russia, despite longstanding promises that he would sign the EU agreement. To young people in Ukraine, the EU represented a stable, democratic future and respect for the rule of law, while stronger ties with Russia would only reinforce a culture of official corruption.
Several attempts to quash the protests only deepened the resolve of anti-government demonstrators, and for months the occupation of Independence Square—"Maidan" in Ukrainian—remained largely peaceful. But in mid-January 2014, a raft of legislation meant to end the protests was fast-tracked through Parliament, sparking violent confrontations between radical protesters and police. Several protesters were killed by gunfire, and they fought back from behind barricades of burning tires with Molotov cocktails, fireworks, and rocks launched by massive slingshots. With the crisis reaching new depths in late February, President Yanukovych lashed out and over 80 people were killed when government snipers opened fire on protesters. Two days later, Yanukovych was forced out of office amid evaporating political support.
While the crisis in Ukraine quickly pivoted to the Russian occupation of Crimea and a Russian-backed war in eastern Ukraine, the primary goal of the Euromaidan protests was achieved with the removal of Viktor Yanukovych as president. As the new government of Ukraine struggles to move forward and maintain unity, Yanukovych is on the run, wanted for mass murder.