Since November 21, thousands have occupied Maidan Square in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine after President Viktor Yanukovych abandoned a proposed pact with the European Union. What started as small-scale, spontaneous protests has turned into calls for nothing less than the resignation of the government and for closer integration with Europe.
Protesters have erected a tent camp in Maidan Square and, for the past ten days, also occupied Kiev’s city hall, declaring it the center of a revolutionary self-government. Sunday saw the biggest demonstration since the 2004 Orange Revolution, with hundreds of thousands of people assembling in the center of Kiev and bringing traffic to a halt. The city’s statue of Vladimir Lenin was pulled down and hacked to pieces.
In the dead of night on early Wednesday morning, riot police in helmets and armed with shields sought to clear the square of protesters and pull down their barricades but abandoned the attempt. Now the Ukraine’s prime minister, Mykola Azarov, has said that no force will be used.
Why have Ukrainians been camped out in Maidan Square for nearly three weeks in temperatures falling as low as 9 degrees F (-13 degrees Celsius)?