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Why Kiev is on fire


Ukraine's capital Kiev over the last 24 hours has experienced some of its worst violence since the former Soviet republic became an independent nation in 1991.
At least 25 people have died and dozens more have been seriously injured in ongoing clashes between protesters who are seeking the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and security forces loyal to his government.

 spoke with Orysia Lutsevych, a Ukraine expert at the Chatham House think tank in London, in order to better understand the recent escalation in deadly violence that is wracking this country of 45 million on Europe's eastern flank.

The latest bout of violence ostensibly began after protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament following the president's refusal Tuesday to vote on a law that would have reinstated limits on his powers.
But there's more to it than that.

"The protesters were losing hope in this protracted struggle where they saw no willingness on the side of President Yanukovych to really compromise. So far, none of their demands have been really met. The president has in fact done the opposite. He tried to install new laws, he put people in jail, his government tortured activists and it has harassed people. The protesters simply do not believe there can be any decent negotiation from the president's side.
"On Tuesday, there were even thugs that the government has hired who have been roaming the streets, threatening civilians and shooting journalists in cars. Then they started throwing stones at the protesters and in a way that started the violence. So this particular escalation has been driven specifically by the government."

"We have seen a fresh wave of people arriving Wednesday mostly from western Ukraine and they are determined. Opinion polls are showing that 70% of them say they will stay until needed and when they can see that the situation is starting to be resolved. The political opposition is not refusing to negotiate with the president but serious international mediation is needed."
"The European Union has always been saying it has the whole range of political tools at its disposal. It's been withholding sanctions until more violence, which has now happened. But sanctions will not change the president's mind. It's the backers of his political party, those people who are controlled by the financial groups and oligarchs, who are members of parliament, they will ultimately need to form a new majority to try to find a solution, paving the way for preliminary elections."
"It will not turn into a civil war because those who are supporting the government are not prepared to risk their lives. Those civilians that are fighting with the police they are being paid to do so. Ukraine will not split because there are not significant numbers of Ukrainians who are supporting the use of violence against civilians. It will not turn into people fighting with people. It is basically just civilians fighting with the riot police."
And what do the protesters want?
President Yanukovych's unwillingness to enact constitutional reforms that would limit his power is what is immediately behind the conflict's recent deterioration. But the bigger picture is that tensions have soared as Russia has said it is ready to resume providing loans that President Yanukovych's government needs to keep Ukraine's ailing economy afloat. Protesters in Kiev would prefer to form an alliance with the European Union. There also are fears among the opposition that the president is ready to choose a Russian-leaning loyalist to be his new prime minister.

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