Revolution in Ukraine as president deposed. Will the country now split in two?
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After months of protests in Ukraine, events quickened over the weekend. First, opposition leader and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison, and then the president Viktor Yanukovych, who had fled into hiding was deposed by parliament. The speaker, Oleksandr Turchinov was appointed interim leader of the country and quickly called for a government of ‘national unity’ to take the reins before new elections in May.
Yanukovych appeared on television from an ‘undisclosed location on Saturday night’, still asserting his claims to the presidency and comparing the protesters to Nazis, but his time seemed very much up as even members of his own party turned against him, accusing him of betrayal and giving "criminal orders".
Ukraine splits down pro European and pro Russian lines, and the fear now is that the country will fracture. The narrative in the pro Russian parts of the country is far from this being a triumph for ‘democracy and freedom’ but paints a terrifying spectre of fascists taking over the country and selling it downriver to foreign interests. Vladimir Putin, who has overplayed a clumsy hand during the crisis is tied up with the closing ceremony of his showpiece Winter Olympics, but will doubtless be fuming both at events and at their timing. The US has gone so far as to warn Russia not to send in troops.
While Yanukovych is now a spent force and unlikely to draw any practical Kremlin sympathy, should the new government strip Russia of its naval base and move too enthusiastically against Russian interests, trouble could indeed be ahead. One of the interim government’s first moves was to annul a bill that allowed Russian to be used as a second official language in regions with large Russian-speaking populations.
"It will definitely depend on how the new government behaves," said Vladimir Zharikin, a Moscow-based analyst. "If they continue with these revolutionary excesses then certainly, that could push other parts of the country towards separatist feelings. Let's hope that doesn't happen."
With central authority all but broken in Kiev, men patrolled the streets with baseball bats. Let’s hope that doesn’t come to symbolise the coming years.