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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Ukrainian Opposition Leader: ‘We Are Disgusted By Leaders’

Anti-riot police draw up in front of anti-Yanukovych protesters on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 11, 2013. Ukrainian security forces pulled out of the epicentre of mass protests in Kiev today after a nine hour standoff with thousands of demonstrators, in a major boost for the opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych. (Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images)

Anti-riot police draw up in front of anti-Yanukovych protesters on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 11, 2013. (Viktor Drachev/AFP/Getty Images)

Opposition leader Olga Bielkova says the attempt by the police to disperse protesters overnight in Ukraine was yet another instance of the country’s president breaking a promise.

The police attempted to rush thousands of protesters out of the Maidan, Kiev’s main square, at 1:00 a.m., shortly after the president said he was committed to talks with the opposition.

Bielkova speaks to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson just before setting off to rejoin protesters at the Maidan.

She says the bitter cold is not enough to keep Ukrainians away, and that at this point, believes a resolution to the conflict will require intervention from abroad — at a minimum to make sure the government doesn’t resort to force again.

Interview Highlights: Olga Bielkova

On why the protest is happening

“The word ‘disgust’, which was used in [U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s] statement, is exactly how I feel right now. We are disgusted by the formal powers and our bad leadership in Ukraine. So you need to understand that thousands of people were on Maidan for the last few weeks. It all started because people were protesting by the president’s position and acts regarding E.U. association agreement. At first, he was promising people that he would sign it, but then, he changed his mind. But step by step, the ruling powers started using police and army forces to pull the protest down in a very brutal way. The mood of the crowds refocused on getting justice in place. They wanted those who were put in prison for no reason to be out of prison and they wanted government to be out.”

On the president’s decision

“Well first of all, his own promise to the people who voted for him was always, you will never find any talk, any public speech where he would object E.U. future of Ukraine, he was promising people that this was what he would do as president … I don’t think he can disregard that so many people are on the streets right now, protesting for this very abrupt, unexpected decision.”

On how long the protesters will stay out in the cold

“You know, Ukrainian people are very strong, and right now, they are very angry and determined and ready to stay for as long, for their principals, as long as it is needed. You will see from the news today, more and more people are coming. They are rebuilding their camps, and I am sure this time we will resolve the issue and we will prove that Ukrainians can stand up for their principals.”

Guest

  • Olga Bielkova, member of the Ukrainian Parliament from the opposition party UDAR, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance For Freedom.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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