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Ukraine Marks Euromaidan's Fifth Anniversary, Amid Lack Of Prosecutions


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and his wife take part in a ceremony marking the fifth anniversary of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv on November 21.

KYIV -- President Petro Poroshenko headed a delegation of top Ukrainian officials marking the fifth anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests, which began a series of events that tilted Ukraine's geopolitical orientation toward the West.

Poroshenko took part in a ceremony on Kyiv’s Independence Square on November 21 to commemorate the activists killed during the three months of peaceful protests on the square in 2013-14 that forced Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych to flee to Russia.

Poroshenko was joined by Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman and parliament speaker Andriy Parubiy at the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred memorial on the square, where many of the 100 activists were killed, most by security forces.

"Dignity and freedom -- for Ukrainians these are not just words," said Poroshenko during a visit later in the day in the Zhytomyr region. "For our people, this is the meaning of life for all ages….The Revolution of Dignity has become a logical continuation of the eternal aspiration to freedom of people who never tolerated tyranny and dictatorship."

In the weeks following Yanukovych's February 21, 2014, ouster, Russia illegally occupied Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula before annexing it, and also supported separatist forces as they fought for control of parts of Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

November 21 is officially known as Prosperity and Freedom Day in Ukraine to mark the start of the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2013-14 Euromaidan uprising.

The day was known as Freedom Day from 2005 to 2011 but was canceled while Yanukovych was president. Poroshenko reinstated it after becoming president in 2014.

A series of special events and commemorations were planned for the holiday around Ukraine.

A survey of 80 Ukrainian analysts, political scientists, activists, and media representatives showed that an "absolute" majority believes the Euromaidan uprising "achieved victory," said Iryna Bekeshkyna of the Democratic Initiatives Forum.

They cited the "restoration of the course of European integration" as the main achievement, she said, including Ukraine's visa-free regime with the European Union and the signing of an Association Agreement with the bloc.

Many of the experts, however, said there had been a "slipping" of the reforms begun after the revolution and said some necessary changes in society had not yet begun.

There has also been dissatisfaction with the pace of arrests of those responsible for the 100 protester deaths during Euromaidan, during which 13 security forces were also killed.

Serhiy Horbatiuk, chief of the special investigations directorate of Ukraine's Prosecutor-General's Office, said on November 21 that investigators are probing 470 crimes committed against demonstrators during the uprising.

He added that some 289 cases have been sent to the courts and 52 people have thus far been found guilty. Nine people have been given jail sentences.

But Horbatiuk said he was surprised that 33 suspects are still serving in the Interior Ministry and national police force, many in administrative posts. He criticized the courts for their slow pace in prosecuting the cases.

"The investigations into the Euromaidan crimes have not become a government priority," Horbatiuk said.

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