Snow, sausages and Saakashvili

20131207-162633.jpgUkraine’s Euromaidan is the political equivalent of Glastonbury.

Kyiv’s Independence Square is awash with tents, oil drum fires, soup tureens boiling borscht.

There’s a powerful smell of sausages. There’s never a moment’s silence from the stage, someone is always giving a speech.

That’s mixed up with musical interludes.

Sometimes they are on the stage. In Khreshatik, most of which is blocked to cars, bands and pipers pitch up with their equipment and are guaranteed a grateful audience.

Soup-erman stirs the pot for the hungry horde
Soup-erman stirs the pot for the hungry horde

No policeman has been spotted here for nearly a week and the barricades at entrances to the square are designed to keep them at bay.

It seems pretty much under control despite the surface chaos which would kill a UK health and safety officer of a heart attack induced by unregulated, haphazard, unchecked activities that always seem as though they’re about to backfire.

But, hey, this is Ukraine in microcosm. Everything is like this.

Art work on the wall of the Globus shopping centre
Art work on the wall of the Globus shopping centre

Inside the fenced off area of about eight hectares, tents are put up and people who cannot stay with friends in Kyiv or in the occupied government buildings, sleep inside them in sub zero temperatures.

The canvases are fixed to the ground by hammering tent pegs through the tough granite floors of the square. In the main street, Kreshatik, pegs are driven into the tarmac.

Wood is stockpiled by people who are, in effect, now living in Independence Square
Wood is stockpiled by people who are, in effect, now living in Independence Square

Priests have their own tent and regularly feature on the main stage, conducting religious services.

Religion is a powerful force in Ukraine and even if people are not believers, the church has a strong emotional hold on many people and services are well-attended.

Today journalists were issued with bright orange jackets to identify them as ‘Press’. After last week’s clashes with the paramilitary police left up to 40 injured, precautions are being taken.

'Guardians of the law! Remember that at a time of  peaceful meetings, journalists are not terrorists'
‘Guardians of the law! Remember that at a time of peaceful meetings, journalists are not terrorists’

That’s because tomorrow sees the March of a Million. The opposition is calling for people to hit the streets once more on what will be Day 17 of the protests.

At noon there will be what the organisers hope is another show of strength

Boxer and possible presidential candidate Vitali Klitchko meets the press
Boxer and possible presidential candidate Vitali Klitchko meets the press

It looks like being a crucial moment in the continuing opposition campaign. Now the snow has arrived, commitment to stay in Independence Square becomes ever more intense.

Let’s face it, would you fancy spending weeks on end out in the cold, possibly in temperatures of -15C with the cold biting your cheeks.

Protesters climb into the bowels of the Christmas tree framework to fix their flag to it
Protesters climb into the bowels of the Christmas tree framework to fix their flag to it

Today (Saturday), visitors have been welcomed.  European politicians, as part of a delegation, met the press and spoke from the main stage.

One’s dry joke, hinting at anti-EU feeling across the c0ntinent, was: “Ukraine is the most pro-EU part of Europe.”

Don’t think many people got that one.

The former president of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili also spoke. He led his country into the disastrous conflict with Russia in 2008 and popping up here might not be the best of omens for those demonstrators who believe that Russia is calling all the shots in their country.

Clothes are dished out to activists who are staying at Euromaidan
Clothes are dished out to activists who are staying at Euromaidan

But what can’t be denied is that there has been a renewal of interest in politics. This time by the younger generation – mainly from the west of Ukraine – who have seen Poland’s regeneration since 2000 and want part of it.

Vitali Klitchko keeps repeating that Ukraine has not progressed in 22 years and needs to look away from Russia to make progress. A friend disagrees, saying that as Ukraine’s main recipient of exports is Russia, it is Putin’s country that, of necessity, has to be the focus of political and economic efforts.

As with everything in Ukraine, nothing is straightforward.

Common Cause civilian movement's slogan reads: 'We have a countryu and we have got to fight for it'
Common Cause civilian movement’s slogan reads: ‘We have a country and we have got to fight for it’

Lawyer Vladimir, 25, told me: “After the Orange Revolution people were depressed because they didn’t believe they could change anything.

“I am glad now people have hope. Young people of my age, they travel about more and they know how life is lived elsewhere. They want change.”

Pink and white cadlllacs for Europe: a Tymoshenko supporter backs Euromaidan
Pink and white cadlllacs for Europe: a Tymoshenko supporter backs Euromaidan

Tomorrow we’ll see which way the wind is blowing.

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