- Category: World News
- Published Sunday, February 21, 2016
- CTV News
KIEV, Ukraine -- About 1,000 nationalists rallied Sunday in central Kyiv to demand the ouster of the Ukrainian government, which came to power two years ago following months of protests.
The low turnout reflected public weariness with street protests, rather than support for the beleaguered government, which survived a no-confidence vote in parliament last week.
The demonstrators set up six tents on Independence Square, known as Maidan, and lit fires in trash bins to symbolize the fires that were kept burning to warm the protesters in the winter of 2014. They clashed with police when they stopped a truck delivering a stage for the evening rally, but no one was hurt.
Others came Sunday to Maidan to place flowers and light candles in memory of those who died during the protests that culminated with the Russia-friendly president fleeing on Feb. 21, 2014. The day before, more than 50 people had died from sniper fire.
Although many Kyiv residents are disappointed with the current government, few support another revolution.
"The country needs reforms and a better standard of living, but not new revolutions. We're tired of them," said 46-year-old businessman Andrei Pogonyailo.
In recent weeks, political tensions have risen and some respected reformers have resigned, citing disenchantment with the government's cronyism and entrenched corruption. President Petro Poroshenko last week urged Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a key figure of the 2014 protests, to resign along with his government. But Yatsenyuk survived a no-confidence vote.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his new French counterpart, Jean-Marc Ayrault, are due in Kyiv on Monday to prod Ukraine's squabbling politicians to push ahead with reforms.
After the 2014 ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and Russian-speaking separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions launched protests that escalated into a war that has killed more than 9,000 people.
A cease-fire was called a year ago, but reports of violations are frequent. Russia, which Ukraine and Western countries claim has sent troops and equipment to back the insurgents, blames the Kyiv government for keeping tensions high by failing to push through measures that would increase autonomy for the eastern regions and allow local elections.
But nationalists vehemently reject any concessions to the east and are angered by the new government's failure to address Ukraine's endemic corruption. Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, whose wealth springs from mining and steel in the east, is a target of their anger.
On Saturday, nationalist demonstrators attacked two Kyiv offices of Russian banks and also vandalized the offices of Akhmetov's holding company. Police did not intervene.