When coming back from Ukraine, a lot of my friends asked me questions to know if the media were telling the truth. I noticed that there were a lot of omitted and not accurate information. Here is my understanding of the situation on the big questions about the conflict. Big thanks to Oksana for her help understanding the situation and reviewing these articles.
There was a bloodshed, could it have been worse?
Of course. The big “luck” of protesters is that the police went on their side and that the army refused to attack and follow Yanukovych’s orders. Yanukovych’s plans to attack Maidan: Operations Boomerang and Wave had the purpose to undermine the movement and kill many people.
In details, he planned to encircle the place for a big massacre with 22,000 policemen, including 2,000 berkut and 224 officers from the anti-terrorist Alpha SBU group (security services in Ukraine) including 7 snipers. In addition, 4 groups of SBU officers were supposed to go to the centre of Kiev, attack random civilians, destroy some private properties while pretending being protestors to spoil the movement’s reputation.
Part of these plans were executed: most of the dead people from the Thursday were shot by snipers, Metro entrances were closed to avoid protestors running away from Maidan. We think that police and army refusing to obey orders is the reason why the full plan did not take place. The visibility given to the situation through live video and social media helped as well.
We hear a lot about fascists leading Maidan, true?
We haven’t seen any fascist signs except two svastikas but nothing proves that they were not painted by provocateurs (titouchkis, paid by Yanukovych). Extreme right was there as well as extreme left, moderates, etc. There is no extreme right majority on Maidan. The only positive thing that Yanukovych accomplished for the country was to get all political parties to get together to fight against him and the corruption.
I have seen some pictures, very impressive! So the whole country was on blood and fire?
No, most deaths and buildings on fire happened around Maidan. A few streets further, the town was quiet and you could not guess there was a revolution not far away. For other towns, there has been some wounded people too but the situation was very centralised, which helped to accelerate the resolution of the conflict.
Were there any looters/aggressors/thugs among protestors as reported by Yanukovych?
On the contrary, one of the most impressive things when we arrived on Maidan after the big shooting of the Thursday and 3 months of continuous protests is that most of the shops were intact! Protestors were protecting them from looters/provocateurs paid by the government (the infamous titushkis). The only looting that happened was ordered by Yanukovych and executed by titushkis catching random citizens and beating, breaking bones and killing them to spoil the protest’s reputation. Same thing for the “pogroms” mentioned by Yanukovych. On the contrary, the situation was very calm and it was hard to imagine that not so long ago snipers were shooting all around.
What surprised you the most during your stay on Maidan?
First of all: the organisation. Very impressive, everybody has his own role, from the cook to the fighter. When we left, they were grouping pavements that were taken off the road earlier for throwing at the police in the fights in order to put them back. Volunteering too, there was a queue of volunteers to make sandwiches, lend their vehicle to transport materials and people, etc. everyday. Places where protesters were living were extremely organised too, places to sleep, living room with television, medical help and psychologist, etc.
Solidarity: The country is poor, very poor and in an economical crisis but everybody donated to the revolutionary cause: top ups for mobile phones (a lot of needs for organisation and communication), money, food, etc. People even offered us brand new raincoats, helmets to protect us on the barricades…
Another thing: The important engagement of the church. We went to see a mass in memory of the victims of the killings and part of the church was hidden behind a plastic wall as it was used by the “red cross” (in fact anybody who was wiling to help carrying wounded people or having a bit of medical knowledge). In general, church people were on the front, not to fight with guns but with ideas and prayers.
I’ve heard that protestors were armed and attacking the police, is it true?
With odds and ends. I have not seen any gun, for example. Protections were usually simple metal plates imitating bullet-proof vests, wooden shields, bike helmets, ski glasses, etc. The “arms” were the pavement taken from the floor, Molotov cocktails and whatever looks like baseball bats, table legs, whatever they could find or produce themselves…
Almost until the end, protestors were not armed at all, most of them who died from sniper’s shots did not even have a stick to fight (we discussed a lot with people that were there on this specific day and helped removing the wounded). Fighters now have more arms as they think they have to prepare to fight to any aggression. This is thanks to the police, whether it was taken from them or given by them when they turned on people’s side.
There were dead amongst the police too but it seems that some of them were killed by the same snipers that killed the protestors. For example, the berkut’s chief reported 12 of his people injured in 5 minutes by a sniper on the day they arrived on Maidan.