Protestors in Ukraine Topple Lenin Statue
Protestors in Ukraine toppled a statue of Lenin on Sunday, the latest developments in the protests that have been sweeping parts of the country over the last weeks. Hundreds of thousands of protestors were at the latest rally in Kiev, persisting in their demands for a change of course for Russia's largest western neighbor. They waved European Union and Ukrainian flags in support of the association agreement with the EU that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was supposed to sign. The continued protests raise questions about Yanukovych's future, and the future of the country.
Of course, an equally appropriate question would be: There were still statues of Vladimir Ilyich in Ukraine? Really? Yep. And after the statue in Bessarabska Square fell, protestors reportedly chanted, "Good job!" The Lenin statue was seen by protestors as a remaining sign of Russian influence in the country.
Ukraine is torn between competing interests to the east and the west. On one hand, many Ukrainians, particularly young ones, see a brighter future in an association with the European Union rather than Russia; on the other hand, many of Ukraine's economic interests are best suited to friendly relations with its eastern neighbor:
Russia is a valuable trading partner for Ukraine. With their open trade agreement, Ukraine’s manufactured goods sell well in Russia because of their competitive prices and superior quality. Ending that agreement, which Russia will surely do if Ukraine signs a trade deal with the EU, will raise prices and could cripple Ukraine’s manufacturing sector. It’s not like many countries in the EU will buy Ukraine’s manufactured goods — or its chocolate, for that matter. Who needs Roshen when you’ve got Swiss?
But despite this, a pro-EU sentiment is strong, particularly in the Western regions of the country. The lead opponent to Yanukovych, a jailed opposition leader named Yuliya Tymoshenko, sent a message to Sunday's rally via her daughter. "We are on a razor's edge between a final plunge into cruel dictatorship and a return home to the European community," she said. "Don't give in, not a step back, don't give up, the future of Ukraine is in your hands."
The riots show no sign of slowing down. Protestors say they want Yanukovych to change course, and will stay on the streets until he gives in or steps down. "We don't want to be under Russia's thumb," a protestor told Reuters.