The Yanukovych Palace and Berkut break-up

Mezhyhyria, Янукович PalaceWednesday, February 26 update from a pal

Just found out that Berkut have now been abolished – very pleased; I was giving out ‘abolish Berkut’ leaflets yesterday.

The remaining Maidan ‘Self-Defence Units’ have now taken on  new roles – guarding public buildings, directing traffic and acting as tour guides in the Independence Square area.

Many of them have injuries.  I have only seen two policemen recently – two traffic cops near my place, accompanied by two protestors who were ‘observing’ them at work.

Euromaidan 2014
Crowds on Hrushekskogo St

With no elite flashing around in big cars and limited opportunity for graft, the traffic cops don’t actually have a lot to do.

There are great heaps of flowers around the city centre; shrines have also been set up where different people died – there is a shrine at Marinski Park.  This would have happened on Thursday, when I was ‘running with titushki’.

There are many sniper bullet holes in trees and posts all around the the Kreshatik metro entrance at the top of Institutska Street – it makes you appreciate that a lot of rounds must have been fired.

The Grim Reaper

Grim Reaper at Euromaidan Revolution
Macabre Grim Reaper who has been regularly seen in Kyiv during the protests

On a lighter note, the Grim Reaper was directing traffic around the Rada.

He was doing it quite capably, before appearing to lose interest and getting involved in a political debate.Some priests then turned up to bless the Parliament, and the Grim Reaper quite noisily joined in with prayers and chantsAt this stage some of the guards seemed to think the whole thing was in poor form – possibly a bad omen – so told him to shut up.

This character has been a constant throughout the protests – I have variously seen him tucking into free sandwiches, chucking bricks towards cops and laying out some kind of political platform.


I also spotted what I’m pretty sure was an SBU (secret service) guy.

I even think I recognised this particular one; from the day we were walking around Luteranska St – in very different circumstances.All calm here, now seems a question of ‘winning the peace’.There is going to be a ‘veche’ (public gathering) tonight at 7, on Maidan, when the new government will be put to the crowd – for their approval (or not).

Grim Reaper at Euromaidan revolution
The Grim Reaper joins a blessing ceremony before being shut up by security

For me and people I know, two new political goals are developing: lustration (financial audit) for anyone standing for public office in the new elections – in May; and separation of the legislature and executive (legal and political branches) – for instance the Rada has recently decided to free political prisoners, but our argument is that this kind of decision should be outside the executive’s powers.

Yanukovych Palace

Yanukovych Palace - Mezhyhyria
En route to the President’s Palace

The pictures emerging of the ‘palace’ of the latter-day Romanov, Viktor Yanukovych, seem to validate all criticisms of his regime.

These are a few taken by a Euromaidan medic Vadim who visited the former-president’s estate outside Kyiv over the weekend.

Yanukovych Palace
All aboard for the Palace tour

My medic volunteer friend Vadim, who spent all night on Maidan on Tuesday night (night of the big battle) – and was faced with Berkut advancing on one side and flames on the other – went out to Yanukovych’s place yesterday.

He sent these photos.  He’s the guy dressed in titushki disguise, standing by the entrance.  Yanukovych seems to have had another big pad in the Carpathians – complete with zoo, gold plate etc.Yanukovych house

Some people are calling for lustration (full audit) of all deputies, an aim which I tend to agree with.

Others want to extend this to an audit of oligarchs (including Poroshenko); with corruptly gained state assets being returned.

Again, I kind of agree but certainly in the case of the oligarchs the protest movement could be making powerful new enemies – something it does not need now.

So I tend to think that the idea of political lustration needs to be put out into the public sphere, and if civic-minded journalists and lawyers can start working on that idea and on publicising info about the worst offenders it will have a big impact come the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in late May.

Yanukovych house
Sightseers take a look at the Party of Regions leader’s imperial home

At the moment, I think the focus still needs to be the geopolitical type stuff – Russia, Crimea, accountability of the previous regime.  

International governments seem to be taking decisive action to engage with Russia and make commitments to underpin the economy (Ukraine is on the point of total bankruptcy).

Though I’ve been critical of the ineptness of the Opposition leadership in the past, they seem to have been able to form a national unity coalition in the Rada; sidestep some legal issues in a deft but lawful manner; and get on with rapidly pushing through all kinds of legislation to stabilise the situation and map out a way forward.

Mezhyhyria
Opulence inside the Yanukovych Palace

Everyone I know (admittedly an unrepresentative section of Ukrainians) is saying what I think, that Yulia Tymoshenko has failed to grasp the psychological changes that have taken place.

A few people have said to me that without the destruction of the whole kleptocratic system the whole thing was pointless; I completely disagree with this.

The biggest change has been in the mindset of millions of people – even of the entire nation.

At least three or four million people must have done something practical to support the movement (take food to protestors, post stuff online, go to the Kyiv or a regional Maidan).

Yanukovych palace
Euromaidan medic Vadim – whose pictures these are – outside the entrance to Mezhyhyria
Mezhyhyria
A jetty at the Yanukovych Palace lake

It has been on a broader scale than the Orange Revolution in 2004, and requiring greater sacrifice and soul-searching.

The other thing to keep in mind is that a few weeks ago you could under the law face 15 years in prison for criticising the government; meeting at certain places; wearing certain clothes; driving in groups of more than five cars (though some people were being abducted, beaten up, etc.): and the media was under heavy pressure.

So very key guarantors of freedom – freedom of expression and association, and freedom of the media – were at stake.

Yesterday seemed mainly a day of mourning, so the last few pics are mine – flowers around the barricades; and council workers moving into Maidan.Mezhyhyria

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