Ukraine protesters: ‘We want our country to have EU values, not a dictatorship’

The Independent speaks to three demonstrators to find out why they are taking to the streets

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych proposed an amnesty on Friday for all those facing criminal charges over the wave of anti-government protests that have hit the country over the last three weeks, after its withdrawal from a political pact with the European Union.

The move appears to have done little to placate opposition leaders, and with another demonstration set for Sunday which could see hundreds of thousands of people again on the streets, three demonstrators explain why they are there.

Yuri, 34, is a tax lawyer working for an international law firm in Kiev

I’ve been going to Independence Square almost every day since the President refused to sign the Association Agreement, after the journalist Mustafa Nayem posted on Facebook saying he was going to demonstrate and why.

I went because the President has told people for three or four years that he would sign the agreement, and then refused to do it without consulting anyone.

On 30 November, police beat up students on the square. Now I’m standing there for my rights, and the rights of my children. If we will not go there now, we should forget about democracy, about any rights not in line with the desires of our President.

Sophia, 23, is from Kiev and works in the events industry

I first went to Independence Square on 22 November, the day after the government announced they wouldn’t sign the agreement.

It was pretty clear for me that meant they would sign an agreement with Russia, which would be like going back to the Soviet Union. It would mean an end to human rights and freedom of expression. But at least in the Soviet Union there were still some morals and ethics, and people were educated in science and culture.

These guys who are the government of Ukraine are not educated, they are ignorant criminals. They don’t care about people’s education.

I want Ukraine to sign an agreement with the EU. I want the government and this President to leave.

Lubomyra, 63, is a doctor. She returned to Kiev from her home in Germany to support the protesters

When I heard about the government decision not to sign the EU agreement, I knew I had to return to do something for my country. I was afraid for the students protesting all night on Independence Square, and wanted to help them. I worked in the medical tent, but also preparing hot tea and food for the protesters.

On 30 November the students were singing the national anthem and I was in the medical tent. We were surrounded by riot police in helmets and balaclavas. At first students were chanting “police are with the people”, but then police attacked.

I ran to some of the students on the floor, and stood in  front of them with my arms spread out. One of the officers ran towards me and broke my arm. We took refuge in St Michael’s monastery. After the attack, police came to my home and questioned me. I want Ukraine to have European values, freedom of speech and other human rights. Not this dictatorship.

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