Earlier today (December 8), nearly half a million Ukrainians took to the streets to protest against their president, Viktor Yanukovich, and his aspirations of closer ties with Russia.
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Today’s rally punctuates weeks of clashes between authorities and protesters in opposition to the president. This opposition believes that Yanukovich is trying to take the country into a, “Moscow-led customs union” (ie. giving Russia ultimate power over Ukraine’s economy), which they view as an effort to try and re-establish the Soviet Union.
At the height of the protest, the protesters used ropes and metal bars to bring down a statue of Vladimir Lenin, a famous Russian communist revolutionary, which was seen as a symbol of Moscow’s power. Once toppled, protesters smashed the statue with hammers.
On an interesting related note, former heavyweight boxing champ turned politician Vitaly Klitschko is emerging as Yanukovich’s main political adversary. Although Klitschko stressed peaceful resistance to the protesters at the rally, he also said,
We do not want to be kept quiet by a policeman’s truncheon.”
He has condemned the actions of authorities last weekend when police arrested and beat hundreds of protesters and even journalists, drawing condemnation from the European Union. He also called for,
the release of political prisoners, punishment of those responsible for last weekend’s crackdown, the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov’s government and early presidential and parliamentary elections.”
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