2013 World News: Ukraine
President's Rejection of Trade Deal with European Union Sparks Massive Protests
Ukraine was close to signing a trade agreement with the European Union in November 2013, but President Viktor Yanukovich backed out at the last minute, bowing to pressure from Russian president Vladimir Putin, who threatened financial penalties if Ukraine edged closer to Europe. In addition, Yanukovich refused to comply with an EU demand that Yanukovich release former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. Tens of thousands of people who favor integrating with Europe, who see such a move as a vital step toward a more promising economic and democratic future, took to the streets of Kiev to protest against Yanukovich's decision. Police responded violently to the protests, using tear gas and truncheons to disperse the crowds in Independence Square.
The protests continued for days, increasing in scope and intensity after the violent response by police. By early December protesters in Kiev had taken over City Hall, the Trade Unions building, and Independence Park, blockaded the Cabinet of Ministers, and were planning to seize the parliament building. Several hundred thousand protesters gathered in Kiev in early December, demanding that Yanukovich resign. During one protest, demonstrators tore down a statue of Lenin. Days later, Yanukovich dispatched police to clear Independence Square with chainsaws and bulldozers, but they withdrew when it was clear the protesters would resume their demonstrations. Yanukovich said he would consider re-opening talks with the EU.
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