Aftermath of Ukraine’s bloodiest day

Ukraine Euromaidan revolutionUPDATES FROM PAL IN KYIV

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 22,

3pm In Kyiv it is all over. Government has collapsed and top people fled. Non -extremist opposition in control everywhere and impeachment of yanu has kept more extreme elements happy.

Population out in force clearing up city and areas that were battle zones a day ago are now full of people posing for pics and collecting bullets as souvenirs.

Funerals on maidan. Focus now switched to the east but even there looks ok. Unclear where yanu is.

Just been to church where priests helped during titushki scare. For me and I think city sense of pressure has lifted.

1pm Went to Independence Square (Maidan) yesterday evening, large sections of the crowd were quite angry about the deal with Yanukovych.

Various news sources have reported an unprovoked attack on all public buildings remaining in state hands, by some radical protestors, after 10 this morning.

I was so worried that I got up early and scribbled some notes for a speech to give on Maidan – about the importance of being better than the govt and using power wisely.

Euromaidan 2014
Protest groups from the south and east, Odessa and Kharkiv – ‘Children of Kharkiv’

Leaving the flat at 7.30am, came across a group of about a dozen protestors in the street near Arsenalna metro; looked like a scouting party and they were moving warily towards the Rada (Parliament).I started talking to them about non-violence; though not speaking much English, they agreed and I got the impression they were peacefully-inclined. They seemed a bit worried about snipers.

Continued walking with them, towards the Rada. Amazing relief, all around the Rada all security forces have disappeared and there a few small bands of protestors guarding strategic points.I talked to two groups of them: they told me they’d moved in at dawn and were there to guard the buildings.The whole area at the heart of government – the Rada and Yanukovych’s own Presidential Admin building – are now under the control of the protestors.

Approach to front line guards today in central Kyiv
Approach to front line guards today in central Kyiv

Walking down the hill towards European Square was an eerie but happy moment.

Approaching the protest barricades from the side where there had been massed ranks of police, front line protestors let me through a narrow forward gate.

I forget about photos at the Rada, I’m afraid – an amazing scene. On Maidan, the atmosphere seemed calm.

Yanukovych is reportedly in Kharkiv. Medvedchuk’s house has been burned down, though it had been abandoned.

Government in Kyiv has crumbled. Though a fight for the east may I suppose start, I would think that Yanu is making plans to get out.

FRIDAY FEBRUARY 21

Apparently Berkut pulled out of city centre and the anti-terror rule allowing live fire overturned.

Not the end though as no one trusts the government. Friend working as medical volunteer told me story of trying to get out of trade union building as it was burning down and the Berkut were moving through it floor by floor beating people up.

People have set up roadblocks around Kyiv stopping titushki coming in and road police have disappeared.

Just had a defining moment, standing on the stage on Maidan – holding a poster ‘Goodbye Mr Y.’, not speaking.

They did ask me to address the crowd, but I think today’s a moment for the ‘people of Maidan’.

I was with a civic group called ‘Democratic Alliance’, who are arguing for Yanukovych’s resignation rather than a (temporary at least) power-sharing deal.

It was an emotional moment: as smoke drifts up from the blackened square and surrounding barricades into today’s clear sky, with the pervasive smell of burnt rubber, you can see maybe 20,000 faces fixed on the speaker.

Euromaidan 2014
Casualty spot near the October Palace

Many are crying – at an earlier point today I was stood next to two stolid-looking, late middle-aged men with tears running down their cheeks.

The crowd are of all types – but in the main they are dirty and tired-looking guys; they largely look like rural people, and are overwhelmingly Ukrainian (rather than Russian) speakers.

State security seems to have collapsed. There is a report that a small band of protestors tried to attack the Rada (Parliament) building early this morning, but were repulsed.

At 8.30 I walked around the Rada and Marinskiy Park – for the first time in many weeks, able to roam freely right past the Rada itself.

The Interior Ministry police at the few remaining roadblocks seem to have lost resolve – I asked twice if I could pass through, testing their morale, and though they turned me away it was in a half-hearted way.

Euromaidan revolutionaries in Kyiv, 2014Down on Maidan at 9am there was an atmospheric shift – roads are open, tyres were being taken out of the area and people were cleaning up the huge piles of burnt detritus.

I was very heartened to see this sense of civic responsibility; hardline protestors cleaning the streets while the messages from the main stage were calling for a peaceful settlement, consistent with their own demands for democratic freedoms.

By noon, the Maidan Council was having a meeting, discussing next steps.

I joined the Democratic Alliance guys, who are pushing for Yanukovych’s resignation.

Euromaidan 2014 Kyiv
Lviv Gate – Lion’s Gate

With Berkut withdrawn from Kyiv and some units refusing to obey orders, the House Speaker missing, Zakarchenko (Interior Minister) apparently flown to Russia, protest groups controlling the roads around Kyiv, it seems a mistake to start a new round of compromise deals with a government which consistently makes agreements then breaks them.

So we await developments on a day that holds promise as a turning point for the nation.

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