Ukraine – what now?

20131209-122224.jpgLast Friday I did a sub-editing shift on a national newspaper in London.

A friend ‘subbed’ the Ukraine Kiev piece and admitted afterwards it was incredibly difficult to follow the sequence of events, get his head round what had happened, who was who and what  all the trouble was about.

And why, indeed, they were fighting in the first place.

Welcome to Ukraine!

Then the guy proofing the page came over.

He said of the main picture: “Whenever we run a picture from their Parliament, they’re always fighting. And why do they wear jumpers?”

Ukraine Euromaidan revolution
A trebuchet from the Middle Ages? No, it’s the Kyivyan catapult still on stand-by in central Kyiv

“It’s cold over there,” I said.

“But look at them, they’re wearing jumpers. In Parliament! They look a bunch of builders!”

“Some of them probably are,” I said.

Unfathomable Ukraine continues to astonish – even those of us who have some grasp of why the country is the way it is, can’t really explain it satisfactorily to those who’ve never been there. It’s an eternal conundrum.

Here’s the final despatch from a pal who will finding teaching the locals a little humdrum after the events of the last three months.

Although, one thing’s for sure – it’s not all over yet!

Sunday, February 23

Probably the last email – my role here seems to be over.

Euromaidan revolution Ukraine
Box of petrol bombs

It seems to have gone better than I had hoped for – at the Party of Regions Conference in Kharkiv (supposed to be aimed at drawing up an action plan to roll back the ‘Nazi Coup’), there were large crowds of protestors; the two top men in Kharkiv flew to Russia soon after the meeting. The only place with any real trouble is now Crimea – and even there scuffling, rather than deaths.

I’ve heard that all the top dogs – Yanukovych, Zakarchenko, Pshonka, etc. have been stopped from flying out of Ukraine, so are probably still in the country – thought they could easily slip across the porous eastern or northern border.

Yanukovych gave a classic ‘out of touch dictator/believe your own propaganda’ speech from Kharkiv – from what I could gather to the effect that a neo-Nazi group had staged a coup, but the international community was rallying behind him and order would soon be restored.

I am sending some photos and videos from yesterday afternoon and this morning.

Euromaidan 2014
Hanged titushki dummy, complete with bottle of vodka

After working in the morning, I walked home through the city – Independence Square, up Khruchevskogo into Marinski Park – which I have for many months only seen at night, while quietly skirting around the edge of the titushki camp.

On Maidan crowds were out in force – funerals were taking place.

I had watched with anxiety on Thursday night, as much heavier weapons started appearing – such as the massive catapult in the picture (and more signs of guns).

I can recognise a thug when I see one, and there were some unpleasant-looking types posing on armoured vehicles.

I got the impression that this lot would not bring ‘freedom’. The leader type in glasses and green helmet, was having countless phone conversations in good English. I expressed my opinion to a few people that this lot were no better than Mr Y., and they seemed to agree.

It was always important that large numbers of more moderate types stayed on board with the protests, and they did – even among the most radical fighters.

I met a lot of Svoboda members and never got the impression that most of them were anything much more than nationalists, or people attracted to Svoboda’s stronger line against the government.

Euromaidan 2014
A Ukrainian Orthodox Church priest returns the helmet my pal scavenged from a titushki

Even firebrand Tyanhybok has been toning it down. I thought that these people – without power and unlikely to win national elections – were much less of a threat than the actual govt (so long as they did not grab power at the end – but they have been behaving OK).

In Marinskiy Park it was impressive to see large groups of volunteers clearing up – removing the titushki camp and carefully sweeping the whole place.

The hanging figure is made out of abandoned titushki clothing – bottle of vodka in one hand, Party of Regions gift bag in the other, money taped to the torso.

I walked up to see the priests who had helped out during the titushki scare on Wednesday – getting the helmet I stole from a titushki back (my main trophy, my mum’s boyfriend will enjoy wearing it on his motorbike!). I stayed for the (seemingly thanksgiving) service that was going on.

I have been trying to find a link I saw yesterday to a list of the dead, with pics and basic info, but I can’t find the site now.

I vaguely knew two of them: Sergei Bondarev and Andriy Movchan (who worked at a theatre).

You’ve probably all seen dramatic photos, but here are some good ones:

As l left the church it seemed fitting, some might say divine, that it started to rain – a cleansing.

Time to clear up. Protesters get to work in Marinski Park, which was the main base of the pro-government supporters, who have all left
Time to clear up. Protesters get to work in Marinski Park, which was the main base of the pro-government supporters, who have all left

Yulia Tymoshenko was freed last night and spoke on Maidan – it was her moment, after years in prison; but I hope she does not get re-elected.

I’ve always supported the an independent, proactive and resourceful citizenry in Ukraine; but Yulia’s main message was ‘don’t worry my children, I’m here now and so you’ll be safe’ – and she called for public shaming of govt leaders on Maidan.

I don’t think it would have played very well with the crowd.

She might not realise how much the people she was addressing have matured, politically, over the last three months; plus they have not forgotten her ten years overseeing an unreformed post-Soviet state.

Some very silly titushki seemed to be setting off stun grenades on Maidan as she was speaking – they were caught, dragged up to near the stage, and made to stand there looking absolutely mortified.

This morning I left the flat about 8.15am and walked to the office.

Parliament today - new security on duty
Parliament today – new security on duty

A habit they share with the Russains, Ukrainians are late risers and the people on the streets were mainly the ‘people of Maidan’ – who were roaming around, packing and clearing in the square, making new plans.

I expect a huge turnout later today, as the Kyiv public come out in force. I think the more people feel this was ‘their protest’ the better;

but it’s probably the end of the time when 20, 000 or so people, of all types but mainly middle-aged western Ukrainians and Kyivites – were its beating heart


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