EuroMaidan: From Dusk Till Dawn

From Rome to Kuala Lumpur, from Cleveland to even Moscow, Ukrainians and representatives of different countries (some from Europe, some from Russia, Georgia and even Belarus) gathered in the main squares of Kiev to show that, regardless of where they live in the world, they support the EuroMaidan protests. The protests have been going on for more than two weeks (21st of November up until today) and despite the bad weather conditions, threats and lack of sleep, Ukrainian protesters have remained at the Independence Square called Maidan. They have returned to the location of the «Orange Revolution» in 2004. But the situation is different now.

When I read about people gathering at Maidan, I was in Brussels, the “centre” of the EU. I found it difficult to imagine the spirit of the people protesting in Kiev. And honestly, I was also very mistrustful of the desirable “better future” that people were protesting for. The reason of my skepticism was caused by a sad conclusion – that after gaining Independence 22 years ago our politicians could not create a country that doesn’t need any help from others. And we still have to ask for money and choose which partner to work for. I did not expect that in two weeks everything could change. And I was so wrong.

A bit of background

On 30th March 2012 the European Union (EU) and Ukraine signed an Association Agreement. However, the EU leaders later stated that the agreement would not be ratified unless Ukraine addressed concerns over a “stark deterioration of democracy and the rule of law”, including the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko in 2011 and 2012 . On 21st November 2013 a Ukrainian government decree suspended preparations for the signing of the association agreement. The reason given was that during the previous months Ukraine had experienced “a drop in industrial production and our relations with the Commonwealth of Independent Countries (CIS)”.

The day when Ukraine rose again

The first protest started that day. Approximately 2,000 people gathered on Maidan after these breaking news. During the first week up untill the 29th of November, the number of people kept on increasing. The students of the main universities left lectures and went to Maidan. On 27th November it was reported that Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute staff allegedly checked class attendance, threatening truant students who attend Kiev’s EuroMaidan rallies with expulsion. In other universities, administrators have forbidden students from joining pro-EU protests, posting political commentary to social media networks, and wearing Ukraine-EU ribbons. The nation rose up after nine long years of waiting for a better life. On the 28th and 29th of November when our President Yanukovych did attend the EU summit in Vilnius the Association Agreement was not signed. The number of protesters in Kiev went up to 10,000. In Lviv, protesters numbered some 20,000. As in Kiev, the Lviv protesters locked hands in a human chain, symbolically linking Ukraine to the European Union. No party symbols were there, only Ukrainian flags and the EU flags.

I will always remember the night and the morning of the 30th of November. My friends and I were going home around 3.25 am and decided to pass by Maidan. I was surprised to see only around 300-400 people as five hours before I had checked Facebook and the Maidan was absolutely crowded with protesters. They were singing and dancing near the main monument that symbolises our Independence. Most of them were young guys and girls, some journalists and people from other cities who didn’t have anywhere to go. If I do have the angel who protects me I think I was protected by him that night. In half an hour when I was sleeping at home, these peaceful people were attacked by the Berkut special police units, armed with batons, stun grenades, and tear gas (the video is almost deleted from the Internet). Berkut forces chased unarmed people several hundreds of metres and continued to kick them and beat them with batons. 35 people were injured as a result of the militia raid, including a Reuters cameraman and a photographer. Other protesters were detained. Most of the protesters were students. At 09:20 the Berkut besieged the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery where approximately 50 Euromaidan activists, including the injured, found sanctuary.

Have you heard the explanation of these cruel actions? I’ve never been so angry and ashamed of my government as when they claimed that protesters were interfering with preparations to decorate the square for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. In the morning this Christmas tree was characterised as “bloody” and we all lost the desire to celebrate Christmas with our government.

From this day onwards, the protests ceased to be about the EU Agreement. The protests are now about human rights; the rights of every Ukrainian and our dignity. On the 1st of December, Kiev’s District Administrative Court banned further protests in downtown Kiev at both Maidan and European Square, as well as in front of the Presidential Administration and Interior Ministry buildings, until the 7th of January 2014; nevertheless, on this day, around 500, 000 gathered on Maidan. The feeling was just incredible. Me and some other AEGEEans made posters to show our position. We stood with other people with smiles on our faces, with hope in our eyes, singing the national anthem all together and I’ve never believed in my nation so much. When the opposition appeared on the stage I thought that we had leaders and a chance to change things in Ukraine. Three of them – Vitaliy Klitchko (famous boxer from his party «Udar»(«Hit»), Arseniy Yatsceniuk from «Batkivscshina» («Homeland» – Yulia Timoshenko is also from this party) and Oleg Tyagnybok «Svoboda» («Freedom» – right nationalistic party) created the Opposition and said many words but there were no actions. While we were standing there, some people were already near the President’s office (ten minutes walking from Maidan) and the chaos began. We were aware that provocateurs were working against us but no one expected that a bulldozer would suddenly appear on the street without being stopped by Berkut. Many, many times there were posts on Facebook asking for the opposition to come to solve the problem but no one came. Many guys were beaten again when they were trying to talk to the police and now nine young innocent people are in jail. Now the media all over the world is telling this story in a different manner.

The 1st of December was the start of another protest. A protest against bribes, corruption and against the permissiveness of the authorities that came in 2010 with Yanukovich. Against the brutal system where the winner is the one who pays more, where drunk drivers who killed a girl can pay the right people and be set free, where old people live on 1200 grivnas (120 euros) per month. We are waiting for an adequate plan from the opposition who don’t do anything. I do not blame them, as who knows, maybe they have been threatened by the President. But after today’s march of millions I don’t think people need that much support from them. The new leaders have been born on Maidan. Some of them are well-known active citizens, singers, writers or journalists and they have stood on Maidan from the very beginning.

There are many things that I would like to explain, illustrate or prove to my friends abroad to break the stereotypes they have from the media. However, I will sum up what I feel is most important. All that is mentioned above and below are only my personal thoughts and conclusions:

 1. Maidan is supported everywhere in Ukraine

As every coin has two sides, Maidan is not supported by everyone. Many people in the West of the country gathered in Lviv and other Western cities during the very first days of the pro-EU protests. But during the first week when the main issue was the Association, people mostly on the East gathered to show their negative attitude towards it. And they had a right to do that. Even now you can find such different opinionated comments on the Internet.

2. Protesters’ main aim is signing the Association Agreement

After the events on Friday, one week ago, it is not about EU or Russia anymore. Some call it useless some say there is no alternative but protesters want to show that they are fed up with the attitude towards them and they do not want to live like this anymore. Now it is not about following the leader who will change something, is about creating these changes in the system so that no one will be allowed to give bribes or to put innocent people in jail. I honestly admire their strength. The real problem is that there is no strong leader to follow. The opposition seems to be frightened by the number of protesters but they cannot just leave now as too many rely on them.  I spoke to an old lady, Oksana, who came to Kyiv from Lviv and has already been protesting for ten days. «We stand here but we don’t know who we stand for. Nevertheless, we have to be strong as we are the hope for many. It is our last chance to show that we do not agree with the way the government treats us».

3. Protesters are against Russians

The relationship between Ukraine and Russia will always be a difficult issue because of our common past. It is true that in the West, the Russians are not the most popular of nations. But not everyone feels this way. Despite the fact that protests are forbidden in Moscow after «Bolotnoe case», many Russians went to the city centre holding the poster «Russia is not Putin» (AEGEE-Moskva as well). There will always be the ones who will just follow the stereotypes but I believe that smart ones understand the fact that Russians are not the same. There is an interview on YouTube where a Ukrainian protester from Lviv is saying «We are okay here, it was much worse in Moscow and I’m really sorry for them». Now I am happy to see that throughout Facebook people are united.

“Putin! Hands off from Ukraine! Let people live!”. The protest in Moscow.

4. People are paid to go to Maidan

That’s what most of Ukrainians who watch TV think. Moreover they are told that drunk, homeless and ill ones are staying there because they have nothing else to do. That is not true. I am a skeptical person and do not believe things without finding out for myself. In the last two weeks I have been on Maidan more times than during the summer. I actually don’t like this touristic place but now it feels like home there. When I first went there I was offered hot tea and some food, I saw how the protesters cleaned the street and how they throw out drunk people, how my friends’ mom and Miss Ukraine 2013 come there after work to cook, how people from the West of the country explain to ones of the East what’s the difference between the dialects. And the best part when every three hours the anthem is sang by everyone. It inspires more than any speech of an amazing politician because it is real.

“I am not paid to be here” written in the sticker

5. The protest is violent and protesters are aggressive

People gathered on Maidan came from different cities and have their own past and beliefs. There are representatives of the right nationalistic party «Freedom» who are quite aggressive, like their leader. But from the very beginning with the help of social network the information about provocateurs spread very fast and this helped to avoid many fights. The events on Friday night when the Berkut beat protesters were shown in five different ways as each TV-channel has it’s own owner and some of them are politicians. During these two weeks the authorities tried to create the provocations using Berkut and Titushky (widely used term in Ukrainian mass media for street hooligans who are suspected to be sponsored by government). But I am very proud my people because many times I’ve seen that they are not paying attention to any of the provocations. I saw a guy playing the piano in front of the police, girls giving them flowers and women offering them sandwiches. Maidan is full of kind and smart people.


6. There are only nationalists there 

It is hard to say what everyone thinks. The most popular slogan that can be heard everywhere and works like a password: «Glory to Ukraine – glory to heroes» and it is quite controversial if you know Ukrainian history. It is the slogan of Stepan Bandera’s army who collaborated with Nazis during the World War II on the West. They wanted the Independence of Ukraine and fought against the Red Army. The second part of the slogan is «Glory to the nation – death to the enemies» and it is scary to hear that in the crowd of even 100 people. But in my view, the majority doesn’t want to discuss the past as they are focused on the future. That’s why «Glory to Ukraine – glory to heroes» is so popular at Maidan. And if it would be created only now, two weeks ago, no one would say they are nationalists.

7. Goodbye, Lenin ©

The news that Lenin’s statue was demolished appeared everywhere around 6 p.m. BBC.UK reported: “A Statue of Lenin, a symbol of Ukrainian-Russian relations, was pulled down today”. This sentence was everywhere, and I wonder since when was Lenin a symbol of Ukrainian-Russian relations? He is the symbol of revolution, socialism, but not our relations. But if you had no idea about anything which happens in the country what would you think? Those terrible Ukrainian protesters do not respect the common past. In half an hour one of the representatives of «Freedom» party said that it was made by them. It’s not a big surprise as this party always wanted to do that. But what surprised me personally is that no one stopped them. The police were there but they had no reaction. And in the morning everyone was talking about it. Just a strange coincidence to create another issue to discuss and forget about the aim of Maidan, maybe? But it’s only my opinion.

8. Bombs in the metro and panic on Facebook

Coming back to work after the weekend is indeed a strange feeling. I have my ribbon with the Ukrainian flag colours on my bag and in my hair, heard «Slava Ukraini» between my colleagues and was updating the news pages every five to ten minutes. While the main issue was still Lenin’s statue, the pictures of «Berkut’s» buses started to appear on Facebook and it was around midday. Live streams worked very badly till 3 am and then stopped. Pictures with «Berkut» occupying the streets that were blocked by protesters started to appear everywhere. The messages asking women and kids to leave Maidan were terrifying. Three central metro stations were closed due to the anonymous message about bombs. Smart decision from the government’s side as even my colleagues rushed to Maidan to support the protesters. The forces stood there without doing anything and it looked like psychological frightening. Nevertheless, they moved the protesters’ tents from some government’s buildings but didn’t go to Maidan. And during the following days “Berkut” is coming closer and closer to the protesters. I hope that they will remember that we all fight for our future. People are screaming “The police is with the people” and “Do not follow this order” to stop them. Around 500 young girls are still staying on Maidan. Every night is like a nightmare and each morning opening Facebook I pray not to see messages about the victims as this government is ready to do everything.

9. Media about Maidan

Studying public relations and working with journalists has given me some knowledge about the creation of the News. Despite the very fast growth of the official EuroMaidan page, TV still has a huge influence on the older generation. Not only in Ukraine, the News is used to manipulate people and this is especially effective on those who have never been to Maidan. On the 4th of December I was woken up by my mom’s call telling me that a man died on Maidan because of tuberculosis. «It was shown on the news!» – she claimed. – «Don’t go there!». I decided to check the Internet. The news appeared right on the first page as a banner. And it looked like an advertisement.

I clicked on it and the website appeared. Recently it was one of the best media but it was bought by the politician who supports Yanukovich. All the journalists refused to write what they had been told and resigned. Now the whole team is new.

The article’s headline is «The risk of catching tuberculosis on Maidan is very high now!» and the text contained only a few sentences. «The man had tuberculosis in his lungs and he died on Maidan – the police said. UNIAN (Ukrainian paid news agency) reported that he was found dead on Maidan in the morning. The doctors advise against going to Maidan as the virus could still be there.

No links to the source, no names, no pictures. No possibility to comment. But the panic started. I decided to check the profile of the journalist and noticed that she is the top-blogger. Okay, this fact gives some reliability.


Unless she has only two posts and one of them was written on the 20th of July. Definitely, the top blogger. And when I was watching the video about the Russian journalist who got an Oscar for his lie about the events in Ukraine, the banner appeared once again.


One more example. This picture is taken during the protest in Greece.

This is the same picture but with the help of Photoshop it looks like it was taken on Maidan.

P. S. This is probably the best Christmas tree we have ever had!


Written by Annie Smailikova, AEGEE-Kyiv