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    Ukraine: Protesters call for snap election to unseat President Viktor Yanukovych

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    Demonstrators have taken to the streets of Kiev, and other cities in Ukraine, calling for the resignation of current president, Viktor Yanukovych. In response, police on Thursday warned protesters that they face a 'harsh' crackdown if they do not clear out of the government buildings they are occupying in the country's capital, according to Reuters.

    For those you not up on Ukrainian politics, here's a rundown.

    Ukraine became its own country in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell apart. However, influence from Russia has never been too far away since. The country became democratic, but as it is in many former-Soviet states, corruption and nepotism run rampant and pose a threat to creating a real democracy with rule of law and an open economy.

    Fast forward to 2004. There was a big revolution called the Orange Revolution. This was just after the election wherein Viktor Yushchenko ran against Viktor Yanukovych and lost. The people felt that the election was rigged, so they took to the streets en masse. The elections results were so wonky that they held a second run-off, this time with outside observers, and Yushchenko was declared the official winner.

    Viktor Yanukovych won the election fair and square in 2010. However, there's a lot people don't like about, the first thing being he is corrupt as sin. He lives in a palace called Mezhyhirya, which is on a property only a little bit smaller than Monaco. Everything there is marble and elegant wood and it has been reported that he kept ostriches and kangaroos on the grounds, with varying degrees of success. His sons--he has two--are exceptionally wealthy, as well, having taken full advantage of their princely connections.

    While the Yanukovych family leads lives of excessive luxury, ordinary people in Ukraine a struggling. People go to work and don't get paid. People who do manage to do alright in business have to bribe people and pay for protection.

    Ukraine started discussion with the European Union to start the process of integration into the economic region. (And that's a very long and boring process that takes years to complete.) Young people found hope in this, as they saw it as a step closer to bringing European values, as well as educational and economic opportunities to Ukrainians. But Yanukovych, who is awfully buddy-buddy with Vladimir Putin and Russia, crushed their dreams on November 21 when he blocked the first step of the process.

    A few of the upset people demonstrated. Then this past weekend, police responded with brute force, beating people without discrimination and sending protesters to hospitals with serious injuries. This only upset other people who then flooded Independence Square (Maidan Square) and now there are hundreds of thousands of people all over Ukraine blocking government buildings and camping in public places, demanding that Yanukovych be removed via snap elections.

    While all of this has been going on, Yanukovych has been in China the past four days.


    For more about Damian Kolodiy, visit Watch his documentary about Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, 'The Orange Chronicles'***


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