Ukrainian-Montrealers watch Kyiv drama unfold from afar

Ukrainians in Montreal are watching from a distance as their friends, family members and other fellow Ukrainians are battling their government in the capital city of Kyiv.

25 people killed in Kyiv on Wednesday as police fight to regain control

A protester throws stones towards riot police as others take cover in Kyiv. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)

Ukrainians in Montreal are watching from a distance as their friends, family members and other fellow Ukrainians are battling their government in the capital city of Kyiv.

Thick, dark smoke rose above the centre of Kyiv amid the boom of police stun grenades Wednesday, as officers in riot gear sought to push demonstrators away from the city's main square following deadly clashes between police and protesters that have left at least 25 people dead and hundreds injured and raised fears of a civil war.

Dasha Naumova came to Montreal from the Ukraine three years ago to attend McGill University.

“It’s pretty bad, honestly. And it’s not getting better.- Dasha Naumova

She’s been glued to her social networks and international news networks, following what has been unfolding in her home country since November.

“It’s pretty bad, honestly. And it’s not getting better,” Naumova told CBC Daybreak host Mike Finnerty on Wednesday morning.

“What I’m reading is tears and despair, people desperate — they just don’t understand how that might happen, in 24 hours so many deaths,” she continued.

Metro access, as well as major roads and highways have been shut down in Kyiv as police fight to regain control of the situation that began earlier in the week.

The violence Tuesday was the worst in nearly three months of anti-government protests that have paralyzed Ukraine's capital in a struggle over the identity of a nation divided in loyalties between Russia and the West, and the worst in the country's post-Soviet history.

It prompted European Union to threaten sanctions against Ukrainian officials responsible for the violence and triggered angry rebukes from Moscow, which accused the West of triggering the clashes by backing the opposition.

Protester violence a reaction

Roman Serbyn, a retired professor of Ukrainian history at University of Quebec in Montreal, feels some of the news filtering back to Canada is part of a disinformation campaign by the Ukrainian government.

“You see in the news media talking about violence, violence, violence. It must be stressed that the violence comes from [President Viktor] Yanukovych, from the regime, the dictatorial regime. The only violence on the part of the protesters is in defence and in reaction,” Serbyn said.

He was in Kyiv on Nov. 24, the first day of demonstrations in the capital, and called the protest peaceful.

Since then, it has become anything but as Ukrainians protest their president’s move to strengthen ties with Russia rather than work on free trade agreements with the European Union.

Serbyn said the only way to diffuse the situation in the Ukraine is for the president to step down.

Naumova agreed that the demonstrations have lit a moral fuse in the country.

“It’s impossible to discourage them. People are fighting for what they believe is right, for their rights in their country,” she said.

“You can’t give up on that.”

With files from The Associated Press


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