What's Really Behind Ukraine's Protests?

The causes of Ukraine's protest movement, while triggered by President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to ditch an EU deal, were years in the making.

What's Really Behind Ukraine's Protests?
Wikimedia Commons / Mstyslav Chernov / Unframe

By now, you’ve probably heard that President Viktor Yanukovych, under a lot of pressure from Russia, backed out of a highly-anticipated trade deal with the European Union — and that triggered the protests that are now into their third month in Ukraine.  (Via CBS)  

Ukraine's economy, after all, is struggling, and many saw the agreement with the E.U. as a way of out the country's financial problems. (Via Kyiv Post

But to write off the protests as purely a pro-E.U. movement would be oversimplifying. 

A Ukrainian journalist explains to Business Insider there's more to it than that.

“Most people are tired of total corruption in all spheres of life and the lack of justice and security officials' self-will. ”

Since President Yanukovych was elected in 2010, he’s been dogged by allegations of corruption and self-dealing. His support has plummeted across the country, but particularly in the West. (Via YouTube / Канал Украина)

See, a lot of Ukraine’s political crisis boils down to geography — those from the West mostly speak Ukrainian and want to join the E.U. Those closer to Russia in the East tend to speak Russian and favor closer ties with, you guessed it, Russia.

This map from The Washington Post’s Max Fisher does a good job explaining. The colors in orange represent the northwestern portion of the country that didn't vote for Yanukovych in 2010 — and that region, as illustrated by the stripes, is where the protests are concentrated.

Protests that might be best summed up by this line in Ukraine's national anthem.  "Let's prove to everyone that we can be masters of our own fate." (Via YouTube / Nikolay Ovcharov)​

As Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia's former president, writes in The Wall Street Journal, "That is what Ukrainians seem to have been doing for these past weeks, in the record freezing temperatures of the Eastern European winter. What they are seeking is the freedom to choose their way of life."

 Ukraine's parliament recently repealed a set of harsh anti-protest laws, and Yanukovych​ offered several government posts to opposition leaders — which they’ve rejected. He’s currently on sick leave for respiratory problems and said he plans to return to work Monday.