Thursday, August 28, 2014


Ukraine

Defiance, Skepticism In Lviv Over Yanukovych-Opposition Deal

People cheer as they listen to police officers from Lviv who have joined the antigovernment protests during a rally on Independence Square in Kyiv on February 21.
People cheer as they listen to police officers from Lviv who have joined the antigovernment protests during a rally on Independence Square in Kyiv on February 21.
By Tom Balmforth
LVIV, Ukraine -- Hundreds of protesters have gathered on Lviv's Freedom Avenue to mourn the estimated 100 lives claimed in clashes on February 20, the deadliest that have rocked Ukraine in more than two decades of independence.

Old women wiped away tears. Others murmured in prayer. But behind solemn faces lay defiance and anger.

President Viktor Yanukovych on February 21 agreed to an early presidential election; to reinstate the country's 2004 constitution, which would curtail his powers; and to form a government of national unity. But few in this western Ukrainian bastion of opposition support appeared satisfied.

LIVE BLOG: Ukraine Crisis

Yulian Konechny, 21, is a medical student from Lviv who came out to Freedom Avenue dressed in his white scrubs. "If I was [President Yanukovych], I would try and flee the country," he says. "Otherwise he'll end up like [Muammar] Qaddafi or with a life sentence or the electric chair. He will not leave the country alive. People will never forgive the deaths of a hundred people."

The deal hammered out by the opposition and Yanukovych overnight stipulates a presidential election by the end of the year and a return to the old constitution by September.

'Close, But We Want More'

The Ukrainian parliament approved the constitutional changes on February 21. But in order to stick, any deal ultimately still needs a seal of approval from the street. And many are highly skeptical in Lviv, the cobblestone-paved city in the west of Ukraine that has served as a bastion of opposition support.

Anna Buchatska, 37, a lecturer at a Lviv university, says those on the streets would not accept the deal in its current incarnation. "We do want [early elections], but we don't believe that he can offer anything suitable," she says. "I think that all the people that are standing here and the people from Maidan in Kyiv will not go for this."

Buchatska believes that the deal signifies that the opposition is closer to its goals. She believes Lviv is already free. "I personally believe in my heart that victory is close at hand," she adds.

READ MORE: Can Deal End The Crisis?

But there is a sense among some that the opposition leaders have failed to represent their interests well. Mykola, 26, from the Self-Defense protest movement's security wing and who declined to give his last name, says the opposition should also be punished for failing to marshal the protest movement and allowing it to spiral out of control.

"I don't see the point of elections. The elections will come later, of course, but first we need an international court to judge the president and judge the opposition," he says. "And for the president, the only appropriate punishment is the death penalty."

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