Independence Square has once again become the center of public and media attention, primarily in Russia. Municipal workers and special equipment entered the central square of the capital after 10 a.m. on August 7 in order to remove the barricades. The Day learned from the Kyiv Chief Police Department that the task to maintain public order in the square was entrusted to forces of the Interior Ministry, including the battalion “Kyiv-1” which consists of volunteers. Members of the “Self-Defense,” numbering some 200 persons, used Molotov cocktails to set fire to tires and started throwing paving stones at the security forces during the conflict which erupted in Independence Square. Witnesses also heard explosions and gunshots.
The confrontation in the city center ended at about 1 p.m., leaving several soldiers of the battalion injured, while the municipals were unable to complete their work, despite succeeding with removing concrete blocks. According to media reports, the men of the “Kyiv-1” found several grenades, pistols, and a sawed-off shotgun in one of the tents. After the aforementioned events, Kyiv mayor Vitalii Klitschko made a statement calling on head of the Kyiv Chief Police Department Oleksandr Tereshchuk to protect Kyiv citizens and municipal workers in the city center. The statement reads: “Violent attacks, shootouts, explosions, attempts to takeover businesses discredit the ideals of the Maidan protest started by the Ukrainians last fall.” According to Klitschko, rioting in the square is unacceptable. “When there is a war in the east of Ukraine, when it is necessary to build up the country, to work for it, some people have privatized the center of Kyiv and dictate their terms to the rest,” the mayor noted. “All principal demands of the protesters have been met. We all have to work now, instead of bringing disgrace to this country and the ideas proclaimed at this square.” Klitschko condemned the activists’ actions before, while Prosecutor General Vitalii Yarema had said that “the police have the right to use force to make residents of the square to evacuate occupied administrative buildings.”
Officer of the Ukrainian Cossack Host Mykola Bondar told The Day that the protesters stayed in the square because none of the issues raised by the people had been resolved: “We have not punished those who issued and executed criminal orders, there is no real systemic change – on the contrary, we have seen a turn to the worse, because our brothers are now dying in this war. All patriots who are at the frontlines now are being killed by the government’s unwillingness to declare martial law and take radical decisions on Russia and separatists,” Bondar noted.
However, his view is not shared by chairman of the board of the Anti-Corruption Center and former Euromaidan activist Vitalii Shabunin. “Clearing up the square is a right decision to take now, it had to be done earlier still,” he told us. “Everyone who was in the square in winter, when we were ousting Viktor Yanukovych, can see clearly the difference between that protest and what is happening in the city center now. People who made the protest happen belonged to the self-sufficient middle class, and they knowingly sacrificed their comfortable existence to get rid of Yanukovych,” the civic activist added. According to Shabunin, all people who were in the square in winter went back to their lives when Yanukovych fled. “Some have gone back to work, some have volunteered to fight in the east, some created NGOs and are working to control the government, some have entered the government or joined political parties,” the activist noted. In his opinion, “the Euromaidan has changed its shape, and those who have remained in the city center are completely different people.”
“I am very worried about the situation emerging in Independence Square,” political analyst Mykhailo Basarab said. “There is a real war in this country, we have to counter an external aggressor at the frontlines, and still we have got an additional location of civil conflict in the very heart of Kyiv. Definitely, it is the fault of people who are in the square now, as it is absolutely dumb to create an additional escalation-prone hotspot when the country needs to mobilize all available forces and resources to repel the aggression started by Russia and Vladimir Putin.
“These people have nothing to do with the Euromaidan which began on November 24. They lack any legitimacy in the eyes of the civil society which rebelled against Yanukovych. They do not reflect my interests either, and I was involved in the Euromaidan events. I think they should go without harming our society, the nation and all of us.
“The government indulges too much these people in Independence Square, whose actions may well be orchestrated from Moscow. Eventually, this paradoxical situation in Khreshchatyk Street may cause an anti-maidan to form, but unlike the late Anti-Maidan that supported Yanukovych, it will include former protesters who went back to their normal lives or went to counter the aggressor’s attack following the winter events. Conscious citizens may go out someday and make those rascals leave the square.
“The fact that men of the ‘Self-Defense’ recently occupied a clinic in Triokhsviatytelska Street is another proof of their criminality, adding to mounting evidence that they act outside the law. It is one thing for the civil society, using its right to revolt as established by the Declaration of Human Rights, to occupy administrative buildings, but quite another for people to totally unnecessarily and unjustifiably occupy a building under the color of the protest. The state and the society must respond firmly to it.
“I am fully aware of the fact that the government has failed to implement the promised reforms so far, we are rightly dissatisfied about many things, but it is no reason to stay in the square. Even back in December and January, I said that the Euromaidan was more than the physical presence of people. The tents and barricades were a physical reflection of the idea that had matured in society and was virtually unstoppable. However, putting pressure on the government does not require engaging in criminal and destructive actions. As soon as the aggressor is vanquished, we will get back to reforming the government, and if it doesn’t listen to us, we will come to protest once again. The next Maidan may be a consolidated idea of tens of millions of people.”