The anti-government protests in Kiev, Ukraine have been growing in size and scope the Eastern European country since late November 2013. This week, the mostly-peaceful protests took a starkly violent turn as police and protesters both sustained heavy casualties and several deaths.
We covered the ongoing protests during our Feb. 20 hour, and Christian Science Monitor correspondent Sabra Ayres gave some much-needed on the ground perspective from the streets of Kiev.
“Today, actually this morning I have to admit that I was woken up by the fighting,” Ayres told On Point host Tom Ashbrook from central Kiev. The center of the protests remains Kiev’s Maidan, or Independence, Square. After a deadly day on Wednesday with up to 25 people dead, a temporary truce between protesters and the police fell apart early Thursday morning. While exact numbers remain sketchy, many sources have reported at least seventy deaths today.
“I woke up to hearing this firefight,” Ayres said.
Ayres described the scene in Maidan Square as “tense,” and detailed watching a young female medic who was shot (and who tweeted her shooting as it happened) stumble toward an ambulance. Some sources have reported her later death, but the woman returned to Twitter on Friday, indicating she was, in fact, alive.
“It’s about as bad as I’ve ever seen the situation in Ukraine,” Ayres said.
While others have reported that the exact scope of the protests is hard to process, most Ukrainians she has spoken with on the square want a few basic things.
“What they’re saying is they want [Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanokovich to step down,’” Ayres said. “They accuse him of corruption ,they accuse him of creating a power vertical where he has so much control over the country economically and politically. They feel there is just no opportunity for the country to grow.”
And as the protests continue, many European-oriented protesters feel the West has provided little but moral support.
“A lot of them will say, ‘Yeah, we need more than moral support,’” Ayres said.