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#Euromaidan: How Ukraine Came to Be Rocked by Protests

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.

An anonymous image circulated online by #Euromaidan supporters.

An anonymous image circulated online by #Euromaidan supporters.

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.

An image listing various cities where #Euromaidan protests were held in Ukraine and abroad: Brasil, South Korea, India, Austria, Czech Republicand other. Image by Twitter user Ihor Shevchenko (@upiterian). Used with permission.

An image listing various cities where #Euromaidan protests were held in Ukraine and abroad, including Brazil, South Korea, India, Austria and Czech Republic. Image by Twitter user Ihor Shevchenko (@upiterian). Used with permission.

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.

A humorous caption under a photo of a Ukrainian Prime Minister reads: "Enough whining! Grab an umbrella and join [the protest on the Independence Square]! An anonymous demotivator circulated online.

A humorous caption under a photo of a Ukrainian Prime Minister reads: “Enough whining! Grab an umbrella and join [the protest in Independence Square]!.” Image, created by an anonymous author, has been circulated online widely.

Anastasia Radievska, a Ukrainian living in Australia, summed up the protesters’ feelings in a tweet:

Twitter user Ivan Bandura reported from Kyiv:

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.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians join #Euromaidan protests in Kyiv on Nov. 24, 2013; photo by Ivan Bandura, used with permission.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainians join #Euromaidan protests in Kyiv on Nov. 24, 2013. Photo by Ivan Bandura. Used with permission.

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.

On the morning of the protest, Kyiv-based blogger Taras tweeted:

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]:

#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.

User Vitalii Vovk on Twitter added:

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.

These events did not go unnoticed in the EU either. Štefan Füle, the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, tweeted:

“Youth of the nation for Eurointegration!”

Young people participating in #Euromaidan protests in Kyiv. Nov. 24, 2013. Photo by Ivan Bandura. Used with permission.

Young people participating in #Euromaidan protests in Kyiv on Nov. 24, 2013. Photo by Ivan Bandura. Used with permission.

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.

On the same day, students of major Kyiv universities announced [photos] an official strike and marched to Independence Square [photos], calling on students around the country to follow their example.

Students in Kyiv go on strike in protest of government decision to suspend EU intergration. Nov. 25, 2013. Photo by Ivan Bandura. Used with permission

Students in Kyiv go on strike on Nov. 25, 2013 in protest of the government's decision to suspend EU integration. Photo by Ivan Bandura. Used with permission

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]:

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.

What's next?

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?

A protester in Kyiv hold a sign "Europe starts with you". Nov. 23, 2013. Photo by Olha Snitsarchuk. Used with permission.

A protester in Kyiv on Nov. 23, 2013 holds a sign that reads, “Europe begins with you”. Photo by Olha Snitsarchuk. Used with permission.

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