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EuroMaidan Revolution

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The EuroMaidan Revolution is often credited with being the single most consequential event in Ukraine's modern history.

After pro-Kremlin President Viktor Yanukovych took power in 2010, the political and business landscape in Ukraine was gradually deteriorating.

In November 2013, Yanukovych refused to sign the long-awaited Association Agreement with the European Union, shortly thereafter receiving a loan from the Kremlin.

His refusal to sign the agreement sparked protests all over the country, with the largest demonstration taking place in Kyiv on Independence Square, known in Ukrainian as Maidan Nezalezhnosti.

The protests would turn into a revolution that lasted until February 2014, ending with Yanukovych fleeing to Russia.

More than 100 people, who are now known as the Heavenly Hundred, were murdered while standing up to tyranny. By ousting the pro-Kremlin regime, Ukrainians chose their own future with freedom of speech, rule of law, and democratic values.

What triggered the initial protests?

On Nov. 21, 2013, the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, controlled by Yanukovych, suspended the preparations for the signing of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU. This halted Ukraine’s pro-European trajectory in favor of pursuing closer ties with Russia and the Eurasian Customs Union, an economic-political union led by Russia.

Outraged by this decision, hundreds of people gathered on Independence Square that evening for a peaceful protest.

People hold a giant Ukrainian flag during a demonstration on February 23, 2014 in Warsaw supporting the new government of the Ukraine, after ousted president Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev to escape retribution for a week of deadly carnage. (Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images)

In the following days, the number of demonstrators on Maidan swelled to hundreds of thousands of people. Similar protests emerged in other Ukrainian cities including Lviv, Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Donetsk.

Many of the protesters were young people, including students, some of which started a strike and refused to attend classes.

How did it turn into a full-blown revolution?

At around 4 a.m. on Nov. 30, when a couple of hundred people (mostly students) stayed for the night on Maidan, the Ukrainian riot police, Berkut, encircled the protesters. Using excessive violence, Berkut forced the people out of the square, beating them up with batons and kicking those who fell down.

Some of the fleeing protesters sheltered at the nearby Mykhailivsky Cathedral.

On the morning of Nov. 30, Ukrainians woke up to shocking footage of the brutal beating. They didn’t wait long to react.

That same day thousands took the streets to protest, demanding punishment for those responsible for the overnight attack.

On Dec. 1, the protesters moved back into and started setting up a camp on Independence Square and occupying government buildings in Kyiv.

Anti-government protesters continue to clash with police in Independence square, despite a truce agreed between the Ukrainian president and opposition leaders on February 20, 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine. After several weeks of calm, violence has again flared between police and anti-government protesters, who are calling for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych over corruption and an abandoned trade agreement with the European Union. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

All of the police’s attempts to clear the streets ended up causing even a bigger backlash, bringing more and more people to join the uprising.

On Dec. 8, "A Million’s March" took place in central Kyiv with around 1 million people demanding the resignation of Azarov’s government. Protests continued all across Ukraine.

What were the revolution's demands?

The EuroMaidan initially began with people protesting the disruption of Ukraine’s European integration. But as the authorities used force to repress peaceful demonstrations, people’s demands changed.

Ukrainians opposed the widespread corruption, police violence, and abuse of power by Yanukovych and his allies, eventually demanding his resignation.

How did the revolution result in the murder of more than 100 protestors?

From the start, the pro-Kremlin government and riot police thought they could crush the protest by force. It didn’t work, in turn, it caused more people to protest.

Thousands of anti-government protesters hold Ukrainian national flags as they gather at Kyiv's Independent Square on February 2, 2014. Ukraine's opposition holds a new rally amid concern about military intervention in the country's worst crisis since independence, after pledges of support from Europe and the United States and fresh accusations from Russia. Ukraine's opposition said it had requested financial aid from Western powers that have pledged support for the protest movement against President Viktor Yanukovych. (Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

On Jan. 16, the government adopted a package of anti-democratic laws, restricting freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. Known as the “dictatorship laws,” they aimed to criminalize the opposition and civil society. The adoption of these laws had the opposite effect.

The number of people outraged by the government’s actions increased, while the riot police turned excessively violent.

The next day, several public organizations announced a full mobilization on Independence Square.

More and more people camped in the square. They called for "massive and immediate resistance" to the “criminals in power.”

On Jan. 19, the riot police and other forces tried to push protesters out of the camp, shooting firearms at them. The protesters built barricades, used Molotov cocktails, famously burned tires, and threw paving stones at law enforcement.

On Jan. 22, a sniper killed the first two protesters, Serhiy Nigoyan and Mykhailo Zhyznevskyi, the first of the Heavenly Hundred. Two more protesters were injured that day, eventually dying in the hospital.

Protesters take part in a battle training on Maidan square in Kyiv on February 12, 2014. (NurPhoto/Corbis via Getty Images)

On Feb. 18-20 violence in Kyiv escalated dramatically, with law enforcement firing at crowds of unarmed protesters, killing nearly a hundred of them.

A turning point came when on Feb. 20, the parliament, including lawmakers from Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, voted to condemn violence against the demonstrators. The next day, protesters demanded Yanukovych’s resignation.

Yanukovych soon fled Ukraine. His 140-hectare luxurious residence called Mezhyhirya just outside Kyiv was opened to the public.

On Feb. 22, the parliament removed Yanukovych from office. By then, Yanukovych’s pro-Kremlin government had collapsed.

Ukraine's Orange Revolution

What is the legacy of the revolution?

The EuroMaidan Revolution was a defining moment in the history of modern Ukraine, a time when the Ukrainian people made a clear conscious decision that they want their country to grow into a full-fledged democracy and become a member of the EU.

In the following years, Ukraine signed an association agreement with the EU and received a visa-free regime with the bloc. In 2022, during Russia's all-out war, in a historic turn, the EU granted Ukraine candidate status.

The uprising also laid the foundation for the development of a strong civil society in Ukraine and ignited a cultural renaissance, as Ukrainians started to explore their history and identity more deeply.

Anti-government protesters let off fireworks during demonstrations in Independence Square on February 19, 2014 in Kyiv, Ukraine. After several weeks of calm, violence has again flared between police and anti-government protesters, who are calling for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych over corruption and an abandoned trade agreement with the European Union. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, after losing influence over the Ukrainian government in 2014, Moscow launched a war against Ukraine in an attempt to pull Kyiv back into its orbit.

Russia occupied Crimea in March 2014. It soon launched an attack on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, occupying parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

In February 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, bombing cities all across the country.

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