In addition, Ukraine has experienced corruption in its democracy with electoral fraud in which the current Pro-Russia president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, lost the election due to his involvement in fraud against the Pro-West ex-president. However, six years later, he won the presidency of Ukraine. The background of political corruption in Ukraine and the historical relationship between Russia and Ukraine are factors that have led up to the current state of affairs in Ukraine.
The revolt in Ukraine quickly started after a landmark trade deal with the European Union was rejected as a result of Russia’s threats; heavy sanctions in order to keep the country from falling further under Western influences. Yanukovich accepted a bailout loan from Russia instead of building closer ties with the European Union. The initial trade deal intended to have Ukraine join the EU which would have brought about sweeping law reforms, including the abolition of visas for Ukrainian citizens. By abiding to Russian demands and backing down from the opportunity of joining the EU, the Ukrainian government was met with anger and disapproval by the citizens of Ukraine. This disapproval is associated with the conflicting relationship between Ukrainian nationalism and Russian politics. All three post-Soviet presidents of Ukraine have met the protests with support against Yanukovich’s government and the protests have now turned to riots.
However, the transition from protests to riots can be associated with what many refer to as an Orwellian move by the Ukrainian government; creating law reforms illegally and using technology to scare the masses. The law curbing demonstrations, use language broad enough to apply to almost any gathering, and “slander,” which could refer to any criticism of the government. Controversially, the Yanukovich administration sent a mass text message to all protesters located near any protest saying the following:
“Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance."
Quickly the protest evolved into riots against the government, and at the same time laws went into effect that had jail sentences of up to 15 years for participating in mass riots. Prosecutor general Viktor Pshonka issued a statement calling the disturbances in Kiev "crimes against the state.” Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych, said he had tried to listen to peaceful demands but would use "all legal methods provided for by the laws of Ukraine to guarantee public safety.” So far the two demonstrators have been reported to have been killed by the policy and a couple of members of the police have been captured by the protestors. Allegations of torture are being thrown at the two from the government. Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko issued a statement guaranteeing that police would not take action against the large protest camp on Independence Square, known as the Maidan. Many people think Kiev currently resembles a medieval battlefield with its use of massive shields and catapults, which emphasizes more violence in Ukraine. However, the protests and riots have spread from Kiev to other locations in Ukraine, which have also met with support from various people across the world, particularly by the Canadian-Ukrainian community. In addition, the opposition leaders issued a deadline for the government to back down and make concessions or face renewed clashes. Currently, the intent of the protestors is to increase the territory of the Maidan until further movements by the government agents engages into conflict with them.
The anger of the masses has increased after a video was released online which depicted police abusing and humiliating a naked protester in what looked like a location close to the site of the Kiev clashes. Despite prior agreements with Yanukovich to release protesters and cease the persecution of protesters, people are still being taken into custody and many others are currently investigated by Ukrainian authorities. Recently, Yanukovich offered government roles to two opposition leaders, however, it appears to be that none of his attempts are slowing down the pace of the riots.
Foreign responses are mixed. The EU is urgingt Yanukovich to find a political solution quickly. Despite a fear that it will commit further harm to the relationship, the United States has revoked the visas of Officials associated with criminalizing the protests, and Russia currently continues to blame the West for the current state of affairs in Ukraine.