Ukraine: BBC documentary highlights protests in 2014
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It has been the best part of a decade since Ukraine’s Maidan Revolution shook the country. What began as peaceful protests resulted in bloodshed which in turn led to the downfall of former President Viktor Yanukovych who threatened to “hang all those protesting from lamposts”, according to a new BBC documentary.
The uprising in Ukraine in 2014, which lasted for some three months was in part sparked by the growing discontent caused by Mr Yanukovych’s increasingly authoritative rule.
But the main catalyst was his failure to sign the European Union (EU) association agreement which offered the country developmental assistance over many years.
Instead, Mr Yanukovych sided with Russia, telling the EU summit in Lithuania in November 2013 that he could not sign due to pressure from Moscow, stating that he could not afford to sacrifice the deal with the £510million offered by the EU as insufficient.
In retaliation, some 10,000 people gathered in Independence Square — also known as the Maidan — in Kyiv, chanting “Ukraine in Europe”. The main goal of the protests was “not to allow Yanukovych to sell Ukraine to Russia.”
There was a small group in support of the President but they were heavily outweighed by the pro-Europe demonstrators, who also received support from foreign politicians and diplomats — a fact that deeply infuriated Vladimir Putin.
Then, in mid-February, months into the uprising, the special police units upped the ante: they opened fire on the protestors.
Oleksandr Turchynov, formerly the Acting President of Ukraine, explained on the Putin vs The West BBC documentary, released last month, why February 18 was an important day.
Not only was it when the police opened fire, but when the President allegedly lied about promising to end the killings.
The 58-year-old said: “All the security forces were driven to the centre of Kyiv. Then they just started shooting.
“Yanukovych was running around the office. He was threatening, shouting, saying that he would hang us all from lampposts and that he would drown the Maidan in blood.
“I waited for him to calm down. Then I said ‘consider me scared, but now let’s talk about the matter at hand: we must put an end to this bloodshed’.
“We agreed that we would retreat to the Maidan and that his forces would stop using firearms. But unfortunately, the President lied.”
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Before they could retreat, demonstrators were shot at. February 20 was the bloodiest day of the uprising with at least 21 killed. In order to push back the police, protestors set fire to car tires and built barricades with hundreds camping out overnight, Ukraine flags flying high.
But by the end of the demonstrations, 103 protestors and 13 police were killed. Most of the protests had been shot by snipers with the fallen demonstrators later becoming known as the “Heavenly Hundred”.
The massacre was viewed as one step too far. Mr Yanukovych lost his legitimacy and his government collapsed. He then fled to exile in Russia just days later.
The turmoil in Ukraine was far from over. That same year, the Donbas was and has continued to be home to conflict and Russia illegally annexed Crimea, and Maidan is still to this day a place that harbours pain for those who remember what happened.
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