MY INDEPENDENCE DAY IN KYIV

Kyiv
26.08.11



Sea of people during concert in Kyiv's Independence Square

It seems like an age ago since I landed in Kyiv one week ago with the AUGB’s President, Zenko Lastowiecki.  Countless meetings later (including the three-day World Forum of Ukrainians, the equally long AGM of the Ukrainian World Congress and the opening of the World Forum of Ukrainian diaspora youth – see this week’s Dumka for full reports), I planned to do as little as possible on Independence Day other than to wander around the streets of Kyiv.  I did have just one meeting planned for that day which I ultimately had to cancel.

The city was lively from early morning until late.  There was plenty of colour on show with many people opting to adorn their embroidered shirts/blouses. 

I made my way along Khreshchatyk Street which this year, for the first time, would not be hosting a military parade.  Lina Kostenko provided a very interesting perspective on this in her article, “Eyes to the tribune”, published in the Den’ newspaper.  Well worth a read!

Walking past a few obstacle courses for skateboarders, a bicycle stunt show, basketball and handball courts, I reached what from a distance appeared to be two large camps of rival political forces camped on a stretch of pavement facing each other – Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna Party and the Party of the Regions.  Only a few metres separated them.  Loud music and speeches blasted out from both sides.

The Party of the Regions' camp looked particularly well stage-managed.  From further out it appeared that there might be several hundred people crammed into its enclosure.  It was very efficiently enveloped by tight black netting with bold-white anti-Tymoshenko slogans printed all-round.

I took a few photos and then went close up.  To my surprise there were actually just a few people - the flag bearers and about 5-6 "minders" - hidden behind the black screening (see photos below).

Onwards.  I went to the Shevchenko monument where a large crowd had already gathered to take part in a public meeting called by a newly formed Resistance to Dictatorship Committee.  

Speakers included the leaders of 12 opposition parties.  A letter from Yulia Tymoshenko was read out and 10 resolutions were adopted .  An attempted march by several thousand was aborted by a wall of riot police just beyond “Dim Uchytelia” on Volodymyrska street. 

“Zeka Het’!” shouted the crowd (meaning “Prisoner out”! – a reference to President Yanukovych’s criminal record).  But the police refused to allow the people to proceed with the march.  Organisers of the event decided to back off so as not to mar the 20th anniversary of independence day.

I spoke with a number of people, young and old (who I’d never met before), and the feelings were all very similar:

fundamental democratic values are being eroded in Ukraine
the present leadership is absolutely corrupt and has a complete disregard for human rights, a free press or an impartial, fair judicial system
a serious threat to the Ukrainian language
free Yulia Tymoshenko
frustration over the political infighting (since the Orange Revolution) between today’s opposition leaders which allowed Yanukovych and the Regionnaires to take power 
total lack of trust in the leadership of Ukraine
there will be an uprising… and this time (they all predicted) it is unlikely to be peaceful...

During the rally, quite by chance, I met up with several old friends.  We later stopped off at a café on Shevchenko Boulevard and watched a “Who’s Who” parade of known faces walking past us as they returned from the abandoned march.

By late afternoon the Khreshchatic Street was filled with people who were entertained by a host of craftsmen, musicians, tradesmen selling Ukrainian souvenirs…  Independence Square played out a six-hour concert with a host of artists performing 3-4 songs.  The man and woman MC’s were something else though!  The Square gradually filled up to (I was told) around 1 million people and the evening was rounded off with an impressive fireworks display.

The late evening news on Ukraine’s First Channel didn’t make any mention of the protest rally in Kyiv.  Instead it focused on the President’s activities and the day’s celebrations from around the country, starting with a lengthy report from the village of “Dunda”(?) on the outskirts of Kyiv.  The programme was followed by a long interview with the President.  It certainly wasn’t “Newsnight” or “Hardtalk”!  After 15 minutes I gave up, switched off the TV and headed back to enjoy the concert in Independence Square…

Fedir Kurlak


Photos:

Independence square and Khreshchatic Street in the morning:

001-indep-sq.jpg

 

002-kreschatic.jpg

 


003-khr.jpg

 

004-kr.jpg

 


005-kresh.jpg

 

006-kresh-morn.jpg

 


Regionnaires' camp (look closely):

39-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 


40-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

42-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg




Shevchenko Park:


05-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

06a-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

07-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

13-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg




13-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg



15-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg


18-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg



16-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

March from Shevchenko Park onto Volodymyrska Street:


25-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

27-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 


28-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

31-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

People leaving Volodymyrska Street were met by another police cordon on Shevchenko Boulevard with Berkut Militia clearly on view:

32-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

33-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

33-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

35-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

34-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

36-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

37-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

 

...And Independence Square late afternoon and evening...

43-kyiv-small-24-08-2011.jpg

 

009-indep.jpg




008-indep-sq.jpg

 



Ukrayinska Dumka

IN THE LATEST UKRAYINSKA DUMKA

Great Britain The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain has many branches throughout the country. Select a branch below to find out more information.