By Ilya Varlamov: Translated version of my original article in Russian
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Last night I turned on, by accident, the TV channel Russia. I don’t watch TV or Russian news. This time, for some reason I turned it on. Thought about watching the Verkhovnaya Rada session, flipped through the channels, and at that exact time the Russian evening news were showing segments about Maidan. Of course, I had no illusions regarding how our federal channels present information. But it’s one thing to watch a segment about some faraway events, and something entirely different when they’re reporting all kinds of drivel about events that are happening right under your windows. At one point I wanted to walk out to Maidan, find their reporter and ask him what is he rambling about. I especially enjoyed the bit about the eastern Ukraine, where they showed “simple folk”, ready to grab their pitchforks and ride on Kiev, to defend “their president.”
Here exists a very important question about objectivity. I understand that each side has their own truth. I don’t pretend as if my correspondence shows the entire pictures. Of course it’s one-sided – I’m reporting from Maidan’s side. I would love to photograph the other side, but those guys are not very fond of journalists. If the Russia channel showed the side of the police, told their version, there wouldn’t be any problems. But they come to Maidan, rip out of context some rumors and give the viewer a completely wrong picture. In other words, don’t read any Soviet papers.
I suppose that the main question being discussed in Moscow – why hasn’t Maidan been scattered yet. It’s not as easy to disperse Maidan as it may seem on TV. There are anywhere from ten to 50 thousand people at Maidan at any given time, and many are ready to see this to the end. Just so that you would get the atmosphere: There are constant shot ringing out; someone is constantly carrying corpses through the crowd, dozens of killed and hundreds of wounded. Despite this, people carry on as usual, cleaning up rubble after the latest assault and building new barricades. They’re not running from the water cannons, APCs or snipers. How can you disperse them? There will be hundreds of casualties. Who’s ready to take responsibility for so many corpses? What’s really telling, though is that on the next day after the assault, thousands of regular Kiev residents came out to Maidan. Instead of work, they came to the barricades. And these are simple Kiev natives, not “crazed radicals” being shown in the segment of the Russia channel. The list of the deceased contains people of different ages; there are political activists, teachers, retirees and simple workers.
Events of the past few days.
After a two-week lull, the opposition and powers that be agreed to consider, through the Rada, to ratify the 2004 constitution. According to this constitution, Ukraine would become a parliamentary-presidential republic. Powers of the president would be very limited. Administration was appointed by the parliament. On Tuesday a group of protesters from Maidan went to the Rada building to block its members until they make a decision. The thing is that people have become tired of waiting some kind of action from the Rada. The sessions are constantly postponed and negotiations lead to nothing.
The police was ordered to defend Rada and to prevent people from getting too close to the parliament building. All roads were blocked. When people tried to get past the cordon, fights broke out. This was two days ago, you’ve most likely seen photos and videos with burning cars. A little while later, the Party of the Regions office burned and first casualties appeared. Who provoked the fight no longer matters. It all ended in Berkut starting an offensive and pushing Maidan from their positions.
The most dramatic events happened on the Tuesday night. The police stormed Maidan. The first real assault since the protester camp set up several months ago in the center of Kiev. The authorities were quite serious in their preparation for the assault: they brought APCs and water cannons. The House of Unions burned as a result of the storm; about half of the tents at Maidan burned. The police used the APCs to clear all the barricades on the Institutskaya Street and Grushevskogo Street. That night the first real casualties appeared. According to different sources about ten Maidan defenders and three policemen died. Some were shot, some fell under vehicles, and others were beaten to death.
On Wednesday the opposition and authorities agreed to a ceasefire for twenty-four hours. Perhaps not so much a ceasefire, rather an agreement not to go on offensive. Rocks and Molotov cocktails continued to fly at the cops, flash bangs and tear gas in the direction of the protesters. Tires burned. On Wednesday, thousands of Kiev natives skipped work and came to Maidan. Perhaps this influenced the authorities to cease the assault. Wednesday night was relatively quiet.
Yesterday morning the shooting started. Snipers were hitting protesters. The protesters returned fire at the cops with guns. It’s not clear how many people were killed last night. Some sources say nearly sixty, other more than a hundred. The first corpses were being brought into the lobby of the hotel Ukraine, which is located right at the frontlines. The first floor of the hotel was converted into a field hospital. When I visited it for the first time, there were about ten bodies.
Thursday became the bloodiest day of Maidan’s entire history.
01. The most dramatic events happened on Institutskaya Street. Here Berkut retreated and first casualties happened.
02. Shots ring out constantly. The scariest part is not knowing where the shots are coming from.
03. Puddles of blood everywhere.
You most likely have seen this video; it was shown on all channels:
This was here yesterday. There will be discussions about friendly fire and that the video was set up. The situation here is complicated. Both sides were shooting, and maybe some idiot from the Maidan side shot one of his own on the frontlines, but I doubt it. Most of the fire was from the security forces. And as I understand no one among the police died yesterday?
Intercepted radio transmission between snipers:
Of course one day there will be trials, documents will be unclassified, and we will find out how it actually happened. For now, many rumors and versions of truth.
04. And of course, in terms of armaments, the balance is uneven. This was all shot yesterday. People in uniforms are shooting at the Maidan defenders. Arguments regarding this photo have already began: the boots are strange, and weaponry is outdated. I don’t know who is exactly on this photo, but these people were on the side of the police. Regarding the armbands of the Right Sector – complete rubbish. I’ve never seen such equipment among the Right Sector. I was there,
See more images and videos here: