On Saturday, February 22nd, the world woke up to the news that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had been voted out from office by the country's parliament, culminating the often deadly protests that have gripped the country since November 2013. Ironically, unlike with the Arab Springs, the residents of Ukraine had not been protesting to oust their leader but to try to convince him to change his policies.
It all began late last year when President Yanukovych suddenly decided to abandon a trade deal with Europe in favor of closer ties with Yanukovych suddenly decided to abandon a trade deal with Europe in favor of closer relations with Russia, who the country depends on for cheap oil and gas. This aroused the ire of the majority the population who is concerned about Russia's increasing influence on the country. Their biggest fear is that if the alliance continues, President Putin's dream of creating a new Eurasian Union with Ukraine as a central member may become a reality.
So, a few people took to the streets of the country's capital Kiev in what was supposed to be a peaceful protest. As the crowds grew, they started to cordon off government buildings and even occupied City Hall, forcing the government to send in riot police to control the situation. Over the months, the conflict has been erratic with attempts of reconciliation interspersed with violent protests. But it all seemed to come to a head on Saturday when deserted by all his allies, President Yanukovych decided to flee Kiev, for an unknown destination.
Declaring him constitutionally unable to perform his presidential duties, the country's parliament decided to oust Yanukovych and even set an election date of May 25th to vote for a new leader. Until then, senior Ukrainian opposition leader Oleksander Turchinov will take the helm to restore order to this politically fragile country.
The encouraging news is that former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been jailed for many years for her radical views against President Yanukovych's regime, has been released and is back on the streets asking the people of Ukraine to maintain peace and order until a new leader is elected.
Will the ouster of President Yanukovych help the country get away from the clutches of Russia and become a closer part of Europe? While nobody really knows some experts are skeptical. They think that Russia's pull is too dominant and Europe, which depends on Russia for their energy needs, is not about to jump in to save them. Only time will tell if the leaders of this divided nation will be able to find a solution that will make everyone happy. We sure hope they do!