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Jan 27, 2014 09:32 AM EST

ETSU Student Blames Corruption For Political Chaos in Ukraine


Talking about his experiences and the political chaos in Ukraine, Vladyslav Antonov, a 23-year-old East Tennessee State University (ETSU) student, blames the deepening upheaval on corruption and institutionalized brutality.

Antonov, a Ukraine native, attended many protests in both Chernigov, his home-town, and in the capital city of Kiev before deciding to pursue a degree in Biology at the ETSU.

Before stepping foot in the United States, Antonov was serving in the canine unit of the military.

During the protests, Antonov had to remove all his pictures from social networking sites and even delete his accounts amid fears of retaliation. He was sure that he and his friends were being closely monitored by the law enforcement authorities. Antonov now feels a lot safer after arriving in Johnson City.

Protests in Kiev have turned deadly in the last two months as demonstrators appear defiant about not budging unless their demands are met.

The political crisis was triggered in November when President Viktor F. Yanukovych signed a $15 billion political and free trade agreement with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia instead of with the European Union as promised.

Calling the president a 'bandit and 'criminal,' Antonov said, "He ignored the existence of the will of hundreds of thousands of people in his own country," Johnson City Press reports.

Besides demanding a repeal of pro-Russian policies, the anti-government protesters now want the center to provide amnesty to the dissidents, modify the constitution to give more power to the parliament over the president, annul anti-protest law, establish a free trade agreement with the European Union and hold government officials accountable for corruption and criminal activities.

Antonov said that rampant corruption only benefits the wealthy class and people holding high government positions like judges and police officials among others. For example, a normal police officer earns about $280 per month in Ukraine, but leads a luxurious life in the country with lavish cars and a huge mansion.

Antonov still remembers the days when higher ranked military officials ordered the lower ranks to vote for Yanukovych.

On the eve of the elections, one of his superiors told him and his fellow soldiers to vote for Yanukovych and his party. Disobedience meant no bonuses and a cut in the number of holidays allowed. His friends who voted against are facing trouble ever since.

Besides the widespread corruption and the pro-Russia deal, Antonov said that laws passed in the last two months further enraged the protestors. The citizens are not allowed to wear helmets despite reports of police hitting peaceful demonstrators in the head with batons; every citizen must register his/her cell phone with the government for monitoring purposes and protests first need to be approved by the government.

Antonov feels that the growing unrest will not subside soon as both the parties have failed to reach an agreement. While the government has promised to offer key positions to the opposition ( prime minister's post to Yatseniuk, leader of Batkivshchyna, the largest opposition party and a job of deputy prime minister for humanitarian affairs to former heavyweight boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko), the leaders are calling to pre-pone the elections scheduled for next year.

"This offer shows that Yanukovych is worried about the strength of his main resource - law enforcement," said political analyst Taras Berezovets of Berta Communications in Kiev. "It's not surrender but an attempt to play for time. He wants to split opposition leaders with this offer," USA Today reports.

"Negotiations will continue," Klitschko said.

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