Western Ukraine has declared independence from the rest of Ukraine, the International Business Times reports. The BBC posted a video of soldiers surrendering to independence demonstrators in the city of Lviv. The International Business Times reports in much more depth about the declaration:
Hours after protesters seized the prosecutor's office in central Lviv and forced a surrender by interior ministry police, the executive committee of the region council - also called the People's Rada – claimed control over the region.The International Business Times reports that Ukraine is facing Civil War. This is in line with the Washington Post's reporting, which also says that Ukraine is facing a split.
"The regime has begun active military action against people. Dozens of people have been killed in Kiev and hundreds have been wounded. Fulfilling the will of society, the executive committee of the Lviv region's council, the People's Rada, is assuming full responsibility for the fate of the region and its citizens," read a statement.
The move was in response to the Ukrainian government's declaration that they will use deadly force against Kiev protestors in "self-defense:"
The regional assembly in Lviv issued a statement condemning Yanukovich's government for its "open warfare" on demonstrators in Kiev.CNN places the death toll now at 100 in Kiev, although most other sources put the figure much lower. However, France24 raised its estimate to 67.
Poland said Ukrainians blocked the Korczowa border crossing near Lviv. According to local media, opposition groups in other western cities including Khmelnitsky, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhorod and Ternopil, also stormed public buildings.
France24 is continuing to run a live Twitter feed. Its latest was a statement from the White House regarding the violence:
DTN Ukraine, a Ukrainian source, reports that talks between the EU and Yanukovich are now over. France says that this is the bloodiest day in Ukrainian history since the country became independent over 20 years ago.
Here is the full text of the White House Press Secretary's statement on the situation in Ukraine:
We are outraged by the images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people. We urge President Yanukovych to immediately withdraw his security forces from downtown Kyiv and to respect the right of peaceful protest, and we urge protesters to express themselves peacefully. "We urge the Ukrainian military not to get involved in a conflict that can and should be resolved by political means. The use of force will not resolve the crisis -- clear steps must be taken to stop the violence and initiate meaningful dialogue that reduces tension and addresses the grievances of the Ukrainian people. The United States will work with our European allies to hold those responsible for violence accountable and to help the Ukrainian people get a unified and independent Ukraine back on the path to a better future."
One France24 source posted on Twitter that EU foreign ministers were "grim-faced" and would not talk to the press. The Ukrainian government admits that 67 policemen were captured by protestors and are being held by them.
It is obvious that Yanukovich is trying everything he can to avoid a repeat of the Orange Revolution of a few years ago, when he was forced from power by mass protests. If you think our country is polarized between Democrats and Republicans, it's nothing compared to the polarization that is going on in Ukraine.
After this was written, the Ukranian Foreign ministry posted a statement denying a split and calling for diplomacy:
At the time when the eyes of the world are turned to Ukraine, when our brothers and sisters lose their lives on the streets of Ukrainian cities, Ukrainian diplomats cannot stay aside.What is really interesting about this statement is that it is totally different in tone from the previous inflammatory statements by other branches of the Ukranian government, Russian foreign ministry, and the order allowing police to use deadly force in "self-defense."
Under these conditions, our primary mission is a true and impartial informing the international community about the situation in our country, as well as protection of national interests of Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and each and every Ukrainian citizen.
We have always been and will be guided by the basic principles – independence of Ukraine, safeguarding through diplomatic means its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Therefore we cannot but respond to some statements coming both from inside and outside of Ukraine about a possible split of our country. We strongly condemn such statements and express our utmost support for Ukraine as a single, unitary, and European State.
We believe that now is the time for compromise. We urge all parties to do everything to ensure that our country has ceased the bloodshed.
When the conflict is still underway, remember that the common European values unite Ukrainian citizens with each other. We believe that the signing of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement, the support of which has in fact become a cornerstone for Euromaidan, can unite us all.
9:24 AM PT: France24's Twitter feed posts speculation that Yanukovich asked for asylum, which Russia denies. The EU, for the present, is moving forward with asset freezes and visa bans for those whom they feel are responsible for the violence in Ukraine, Reuters reports.
9:32 AM PT: The International Business Times, from the story I link to, links to some graphic photos of the violence in Ukraine today. Ukrainian government, via Kyiv Post, admits to 565 officers "seeking medical" since February 18th. 130 of them have gunshot wounds. Ukraine government obviously trying to pin blame for latest round of violence on protestors.
9:47 AM PT: France24: "More on the EU decision to impose sanctions on Ukraine from Reuters: European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions on Ukraine, including visa bans, asset freezes and restrictions on the export of anti-riot equipment, ministers and officials said."
10:04 AM PT: Twitter chatter has unconfirmed reports of private jets flying out of Eastern Ukraine. Buzzfeed has an exclusive on how certain right-wing bloggers at RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media were paid to promote Yanukovich talking points over the last year.
10:10 AM PT: Bodies of dead protestors are being taken from the Kiev hotel and being paraded into the streets with protestors chanting, "Heroes, heroes."
10:17 AM PT: Atlantic posted many photos of the violence; they report that the fear is Yanukovich will declare a State of Emergency, bringing the military into the picture. http://www.theatlantic.com/...
10:41 AM PT: Speculation on Twitter that certain members of Ukraine's ruling party are fleeing the country so that there won't be a quorum in parliament.
10:46 AM PT: A few hundred people in Prague are taking to the streets to show their support for the Ukraine protestors.
10:56 AM PT: I edited my diary to reflect statement of the Ukranian foreign ministry denying news reports about Ukraine splitting; it is totally different in tone from inflammatory rhetoric coming out of this conflict from other branches. My prayer is for cooler heads to prevail. Stay tuned.
11:03 AM PT: Link to Buzzfeed article documenting how certain writers at RedState, Pajamas Media, and Breitbart were paid as much as $500 per post by foreign entites to promote Yanukovich talking points: http://www.buzzfeed.com/...
11:08 AM PT: Buzzfeed's Max Seddon, on the ground in Kiev: He quotes Klitschko (one of main opposition leaders) as follows: "Everything is in the hands of a man with absolute power and absolute responsibility" Klitschko also hopes diplomatic solution will be achieved tonight, Ukrainian time.
11:16 AM PT: Al-Jazeera English reports police setting fire to their own weapons to keep them from getting into protestors' hands. Numerous Twitter posts report Yanukovich has agreed to early elections. The question is, how fair will they be and how will they be monitored?
11:29 AM PT: From The Interpreter's feed, a new political front called the Ukranian Front is being formed in Kharkov (Eastern Ukraine) for "self-defense" and to fight what they see as foreign meddling. Supporters of Yanukovich from Eastern Ukraine had been going to Kiev to fight the protestors; however, now, they are returning home in light of the violence. http://www.interpretermag.com/...
11:33 AM PT: Max Seddon (Buzzfeed): EU Foreign Ministers resuming their shuttle diplomacy in Kiev.
11:43 AM PT: Orthodox Church in Kiev will no longer bless Yanukovich. Normally, they pray during services for those in power. But in light of the ongoing violence, they will no longer do so; they have put out a directive to their churches to that effect. A movement is afoot to excommunicate him as well. http://euromaidanpr.wordpress.com/...
11:50 AM PT: Via Interpreter -- Orthodox Church priests have been among the few voices of peace in a volatile conflict; they posted pictures on their live feed today of priests interposing themselves between protestors and police. Interpreter also confirmed reports of pro-Yanukovich MP's fleeing the country via charter jet; this was first spotted by websites which track flight activity and they noted unusual activity. Protestors are trying to stop others from fleeing as the fear is that there would not be a quorum to ratify any agreements made between Yanukovich and the opposition and the conflicts would continue.
11:55 AM PT: "Media criticism is cheaper than hiring foreign correspondents" -- Ben Smith, Buzzfeed.
12:03 PM PT: Jennifer Carroll, a student at the University of Washington, is at the Kiev protests and has written some excellent pieces including this one. She says that the conflict is a matter of Yanukovich waging a war against his own people and states that many of the pro-Yanukovich protestors that came were paid to come. http://blogs.uw.edu/...
12:11 PM PT: Interpreter Magazine -- The Ukranian government has admitted to firing live rounds on protestors. An Amnesty International doctor, Bogodan Ovcharuk, tweeted that it was much worst -- they shot to kill. And he posted that the titushki -- pro-Yanukovich vigilantes -- were alleged to be responsible for many of the deaths.
12:20 PM PT: Interpreter's feed reports that an emergency parliament session is underway with mostly opposition MP's. 239 members are present, meaning that they have a quorum. They post a picture of the parliament in session with all the empty seats.
12:26 PM PT: Ukrainian parliament passed a decree ordering police forces and troops to retreat. Vote was nearly unanimous.
12:29 PM PT: Parliament ordered the release of all activists currently being held, compensation made to all victims, and all cases dropped.
12:32 PM PT: Parliament declared that only Parliament can declare State of Emergency; now electing new speaker. The former speaker has fled the country.
12:35 PM PT: Parliament has ended their session and they sang the National Anthem.
12:50 PM PT: Former leader Yulia Tymoshenko wrote this letter from prison today. She demanded nothing less than the removal of Yanukovich from power. Text of her letter: http://euromaidanpr.wordpress.com/...
1:09 PM PT: The Interpreter notes that 34 members of Yanukovich's party showed up and voted with the opposition. The rest have fled the country or failed to show up. This means that Yanukovich, while still president, has had his powers severely limited and there is a major crisis on his hands. The question now is, what will happen with the independence movement in West Ukraine now that the situation in Kiev has changed? And what will happen with Yanukovich? And what about Yulia Tymoshenko, the charismatic former PM who remains imprisoned?
While cooler heads are starting to prevail, all of these questions will have to be addressed at some point. I'm signing off for now. I'll be back if major developments occur if someone else doesn't beat me to the punch. Good night and good luck.