Dead Protesters, Tortured Prisoners: Ukraine At the Point of No Return
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The Nigoyan family fled to Ukraine from war-torn Armenia at the beginning of the 1990s. They hoped for a better future for their son Sergiy. He wanted to become an actor, but his dream never came true. He went to Maidan to protest against the government's crack down at people's rights and freedoms and was shot dead on January 22. He was 20.
After the murder of Sergiy Nigoyan broke the news on that day, more deaths followed. Two men fell from a 13-metre colonnade at the Dinamo stadium. One of them was shot dead, and the other one's death has become a point of contention: Protesters say he did not survive, while doctors claim the opposite.
Soon after these deaths were announced, media burst out with the shocking news that two tortured bodies were found in a forest northeast of Kiev. One remained unidentified while the other was found to be Yuriy Verbytskyi, a Maidan activist abducted the previous night from a Kiev hospitals together with civic leader and journalist Igor Lutsenko[Ua]. Lutsenko, who was split from Verbytskyi, was beaten and interrogated by the kidnappers. They wanted to know about the main functions and operations of the protesters' camp. They wrapped his head with a plastic bag, told him to pray and left him in the forest. He made it back home, bruised but alive. Lutsenko is not the only victim of kidnapping or detention. Over 70 protesters[Ua] have been officially detained by the police and there are dozens whose whereabouts are still unknown.
Pretending that it never happened
While western governments, international organisations and human rights groups were calling on President Viktor Yanukovych to stop the bloodshed, he and his government were doing what they do best - pretending that nothing bad was happening. The president and his Party of Regions' "hawks" Justice Minister Olena Lukash and head of the National Council for Security and Defence Andriy Kliuyev met the opposition leaders. The talks did not bring any immediate results for the opposition. And sources close to the president hinted that the process might take a while. On top of that the president got himself busy with other matters of importance - giving out[Ua] national awards to his party members and law enforcement officials.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov found himself in a very unpleasant position. The Davos Economic Forum he went to, boycotted him by calling off his participation in a panel. The interior ministry, once again, tried to throw the blame on the protesters blaming them for escalation tensions. Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara conducted[Ua] multiple talks with foreign diplomats trying to persuade them that the police did not abuse their powers and that they were protecting peaceful citizens from protesters who break the law. Some statements of government supporters went beyond absurdity, saying that the protesters could have been killed by a NATO sniper[Ua], contracted by the radical wing of the opposition
None of them claimed responsibility for the death toll. None of them apologised. None of them tried to rein in the police and cease the tension. Instead, starting January 22, the police was authorised to use a more extensive arsenal[Ua] of tools against the protesters. In particular, now they are officially allowed to use water cannons despite the freezing cold weather, in addition to tear gas and smoke grenades at the protesters.
What are the protesters' options?
Reinforcement of the police force can be interpreted as a signal that the president and the government are not going to bow to protesters' demands and step down.. Thus, the hope for peaceful solution and fall of the regime through early election is fading by the minute.