Ukraine Protests Hit Davos For 26 Hours

1:35 PM, Jan 24, 2014   |    comments
Anti-Yanukovych protesters clash with anti-riot police on Independence Square in Kiev, on December 11, 2013. Ukrainian security forces pulled out of the epicentre of mass protests in Kiev today after a nine hour standoff with thousands of demonstrators, in a major boost for the opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych. AFP PHOTO / GETTY IMAGES / VIKTOR DRACHEV
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Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Ukraine's protests came to Davos on Friday -- via Sweden and elsewhere -- for about 26 hours.

"There were a couple of activists that started this idea on Facebook to bring attention to what is happening in my country, and to do it during the World Economic Forum," said Oleg Shimanskky, 28, who arrived in Zurich on Friday morning on a flight from Lund, Sweden, where he is studying entrepreneurship and innovation.

He then drove immediately to the Swiss mountain town that is hosting the WEF with five other protesters he met at the bus station.

USA TODAY found Shimanskky and about four dozen others -- who also learned of the impromptu protest from Facebook -- draped in the Ukraine flag in a little park just off the main promenade in the center of Davos, where they were chanting slogans such as "Where are you, EU."

"The ticket was outrageous but it doesn't matter," he said.


STORY: Opposition encouraged that Ukraine violence could end

Shimanskky, who is originally from Kiev, has a return ticket to Sweden for Saturday morning.

"My other background is in political science, and I took part in youth work and NGO work for about 10 years," he said, speaking with American-accented English. "I watched too much Cartoon Network television as a child," he said, in reply to a question about that.

"What is going on in the Ukraine is not all about the European Union any more. The first thing that needs to happen is that we need to stop the violence. The president is not even negotiating. One of the things we are saying here at Davos is that these people are violating the laws of the Ukraine in terms of the violence but they are also laundering money in Europe and the U.S.," he said referring to the violence but also allegations of corruption.

The protests in Ukraine began in late November in response to President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to abandon an economic agreement with the European Union in favor of receiving a bailout from Russia. In the months since, violence has gripped parts of the country with clashes between protesters and police. The Associated Press reported that at least two demonstrators were killed this week in clashes with police, and protesters have seized government offices in cities in western Ukraine, where support for Yanukovych is thin.

Shimanskky said that he could only stay in Switzerland for such a short period because needed to get back home to study. "I have a lot to do," he said.

As USA TODAY was preparing to move on, Shimanskky was eager to a make a particular point.

"It's a little bit difficult for me to sit in Sweden and talk about these things. I don't know if I should have spent the money on a flight to Kiev instead of coming to Davos, but I also don't know if I could go home and start throwing Molotov cocktails either. I really don't like violence but people have been standing in the cold there for a long time now."

The Associated Press

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