After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine endured years of corruption, mismanagement, (years long) lack of economic growth, currency devaluation, and problems to secure funding from public markets. Successive Ukrainian governments in the 2000s sought a closer relationship with the European Union (EU). One of the measures meant to achieve this was an association agreement with the European Union, which would have provided Ukraine with funds in return for liberalising reforms. President Yanukovych announced his intention to sign the agreement, but ultimately refused to do so at the last minute. This sparked a wave of protests called the "Euromaidan" movement. During these protests Yanukovych signed a treaty and multibillion-dollar loan with Russia. The Ukrainian security forces cracked down on the protesters, further inflaming the situation and resulting in a series of violent clashes in the streets of Kiev. As tensions rose, Yanukovych fled to Russia and did not return.
Russia refused to recognize the new interim government, calling the revolution a coup d'état, and began a military intervention in Ukraine. The newly appointed interim government of Ukraine signed the EU association agreement and agreed to reform the country's judiciary and political systems, as well as its financial and economic policies. The International Monetary Fund pledged more than $18 billion in loans contingent on Ukraine's adopting those reforms. The revolution was followed by pro-Russian unrest in some south-eastern regions, a standoff with Russia regarding the annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, and a war between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed separatists in the Donbass.
A period of relative calm in the anti-government demonstrations in Kiev ended abruptly on 18 February 2014, when protesters and police clashed. At least 82 people were killed over the next few days, including 13 policemen; more than 1,100 people were injured.
On 18 February, some 20,000 Euromaidan protesters advanced on Ukraine's parliament in support of restoring the Constitution of Ukraine to its 2004 form, which had been repealed by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine shortly after Yanukovych was elected president in 2010. The police blocked their path. The confrontation turned violent; the BBC, citing correspondents, reported that each side blamed the other. The police fired guns with both rubber bullets and, later, live ammunition (including automatic weapons and sniper rifles), while also using tear gas and flash grenades in an attempt to repel thousands of demonstrators. The protesters fought with crude weapons (such as large rocks and bats), firearms, and improvised explosives (Molotov cocktails), and broke into the headquarters of the Party of Regions. Police officers stormed the main protest camp on Maidan Nezalezhnosti and overran parts of the square. The Trade Unions Building, which served as the Euromaidan headquarters, was burned down. Political commentators suggested that Ukraine was on the brink of a civil war. Some areas, including Lviv Oblast, declared themselves politically independent of the central government.
On 19 February, the authorities instituted police checkpoints, restrictions on public transportation, and school closures in Kiev, which the media referred to as a de facto state of emergency.
On 20 February, Internal Affairs Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko announced that he had signed a decree authorising the use of live ammunition against protesters. Central Kiev saw the worst violence yet, and the death toll in 48 hours of clashes rose to at least 77. In response, the chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, Volodymyr Rybak, announced the next day that he had signed a parliamentary decree condemning the use of force and urging all institutions (the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Cabinet of Ministers, etc.) to cease immediately all military actions against protesters. Parliament also suspended Zakharchenko from his duties.
On 21 February, President Yanukovych signed a compromise deal with opposition leaders. It promised constitutional changes to restore certain powers to Parliament and called for early elections to be held by December.
Despite the agreement, thousands continued to protest in central Kiev, and the demonstrators took full control of the city's government district: the parliament building, the president's administration quarters, the cabinet, and the Interior Ministry. On 21 February, an impeachment bill was introduced in Parliament. On the same day, Yanukovych left for Kharkiv to attend a summit of southeastern regions, according to media reports.
On 22 February, the protesters were reported to be in control of Kiev, and Yanukovych was said to have fled the capital for eastern Ukraine. The parliament, or Verkhovna Rada, voted 328–0 in favour of impeaching Yanukovych and scheduled new presidential elections for 25 May.
Parliament named its speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, as interim president on 23 February. A warrant for the arrest of Yanukovych was issued by the new government on 24 February. Over the next few days, Russian nationalist politicians and activists organised rallies in Crimea and urged Russia to help defend the region from advancing "fascists" from the rest of Ukraine.
On 28 February, Yanukovych attended a press conference in southern Russia and answered questions from mostly Russian reporters. He said that the early presidential elections scheduled for late May were illegal and that he "would not be participating in them". He also said that while the 21 February agreement could have calmed the situation, the opposition had not agreed to it.
On 1 March, Russia's parliament approved a request from President Vladimir Putin to deploy Russian troops to Ukraine.
Protests originally erupted in November 2013 after Yanukovych refused to sign a political association and free trade agreement with the European Union at a meeting of the Eastern Partnership in Vilnius, Lithuania, choosing closer ties with Russia instead. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov had asked for €20 billion (US$27 billion) in loans and aid. The EU was willing to offer €610 million ($838 million) in loans, but Russia was willing to offer $15 billion, as well as cheaper gas prices. In addition, the EU demanded major changes to Ukraine's regulations and laws, but Russia did not. Russia also applied economic pressure on Ukraine and launched a propaganda campaign against the EU deal.
Yanukovych was widely disliked in Ukraine's west but had some support in the east, where his native Russian is much more spoken, and in the south. The rallies were initially peaceful but became violent in January 2014 after Parliament, dominated by Yanukovych's supporters, passed laws intended to repress the protests. The European Union and the United States urged Yanukovych to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict and said they would impose sanctions on government officials if they were found responsible for violence.
In the lead-up to the February riots, an amnesty agreement was made with protesters wherein they would be spared criminal charges in exchange for active protesters' leaving occupied buildings. The demonstrators vacated all occupied Regional State Administration buildings, and activists in Kiev left the Hrushevskoho Street standoff; Kiev's City Hall was also released back to government control on 16 February. All those previously jailed for taking part in protests were scheduled to be released after 17 February.
On 14 February, Yanukovych had said: "I want to say that I was incited, and I'm incited to use various methods and ways how to settle the situation, but I want to say I don't want to be at war. I don't want any decisions made using such a radical way." He called on all politicians to refrain from radicalism and to understand that "there is a line that shouldn't be crossed, and this line is law".
The perception that Yanukovych was trying to establish closer ties with Russia played a major role in the protests. Yanukovych accepted "bail-out" money—$2 billion out of a $15 billion package—from Russia, and this was interpreted as a sign that he would seek close ties with Putin. Russian officials had been pressuring the Ukrainian administration to take decisive action to crush the protests, and the police assault on Euromaidan protesters was ordered hours after the $2 billion from Russia was transferred. Several government ministers from across Europe blamed Russia for exacerbating the violence.
In an interview on 20 February, a retired colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Russia (GRU), Aleksandr Musienko, said that the conflict could only be solved by force, and that Ukraine had proven it could not exist as an independent, sovereign state. According to government documents released by former Deputy Interior Minister Hennadiy Moskal, Russian officials served as advisers to the operations against protesters. Codenamed "Wave" and "Boomerang", the operations involved the use of snipers to disperse crowds and capture the protesters' headquarters in the House of Trade Unions. Before some police officers defected, the plans included the deployment of 22,000 combined security troops in Kiev. According to the documents, the former first deputy of the Russian GRU stayed at the Kiev Hotel, played a major role in the preparations, and was paid by the Security Services of Ukraine. According to Reuters, the authenticity of the documents could not be confirmed. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that the conflict had been provoked by a "non-Ukrainian" third party and that an investigation was ongoing.
On 21 February, after a failed crackdown that killed as many as 100 people, Yanukovych made some concessions. In response, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia said that Yanukovych needed to stop behaving like a "doormat", and that further loan installments would be withheld. A Russian political adviser, Sergey Markov, said, "Russia will do everything allowable by law to stop [the opposition] from coming to power." On 24 February, Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Ukrainians to "crack down on the extremists who are trying to get established in power", and Medvedev refused to recognise Ukraine's provisional government as legitimate.
During a press conference on 3 April 2014, Ukraine's new interior minister, chief prosecutor, and top security chief implicated more than 30 Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in the crackdown on protesters, saying that, in addition to taking part in the planning, the agents had flown shipments of large quantities of explosives into an airport near Kiev. Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, the interim head of Ukraine's SBU state security agency, said the agents had been stationed in Kiev throughout the Euromaidan protests, had been provided with "state telecommunications" while residing at an SBU compound, and had kept in regular contact with Ukrainian security officials. "We have substantiated grounds to consider that these very groups which were located at an SBU training ground took part in the planning and execution of activities of this so-called antiterrorist operation," Nalyvaichenko said. Investigators, he added, had established that Yanukovych's SBU chief, Oleksandr Yakymenko, who later fled the country, had received reports from FSB agents stationed in Ukraine, and that Yakymenko had held several briefings with the agents. The FSB rejected these claims as "groundless accusations" and otherwise refused to comment.
The night before the clashes, Right Sector called on all of its members to ready themselves for a "peace offensive" on 18 February. The Maidan People's Union also urged all concerned citizens to take part in the "peace offensive", which student unions had agreed to join as well. The Maidan Union reported on the morning of 18 February that columns of protesters would begin a march on Parliament at 08:30.
That morning, around 20,000 demonstrators marched on the Verkhovna Rada as Parliament was set to consider opposition demands for a new constitution and government. Around 09:45, the demonstrators broke through the police barricade of several personnel-transport trucks near the building of the Central Officers' Club of Ukraine and pushed the cordon of police aside. The clashes started after some two dozen demonstrators moved a police vehicle blocking their path to Parliament. At 10:00, a member of Parliament representing Batkivshchyna, Lesya Orobets, reported that police armed with Fort-500T shotguns had begun to attack with flash and stun grenades from Shovkovychna Street and Lypska Street.
As the column neared the Verkhovna Rada building at 10:08, it met resistance from another cordon of police officers. There were reports that the number of protesters had swelled to 50,000. At 10:18, according to other reports, explosions and smoke were seen on Instytutska Street as people started to tear up roadway paving blocks. Protesters started to throw the pavement blocks at the police, while officers defending themselves with shields tried to subdue the crowd with stun grenades. Protesters who had barricaded themselves near the Dynamo Stadium colonnade began setting fire to tires. At about 10:30, Parliament was set to vote on whether to restore the 2004 constitution. However, it did not happen as Speaker Rybak did not register the bill.
At 10:33, the street fights between protesters and the police shifted to Shovkovychna Street. Protesters started to wave 200-hryvnia banknotes in the face of some of Yanukovych's police forces - saying that they were merceneries—in Mariinsky Park. An activist, Oleksandr Aronets, reported that snipers were targeting civilians. By 11:00, protesters had sustained serious wounds. Molotov cocktails were thrown by the protesters, and on Shovkovnycha Street, a barricade of dump trucks was set on fire. At 11:10, police officers started to use shotguns and throw grenades from rooftops into crowds.
At 11:23, the Berkut special police forces tried to launch an assault on the crowd, but the protesters attacked back. Two minutes later, the first report came that protesters were breaking down the doors of the Party of Regions headquarters on Lypska Street. At 11:30, protesters—including the journalist Tetyana Chornovol—sacked and set fire to the building. At 12:12, Minister of Healthcare Raisa Bohatyriova was attacked by protesters as she left Mariinsky Park, but she escaped unharmed. By 12:30, the police had regained control of the Party of Regions office.
By 13:00, thousands of police officers had encircled the government district and begun chasing down protesters. One protester with a head wound told the Kyiv Post that charging police officers had "smashed everybody" in their path.
Around 13:30, four officers on Instytutska Street were stationed atop a building, lobbing stun grenades at the crowd and shooting, when protesters stormed the building and set part of it on fire. The protesters forced their way to the roof, forcing the police to retreat. The building on Instytutska Street was described as the scene of the day's most violent clashes. Berkut and Internal Troops servicemen opened a full-scale assault, firing directly into the crowd. There were reports of police using water cannons to break through.
By mid-afternoon, police officers using tear gas drove as many as 10,000 protesters from Mariinsky Park, where barricades had been built earlier in the day. Demonstrators threw stun grenades, filling the park with smoke. Other anti-government activists tried to keep the pro-government and anti-government forces apart.
Multiple news outlets published photographs showing the police armed with AK-74 assault rifles. Former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Hennadiy Moskal speculated that they were Alpha Group units. A Berkut leader, Vladimir Krashevsky, said the armed police officers in black with yellow armbands were part of a Berkut unit that had been deployed to help evacuate the interior troops.
Protesters re-occupied City Hall. And according to the Russian state-owned newspaper Izvestia, opposition activists armed with bats and iron rods beat a computer engineer, Valery Konstantinovich Zakharov, to death in the raid on the Party of Regions office.
At 15:45, hundreds of riot police officers advanced toward Parliament, attacking protesters. An officer grabbed the gas mask of a Kyiv Post journalist on Instytutska Street and said of the police advance: "I love it! We love it!"
At 16:00, the acting chief of the Ukraine Security Services, Oleksandr Yakymenko, and acting Interior Minister Zakharchenko issued a public warning to protesters to clear the streets within two hours, saying, "If by 18:00 the lawlessness doesn't cease, we shall be forced to use all legal means to bring order." At the October Palace, visible from Independence Square, riot police threw bricks down the hill at protesters, including women, from a bridge along Instytutska Street.
At 20:00, it was reported that 50 unknown assailants were trying to break into the Canadian Consulate.
Following the warning, the police advanced on thousands of protesters on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) with guns, a water cannon, and an armored personnel carrier. Tents housing protesters were burning on the main square. The police justified their actions as part of an anti-terror campaign against "individuals who had clearly armed themselves". Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on the police to retreat 200 meters up Instytutska Street and urged both sides to call a truce until morning. Protesters on the square stacked tires and other burning debris to create a wall of fire between themselves and security forces.
The TV channel 5 Kanal's broadcast was shut down countrywide but remained available via satellite (with a brief interruption) and a live feed on YouTube. It resumed service some hours later.
At approximately 22:00, it was reported that the police had broken through the protesters' barricades on the eastern side of the square. Officers then tried to retake the occupied Trade Unions building but failed.
Presidential adviser Hanna Herman said that negotiations between the government and the opposition would only happen once peace was restored and the crowds retreated, and that "calling further for armed conflict is a great crime against the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state." General Prosecutor of Ukraine Viktor Pshonka said: "Organisers of mass protests will be held accountable. We will demand the heaviest punishment both for those who revved people up to take part in today's action and for those who organised and controlled them."
At 01:35 the next morning, street lights were switched off around the square. The activists believed that this heralded the beginning of a decisive assault.
Emerging from a meeting with President Yanukovych, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko told Hromadske TV that the talks had not been successful. Klitschko said that opposition leaders had listened for more than an hour to Yanukovych's claims that they were to blame for the 20 deaths on 18 February. The president also demanded that the opposition force the protesters to leave Maidan Nezalezhnosti. He reportedly threatened opposition leaders with criminal prosecution.
In a message on Ukrainian television, Yanukovych told the opposition leaders, "Separate yourself from the radical elements that seek bloodshed and conflict with law enforcement agencies," and said that if they did not, he would "talk differently" with them. He added: "The opposition leaders have ignored the basic foundation of democracy. The line had been crossed when they called people to arms."
On 20 February, three opposition parties (Batkivshchyna, UDAR, and Svoboda) said in a statement: "We never have and never will call people to arms. This is our principled position. The death of each person is a personal tragedy for each of us." Later that day, the parties said, "To hold talks with the regime, the policies of which led to the deaths of many people, is an extremely unpleasant thing, but we must do everything possible and even the impossible to prevent further bloodshed." They said that dissolving the protests would be "counterproductive and unrealistic" and stated: "It was not we who brought Maidan together, and it is not for us to disperse it! People will decide themselves what to do depending on when and how their demands are satisfied."
The Kiev Metro was closed and main roads blocked by police. Bigger stores and malls on Khreshchatyk were also closed, but according to a Euronews correspondent, "Life away from the barricades is business as usual."
In the early morning, titushky shot two protesters, killing one. By this point, the death toll had risen to 26 on both sides.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) launched an "anti-terrorist" operation, while the intelligence services began investigating unnamed politicians over what was described as an illegal attempt to seize power. The decision to begin the anti-terrorist operation involved the SBU, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defence, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, and the central and local governments, according to a statement on the SBU website. According to political analyst Taras Berezovets, the decree meant that the SBU could search protesters, seize their property, and detain them at will, "without a court order or other legal safeguards."
In the early morning, Olena Lukash announced that the opposition had refused to sign a declaration disapproving of radical measures. President Yanukovych demanded that the opposition stop occupying buildings and seizing arms; the opposition, however, would not concede. The acting minister of defence, Pavlo Lebedyev, acknowledged that he had sent some airborne troops from Dnipropetrovsk to Kiev. Ciphered telegrams were discovered in which Yuriy Ilyin, the newly appointed chief of the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, gave direct orders to deploy military units.
Also on 19 February, a military An-26 made a secret flight from Kiev to Russia to pick up a large batch of anti-riot weapons and ammunition; this only became known in 2015.
A Euronews correspondent on Independence Square reported that protesters were arriving "from all parts of Ukraine". By 14:50, about 5,000 remained on the square. Right Sector occupied the Kiev Central Post Office and the State Committee for Television and Radio, with the post office serving as a new headquarters.
President Yanukovych fired the chief of the general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Volodymyr Zamana, and replaced him with Ilyin, who was previously the commander of the Ukrainian Navy. The Ministry of Defence announced that it was redeploying units around the country to guard military facilities. The director of the SBU, Oleksandr Yakymenko, said that military bases and arms depots had been attacked in several regions.
The European Investment Bank froze activities in Ukraine, saying, "For the time being, the situation is so cruel that it would be politically the wrong signal, but also irresponsible vis-a-vis the people we asked to do the job, to be active on business in Ukraine."
Following a meeting between government and opposition leaders late at night, both sides declared a truce and agreed to start negotiations. President Yanukovych said in a statement that he had agreed to "start negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed and stabilising the situation in the state in the interests of social peace". According to opposition politician Yatsenyuk, the truce included a pledge from Yanukovych not to launch a police assault that night. Right Sector did not agree to the truce. A Euronews correspondent on Independence Square reported that the number of protesters had grown, saying, "In general, all I have heard from people is the more they are attacked and the worse they are beaten, the more determined they are to stand back up and resume the struggle."
At 00:35, Interfax reported that Yanukovych had declared 20 February a day of mourning for those killed in the clashes.
Around 03:50, activists claimed that they had torn a shoulder patch from the uniform of a Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) soldier during the clashes, brandishing the patch as alleged proof of Russian involvement. Protesters at Independence Square continued to hear gunshots, despite the ceasefire agreement. Around 04:20, five buses carrying protesters from Ivano-Frankivsk arrived.
Each side blamed the other for igniting the deadly conflict. Yakymenko blamed Ukraine's current Euromaidan government, claiming they were responsible for hiring snipers on 20 February. In a statement, the Presidential Administration of Ukraine claimed that the protesters had gone on the offensive: “They are working in organised groups. They are using firearms, including sniper rifles. They are shooting to kill,” it said. Protesters accused the police of starting the conflict by throwing Molotov cocktails and improvised explosive devices. Opposition politician Klitschko issued a statement saying: “Armed thugs have been let loose in the streets to attack people and create an illusion that there is a confrontation between citizens.”
At 09:25, protesters pushed the Berkut back to the October Palace after security forces tried to set fire to Kiev Conservatory, which was being used as a field hospital for wounded protesters. At 09:32, it was announced that Parliament would not convene. Euromaidan protesters marched on the police with shields and Molotov cocktails and forced them to retreat, thus regaining control of Independence Square and capturing up to 67 police officers. Around 10:49, law enforcement personnel were captured while sleeping in the Ukrainian House and during clashes on barricades near the October Palace. Many of the men were only 18 or 19 years old, were not trained, and were armed only with rubber truncheons. Those with minor injuries were treated by medics. The captured police were from Crimea, the central-eastern cities Dnipropetrovsk and Kryvyi Rih, and eastern Luhansk. Interior Troops soldiers, of whom almost 100 surrendered during the clashes (mostly conscripts aged 19–20), were held prisoner at the headquarters of the Energy Company of Ukraine and at the October Palace.
At 10:00, between 10,000 and 20,000 demonstrators remained, according to the Kyiv Post. According to a UNIAN correspondent, there were more than 30,000 people on Independence Square. At 10:55, the chief of the presidential administration, Andriy Klyuev, announced that the president was prepared to sign a treaty with the opposition on the demanded changes to the Constitution of Ukraine, and that the ongoing clashes should compel politicians to find a quick consensus.
Trains between Kiev and Lviv, one of the protesters' strongholds, were temporary suspended; a railway spokeswoman said this was because of damage to the lines. Coincidentally, there were reports that arms had been seized from an Interior Ministry armory in Lviv and transported to the outskirts of Kiev.
The head of the Kiev City State Administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, resigned from the Party of Regions but said he would continue to perform his duties to ensure that the city functioned properly. He then ordered the reopening of the Kiev Metro. By 15:00, the metro was still not running, and ground-based transport in the city was scarce. The metro was partly reopened in the early evening, but interchange stations remained closed.
The Embassy of the United Kingdom in Kiev was temporarily closed.
Radio Liberty published video footage of police special forces shooting protesters with Kalashnikov and sniper rifles. Acting Interior Minister Zakharchenko announced that combat weapons had been provided to the police, saying in an address to the nation, "We signed relevant orders as part of the Antiterrorist Center's work: the law enforcement officials have been provided with combat weapons, and they will be used in line with the law on police." The ministry's website said the riot police had the right to use their weapons to free hostages being held by protesters. The ministry further stated that a sniper had injured 20 of its police officers.
In Donetsk, billboards were erected showing members of the Berkut juxtaposed with images of children, promoting the Berkut as defenders of peace.
Interfax-Ukraine reported that at 15:00, "a group of unknown individuals" headed to the Presidential Administration Building, and shots and explosions were heard. The Euromaidan self-defense force had repeatedly urged protesters not to go outside the square's perimeter.
The above-mentioned clashes erupted shortly before three visiting EU foreign ministers—Radosław Sikorski of Poland, Laurent Fabius of France, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany—were due to meet with President Yanukovych to push for a compromise with the Ukrainian opposition. The meeting was delayed for security reasons and began an hour late. Before the meeting, Fabius said in an interview with BFM TV: "Our purpose is to cause the Ukrainian administration to conduct elections. There is no solution other than elections." The negotiations lasted six hours. Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland told reporters soon afterward, "It was agreed with Yanukovych that there was a willingness to hold early elections this year, both presidential and parliamentary." Tusk also said that Yanukovych "was willing to form a national unity government in the next 10 days and to change the constitution before the summer". Further talks were scheduled to negotiate the signing of the relevant document.
After a telephone conversation between Yanukovych and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, Russian human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin was sent as an envoy to Ukraine, at Yanukovych's request, to try to mediate talks between the government and the opposition.
The United States imposed visa bans on 20 Ukrainian officials it considered "responsible for ordering human rights abuses related to political oppression". The European Union introduced a visa ban and a financial asset freeze against those responsible for the violence in Ukraine, and a ban on export to Ukraine of equipment that could be used for repression. "The scale of implementation will be taken forward in the light of developments in Ukraine," the EU Council concluded.
The leader of the ruling Party of Regions, Oleksandr Yefremov, travelled to Luhansk to meet with local leaders and law enforcement agents to discuss the possibility of southeastern Ukraine's declaring independence and seceding from the state. The chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, travelled to Moscow, where he announced that the Autonomous Republic of Crimea would secede from Ukraine if there were a change of power.
Party of Regions MP Sergiy Tigipko called for the resignation of Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Rybak, his replacement with an opposition parliamentarian, and the urgent election of a prime minister supported by all factions. "The president, the parliament speaker, the acting prime minister, and opposition leaders have completely lost control of the situation in the country and do not offer any solutions to pacify the country," he said. "Their inaction is leading to increased confrontation and deaths. Immediate concrete steps, rather than negotiations, are needed to resolve the crisis in the country." In the evening, Tigipko held talks with opposition politicians Yatsenyuk and Klitschko.
The head of the Kiev City State Administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, and 17 MPs resigned from the Party of Regions. In Rivne and Zhytomyr, the Party of Regions formally disbanded, with all MPs from those regions leaving the party as well.
Ten Party of Regions and two independent MPs called for a return to the parliamentary-presidential form of government. They also called on security forces to "execute the oath they swore to the Ukrainian people, not to follow criminal orders to use firearms, not to allow the participation of law enforcers in provocations involving gangs against the peaceful public and protesters all over Ukraine".
At 16:42, Parliament convened for an emergency sitting. The Party of Regions did not take part. According to a UNIAN correspondent, 227 MPs out of 450—mostly from the opposition, but some from the Party of Regions—were present. Out of 238 deputies present, 236 voted to condemn the recent violence, ban the use of weapons against protesters, and withdraw troops and the police deployed against them. The entire parliamentary faction of the Communist Party of Ukraine and some 80% of the Party of Regions chose to miss the session. Lawmakers barred chiefs and commanders of the Interior Troops, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the SBU, and other government agencies from carrying out any counter-terrorism operations because they violated the Constitution of Ukraine. They were also ordered to stop blocking roads and bridges, squares and streets in Kiev and other cities and towns. The Party of Regions MPs at the sitting agreed to form an "anti-crisis group".
Late in the evening, it was announced that five more MPs had left the parliamentary faction of the Party of Regions.
The Parliament of Crimea called for an extraordinary session on 21 February. The leader of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People said he suspected that lawmakers would ask for Russian military intervention, stating, "Tomorrow may be a decision that will bring chaos and disaster to Crimea." Several scholars discussed the possibility of Russian intervention in Crimea specifically, because of its unique geopolitical nature and demographics.
The Armed Forces' deputy chief of staff, Lieutenant-General Yuri Dumansky, resigned because he disagreed with the involvement of the army in the conflict. "Today the army is being involved in the civil conflict, which could lead to the mass deaths of civilians and soldiers," he said. At around midnight, journalist Artem Shevchenko, referring to his sources in the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, announced that 10 BTRs had departed from Kozachia (Cossack) Bay, where the Black Sea Fleet of Russia is based, escorted by DAI (Road Auto Inspection) vehicles. According to Shevchenko, 1,500 airborne soldiers and 400 marines—including the 25th Airborne Brigade, the 1st Marine Brigade, the 831st Anti-sabotage Unit, and the 2nd Marine Spetsnaz—had been transferred on 20 February under the command of the SBU for the anti-terrorist operation.
In the lead-up to the day's parliamentary session, it was reported that many members of the Party of Regions and their families had fled the capital, including acting Interior Minister Zakharchenko and Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka.
Later, Maidan activists released the Interior Troops servicemen whom they had captured the previous day. Meanwhile, the entire police force of Radekhiv joined the protesters in Kiev.
The Security Service of Ukraine officially ended its "preparations for antiterrorist operation" introduced on 19 February.
A compromise deal was agreed to on 21 February after hours of negotiations led by the European Union mediators and Foreign Ministers Radosław Sikorski of Poland, Laurent Fabius of France, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany. Officially called the Agreement on Settlement of Political Crisis in Ukraine, but unofficially called the 21 February Agreement, it was signed by both opposition leaders and the president after overnight negotiations (read the full text of the agreement here). The agreed-to provisions included a restoration of the constitution as it was between 2004 and 2010; constitutional reform to be completed by September; early presidential elections no later than December 2014; an investigation into the violence conducted under joint monitoring of the administration, the opposition, and the Council of Europe; a veto on imposing a state of emergency; amnesty for protesters arrested since 17 February; the surrender of public buildings occupied by protesters; the forfeiture of illegal weapons; "new electoral laws", and the formation of a new Central Election Commission. The three EU foreign ministers signed the document as witnesses; Russian mediator Vladimir Lukin did not, because he had no mandate to sign an agreement on the crisis.
Parliament voted unanimously, 386–0, to return to the 2004 constitution, and then 332–0 to suspend acting Interior Minister Zakharchenko. Another bill made changes to the Criminal Code, allowing for the release of Yulia Tymoshenko. 310 MPs voted in favour of the measure, including 54 from the Party of Regions and 32 Communists. Mykola Rudkovsky introduced a bill to impeach President Yanukovych. Parliament also adopted a resolution late that evening that ordered all Interior Ministry troops and police officers to return to their barracks.
Right Sector leader Dmytro Yarosh rejected the agreement, saying, "We have to state the obvious fact that the criminal regime had not yet realised either the gravity of its evil doing." He noted that the agreement did not include provisions for the arrest of Interior Minister Zakharchenko; the punishing of Berkut commanders alleged to have been involved in the murder of civilians; the removal of the general prosecutor and defence minister; a ban on the Party of Regions and Communist Party; and guarantees of safety for those involved in the opposition. He called for the "people's revolution" to continue until power had been completely removed from the governing authorities. Euromaidan leader Andriy Parubiy insisted that elections be held as soon as possible and reiterated that one of the main demands of protesters had been the resignation of President Yanukovych. Automaidan also announced that it would not accept anything short of Yanukovych's resignation.
Vitali Klitschko apologised to the crowd on Independence Square after shaking hands with Yanukovych. Protesters there responded to the deal by booing opposition leaders. Activist Volodymyr Parasiuk warned from the stage that if Yanukovych did not resign by 10:00 the next day, an armed coup would be staged. Oleh Lyashko echoed the demand, saying, "Either he resigns, or we take him away." Outside of Kiev, it was later discovered that the summer home of pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk had been set on fire.
By late afternoon, hundreds of riot police officers guarding the presidential compound and nearby government buildings had vanished. Radosław Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, described the withdrawal of forces as "astonishing", noting that it was not part of the agreement. The riot police had begun withdrawing early in the morning because they feared that Yanukovych's government would pin the responsibility for the violence on them, and because they feared being attacked after protesters stole around 1,200 pistols and Kalashnikov rifles from the police on 18 February during the occupation of government buildings in Lviv. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry was left without leadership. Deputy Interior Minister Viktor Dubovik ordered the riot police to leave the city, but it is unclear where this order originated. Opposition member Serhiy Pashynsky arranged escorts out of the city for more than 5,000 officers, Interior Ministry forces, and other special forces. After the riot police vanished, Andriy Parubiy reported that Euromaidan self-defence had peacefully gained control over Kiev and its government buildings, and that the military was standing with the opposition.
A new parliamentary coalition was created after 28 MPs left the Party of Regions' faction. Within the remaining faction, a "group of 31 deputies with a special position" was formed by Sergiy Tigipko "to persuade other Party of Regions MPs to vote progressively".
After the first day of clashes, 26 people were reported dead: 16 protesters and 10 police officers. Those hospitalised included three minors, five journalists, and 79 police officers. According to Olga Bogomolets, an honored doctor of Ukraine, "snipers were aiming at heart, lungs and neck".
From 18–19 February, the official death toll according to the Ministry of Healthcare was 28, of whom 10 were police and Berkut troops.
By 13:00 on 20 February, at least 34 more protesters had been fatally shot by the police, with reporters verifying the bodies (15 at the Kozatsky Hotel, 12 at the Ukraine Hotel, 7 at the Central Post Office). In the early afternoon, Kyiv Post journalists reported a further eight bodies on Khreshchatyk Street. According to the coordinator of medical services on Independence Square, Oleh Musiy, between 70 and 100 protesters had been killed by 17:30 on 20 February. Meanwhile, the Kiev City State Administration reported 67 deaths based on the number of bodies delivered to forensics. The Ministry of Healthcare reported 75 deaths since the start of the conflict.
CNN reported that officials had intercepted a telephone call between Foreign Minister Urmas Paet of Estonia and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton in which Paet relayed a doctor's testimony that the sniper killings of protesters and Berkut troops had been committed by the same people. Paet later asserted that he had not been implying that the opposition was involved, but merely relaying the content of the doctor's testimony. Olga Bogomolets, the doctor who allegedly claimed that protesters and Berkut troops had come under fire from the same source, said that she had not made such a claim to Mr. Paet; that she had not implied that the opposition was involved in the killings; and that the government had informed her that an investigation was underway.
Hennadiy Moskal—a former deputy head of Ukraine's main security agency, the SBU, and of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA)—suggested in an interview published in the Ukrainian newspaper Dzerkalo Tizhnya that snipers from the MIA and SBU, not foreign agents, were responsible for the shootings and had acted on contingency plans dating back to Soviet times. He said:
"In addition to this, snipers received orders to shoot not only protesters, but also police forces. This was all done in order to escalate the conflict, in order to justify the police operation to clear Maidan."
He further suggested that the current minister of internal affairs, Avakov, and the chairman of the SBU, Nalivaichenko, were protecting the personnel who actually planned and carried out the killings, in order to prevent backlash against the ministry and to avoid a loss of prestige. Avakov said that the conflict had been provoked by a "non-Ukrainian" third party and that an investigation was ongoing.
On 31 March 2014, the Daily Beast published photos and videos showing that the snipers were members of the SBU's "anti-terrorist" Alpha unit who had been trained in Russia. The media suggested that it was not the Ukrainian riot police who fired on the protesters, as previously believed, although the members of the Alpha team are Ukrainian citizens.
On 21 February, President Yanukovych and Parliament declared 22 and 23 February to be days of mourning "due to the loss of human life as a result of mass disturbances".
In Parliament, Speaker Rybak submitted his resignation, citing illness. Yanukovych's whereabouts were unknown, despite media reports that he had flown to Kharkiv (according to the governor of Kharkiv Oblast at the time, Mykhailo Dobkin, Yanukovych was in Kharkiv that day). Oleksandr Turchynov said that most of the ministers had disappeared, including Interior Minister Zakharchenko, who was reported to have fled to Belarus. In Parliament, deputies voted 328–0 (of 447 total deputies) to schedule a presidential election for 25 May. They did not follow the impeachment process specified by the constitution, which would have involved formally charging Yanukovych with a crime, a review of the charge by the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, and a three-fourths majority vote—at least 338 votes in favor—in Parliament. Instead, Parliament declared that Yanukovych "withdrew from his duties in an unconstitutional manner" and cited "circumstances of extreme urgency" as the reason for early elections. Lawmakers then elected Turchynov to be the chairman of Parliament and acting president and prime minister of Ukraine.
Turchynov claimed that Yanukovych had agreed to resign as president, but after consulting with advisers, he disavowed that and even pre-recorded a resignation statement. Yanukovych said he would not resign or leave the country and called Parliament's decisions "illegal." He added, "The events witnessed by our country and the whole world are an example of a coup d'état," and compared them to the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1930s.
Following the parliamentary procedures to transfer power to the new provisional government, General Prosecutor Pshonka and Minister of Revenues and Duties Oleksandr Klymenko were stopped at the Russian border while trying to flee the country. According to the State Border Service, Yanukovych also tried to flee via a charter flight from Donetsk, but was stopped by border guards. The guards were "met by a group of armed men who offered money for flying without the proper clearance". Yanukovych then left by armored car, and his subsequent whereabouts were unknown. Former Interior Minister Zakharchenko also tried to fly out of Donetsk and was similarly turned back.
On 23 February, Parliament deputy Oleh Lyashko claimed that Yanukovych had been seen at the Russian naval base in Sevastopol, preparing to flee the country on board a Russian military vessel. Journalist Tetyana Chornovol speculated that he was actually trying to flee on his private yacht, also in Sevastopol.
On 24 February, acting Interior Minister Avakov announced that Yanukovych had been placed on the country's most wanted list and that "a criminal case on mass killings of civilians has been opened" for him and other officials.
On 25 February, Parliament asked the International Criminal Court to "establish and bring to justice" senior Ukrainian officials, including Yanukovych, for crimes against humanity committed during "peaceful protests of citizens" from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014. On the same day, Yanukovych and Zakharchenko were declared internationally wanted. Criminal proceedings were launched in the 20 February killings of Euromaidan demonstrators. Yanukovych; the former head of the presidential administration, Andriy Kliuyev; former Prosecutor General Pshonka; former Interior Minister Zakharchenko; former SBU head Yakymenko; the commander of the Interior Troops, Stanislav Shuliak; and a number of others were declared suspects in the case.
On 22 February, Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison and addressed more than 100,000 people on Independence Square. The same day, Parliament appointed Avakov as acting interior minister. Lawmakers also ousted Pshonka as general prosecutor of Ukraine in a no-confidence vote.
On 23 February, the second day of national mourning, Parliament voted to abolish the law on language policies that had given the Russian, Romanian, and Hungarian languages the official status of regional languages in some areas. However, this measure was later vetoed by the acting president, who said he would not sign the bill until new legislation protecting minority languages was developed. The same day, Parliament dismissed Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, Health Minister Raisa Bogatyrova, and Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk and nationalised Yanukovych's private estate Mezhyhirya. Warrants were issued for former Incomes Minister Oleksandr Klymenko and former Prosecutor General Pshonka. Parliament also passed amendments restoring its power to appoint and dismiss judges, which had belonged to the Supreme Council of Justice.
On 24 February, Parliament dismissed Social Policies Minister Natalia Korolevska and Culture Minister Leonid Novokhatko; it also dismissed Ihor Sorkin as governor of the National Bank of Ukraine and replaced him with Stepan Kubiv. The same day, it appointed Valentyn Nalyvaichenko as head of the Security Service of Ukraine after dismissing Oleksandr Yakymenko from the post. Meanwhile, the leader of the Party of Regions faction, Oleksandr Yefremov, declared that the party was moving into the opposition. Seventy-seven of its MPs had left the faction over the past few days.
On Tuesday, 25 February, acting President Turchynov called for the formation of a national unity government by Thursday. (Two days earlier, he had asked for the formation of such a government by Tuesday.) Also on the 25th, Anatoliy Kinakh and 32 other deputies, mostly former Party of Regions members, created the Economic Development faction.
On 26 February, Turchynov assumed the duties of the supreme commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
On 24 February, Parliament decided to release all political prisoners, including the father and son in the Pavlichenko criminal case, and terminated the powers of five judges of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, appointed from Parliament's quota, for violating their oath. Lawmakers also offered to dismiss, for the same reason, two judges appointed by the president of Ukraine, and called on the Council of Judges of Ukraine to convene an extraordinary congress within three days to consider dismissing five Constitutional Court judges appointed by the Council. In the same resolution, Parliament assigned the prosecutor general of Ukraine to begin criminal proceedings against all judges who, in the opinion of the People's Deputies of Ukraine, were guilty of adopting on 30 September 2010 a decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine (№ 20-rp/2010) on the procedure of introducing constitutional amendments. On 27 February, judges of the Constitutional Court sent a letter to European organizations, international organizations, and human rights institutions questioning the constitutionality of the parliamentary resolution.
On 27 February, Yanukovych was accused of having stolen $70 billion from the state budget.
The Ukrainian National Council for TV and Radio Broadcasting instructed all cable operators on 11 March to stop transmitting a number of Russian channels, including the international versions of the main state-controlled stations—Rossiya 1, Channel One, and NTV—as well as Rossiya 24.
On 26 February, Ehor Sobolev was nominated to lead the Committee on Lustration in the new Yatsenyuk government. Months later, on 14 August 2014, Parliament adopted a bill that established "procedures for conducting checks of government officials and people nominated for government position with the purpose of deciding whether they meet certain criteria for occupying relevant post".
The law on lustration, which excluded from government most officials who had worked in the Yanukovych administration, affected up to a million people. Volodymyr Yavorsky of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group called it "unreasonable" and a "serious, systematic violations of human rights"—among other reasons, because it meant too many people would lose their jobs, including officials who could not be easily replaced.
The Security Service of Ukraine arrested the former chief of its counterintelligence service, Volodymyr Byk. On 3 July 2014, former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov was placed on the international wanted list for alleged abuse of power. After the Euromaidan, eight former officials tied to Yanukovych’s Party of Regions were found to have committed suicide. When Newsweek asked the General Prosecutor’s Office about the deaths, the office initially replied that all information about them was a state secret, a response that Newsweek called "staggering". The prosecutor's office later said that four of the deaths were being investigated as murders; a suspect was also charged with murder in a fifth case, the death of prosecutor Sergei Melnychuk.
On 18 February at 16:00, the Kiev Metro stopped because of a terrorist threat. On 20 February at 10:00, Euromaidan's activists picketed the main office at the Kiev Metro station Politekhnichnyi Instytut, demanding that the system be reopened. A former head of the Kiev City State Administration, Ivan Saliy, also called for the reopening of the metro. At 16:00 that day, the Titushky were transported by metro from the Pozniaky station to the Pecherska station, Lvivska Gazeta reported. The government also closed highways and railway access.
The metro became fully operational again, including the reopening of the Maidan Nezalezhnosti station, on 24 February.
On 25 February, acting Interior Minister Avakov signed a decree dissolving the Berkut. In March, Russia announced that the Crimean Berkut unit would preserve its name as it was incorporated into the Russian Interior Ministry.
According to Cathy Young, in the Antimaidan protests against the revolution, street posters, Internet posts, and even speeches at rallies attacked the new government as a "Jewish clique" seeking to use Ukrainians to defend the interests of wealthy Jews, and depicted the revolution as a “Zionist coup.”
The pro-Russian Ukrainian Front organisation held a meeting on 22 February with representatives from southern and eastern Ukraine. Andriy Kluyev, an organiser of the event, said the group intended to discuss the federalisation of the country into semi-autonomous regions. Following the agreement with the opposition and measures passed by Parliament, Yanukovych flew from Kiev to Kharkiv to attend the Ukrainian Front congress; sources indicated that Berkut forces had gathered in Kharkiv in anticipation of the event. As Yuriy Lutsenko reported, past midnight on 22 February, the SBU opened criminal proceedings against Governor Mikhail Dobkin of Kharkiv and Mayor Hennadiy Kernes for advocating separatism.
At the Congress of the Southern and Eastern regions in Kharkiv on 22 February, the deputies passed a resolution declaring that they were ready to take responsibility for protecting constitutional order in their territory. They stated that the recent events in Kiev had paralyzed the central government and destabilised the country. They also signed a statement rejecting the authority of Parliament. The Interior Ministry reported that Governor Dobkin and Mayor Kernes then fled to Russia.
On February 23, Parliament adopted a bill to repeal the country's law on minority languages. If signed by the president, the bill would have established Ukrainian as the sole official state language of Ukraine, including Crimea, which is populated by a Russian-speaking majority. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the bill "only served to infuriate Russian-speaking regions, [who] saw the move as more evidence that the antigovernment protests in Kiev that toppled Yanukovych's government were intent on pressing for a nationalistic agenda." Acting President Turchynov vetoed the bill on 28 February.
Also on 23 February, clashes erupted in Kharkiv between thousands of equally sized pro- and anti-government rallies, and Mayor Kernes was blocked from entering the City Council building. Pro-Russian protesters stood guard over the statue of Vladimir Lenin in the city center, but the deputy head of the Regional State Administration announced that the city would dismantle the statue regardless on 25 February.
On 24 February, acting Interior Minister Avakov announced that a criminal case had been launched against Yevhen Zhylin, leader of the Kharkiv-based anti-Euromaidan organisation Oplot.
On 1 March, thousands of people in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Simferopol, Odessa, Luhansk, Melitopol, Yevpatoria, Kerch, and Mariupol protested against the new government. Public surveys in April revealed that most people in Ukraine's eastern regions considered all levels of the government illegitimate. Half of respondents believed that President Turchynov was "illegally occupying his post". Roughly half held the same opinion about the central government led by Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. However, nearly 70% agreed that Yanukovych was also not the legal president of the country.
Following the Ukrainian revolution, a secession crisis began in the Russian-leaning Crimean Peninsula. On 1 March 2014, Yanukovych put into writing his request that President Putin of Russia send military forces "to establish legitimacy, peace, law and order, stability and defending the people of Ukraine". On the same day, Putin requested and received authorization from the Russian Parliament to deploy troops to Ukraine in response to the crisis. Russian troops accordingly mobilized throughout Crimea and the southeast of Ukraine. By 2 March, Russian troops had complete control over Crimea.
The monument to the Russian field marshal Mikhail Kutuzov was demolished in the city of Brody in western Ukraine. At least 25 statues of Lenin were destroyed by Euromaidan protesters. The militant group Right Sector was blamed for much of the destruction. In addition, a statue honouring Soviet soldiers was removed from the western Ukrainian city of Stryi. In early December 2013, unknown activists partially painted in red and black (similar to the flag of the nationalistic Ukrainian Insurgent Army) a statue honouring the workers of the Arsenal factory in Kiev who died in 1918. On 28 February, a monument dedicated to Soviet forces who fought in World War II and one dedicated to Soviet soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, both in the city of Dnipropetrovsk, were vandalized and painted with nationalistic slogans. On its English-language Twitter account, the Russian Foreign Ministry described the targeting of Russian- and Soviet-built monuments as "Russophobic vandalism" and an "outrage", and demanded that it be stopped.
Starting on 18 February, Euromaidan activists occupied regional state administration (RSA) buildings in several oblasts (regions).
In May 2014, the International Monetary Fund disbursed US$3.2 billion to stabilise Ukraine. The European Union required Ukraine to secure this aid package from the IMF in order to obtain about 1.6 billion euros pledged under the recently signed Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.
On 19 February 2014, UEFA announced that it had decided to change the venue of the 2013–14 UEFA Europa League Round of 32 match between Dynamo Kyiv and Valencia from Olympic Stadium in Kiev to GSP Stadium, in Nicosia, Cyprus, because of the riots in Kiev.
Dynamo Kyiv and the other clubs competing in the Round of 32 held a minute of silence for the victims in Kiev before the match, and the athletes played wearing mourning armbands.
On 25 February, subsequent games of the 2013–14 Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague were postponed. On 26 February, the second part of the 2013–14 Ukrainian Premier League was suspended because of the situation in the country.
On 3 March, a scheduled friendly match between the United States and Ukraine in Kharkiv was moved to Nicosia because of safety concerns regarding potential instability in Kharkiv Oblast.
Three HC Donbass home KHL playoff games were moved from Donetsk's Druzhba Arena to Slovnaft Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia. After playing Game 7 of their first-round series against Dinamo Riga and Games 3 and 4 in the second round against Lev Praha in Bratislava, the Slovak capital, the team returned to Donetsk for the sixth game of the series against Lev.
On 20 February, Parliament resumed its work around 16:00 and worked until about 23:00. Members adopted a draft law that expressed "condemnation of the violence that led to the deaths of peaceful citizens of Ukraine".
On the morning of 21 February, Parliament announced that Speaker Rybak had signed a resolution titled "About condemning violence in Ukraine, which led to loss of life". The resolution ordered the Cabinet of Ukraine and all siloviks to stop the use of force and prohibited the use of any weapons and special measures against citizens of Ukraine.Iryna Herashchenko, a member of Parliament with Klitschko's opposition Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform party, commented on the critical state of Ukrainian health services, saying: "Emergency services and all are filled to the brink. There is nowhere to put people up. The doctors are wonderful. Their sacrifice is impressive. They work with full dedication, fight for everyone who is injured."
After negotiations with Yanukovych, opposition leader Yatsenyuk said that the talks had "ended with nothing. ... Deputies from the opposition said Yanukovych threatened all opposition leaders with criminal responsibility. We only had one item: immediately start the truce, but they told us to effectively give in. Since a truce has not been announced and the government has no such desire, we're standing on the brink of the most dramatic page of the history of Ukraine."
In a statement on his party's website, Klitschko wrote: "Yanukovych reacts to the situation absolutely inadequately. All he's been talking about is that the leaders of the opposition should call on people on Maidan (Kyiv's Independence Square) to end the standoff and lay down arms. ... These are police forces that are violently shooting at protesters downtown Kyiv. This is what I suggest: authorities should immediately withdraw law enforcers and put an end to the bloody crackdown, as people continue to die. This is what I've told Yanukovych. Could talks be a solution while blood has been shed? But unfortunately he has no understanding of the situation."
Acting Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov said at a 19 February cabinet meeting, "It is unacceptable to talk about European values and the desire for a new level of Ukraine's development and at the same time sacrifice human lives, destroy the state's and citizens' goods, burn their cars and apartments, and shame the country in the eyes of international community."
Acting Minister of Justice Olena Lukash accused the opposition of violating agreements and demanded an immediate end to violence. She argued that the escalation was the fault of extremists.
Party of Regions MP Oleh Tsariov appeared on Russian TV and announced that officials would clear Independence Square within an hour, saying, "After we bring order to Maidan, we'll bring it nationwide."
Party of Regions MP Vadym Kolesnichenko blamed the opposition and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for the violence in Ukraine.
On 18 February, in an interview with Hromadske TV, Inna Bohoslovska said that she had seen policemen disguised as protesters shooting at other policemen. The same day, the MVS website showed people dressed as protesters with firearms.
Yulia Tymoshenko called on the opposition to cease any talks with Yanukovych.
An international group of researchers who specialize in the study of far right political movements published a joint statement in which they disagreed with claims about the nationalist character of the Ukrainian revolution, pointing out that it had a mostly democratic and liberal character. According to the letter signed by these researchers, while nationalist groups were present and involved in the protests, their influence on the movement was marginal. However, they said, this influence was disproportionately highlighted by the Russian media, which was using the claims as a weapon of Russian imperialism.
The presidium of the Supreme Council of Crimea (the parliament of Crimea) said: "Peaceful Crimea is extremely worried by another outbreak of violence in the center of Kiev. Slaughter on the capital's streets proves that the opposition has perceived numerous concessions on the part of the authorities as a manifestation of weakness and has taken advantage of the amnesty law to take a respite before a new attempt to forcibly seize power in the country." It added: "Innocent people died at the hands of the lawless gunmen on February 18. These are no longer peaceful protests, of which the opposition leaders and biased mass media outlets have said repeatedly, and not even mass unrest. This is the beginning of a civil war."
Deputies of Luhansk Oblast declared: "We turn to the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich with the demand to take strict measures concerning those, who today virtually went to war against our country, and to introduce a state of emergency. The time of peaceful negotiations has ended — negotiations cannot be held with terrorists and extremists!"
Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People's former chairman, Mustafa Abdülcemil Qırımoğlu, said: "They will answer for the blood of every patriot. I urge all citizens to create pockets of resistance."
United Nations — Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on 19 February for an end to the "unacceptable" violence in Ukraine and for amnesty for those detained during the unrest.
European Union — Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Yanukovych, the government, and leaders of the opposition "to address the root causes of the crisis". In addition, the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, issued a statement expressing his condolences to the families of those killed and calling for an end to the violence. He also said: "The EU has been offering its sincere assistance to facilitate political dialogue between the sides and de-escalate the situation. We continue to believe that constitutional reform, formation of a new inclusive government and creating conditions for democratic elections constitute the only way out of this deep and long-lasting political crisis. [...] Yet, we have also made it clear that the EU will respond to any deterioration on the ground. We therefore expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force can be agreed by our Member States as a matter of urgency."
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe — The OSCE chairperson-in-office, Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter of Switzerland, urged Ukrainian authorities on 19 February "to do their utmost to defuse the menacing situation in the country" and to suggest measures to de-escalate the conflict, including the assignment of "an impartial international facilitator, possibly working in tandem with a respected Ukrainian personality, and dispatching an international expert team to establish facts on violent incidents and human rights violations".
Council of Europe — The secretary general of the Council, Thorbjørn Jagland, said in a statement on 18 February that the Ukrainian Parliament should have a "serious debate on how to end the crisis" and offered the legal and constitutional support of the Council of Europe.
Weimar Triangle — in a joint statement by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Poland issued on 28 February, the three countries urged the new Ukrainian authorities to respect minority rights, stating, "A lasting accommodation of the existing diversity in Ukrainian society necessitates reaching out to Eastern and Southern regions and engaging with all legitimate interests, including minority rights, especially regarding language issues."
Armenia — A Foreign Ministry spokesman said on 20 February: "We deeply regret the tens of victims as a result of clashes in Kiev. Ukraine is a friendly country for Armenia. We hope that the sides will resume talks to achieve a peaceful settlement of contentious issues."
Australia — Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on 19 February condemned the violence and loss of life in Ukraine and urged both sides to resume positive political negotiations to resolve the crisis.
Canada — Foreign Minister John Baird declared in a statement on 18 February: "Canada calls on all sides to show restraint and to cease all acts of violence immediately. No act of violence or repression today will go unnoticed by the Government of Canada, and we will work with our allies in the international community to ensure that those responsible will be held to account." On the same day, Baird also said that Canada would supply demonstrators in Ukraine with medical aid.
Colombia — The Foreign Ministry, on behalf of the Colombian government, issued a press release expressing "deep concern about the situation in Ukraine" while also deploring the "acts of violence that have taken place in the last couple of days." In the same statement, Colombia urged the government of Ukraine to "guarantee security, human rights, and the fundamental liberties of its citizens".
Czech Republic — Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek, meeting with the Ukrainian ambassador on 19 February, described the use of violence against protesters as "absolutely unacceptable" and said that "under no circumstances should internal problems be solved in such a manner".
Estonia — Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in a statement on 19 February, "We need to help Ukraine out of this crisis," and added, "Estonia is prepared to consider punitive measures against all those responsible for the increase in violence."
Finland — Foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja, in a statement on 18 February, expressed his condolences to the families of those killed, urged an end to the violence and praised the attempts of the EU, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe to mediate in the conflict.
Georgia — The Foreign Ministry released a statement on 18 February condemning the use of force and adding that Georgian officials were "extremely concerned over tragic events" in Kiev. On 20 February, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said that "use of arms against own people does not speak well of any government" and warned that "not a single government has managed to get away with it".
In an interview with The Guardian
, Irakli Alasania, Georgia's defence minister, said that the Ukrainian revolution was the "first strategic failure for Putin." Alasania was sanguine about the potential for escalation, saying: "There's a lot of rhetoric and chest-thumping. It's not unusual. But Russia won't go into military confrontation. I don't think there's a military option on the table for Putin."
Germany — Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned, "Those responsible for making decisions that lead to further bloodshed should know that Europe's decision on sanctions will be reconsidered for sure."
Hungary — The Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern and extended condolences to the victims' families. It also stated that, as a neighbouring country, Hungary was interested in a "stable, democratic, and integrated Ukraine, as well as directly interested in the legal certainty of the Trans Carpathian Hungarians".
Israel — Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that Israel was concerned about the events and expressed hope that the situation would resolve without further loss of human life.
Italy — Foreign Minister Emma Bonino called on 20 February for visa sanctions against those responsible for violence, a weapons embargo, and humanitarian support.
Latvia — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement on 19 February putting the full responsibility for the escalation of the crisis on the Ukrainian government. The statement also read, "Those guilty of causing violence must be held responsible."
Lithuania — The Foreign Ministry issued a note stating in part: "We demand to halt violence immediately and thoroughly investigate all the incidents, which have resulted in deaths and injuries, and to arraign the perpetrators before court. Once again, we invite the European Union member states to discuss a possibility of applying target measures against those responsible for the use of force."
Poland — Secretary of State Henryka Mościcka-Dendys from MSZ told the Jyllands-Posten daily on 21 February 2014 that Poland trusted the Ukrainian people to decide for themselves what future they wanted for Ukraine, while stressing the significance of Polish-Ukrainian relations both in history and in individual family ties. There was a time, she said, when Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary were expected to remain in the Soviet Bloc forever, and yet it was a Russian leader, Boris Yeltsin, who changed that belief. She said that situation was analogous to the current one because in the long run, a more democratic Russia could only benefit from a pro-European Ukraine.
Romania — President Traian Băsescu stated that the events threatened the stability of the region. He added that "Romania agrees with the proposed individual sanctions, for the silver lining has been crossed. The 25 deaths serve as evidence for the fact that both parties (e.n. the Ukrainian government and the protesters) have crossed the line." Prime Minister Victor Ponta made an immediate appeal for peace, saying that "diplomatic efforts will lead to the cessation of violence".
Russian Federation — The Russian Foreign Ministry stated on 19 February: "What is happening is a direct result of the policies of appeasement by Western politicians and European institutions, which from the beginning of the crisis turned a blind eye to the aggressive actions of radical forces in Ukraine, thereby encouraging them to escalate and provoke the legitimate authority." According to the press secretary of the president of Russia, Russia considered the events in Ukraine a coup attempt.
On 20 February 2014, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that Russia could only cooperate fully with Ukraine when its leadership was in "good shape". He added that Russia wanted a "strong government" in Ukraine "so that people don't wipe their feet on the authorities like a doormat". Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov likened threats of EU sanctions "on those responsible for Ukraine violence" to blackmail and said, "The EU is also trying to consider the introduction of sanctions, and at the same time they come to Kiev on uninvited missions."
On 24 February, Medvedev questioned the legitimacy of the authorities who replaced President Yanukovych, saying, "If you consider Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks who are roaming Kiev to be the government, then it will be hard for us to work with that government."
The following day, Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed concern about the faith of the TV channel "Inter", Russian TV channels in Ukraine, freedom of speech in Ukraine, and the abolition of the Ukrainian law on language. He added that his government was interested in "preventing the influence of radicals and nationalists who are now trying to play the first violin".
Sweden — Foreign Minister Carl Bildt issued a statement saying in part, "The EU will not hesitate on measures against interests of persons associated with repression and violence in Ukraine." He also said that Yanukovych had "blood on his hands".
Turkey — Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said in a press conference, "Ukraine is one of the countries with a strategic location in the Black Sea basin. Stability of Ukraine and peace in the country is of vital importance to the whole region."
United Kingdom — Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "It is clear ousted President Viktor Yanukovych's authority is no longer widely accepted in Ukraine, and Britain is working with the new government in Kiev. ... Ukraine had a pressing need for constitutional reform, improvements to its political culture, free elections, and an end to pervasive corruption. Meanwhile, the international community must work with the new government to discourage further violence and agree on international financial support. Ukraine's financial situation is very serious and, without outside assistance, might not be sustainable. An economic crisis in Ukraine would be a grave threat to the country's stability and have damaging wider consequences. It wasn't clear the country could wait until presidential elections in late May for a financial package as it faced dwindling reserves, a depreciating currency, and large foreign exchange debts that were falling due, and it was also shut out of international capital markets." Asked who the UK recognized as the current head of state, Hague said Britain was working with the new government. "There is, of course, a dispute constitutionally about who is the president, but in this situation it is very clear that, whatever the constitutional provisions, the authority of Mr. Yanukovych is no longer widely recognized as president," he said. "And in order to achieve the objectives that I've just set out, it's necessary for us to talk to the speaker who has been declared the acting president."
United States — President Barack Obama warned on 19 February that there would be consequences if violence continued in Ukraine and that the Ukrainian military should not step into a situation that could be resolved by civilians. The US also imposed a visa ban on 20 senior Ukrainian officials and other people it accused of being behind the violent crackdown on protesters. On 20 February, President Obama sharply criticized Russian support of the Yanukovych government and called for respect of people's basic freedoms.