US urges Ukraine to listen to its people

Written by on December 3, 2013 in Europe - No comments

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Ukrainian government on Tuesday to “listen to the voices of its people” after President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to spurn an agreement with the European Union sparked days of massive protests.

”We urge the Ukrainian government to listen to the voices of its people who want to live in freedom and in opportunity and prosperity. We urge all sides to conduct themselves peacefully. Violence has no place in a modern European state,” Kerry told a news conference after a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

After two weeks of street protests, Ukraine’s parliament has debated and voted on a no confidence motion by Ukraine’s opposition. But the hope of protesters, who chanted outside the parliament, were dashed, as the government defeated the move for a vote of no confidence.

The vote extended the most serious political confrontation seen here since the Orange Revolution of 2004.

But Ukraine’s embattled president, Viktor Yanukovych, evidently felt secure enough Tuesday to fly out of the country.  He embarked on a four-day visit to China, leaving behind a nation divided.

Thousands of protesters besieged the parliament, banging drums and chanting for his resignation. One named Paul, a 50-year-old religious worker, says he was motivated by widespread corruption.“Our government and our officials, they deceive people!  They say they will work for improving life, but they work for improving their own lives,” he said.

Inside parliament, Udar Party leader Vitali Klitschko hammered on the corruption theme.  He demanded dismissal of the government.  He warned Prime Minister Mykola Azarov:

“Do not drive yourself and the country into a corner.  Do not share the lot of dictators who fled their countries forever,” said in Ukrainian Klitschko, a former boxer.

In response, Prime Minister Azarov accused Ukraine’s previous government of bankrupting the country by signing a 10-year contract to buy Russian gas at ruinously high prices.Speaking in Russian, the prime minister said this contract “virtually brought Ukraine to its knees and drained its financial economic system.”

When the vote came, lawmakers followed party lines, defeating the motion by 40 votes.

By nightfall, thousands of protesters gathered again on Ukraine’s Maidan or Independence Square, just the way they did almost a decade ago during the Orange Revolution.

“This Maidan is more radical than the first Maidan, so people will not go home,” said Paul.

Before nightfall, behind their barricades, protesters were seen carrying boxes of gas masks, spools of barbed wire and stacks of orange helmets.

Source: VOANews.com
(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/statephotos)

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James Brooke is VOA Moscow bureau chief, covering Russia and the former USSR. With The New York Times, he worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa, Latin America, Canada and Japan/Koreas. He studied Russian in college during the Brezhnev years, first visited Moscow as a reporter during the final months of Gorbachev, and then came back for reporting forays during the Yeltsin and early Putin years. In 2006, he moved to Moscow to report for Bloomberg. He joined VOA in Moscow last summer – the hottest on record. Follow Jim on Twitter @VOA_Moscow.