The number of protesters in Ukraine's Independence Square swelled this week as the chorus of citizens supporting the Association Agreement with the European Union grew louder, and spread. Protesters have barricaded themselves inside Kiev's political hub, Independence Square, and pulled a statue of Lenin to the ground in a symbolic gesture of defiance toward Moscow.
A round table has been called by three former Ukraine Presidents to help current President Yanukovych deal with the uprising. Adding to the national ire was a recent visit to Moscow where Yanukovych met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This further enraged the demonstrators who are making a concerted effort to avoid violence. As riot police converged on Independence Square, fearing violent reprisal, protesters fortified the crude barricades they had constructed around the square and in the subway.
That subway station, which lies directly below the square, has been closed due to bomb threats. Demonstrators guarding the barricades say they are ready for a fight with riot police and expect to barricade more of the city in the coming days -- a sentiment that is quickly spreading across the Ukrainian landscape.
Recent surveys show the vast majority of Ukrainian citizens favor association with the European Union rather than with Russia's Customs Union based on the social, economic and political reforms stipulated in the deal. Many hearken the current turmoil to the Orange Revolution which catapulted Yulia Tymoshenko into the spotlight and won her the post of Prime Minister. Current President Yanukovych jailed Tymoshenko for abuse of power and her release is not only a condition of the E.U. Association Agreement but now a symbol for the peoples' struggle to be heard by the Yanukovych administration.
Meanwhile, while noone was looking, Russian President Vladimir Putin restructured Russia's state media, dissolving the sometimes pro-western RIA Novosti news agency, including its international radio stream. Putin officials say that move was intended to tighten up the national budget, but many believe Putin was looking to silence pro-democracy sentiments in the national media. The new Russian national news agency will include directors appointed by Putin himself.
As the citizens of Ukraine struggle to have their voices heard, Putin demonstrates exactly the sort of tyranny they are working so hard to free themselves from. The people believe to side with Moscow would equate to a return to the old Soviet Union, rather than the modern ideals of democracy and justice espoused by the European Union.
President Yanukovych will meet with three former presidents on Tuesday to workshop a solution to the social unrest. But the number of anti-Yanukovych demonstrators is now in the millions and if the President does not bow to the will of the people, civil war is becoming a real possibility. This in the third largest nitrogen supplier to the United States and one of the top suppliers to Asia and Brazil.
A civil war could grind Ukraine fertilizer production to a halt and make exports a dicey proposition. If Ukraine is unable to support tenders of nitrogen to South American and Asian markets, nitrogen prices will run higher worldwide and as the U.S. relies on imports for well over half of the N consumed by growers, the impact of Ukraine's struggle for freedom could reach the American farm by spring.
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