By: FOX News Radio’s Jessica Golloher in Crimea, Ukraine
Two days after Ukraine’s now disbanded riot police killed more than 50 people via sniper attacks in the worst violence since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kiev’s Independence Square looks like a war zone— and well, according to protester Slava, it is. He’s been here fighting for what he calls the “right” Ukraine since November.
This after fugitive embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych decided to scrap a free-trade agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow. After Yanukovych made the proclamation, Moscow announced a $19 billion dollar loan to its neighbor and a dramatic cut in the price of gas supplies.
Thousands in Ukraine became enraged, especially in the capital of Kiev. They were in favor of the years-long process the country had been on to pave the way to join the European Union. As a result, demonstrators created a makeshift camp in central Independence square. They wanted to make their presence known, right in front of parliament.
And they did. One can see sprawling tents throughout the square as smoke billows from the makeshift huts. People stream in and out, greeting each other, asking if someone has a plate– would you like some soup? Do you have sugar? The smoke is bad, today, yes?
This scene is much more subdued than days earlier when the square was on fire. Demonstrators were caught on film throwing firebombs, sticks and pieces of parliament at Ukrainian riot police. They wanted a Ukraine without Yanukovych and they were dead set on doing whatever it took.
The violence was so intense that Yanukovich agreed to a European-brokered cease fire. Problem is, the same day the cease fire was agreed upon, Berkut riot police started shooting at protesters, killing one after the other.
More violence ensued forcing Yanukovych to flee. And, according to the people they won.
Unfortunately, fomenting a revolution appears to be the easy part. What now? Ukraine is a deeply divided country. It’s not just about facing west towards Europe or east towards Moscow.
Every single protester that I interviewed in Independence Square said they had no problem with the Kremlin.
When I asked Dmitry what he thought about Russia, he said, “You know. We’re friends. They’re our neighbor. We have no problem with them. We just want the oligarchs out and the crooks gone. We want a good Ukraine.”
Dmitry’s response could be duplicated across Ukraine, as well as a pro-European one. On Thursday, Ukraine voted in favor of a 21-member parliament. Critics say it’s not exactly the ‘A’ team. Some of those elected have faced allegations of corruption, many were part of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna’s party and others were heroes of the violence that ousted Yanukovych.
The same day that the pro-western parliament was agreed upon, armed men in Russian-speaking Crimea took over regional parliament and several surrounding buildings. They lowered Ukraine’s flag and raised Russia’s.
Crimea is some 60% Russian speaking. Many believe that the new government will persecute them because they lean towards Moscow. They’re afraid their schools will be closed and that they’ll be targeted.
Meanwhile, armed gunmen have also taken over a military airport near the port of Sevastopol where the Kremlin has a military base and the International Simferopol Airport. The news has stoked Ukraine’s fears of a Russian occupation.
Meanwhile, Yanukovych is in Russia where he has asked the Kremlin to keep him safe from persecution. He claims that his still president of Ukraine. This, as Moscow has deployed some 150,000 troops to the Black Sea for what it calls exercises to establish Russia’s military readiness.
Now the real work begins.
In Crimea, Jessica Golloher, FOX News Radio.