The Chronicle of Ukrainian Revolution
Ukraine has passed through the most dramatic times in the history of independence.A month and a half have passed since more than a hundred demonstrators were killed in Kiev. Its central streets are still covered with the flowers and icon lamps. All those killed haven’t been buried during this period – the last body of an unidentified activist will be betrayed to the earth today. Many things have changed ever since: inviolable, it would seem, Yanukovych regime has failed and Ukraine signed an Association with the EU – is the document from which large-scale confrontation has started. Today we can say with no exaggeration – It was The Revolution of Honor, as it was dubbed by media, will take its place in the textbooks Ukraine’s modern history.
Evromaydan. Photo Chronicle of the events
In response to the Azarov’s Government decision to stop preparation for signing the Association with the European Union, November 21, 2013 in the center of Kiev began the first protest actions. After several “Europe Marches” , with the participation of up to 100 000 people who supported the integration with the EU, grew up a small tent city and the scene under the Stele of Independence on Khreschatyk street. Probably the protest was named “Evromaydan” by analogy to the events in 2004. It’s impossible to say that it was a mass protest (especially comparing with the events that followed) – the ideas of European integration could not consolidate the society as the hate to the current Government. The main contingent of “Evromaydan” are the students – the most dynamic and innovative part of the population.
In this place national ideas began to appear. At the same time, the leaders of Evromaydan were very afraid and repeatedly said that the evaluation of the Authorities' actions will be given after the elections.
The first voltage and clashes with the police happened on November 29 (when EU-Ukraine Association Agreement wasn’t signed). After Yanukovych predicted failure in Vilnius people came more and more on “Maidan Nezalezhnosti”. It was Friday and it was good for the protesters because next two days were the weekends. About 16:00 the concert was interrupted by leading the concert with the words that “Berkut” came down from the hill of the October Palace (parallel to the street Instytutska).
The Special Forces blocked Khreshchatyk and oppositional minibus with audio equipment under the walls of the House of Trade Unions. It was accompanied by deputies Arsen Avakov (now Minister of the Interior), Lyudmila Denisova (now Minister of Social Policy) and Andrew Paruby (now Secretary of the NSDC).
Several units of the Interior Troops arrived to help the SWAT (Berkut). There were about 2000 police officers. The situation escalated, but at one moment the Interior Ministry units left Khreschatyk.
The concert lasted speeches of the opposition trinity: Arseny Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko and Oleg Tyagnibok.
The first victim and the beginning of the Revolution
The SWAT (Berkut) came back on “Maidan Nezalezhnosti” on Saturday November 30 at 04:00 am. After several official warnings to the demonstrators of the intention to set a Christmas tree, Special Forces blocked the camp and went on the attack, trying not to let people. For that moment there were about 500 students and 50 activists of Rights Sector under the Stele of Independence. The battle was very cruel – the police threw off the people from the pedestal of Independence and beaten with batons and legs who were lying. There was almost no resistance, except some attempts of the Right Sector to throw in "Berkut” firebrands and materials at hand. The beating wasn’t over on Khreschatyk. The police chased away individual groups of young people in all directions of the central part of Kiev.
Michael's Cathedral was a refuge for those who were able to escape. Approximately at 10 am, November 30, there were up to a hundred activists, mostly wounded.
The SWAT (Berkut) was making the attempts to detain them, but the gates to the courtyard of the Cathedral were closed and no one dared to storm religious building. A few hours later, people who had known about the night massacre Square began to gather at the Michael Square. Here began to form first self-defense units and elemental scene was appeared. In the evening there were about 40 thousand people in the square. At that moment people were not talking about the Association Agreement. They were outraged by the use of force against peaceful demonstrators. We should also mention the level of mutual support and self-organizing. Within hours the people of Kiev to the victims and protesters brought a huge amount of medicines, food and hot drinks. It wasn’t systemic supply by the organizers or someone else.
Different people were carrying a thermos of tea, bags with food (bought at the local supermarket), and pots of porridge (obviously home-made). Among other things, there were many people who offered to give free legal assistance and suggested victims to stay in their apartments.
On Sunday, December 1, the next protest action was appointed in Shevchenko Park – against the violence which had occurred the previous day. However, those who were inviting people to the demonstration, obviously, had underestimated the amount of desired to join it. But an hour before all the surrounding to Khreschatyk Street, within a radius of 2-3 neighborhoods, had been filled with people. Probably, it was a surprise for the Authorities because serious attempts were not undertaken for blocking Khreschatyk and Maidan.
About 500,000 people took part in the march. The main demands of this people were the resignation of the Interior Minister Zaharchenko and the entire Azarov Cabinet. Yanukovych resignation was added for those requirements which was seemed impossible to do for that moment.
The activists had occupied Kiev city council and Kyiv City State Administration which is on the way to the main square of the country and neutralized provokers who were intending to burn the building. It should be noted, that conflicts were brewing around Kiev public administration and related with the absence of the election in the capital city. Supporting the opposition believed that the City Authorities had been usurped. In addition, the House of Trade Unions and October Palace were captured.
When police was dispersed, protesters occupied Maidan, captured construction equipment and flags were hung on a New Year tree. The most radical representatives of the protesters went to Bankova Street where is located the Presidential Administration. Then the assault was begun and lasted for 4 hours.
It should be mentioned that opposition politicians in every way had intended to calm radical activists, but they were booed. So, Petro Poroshenko and Alexandra Kuzhel were almost pulled off the grader (captured on Maidan) in the crowd, when they began to calm down them.
The protection of the President’s Administration was built by a strange principle (which was used by the guidance of the Ministry of Internal Affairs during all collisions): front ranks of the police occupied internal troops (mostly conscripts), and "Berkut" divisions were located behind them in 50 meters. The assault began, when a bulldozer had been managed to dislodge the regime of internal troops for 10 meters. Paving slabs was used as the first main "weapon", which Government imprudently had laid the whole neighborhood district. The stun and gas grenades were launched to the crowd in response. The volunteer doctors began to take the first wounded – mostly it was leg injuries (of grenades).
A few hours later “Berkut” took the offensive, was beating everyone in their way, including journalists and lying demonstrators.
But the opposition managed to stop the bloodshed. Then into the ranks of "Berkut" passed P. Poroshenko and Oleg Tyahnibok , and Vitali Klitschko went to calm down attackers. It is hard to say, who started the assault: on a large number of videos we had seen a group of provocateurs who then were beating the soldiers of the Internal Troops with chains, before the collision had crossed the police freely. So, those facts gave us the reason to say that the provocations were organized by the guidance of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. However, on photos and video materials in the assault were seen the representatives of the radical "Brotherhood" of Korchinskiy. Also, after those events, on videos in the network appeared fragments where detainees were beating in the rear of the “Berkut’s” camp. It became clear that after the events on the Bankova Street, the issues of European integration definitively put on the backburner. People, whose interests were infringed upon power Yanukovych, started gathering on Maidan from the whole country. Among them were many businessmen, citizens affected by the police and judicial tyranny. Contrary to ordinary opinion, a significant amount inhabitants of the east regions took part in the protests where traditionally have been strong power of the “Regions’ Party”.
From the demonstrations to the rebellion
More than a month Maidan protest camp was living unchallenged, except for the demolition of the SWAT (Berkut) a few barricades in Government District and an attempt to storm the Kyiv City State Administration, repulsed with the help of fire hose. During this time, numerous protesters formed self-defense units that were spontaneously equipped with homemade body armor, and construction helmets (later the army) and homemade batons.
Demonstrators build large barricades with ice and snow that were reaching up to 6 meters in height.
Among other things, Maidan has become a huge art exhibition of political satire objects.
But protest life wasn’t limited in the camp perimeter. Avtomaydan was visiting Yanukovych residence regularly and the pickets of public buildings were held every day. Probably, that situation wasn’t satisfied the Government. The Party of the Regions, despite the lull, had decided to stop the mass protests beyond the limit of Maidan and localized the protest. In January 16, 2014, Verkhovna Rada “under the guise” of adoption of the budget in 2014 voted for the bill "Kolsnichenko-Oleinik," which is popularly was called the “law of the dictatorship”. The Act has introduced a number of restrictions of civil rights – the ban on the wearing of helmets on the protests, up to buying the SIM cards by passports. Voting was held with a number of serious violations of the regulations and later the part of The Party of the Regions expressed dissatisfaction that the deputies had substituted.
Repressive laws have caused another surge of the indignation, as on Maidan, and in the regions. On January 19, the tension had escalated into the assault in the Government quarter in Grushevskogo Street, near the Dynamo Stadium. The right sector took over the responsibility for the assault.
After a failed attempt to break through to the Verkhovna Rada and the Cabinet of Ministers, the demonstrators set fire the police buses in order to prevent the SWAT (Berkut) and Internal Troops’ counter attacks.
The police opened fire with rubber bullets (12-mm), applied noise and gas grenades and water cannon, despite a very cold weather in response to the “Molotov Cocktail” and paving slabs. A bit later “Molotov Cocktails”, grenades wrapped with shrapnel (screws, nuts and stones) were being thrown in the demonstrators. Also, it should be mentioned that the “Berkut” often deliberately shot at the journalists, especially aiming in the face, therefore most reporters had removed orange "Press" waistcoats whose purpose was to protect from the police attack.
The artists were painting the history while there was the truce in the "Grushevskiy" Street.
On January 22, the Special Forces soldiers began to use a live ammunition unsystematic intended for punching car engines (Ministry of Internal Affairs was being disproved this version). As a result, two protesters were killed Michael Zhiznevsky and Sergei Nigoyan. That morning the police made an attempt to storm the “Grushevskiy” Street. In order to prevent the attack of the “Berkut”, the protesters had burned the tires, which were secure fiery shield. The tires have been become one of the symbols of the protest power.
The escalation of the situation, victims and numerous wounded on both sides of the barricades, all this have forced the government and opposition to start negotiations in order to stop the bloodshed. On January 28, the result of the negotiations was the abolition of the “dictatorial laws” and the adoption of the amnesty law in the “Party of the Regions’” editorial. If the first “Maidan” had perceived with a glee but the new law was called “the law of political hostages”. In the document were norms for the release of all activists from prison and the termination of the criminal prosecution against them, subject to set free all administrative buildings in Ukraine, as well as streets that were captured earlier. Activists of Maidan have fulfilled the conditions despite of the persistent reluctance to go on an occasion at Government. The amnesty law came into force on February, 17. The Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said that such process of the releasing of all activists will be taken only in several months. However, the bloodshed has been followed even more after the truce.
The death of the Heaven’s hundreds and the escape of Yanukovych.
In the morning, February 18, the opposition began a “peace offensive” to the Verkhovna Rada – the campaign, which was conceived as a picket of the Parliament for the purpose to achieve the Constitution of the sample of 2004. Almost all the approaches to the Government quarter were blocked by a huge number of "Berkut" and the Internal Troops. Under the walls of the Verkhovna Rada was a camp where people were supporting actions of Viktor Yanukovych. It is hard to say what the opposition leaders were expecting, but the bloody denouement of this action had become evident before it started.
Often the column procession of the activists was called to launch an assault and “disperse the criminal power”.
And such talks weren’t come only from “the Right Sector” or, but from ordinary citizens. The massive fight was broken out when the “National Guard” and the protesters went to the Mariinsky Park, and became closer to the police cordon.
Parallel the collisions with the police were begun at the crossroads of several streets in the Government quarter.
Groups of “Titushka” (people in in sportswear, organized provocateurs) went in the rear of the “National Guard”, but they were dispersed. Police began to use new non-lethal weapons, which are not certified in Ukraine and that Authority has received from the Russian Federation. Traditional instrument for the demonstrators were cocktails “Molotov” and paving slabs, and for the police – grenades and rubber bullets. A little later SWAT (“Berkut”) went on the offensive and drove all the survivors at the Arsenal Square up to the Park of Fame. About 5 people were killed in the clashes under the walls of the Parliament. According to the witnesses, the activists of the AntiMaydan killed lying people, and some crashed their heads. Through the time, these words were confirmed by videos. After crackdown on protesters in Mariinsky Park, the Authorities had realized: now or never, and announced the anti-terrorist operation, intending to clean up the Maidan.
The subway was stopped and paralyzed the city at 16:00, on February 18, in Kiev. At 17:00 the security forces took over the high-rise under the Maidan and October Palace. The antiterrorist operation was provided for the use of firearms, military equipment and units of the Armed Forces, as well as a de facto curfew in the central part of Kiev. Once again people in the Maidan fired tires to create a fire barrier.
The assault began at 20:00. The authority had de-energized Maidan and launched an attack on the main streets, but the basic onslaught was from the European area (where earlier had been fighting at the Dinamo Stadium). People were able to withstand more than 15 violent attacks of SWAT (“Berkut”).
There were moments when, hundreds of the Maidan defenders run away in a panic from the barricades after gas and grenades attacks while at the turn of a few dozen people were still staying.
People returned and continued the attacks when they saw that many others hadn’t escaped. The protesters managed to burn APCs, which Special Forces rammed the barricade and destroyed 2 water cannons.
The SWAT (Berkut) burned the House of Trade Unions during the night storm of the opposition’s headquarter. The fire stopped after a few days, and the building was burned down. As in the House of Trade Unions was medical center with wounded – many people could not leave the building on their own and died in the fire.
In the morning, February 20th, the protesters assumed the offensive and replaced the SWAT (Berkut) from the Maidan.
Against the protesters were aimed snipers and machine gunners group during the storming of the rock pile and October Palace. In the words of the direct participants of those events, snipers were shooting even into medical professionals who had pulled out the killed and wounded.
The critically injured and killed were being carried from the occupied rock pile. The phrase one activist to another was shocked: “Why are you carrying this man? He is dead. Take the next one!”
The critically injured had been brought in the hall of the hotel "Ukraine", where they was operated. There were the bodies of the dead on the floor. Also in the building of Kyiv City State Administration and Michael's Cathedral were field hospitals. It should be noted that the protesters used firearms (usually hunting), but such cases were quite rare.
During the battles on the Hrushevskoho Street the Internal Troops began to retreat deep into the Government quarter.
In the end many of them left the city. Before that, about 50 soldiers of the Internal Troops surrendered to the protesters.
In the fighting on the Institutska St. was lost about 70 people – mostly from gunshot wounds.
The end in the bloodshed was signing of the treaty, on February 21, whereby the President of Ukraine had to withdraw its troops from Kiev and to resign. The presidential election must be held in December, under the constitution in 2004, with considerably reduced powers of the President. In pursuance of this agreement, the Verkhovna Rada had adopted a resolution on the return to the 2004 Constitution.
Viktor Yanukovych was supposed to sign the decision of the Verkhovna Rada, but instead it he fled the country. Then the Parliament was forced to take the decision to dismiss Viktor Yanukovych from the post of President.
Instead of an epilogue
The historians will give the evaluation of the Revolution’s results. But one thing is indisputable: dozens of attempts both the authorities and the opposition, to bring people to the streets under various pretexts were not successful. It was only unmotivated aggression against helpless students, a fear descend into a totalitarian state, where will be mercilessly destroyed everyone who disagree with the regime – all these have done what the policies couldn’t do – hundreds of thousands of people went to the streets. Hatred of the Government corruption, thieves and murderers had been united the country.
A result of such operation was killed 121 people (among them - 18 policemen) in the center of Ukraine. Additionally 141 people are considered missing. In fact, the number of victims of confrontations may be several times higher – still dead bodies continue to be found in various parts of the city.
Text and photo Michael Krivolapov, http://www.061.ua/article/509934
Translation - Alesya Bob