Ukraine Kiev
The health ministry stated 77 people were killed in the demonstrations on Thursday Reuters

The Ukrainian capital Kiev is reeling after bloody clashes between anti-government protesters and police. Protests began after the government announced it was abandoning the European Union Agreement last November when President Viktor Yanukovich spurned the union in favour of tighter links with Russia.

The protests deteriorated this week, with 20 February going down as the worst bloodshed so far. The health ministry said 77 people have been killed and 600 injured, while videos showed police snipers firing rounds at a group of protesters carrying makeshift shields.

For young Ukrainians, the future of the country balances on the wider strategic battle between Russia and the West. For many, the EU offers modernity and transparency – a break from Russia's control and the country's stifled past. In December, when protests remained relatively peaceful, students held up banners that read: "Back to Russia? Oh bitch, please!" and "Ukraine is part of Europe".

The protests mark a push-and-pull between a country based on law, or a Russian-style oligarchy. However, it will take more than the opposition and Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of the the Fatherland Party, to resolve the problem. According to Lana Ovchrova, a student from Kiev, the answer is not that simple.

Kiev protests
Anti-government protesters carry a man with a bullet wound on his leg during clashes with riot police in the Independence Square in Kiev Reuters

Speaking to IBTimes UK, Ovchrova, a journalism student now studying at the Unversity of Warsaw, said Yatsenyuk did not pose a viable alternative for the country.

"For me, he is not such a strong leader. But in Ukraine we have another problem – we don't have leaders. I believe they don't know how to stabilise the situation, and a change in a government might not give results. But without resignation of the government, and of course Yanukovich, we can't move forward in developing the country."

Ovchrova sees the current unrest as a "second revolution" after the Orange revolution in 2004 and 2005. Protests took place in the aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, as people claimed the results were rigged in favour of Viktor Yushchenko.

She added: "After the disaster of the Orange revolution, young Ukrainians just want a chance for a normal life. We are tired of disappointment, disillusionment and disenchantment."

On Friday, Yanukovich announced early elections would take place, in an attempt to end the violence. On the presidential website, he wrote: "There are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine," he said. "I announce that I am initiating early elections."

Now Yanukovych and the three main opposition leaders - Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko of the pro-EU Udar movement, and Oleh Tyahnybok of the far-right Svobod - have signed a deal to end a three-month crisis in the ex-Soviet country. The deal has been brokered by the German, the French and the Polish foreign ministers.

However, Ovchrova says it will be a long time before the situation is stabilised and more needs to be done.

She told IBTimes UK: "There is no quick fix – even in early elections. The EU isn't entirely problem solving. I believe the EU can offer extra protection in our 'war' against our friend – Putin. But Ukraine has partly been let down by the EU."

Ovchrova suggested that, in a sense, European policymakers have failed in dealing with the Kremlin. As they cling to the idea that discussions with Russia can bring a mutually beneficial solution to the problem in Ukraine, some believe the West has been weak. It is because of this that the protests have transformed from demonstrations into what Ovchrova calls a "battle".

She said: "For Ukrainians it is not a protest any more. Nor is it a riot. It is a battle for our future. For my friends and me, Yanukovich is a criminal, a liar and a thief. We want radical changes, and the country will not be able to move on if the deaths of a hundred people are for nothing. In all the bloodshed, I have never seen such a great unity of purpose.

"There are a lot of students and ordinary people from all over the country who are fighting for their right to live free. I'm not sure what will happen – even if the president does resign. But young Ukrainians all agree that we need to overthrow the current regime. I'm not sure the opposition will change the system, but we need a legitimate election to thrive. Then we will be free."