The current situation in Ukraine centers around a protest movement known as Euromaidan,
which demands closer Ukrainian integration with the European Union.
The public demonstrations and civil unrest in several of Ukraine's cities, in particular the capital of
Kiev, began on Nov. 21, 2013. Among other demands of the Euromaidan activists is a call
for the resignation of current Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who is unpopular among
many ethnic Ukrainians living in the central and western areas of the country. The Euromaidan
protests are Ukraine’s largest since the Orange Revolution of 2004, during which Yanukovych
was forced to resign as prime minister in the face of voting irregularity allegations. Despite this
setback, Yanukovych became president in February 2010 after winning the election, which was
contested by the Ukrainian opposition.
The trigger for the Euromaidan movement occurred on Nov. 21, 2013, when the Ukrainian
government suspended preparations for signing a Free Trade Agreement with the European
Union, and instead sought closer economic relations with Russia. Many participants from the
Orange Revolution of 2004 again took to the streets of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in protest
of this decision.
In recent days, the clashes between Euromaidan activists and Ukrainian police and security
forces have grown more violent, and after the first protestors and members of the security forces
were killed on Jan. 21, 2014, the number of people killed in the demonstrations has risen to more than
100 protestors, journalists, and security personnel. In addition, several hundred individuals have
been injured since the demonstrations began.
It is important to note that not all Ukrainians support the Euromaidan movement. This is
especially true in the eastern areas of Ukraine, where a large Russian minority lives. In addition,
many residents of eastern Ukraine speak Russian as their first language and have close
connections with Russia. Many of these individuals oppose the aims of the Euromaidan
movement and seek closer cooperation with Moscow.
One fundamental question that surrounds the Euromaidan phenomenon at this moment is
whether the events of the last few months constitute a protest or a revolution. If Euromaidan is
indeed the beginning of a Ukrainian revolution, there is the potential for a civil war in Ukraine,
which potentially could split the country along ethnic and linguistic lines. Such an event would
likely elicit some kind of response from Russia; however, whether such response would involve
the use of Russian military force in Ukraine is purely conjecture at this point.