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Voices of Maidan: Ukraine's unfinished revolution


Text by Douglas HERBERT

Latest update : 2014-02-24

Despite the political upheaval of recent days, many Ukrainian protesters are not ready to end their round-the-clock vigil on Kiev's Maidan Square. FRANCE 24’s Douglas Herbert asked them when they expect to return to "civilian" life.

Power is back in the hands of the people in Ukraine as a parliament freed from the shackles of a single man's will gets down to serious business.

On Monday, acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov issued an arrest warrant for Ukraine's fugitive (and freshly impeached) ex-president, Viktor Yanukovich.

And the man chosen to temporarily carry out the ousted leader's duties, Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov, sought to reassure his compatriots. In a soothing speech he said that the police and security forces blamed for the worst bloodshed in Ukraine's post-Soviet history no longer posed a deadly threat.

So is it time for the Maidan protesters to call it a day? Time to take down the barricades, haul away the scraps of wood, the metal girders, the tents, the smoking tires and the towering heaps of debris that have transformed Kiev's charred city centre into a post-apocalyptic tableau of revolutionary performance art?

Not so fast.

Many demonstrators have considered Maidan (or "Independence") Square their home-away-from-home for the past three months. They say that the warp-speed political changes of the past few days, though welcome, are no excuse to end their round-the-clock vigil.

They aren't about to let politicians - even friendly ones - decide when the final bell rings on their revolutionary movement. They will be the ones to make that call - and most say it's much too early to do so just yet, with emotions so raw after the recent violence and the nation's future leadership up for grabs.

I asked a few people in and around Kiev's city centre whether they think it's time to leave Maidan and return to "civilian" life. Here is what they had to say. 

'The young people want fresh faces'

Ludmila, 65, business owner from Slavutych. © Photo: Douglas Herbert / FRANCE 24

"It's not time yet. We can't leave now. We're still praying for our heroes (the victims of police violence). This is about making sure that they did not die in vain. We want to live in a normal society, a humane society. Once we see that all these new laws are working, maybe then. What I don't want is to see all the same old faces in power. We want people with a soul. All these opposition leaders came to the scene late in the game - only after the students had started the demonstrations. I personally like [2004 Orange Revolution leader] Yulia Tymoshenko. I would vote for her. She was a very good prime minister. But the young people here, they want fresh faces. I do not want to go against the will of the young generation. They are the ones who gave us this revolution."




Viktor, 40, history teacher and member of the opposition Fatherland party, from Volyn. © Photo: Douglas Herbert / FRANCE 24

'So much corruption'

"We can't just dismantle the barricades. We have been here for three months now. We came to change the political system. We want to see results - we want to see a system that functions normally, without all that corruption. There is so much corruption. We need to know that the laws are working for us. It will take time: We have been living under Yanukovich's laws. I am ready to stay here longer."







Evgeny Kuznetsov, 25, member of the self defence civic patrols, from Lviv. © Photo: Douglas Herbert / FRANCE 24

'We're not with the opposition or the government'

"I am not going anywhere yet. The end of Maidan will come when "Mister" Yanukovich is kaput [makes slicing gesture across his neck]. He is hiding somewhere like a rat. My friends and I organised the Sotnia [a paramilitary unit derived from the Slavic word for 'one hundred' and a self-styled civil defence patrol in the Ukrainian revolution] to defend the barricades. We are the third power. We're not with the opposition or with the government leaders."






Annya, 19, medical student. © Photo: Douglas Herbert / FRANCE 24

'Time to go'

"I think it's time for the protesters to go. They have got what they wanted. But I am not against Maidan. I came here today with students from my university who are protesting against our rector, who was forced to resign." [Ukrainian media reported that the rector had come under pressure after trying to prevent students from taking part in the Maidan protests.]

Date created : 2014-02-24