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Ukraine turns its back on its 'worst year since World War II'


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Ukraine turns its back on its 'worst year since World War II'

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People in Ukraine are ready to turn their back what the country’s central bank has described as ‘the worst year since World War II’.

Many internally displaced Ukrainians will ring in the new year in Kyiv’s Independence Square where violent protests forced former President Viktor Yanukovych to flee in February 2014.

A large tree has been decorated with flags and posters, including a picture of opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko.

The square was the centre of the violent protests that forced former President Viktor Yanukovych to flee.

The months-long demonstrations were sparked by Yanukovych’s decision to back away from closer ties with the European Union and turn toward Russia, but grew to encompass widespread discontent with corruption and a lack of democratic freedoms.

Maria Maksymenkova, a 22-year-old Maidan activist and volunteer, was on the final stage of her university course when the protests began.

She joined the protesters, cooking food for other activists and distributing hot drinks in the cold winter weather.

Maksymenkova said that none of the activists had expected the conflict to break out in eastern Ukraine, describing 2014 as a ‘year of shock’.

She said she hoped 2015 would bring an end to the violence.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk addressed a news conference on Tuesday in Kyiv

“Why did Putin send his army to Ukraine? What was his aim? Protecting the Russian language? But all of Ukraine speaks Russian, we don’t need protection. Protecting Donetsk and Luhansk?
From whom? Five thousand people killed – this is what Russia’s responsible for,” he said.

Russia has repeatedly denied sending troops to Ukraine in support of a rebellion against Kyiv.

Meanwhile pro-Russian rebels on Monday met with Ukrainian soldiers in Donetsk to hand over an injured Ukrainian solider, according to the rebels.

Footage provided by the rebels allegedly shows the separatists waiting for Ukrainians on a bridge near an old terminal of the Donetsk Airport.

The rebels then escorted the Ukrainian vehicle to an area where the allegedly wounded Ukrainian soldier was waiting to be collected.

In the video given to the Associated Press news agency by the self-proclaimed Dontesk People’s Republic, two of the rebels expressed their wishes for 2015.

One said he hopes for peace in the region, while the other one said he hoped to win the war and to “prove that Putin is not bad, but a decent man, who helps people.”

Fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces, volunteer battalions and pro-Russia separatists has claimed more than 4,700 lives since last spring.

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