If you’ve been paying attention to the news this week, you know about the bloody conflict that has been escalating in the Ukraine since violence broke out on Tuesday. But the roots of the conflict are a bit difficult to figure out amid the numerous breaking news stories of the violence. So what’s really going on in Ukraine?
Update 2/24/14: As of Friday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has fled Kiev and is reportedly hiding in Crimea, which is in Eastern Ukraine near Russia. Ukraine’s new interim leader Oleksandr Turchnyov has promised to form a new government of the people and the Ukraine has issued a warrant for the arrest of Yanukovych for the “mass murder” of protesters over the past several months.
Here are 11 main points you should know about the Ukraine conflict:
- The protests began in November 2013 when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced that the Ukraine would be abandoning an agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union, instead opting for a closer relationship with the Russian government.
- Thousands of protesters immediately took to the streets of Kiev to protest a decision they see as moving away from democratic process and the development of their country, in favor of a “Russian-style oligarchy.”
- On Nov. 30, Ukrainian police brutally attacked protesters. News of the violence incited anger from Ukrainians, leading to another protest on Dec. 1, which drew 300,000 protesters.
- On Dec. 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered Ukraine $15 billion in loans and cheap gas supplies, which protesters interpreted as a ploy to buy off their president and gain greater control over Ukraine’s government.
- On Jan. 16, Ukraine’s Parliament passed anti-protest laws in an attempt to discourage citizens from their protests. This was basically the worst idea ever, as tens of thousands of protesters rallied in Kiev, defying the newly-passed laws.
- On Jan. 22, the first deaths of the conflict occurred when two protesters were hit with live ammunition in a confrontation with police.
- Parliament repealed the anti-protest laws and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned on Jan. 28, in an effort to defuse the crisis.
- Peace appeared to be on the horizon on Feb. 16 when the protesters agreed to end their occupation of Kiev City Hall in exchange for the release of 234 jailed protesters.
- On Feb. 18, violence ensued when protesters refused to leave Independence Square in Kiev by the deadline established by security forces. Police began to break down protesters’ barricades, firing stun grenades and a water cannon. Protesters fought back with fireworks and petrol bombs. At least 26 were killed and hundreds were injured.
- Just hours after the sides seemed to have come to a truce, the bloodiest clash of the conflict erupted Thursday, Feb. 20, and resulted in roughly 100 deaths.
- The most recent attempt at peace occurred Friday, Feb. 21 when President Yanukovych signed an agreement with opposition leaders conceding that presidential elections will be held no later than December, a new constitution will be written and a new government will be named within 10 days. Only time will tell if this will be enough to convince the protesters to pack their bags.