On November 21, 2013, Ukrainian government officially announced it was suspending preparations for an EU-Ukraine Association agreement, due to be signed in Vilnius the following week. The agreement would be a historic landmark in Ukraine's economic and political integration into Europe, and was seen by many as a sign of its geopolitcal choice between Russian and the EU.
As Global Voices reported on the first evening of the protests, protesters frustrated with the government's decision quickly gathered in downtown Kyiv and other cities. The protests, organized on social media, were soon dubbed “Euromaidan” (European Square), and several hashtags associated with the demonstrations were created to filter updates, such as #євромайдан, #евромайдан, and #euromaidan. By November 24, 2013, there were 100,000 people in the streets of Kyiv calling for EU integration.
The situation continues to develop, but what follows is chronology of the protests so far.
Peaceful #Euromaidan protests spread across Ukraine and the world
After initial protests on November 21, protesters came out the following evenings, each time in larger numbers, and protests spread across every region of Ukraine and spilled over its borders. As previously mentioned by Global Voices, the amazing geographic development of #euromaidan protests around the world has been recorded on an interactive map developed by Lviv-based Facebook user Bogdan Tsap.
Social media users played a key role in providing both coverage of #euromaidan protests and encouragement for participation through creative posters, signs and slogans [photos] that they shared widely online.Anastasia Radievska, a Ukrainian living in Australia, summed up the protesters’ feelings in a tweet:
— Anastasia Radievska (@Ananas_Rar) November 23, 2013
— Ivan Bandura (@ivanbandura) November 23, 2013
Until the end of the week, the most active protests were taking place in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, where students started a massive rally and set up a tent camp on the main square [photos, video]. While the protests in Lviv and Kyiv were mostly peaceful, government pressure and instances of police brutality were reported in other regions.
Culmination of the #Euromaidan protests
The largest gathering yet of #Euromaindan protesters took place on November 24 in Kyiv. Some 100,000 people marched across the center of Kyiv [uk, video] to express their firm support for Ukraine’s European integration and their dissatisfaction with the current state of the country, their numbers by far exceeding even the most generous predictions.
Again, social media played a crucial role, with new tweets tagged #євромайдан being added approximately every two seconds on Twitter, and protest organizers setting up a Euromaidan Facebook page [uk, en] that gathered close to 70,000 followers in less than a week.
— Ukrainian Updates (@Ukroblogger) November 24, 2013
As the protesters filled the center of Kyiv, those who were following online media turned to traffic cameras, the only visual medium offering an impressive view of the protests. Under a screenshot from a traffic cam on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), Dmytro Kondratenko tweeted [uk]:
— Dmytro Kondratenko (@magentisEU) November 24, 2013
#євромайдан Glory to Ukraine!
While the Ukrainian press has been known for reluctant coverage of protests and civil unrest, the unusual amount of activity on social media proved to be impossible to ignore and prompted many international news outlets to pay attention to #Euromaidan.
— Vitalii Vovk (@v_volf) November 23, 2013
BBC News – European Square: Hashtag of Ukraine protest http://bbc.in/1e7zGtB We are in top trends of BBC #євромайдан #euromaidan
The void of Euromaidan reports on TV channels was filled by an independent journalistic initiative Hromadske.tv [uk]. Based on successful crowdfunding experiments, it was supposed be a pilot public media project with periodic broadcasts, but ended up providing daily updates on the protests. On November 24, Hromadske.tv reached 761,380 viewers [uk] with live coverage of #Euromaidan rallies in Kyiv.
Social media users also filled the gap of rally coverage at night, when the risk of provocations or police crackdowns increased. Both professional and citizen journalists livestreamed the #Euromaidan rallies, such as UStream users aronets, spilno-tv or tarasovska, and Radio Svoboda representatives (RFE/RL).
On November 24, protests in Kyiv peaked, and despite occasional clashes with police [photos], mass protests on that day ended peacefully with participants setting up tents in the center of Kyiv [photo] and holding their ground.
— Štefan Füle (@StefanFuleEU) November 24, 2013
“Youth of the nation for Eurointegration!”
However, after the high point of protests on November 24, the energy of #Euromaidan seems to have subsided. Many of those who had come to Kyiv for the protests returned home, while others remained, hoping for a reaction from the government. In a televised address to the nation on November 25, President Viktor Yanukovich gave no indication that the government would overturn its decision.
A student strike injected new life into the #Euromaidan protests and even helped unite the partisan and non-partisan camps of protesters who had previously experienced a split. The students announced they would not go away until the government fulfills the demand of signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement.
On his Facebook page, political humorist Roman Shrayk even compared [ru] this event to an episode in a well-known film:
во второй части “властелина колец” есть такой момент, когда на защиту крепости приходит колонна эльфов)
прямая трансляция студенческого митинга. студенты крутые)
смотрите – http://www.radiosvoboda.org/media/videotube/42.html
In the second part of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, there is a moment when a line of elves arrives to defend the fortress)
Live broadcast from a student rally. students are cool)
watch – http://www.radiosvoboda.org/media/videotube/42.html
Two days later, Lviv-based Twitter user Sahsa Chiuchko expressed the continuous determination of student protesters [uk]:
змерзну, захворію, здохну там у Києві, але поїду! бо потім совість не дозволить тут жити, якщо все добре буде #євромайдан
— Сашка Чучко (@neksichka) November 27, 2013
I will get cold or sick, or even die in Kyiv, but I will go [there]! Because otherwise my consciousness would not allow me to live here if everything works out #євромайдан
Many influential public figures have joined the student protests, including Ukrainian singer and 2004 Eurovision song contest winner Ruslana.
A Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit, where Ukraine planned to sign the EU Association Agreement, is scheduled to take place on November 28 and 29, 2013. As Ukrainian President Yanukovich prepares to depart to Vilnius and #Euromaidan rallies enter their second week, the hope that the government fulfills protesters’ demands is growing thin.
Coordinators of the protests are calling on Ukrainian citizens to join their ranks on the weekend of November 29, and it seems that with a widespread student strike that the protests could still grow. However, the question on everyone's mind remains: If President Yanukovych does not sign an Association Agreement in Vilnius, what then?