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Adrienne Warren

“This Really Is The Last Straw”: Living Through Euromaidan

There has been no shortage of Euromaidan coverage in the last few days, as an increasing dialogue unfolds about the protests in Ukraine. But, with such an onslaught of news and social media exposure, it can be difficult to form an unbiased and coherent understanding of what is really taking place, how it started, and where things are headed. Eastbook.eu spoke to some Kyiv residents, in an effort to collect some first hand reports, and observe the events in Ukraine through locals eyes…

#євромайдан #euromaidan LIVE

Euromaidan in Kyiv, 29 November 2013, author: Yaroslav Tabinskyy, source: Facebook

Euromaidan in Kyiv, 29 November 2013, author: Yaroslav Tabinskyy, source: Facebook

Oleksandr Riabtsev, a media activist, gave an overview of how Euromaidan started, and how it has progressed, saying:

The first people who came to Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence square) were journalists, businessmen and several members of Verkhovna Rada. They asked the only thing from President Yanukovych – to sign the Association Agreement with EU. On Sunday, 24 November, there were 100 000 people on Kyiv streets asking the same. They were headed by our opposition leaders in the parliament. The next week (before the Vilnius Summit) students from National University Kyiv-Mohyla Academy” and Kyiv National University joined the protests with the same requirement to Yanukovych – to sign the Agreement.

“All the week before the Vilnius summit students were the main force of the protests”.

On Friday, 29 November, our President didn’t sign the Agreement. And the night after, at 4AM, our special police troops “cleaned” the Independence square. Several dozen students and journalists who were there all night long got severe injuries. And this night changed everything.

The next day up to 50,000 came to Mykhailivska square (in the Mykhailisky Golden-Domed Monastery several hundreds of students who had been protestong earlier  at Maidan square got shelter after the police troops operation). These people weren’t students. Now the main power of the protests is middle class who are tired with the regime of Yanukovych.

Also lots of women came out to protest because lots of students who were beaten.

“Now the main power of the protests is middle class who are tired with the regime of Yanukovych”.

On Sunday 1 December, up to 1.5 million (definitely more than 0.5 million as people were rotating all day long) citizens were on the streets of Kyiv. They were asking Yanukovych to resign with all the Cabinet of Ministers. It’s not the protest FOR the EU anymore. Now it’s the protest against the regime.

“…we have 3 opposition parties in the parliament. however they are trying to use people’s voices for their own needs”.

Euromaidan in Lviv, 1 December 2013, author: Yaroslav Tabinskyy, source: Facebook

Euromaidan in Lviv, 1 December 2013, author: Yaroslav Tabinskyy, source: Facebook

There were provokers yesterday who were trying to get to the building of the Presidents Administration. Unfortunately police again used force against not only provokers but the general public and journalists who were filming.

Till now there are no signs that the voice of the people is heard by the President. Fortunately we have 3 opposition parties in the parliament. however they are trying to use people’s voices for their own needs.

The main change – Ukrainian people came to the streets on protests not for the person but for the IDEA. We want to have liberal rights, we want to have freedom, we want to be the country with European values. Regarding manipulations – some people are trying to get people into the panic posting info about army going to Kyiv, National Bank with monetary changes etc. We (as journalists and media activists) are trying to get these messages and asking people not to share them.

Kostyantyn Krasovsky, a lawyer, responded to questions about the possible impact of the Euromaidan protests, and whether it will have a lasting impact:

 Globally it already has, because before it was apathy since Orange revolution and no one believed that it will happen again. Particularly, I think it gave new wave to Ukrainian politics and it will not be the same like even few days ago. Situation can develop on different scenarios and we will see how in a couple of days.

The biggest mistake of the authorities was the use of force against the students. People couldn’t forgive such violent actions against children. It was like a trigger point for everyone, even people who didn’t participate in euro-integration discussion.

“The biggest mistake of the authorities was the use of force against the students”. 

Concerning the reaction of the government, I can say now it is one of the demand that this government should go.

Another problem is that people also don’t trust fully the opposition leaders and their capability to pursue the demands of the protest. I should stress that Euromaidan was started by civil activists not the politicians who joined the protests. But unfortunately (or fortunately) now the parliament opposition leaders are the only channel to make changes in peaceful way and the protesters (even those who don’t support the opposition leaders (or one or two of them) understand this.

Concerning predictions, we should also understand that many things depend on the position of the main oligarchs, who also don’t like how Yanukovych’s family pressures them. As I previously mentioned we can see the change even tomorrow. If the government will be off it means that a consensus in the society is possible. We are already watching interesting events, for example Odessa City council didn’t approve the resolution of support to Yanukovych, and the Donetsk council blamed use of force by police.

“My ‘problem’ (mine as well as many people’s in Kyiv) is that we are receiving information mostly from the Internet (FB, Twitter etc.)”.

We see media controlled by oligarchs now are giving more or less balanced snapshots. So, Inter, TV Ukraina, 1+1 are now creating the correct picture. Channel 5 (as it was in the Orange Revolution time) informs very quickly and covers main events. The owner of Channel 5 (MP Petro Poroshenko) is also among leaders of protest. My “problem” (mine as well as many people’s in Kyiv) is that we are receiving information mostly from the Internet (FB, Twitter etc.). So, cannot say 100% sure, but what I personally see and hear from other people it is quite  balanced.

Euromaidan, Kyiv, 1 December, author:  mac_ivan, source: Flickr

Euromaidan, Kyiv, 1 December, author: mac_ivan, source: Flickr

Only one thing that we should always keep in mind is Russia. It can influence in the developments of the events dramatically, and for them, the Ukraine issue is vital.

Another source, who asked to remain anonymous, gave an eyewitness account of the brutality of the protests, shared thoughts on how the protests are unifying Ukrainians, and what message they’d like to send to those in power:

The first wave of peaceful protests was really fully related to the Vilnus Summit and the EU-UA Association Agreement.

Over the last few months all the officials were talking in unison about the European choice of Ukraine and all the benefits which it will bring to our country. Practically all governmental websites at the central and regional level had a section dedicated to European association. People were synthesized via media on this topic. For the first time in the modern Ukrainian history the number of supporters of European integration became over 50%.

“Over the last few months all the officials were talking in unison about the European choice of Ukraine and all the benefits which it will bring to our country”. 

Both the opposition and the government demonstrated consensus in many issues for the sake of the future integration process. However, all of a sudden, the government with one single decree, which in my opinion was not fully legal (as the government stepped out of their competence), blocks the whole process, causing huge indignation of people who felt themselves fooled.

All started by a famous journalist Mustafa Nayem, who on his FB page asked who is ready to go to Maidan to protest. Within a couple of minutes around 500 people expressed their determination and the ‘civic maidan’ started. 

It was Friday. The opposition had previously scheduled a protest on Sunday, so the first huge rally took place then. People came to that demo just to express their position and aspiration for Ukraine’s European choice. People were really hoping that the President will see how many of them support the idea, and this will make him change his mind and sign the AA in Vilnius. Many were ready to support him sincerely.

Riot police. author mac_ivan. source Flickr

Riot police. author mac_ivan. source Flickr

“Most probably, Maidan would have slowly faded out – it all looked rather like a big disco party, not a political protest”.

A decisive force in the protest were students of Kyiv universities. They were those who took it all very seriously and were ready to protect their European future day and night. When the President did not sign the AA, all hopes were ruined, however, nobody knew what to do next. The opposition could not offer a single plan how to tackle the situation.

Most probably, Maidan would have slowly faded out – it all looked rather like a big disco party, not a political protest. I was there on Friday evening, [29 November – ed.note] and was sure that it was the end of it…. I felt despair that we are so weak as the nation and that we have such a weak opposition.

On Saturday morning I saw the news on the internet. What a shock! While reading from my phone it in the tram I was crying! I just could not believe that such cruelty could happen in Kyiv! Cruelty against peaceful protesters, against students, who have clear hearts and sincerely protected their ideals! We all knew that the current government was totally corrupt and criminal, but when they shed the blood of students, it was really the last straw!

Barricades: de-constructed Maidan Christmas tree, author: Ludmila Slyesaryeva, source: Eastbook.eu

Barricades: de-constructed Maidan Christmas tree, author: Ludmila Slyesaryeva, source: Eastbook.eu

So this mostly civic protest movement in the support of the European choice of Ukraine turned into a political demonstration with a clear requirement for the Government to resign and punish those who are guilty in the cruelty against the peaceful protesters.

I personally want a complete vertical change of the whole governmental, including the parliament. We should stop with this total corruption.

“So this mostly civic protest movement in the support of the European choice of Ukraine turned into a political demonstration…”

I guess, the number of people who were on the streets of Kyiv prove to the whole world that Ukraine belongs to the Western civilization with its key democratic values. However, now we will see a hard fight of the authorities which will use all possible means to stop the processes with military force and provocations.

I guess, the decisive support of the international community is essential now. Personal sanctions is a concrete step which is really welcomed by so many Ukrainians.”

#євромайдан #euromaidan LIVE

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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