Euromaidan’s tree of hope

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They might well end up calling this the Christmas Tree Revolution.

Until early last Saturday morning, it looked as though the pro-EU campaigning was about to fizzle out. That was when the paramilitary police – the dreaded Berkut – attacked people in Independence Square – horrifying millions across Ukraine and plunging the nation into crisis.

Lame excuses were made that the most important square in the country needed to be cleared so the Christmas tree preparations could be completed.

Huge demonstrations followed and more violence which led to the City Hall and Independent Square being colonised by the opposition activists.

And the tree is no more. Its artificial foliage – it now forms part of the barricades.

And it is topped by razor wire. Or wire is threaded intricately through it, to make it harder for people to climb over the barrier.

Razor wire tops the artificial Christmas tree foliage on a barricade at Independence Square
Razor wire tops the artificial Christmas tree foliage on a barricade at Independence Square

The Christian symbol of peace and goodwill to all humankind is part of the opposition camp’s defences should there be further trouble.

The barricades blockade the main entrances to Independence Square. In turn, the police and the government have been have been importing all the buses they can get their hands on and parking them up by Parliament or using them to bus in their own supporters. It almost feels like buses will soon blot out the sky.

The festive fence which forms the barricade at Kreshatik
The festive fence which forms the barricade at Kreshatik

So far this week, it has to be said, there’s been no simmering anger. No tension in the air. Not publicly at least. Families happily roam around Independence Square. Many of the Party of the Regions’ faithful in their compound next to the Parliament are babushkas – old ladies – peacefully biding their time and supporting their side.

Opposition parties are clear they want to protest peacefully – they are blaming the anti-police attacks on Sunday on right-wing extremist Russian sympathisers – though the protesters are occupying City Hall after a break-in.

As for the tree – known as ‘Yolka’ – a new type of foliage is attached to a metal frame in the square.

Protesters pose next to their 'Christmas' decorations in Kyiv
Protesters pose next to their ‘Christmas’ decorations in Kyiv

It’s maybe 40 feet high. And it’s definitely not a symbol of peace and goodwill.

It is now taking on a different form after protesters decided to provide new Christmas decorations.

They climb inside the metal framework to ascend to the point where they attach a flag, rude message to President Yanukovych or a piece of artwork.

A rude message for Mr Yanukovych
A rude message for Mr Yanukovych

It’s the strangest Christmas tree I’ve ever seen.

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