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Western Diplomats Head to Kiev to Defuse Crisis

AFP PHOTO PRESS-SERVICE /POOL/ ANDREW KRAVCHENKO
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Envoys from U.S. and EU scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Yanukovych

On Tuesday, diplomats from the European Union and the United States were scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in order to help neutralize the conflict between Yanukovych’s government and the thousands of demonstrators who oppose his move to tie Ukraine more closely to Russia. The meeting follows the response of the police force who, in riot gear, destroyed several protester camps in the snowy streets of Kiev.

Leaving the main camp in Independence Square intact, the police forces tore down those blocking access to government buildings. Opposition leader, Oleh Tyanhybok, told Ukrainian media that several demonstrators were injured, but no official figures were released.

Simultaneous to the move by police, Ostap Semerak of the opposing Fatherland Party said that their offices were broken into and their computer servers were taken. Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the Fatherland Party, is imprisoned on charges of abusing office, a conviction that critics say is a “case of political revenge.”

The protesters have been camped for three weeks in resistance to Yanukovych’s decision not to sign an agreement that would tie Ukraine to the EU – a tie that would have reduced Russia’s influence. To show their disdain of Russian influence, demonstrators knocked down a statue of Soveit leader, Vladimir Lenin on Sunday.

The number of protesters has increased significantly in the past two weeks in furious response to violent action taken against the first protesters by police.

Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland were set to meet with Yanukovych on Tuesday, along with three of his predecesors, including Viktor Yushchenko, who won the election over Yanukovych forced by protests in 2004, and Leonid Kuchma, who chose not to use force against protesters during the Orange Revolution.

Despite the clashes between demonstrators and police, the rally on Independence Square stays positive. According to the Associated Press, “hyperenergetic pop star Ruslana led an aerobic dance routine to warm the demonstrators against the minus 5 C (23 F) freeze and servers with trays of hot tea passed through the crowd.”

Furthering the political turmoil is Ukraine’s financial state. Facing a recession that has gone on for over a year, Yanukovych sought a bailout from Russia as talks with the International Monetary fund were delayed.

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