As unrest continues, we examine what is driving the protests in Kiev and if outside influences are at play.
As unrest continues in Kiev, a meeting between the Ukrainian opposition and President Viktor Yanukovych failed to produce any agreement to end the political crisis, and the protesters returned to the streets.
Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko has called negotiations with the government a waste of time saying the authorities are ignoring the opposition’s demands.
The tussle has far-reaching consequences for the European continent and its relations with the East because the conflict has largely been painted in terms of an East versus West debate.
Right now we have 100 people missing and we have terror on the streets of Kiev, so we can longer call this country a democracy and we can no longer rely upon democratic institutes working in Ukraine.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians first took to the streets of Kiev after Yanukovych backed away from signing a free-trade deal with the European Union – which many people saw as the key to a European future – in favour of financial aid from Ukraine’s old Soviet master Russia.
The movement has since widened into broader protests against perceived misrule and corruption in the Yanukovych leadership.
While the EU and its Western allies have struggled to stand by their ideological allies in the country, Russia has stood firmly by President Yanukovych. And it has cemented this partnership with hard cash.
Russia has offered Ukraine $20bn in cheaper gas and other benefits, while the Europeans have been trying to sell the idea of Ukrainian membership of the EU as being of long-term benefit to the country.
And if the EU cannot bring Kiev into its club, that raises questions about the bloc’s potential – something that is quite likely being watched closely in Turkey, which has European ambitions of its own.
One aspect of the continuing protest in Ukraine is the emergence of a new batch of leaders opposed to Yanukovych.
The most visible of these are: Vitali Klitschko, the 42-year-old world boxing champion who spent years in Germany and holds a doctorate in sports science; Oleh Tyahnybok, the leader of the nationalist Svoboda or Freedom party who represents dissent in the west of the country; and Arseniy Yatsenyuk who, at 39-years-old, is the youngest of the three but has the most experience, having served as foreign and finance minister and speaker of Ukraine’s parliament.
So, what is driving the unrest and protests in Ukraine? And are outside influences at play?
To discuss this, Inside Story presenter David Foster is joined by guests: Valentin Yakushik, a professor at Kiev Mohyla Academy; Lilit Gevorgyan, an analyst at IHS Global Insight; and Alexander Korman, from the Ukrainian ministry of foreign relations. We also speak to Lesya Orobets, a Ukrainian politician and MP for the Fatherland opposition party.
“If they [the opposition] cannot come up with a single candidate, and it appears they haven’t been able to do it so far, I don’t think they really stand a strong chance to challenge the current president who has actually the entire administration and the administrative resources behind him – despite is falling popularity – and that is the biggest weakness of the opposition.”
Lilit Gevorgyan, an analyst at IHS Global Insight