Even though Ukrainian President and opposition leaders made an agreement which would reduce presidential powers and set an election before the end of the year, it looks like the many thousands of protesters in Independence Square and central Kiev won’t be going anywhere soon. Despite what the opposition leaders say, many of the demonstrators declare they are not going to stop until Yanukovych resigns… or is toppled.
Things are not looking good for Yanukoych. The Ukraine parliament has shown a shift away from him, by moving to release his arch rival and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is in prison for 30 months. Yanukovych has left Kiev, apparently to go to Kharkiv in the east of the country. Kharkiv is one of Yanukovych’s power bases; but there have been protests against him there too. There are also rumours that he has fled to Belarus, but this is not confirmed.
Commentators think Yanukovych won’t leave quietly. The agreement he made with the opposition said he wouldn’t call a state of emergency. But if the protesters don’t leave Maidan, the agreement would be null and void, leaving it open for the president to declare martial law. Then the demonstrators wouldn’t be facing police – the army could move in, using heavy weaponry which the protesters could not resist. Main battle tanks and mortars would make short work of crushing the barricades and dispersing or killing the protesters.
However, the army might refuse orders to kill their fellow Ukrainians. Some soldiers have already aligned themselves with the Maidan protesters. If sufficient numbers of troops switch sides the military would refuse to kill their own and that would leave Yanukovych with no alternative but to flee – if he is not arrested or killed first.
But there’s also the danger of civil war breaking out, and perhaps the entire country being torn apart. That is something that should be avoided at all costs. Yanukovych must stand down now.