Euromaidan, Kyiv, February 20

Euromaidan revolution UkraineFROM A BRITISH PAL WORKING IN KYIV

Another day of drama in Kyiv – though I’d expected that the visit by EU bigwigs would mean a truce.

About 9.30 am I was still in the flat, having slept well after the previous sleepless night.  I started hearing what sounded like gunshots and muffled thumps, then ambulance sirens – it was clear something was up.

Then I heard shouting outside – assuming it was protestors lining the route for the UE bunch, I quickly got dressed and left the flat – grabbing a large sheet of paper and marker pens to make some kind of sign.

Turning onto the main road at Slava Square, there was the sight of hundreds of titushki (maybe 300 to 500) kitted out in black gear, with green metal helmets and wearing yellow armbands; all wielding standard-issue wooden clubs and with metal shields.

They were clearly in a hurry, and being followed by Interior Ministry militia both marching and in buses.  I assumed they were chasing demonstrators, as I could see a few protest symbols laying around the street.

It could be thought that they were beating some kind of retreat – the gunfire I’d heard earlier turned out to be the protestor attack on police lines which took so many lives today.

I was more or less in the middle of these titushki; thinking I could overtake them and maybe help any protestors in trouble (I was thinking of writing ‘International Observer’ on the sign and loudly speaking English) I started moving along after them – they were a bit of a rabble, dropping kit all the time which the police were constantly picking up.

I actually got one of their helmets, which I’ve given to a priest down near Lavra for safekeeping and so we can check who’s making and supplying them.

I ended up tracking these titushki down past the War Memorial Park, and ended up overtaking them.  It was clear that they were a bit scared, and possibly lost – but still, all young and aggressive men.

I was running the whole time, and asking people in the streets to do something – remember I thought they were attacking peaceful protestors and was pretty angry at this point.

I said to a few police ‘I can’t believe you are doing this’  and asked the Ukrainian Orthodox priests I met to start ringing their monastery bell, they didn’t have one but did bravely start shouting ‘stop titushki’; another guy pulled his car and trailer into the road, slowing the titushki down.

Other people were honking and shouting at the titushki out of car windows, but most passers-by looked frightened, with many hurrying away.

Euromaidan, Kyiv
Militia bullets

I kept running up the hill towards Pechersk metro, and came across two young guys wearing protest  symbols – told them to take them off and we kept running towards the metro.

It turned out they were medics, not as I had thought the tail end of a group.

Later in the day I found out there had been some skirmishes around my place, but not sure what had happened there.

I jumped on a bus at the metro and got down to Maidan.  Spoke to guards on the Bessarabka barricade, told them about titushki heading their way; they were thankful and asked if I wanted a helmet and club – I responded that on that day – with EU officials around – my pen would probably be more powerful.

I finally used the paper and markers – we made a big ‘EU – Support Our Democratic Freedoms’ sign and one guy helped me wire it up behind the barricade.Euromaidan Ukraine revolution

I mentioned to another guy that I could do some scouting for them, report on titushki movements etc. – so I’m now a scout for at least one group of guards (they are very disparate).

I spent the next few hours tracking around the titushki camp, the burned-out streets around the Rada (Parliament) etc.  Berkut with Kalashnikovs are stopping movement around the Rada – for the first time ever I got stopped and questioned; the guy wasn’t really aggressive and went with my ‘I’m a tourist’ story.

Had a look around Maidan first though; at that point I found out about the shootings – maybe 30 killed today; all protestors.  And about 50 cops and titushki captured.

The protestors had launched an assault on the October Palace, re-taking it as well as most of the area of Maidan they had lost.  The whole area is a blackened wasteland, but with plenty of materials for building new barricades.  Front-liners aren’t washing much, and a lot of them are now black with soot.

I ended up having to work, then got on the partially re-opened metro; the new govt-appointed Mayor of Kyiv has resigned and told metro staff to re-open it, against govt orders.

Central stations are still shut though so I ended up going out of the centre and getting on a minibus to get back in – the bus was stuffed with people heading to Independence Square, many with various supplies – one old lady had a plastic 5-litre bottle of pickled cucumbers in one hand, and 5 litres of petrol (petrol bombs) in the other.20131209-131910.jpg

The mood in Kyiv generally has turned much more hard-line; any idea of compromise has dissolved.

There are now a lot of people on Maidan, with constant deliveries of fuel and tyres, and food, from cars clogging the streets approaching from the north.  Also ambulances and large deliveries going in and out of Maidan.

As I was leaving the Bessarabka entrance, to come to the office, some protestors were dragging along a titushki they’d caught – he was young and looked terrified, someone cuffed him as he started struggling but thankfully the crowd did not start beating him up.

I think groups are going out in ‘plain clothes’ and grabbing titushki who’ve got spilt up – trying to frighten them (after all, their main motivation is money so I guess if you make it dangerous enough for them they’ll stop).

Galya reported that a train has been stopped somewhere and titushki who were heading for Kyiv forced off it, then the track damaged.  Also titushki in buses have been stopped on the way to Kyiv, and the buses set on fire.

There have been big riots in Dnipropetrovsk from what I hear, but I’m short on info. – though the regions, especially the east now, are obviously important.  In some areas cops are helping to stop other militia units and titushki move towards Kyiv.

Quite a few Party of Regions (govt) deputies have resigned; the army Chief of Staff has been fired for being uncooperative.

I can now hear the odd explosion from my office, but nothing dramatic.

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