Bloody Thursday at Maidan
Translated version of my original article in Russian
Sharing and distribution is appreciated.
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,
There’s a video online, where similar guys are exiting, supported by Berkut.
06. The dead and the wounded are being carried from the field of battle.
Someone on the stage is constantly asking not to go beyond the barricades.
08. After the police retreated, new barricades went up on Institutskaya Street.
09. AT this time, the protesters set up a field hospital in the lobby of hotel Ukraine.
10. Here, the first corpses were brought. All with bullet wounds.
11. After the morning conflicts, the protesters led captives along Kreshatik Street. Several groups of five to ten captured policemen and national guard soldiers. The prisoners were frightened; it was obvious they were beaten during the capture. One captive soldier was shaking and crying, and a man in a helmet and facemask asked him: “Are you from Donetsk?” the soldier nodded. “Don’t worry; no one’s going to touch you we’ve got people from Donetsk here as well.”
Some of the prisoner columns were headed by priests.
Someone tried to hit the captives, but the convoy stopped any attempt to harm them. One guy managed to land a hit on one captured cop.
“Why are you hitting him?” asked a convoy, grabbing the man.
“They beat me in the kidneys a month ago! I’m going to mess up this scumbag!” – the attacker tried explain.
“I’m going to mess YOU up! Get out of here!” – the convoy booted the attacker away.
The prisoners were taken to the commanding office of Maidan. There, everyone will be interrogated, their documents will be recorded and they will be escorted to the captured Kiev administrative building.
12. People at Maidan are watching the captives.
13. Maidan Propaganda. There’s a stand at the entrance, with bullets and grenades that are flying at Maidan defenders. Such informational signs are hanging in some places.
14. Police has cleared all the barricades on Grushevskogo Street, where three weeks ago there was fighting and tires and buses burned.
15. A question to all of you who think that people at Maidan are there for money. How much money are you willing to withstand, for days, bullets; water cannons and the smoke of burning tires?
17. Police have retreated to Rada; there is no one in direct sight. Previously, both sides were shoulder to shoulder against each other, but now the rules have changed. Now, both sides are shooting and you can’t simply stand there with a riot shield.
To help you grasp the situation: In Russia during the mass demonstrations people were giving out instructions on how to dress warm during the protest. In Kiev their’ giving out pamphlets on what to do during a shoot-out.
18. The rebels are becoming familiar with the new barricades.
19. The police have left a message on the concrete blocks. This is to help you understand that both sides are sincerely ready to kill each other. “Give is guns… Gives us hot water…. We are being burned, beaten, shot for money. But we stand for order. Give police complete freedom to carry out the law.”
20. Burning tires at Maidan.
21. Closer to lunch people began to clear out garbage. During the winter the bags were filled with snow and were used to build barricades. Now the snow in Kiev has melted and the bags are filled with anything, including ashes from the burnt tires.
22. Maidan is a large ant hill
23. Everyone works
24. The entire square was cleared in half a day.
25. Morale support.
30. The protesters continue to take apart the brick road. The stones go to build barricades, the sand and concrete mixture underneath is crushed and piled into bags.
32. Ammunition is ready at each barricade.
33. Maidan style.
36. There is a stage in the very center, there’s always someone speaking from it. They ask people to go beyond the barricades, to avoid getting shot. Periodically they report about missing people, read messages.
37. The subway was not working yesterday. There is constant panic in the city. Some speak of closed bridges, others about fuel shortages. People are hoarding grains and canned goods, withdraw money from their bank accounts. Many are leaving Kiev.
38. Tearing up of the roads.
39. A human chain is used to pass bricks to the barricade construction.
43. Kreshatik Street.
44. Here, the ammunition is made.
45. The bottles are filled with crumbled packing foam. Napalm?
46. A view of the Ministry Cabinet. The snipers are there on the roofs. The really are there, I’ve seen them myself
47. One of the restaurants has a chest where people used to throw change. Now spent shells are part of the collection. Almost all restaurants, cafes and stores in the center of Kiev are closed. Universities, schools and kindegartens are also closed. I was also not able to find a working ATM.
48. Food and medicine is stored in St. Michaels Cathedral. This is where all of the aid from Kiev to Maidan arrives.
49. Entrances to the subway are barricaded. It is rumored that the trains are being used to shuttle in soldier and that they may attack from the subway stations. The Kiev subway was closed yesterday for the first time in history. Not a specific station, the entire system stopped working. The general manager of the subway left the Party of Regions yesterday, told Yanukovich to stuff it and opened the subway. Today everything works, except for the two central stations.
50. Day and night, people are bringing tires to the barricades. I can’t imagine that there are that many old tires in Kiev.
51. The smoke screen – best defense against snipers.
52. This morning, the Administration of the President of Ukraine declared that the participants of the negotiations on the regulation of the political crisis in the country, have come to an agreement regarding the exit strategy for the current situation and will soon sign the corresponding contract. The administration has specified that the signing of the pact is planned to happened at 14:00 Moscow time.”
Most likely they will declare the date of the early elections of president and parliament. I hope that this will be the end of the fighting in Kiev.
Official report place the number of casualties since the fighting has started at 77 people.