As Ukraine reels from the loss of Crimea to Russia and looks ahead to elections on May 25, the protesters who brought about the country’s biggest upheaval in decades are determined to not let go of the square that hosted their revolution.
More than a month after Ukrainian protesters forced president Viktor Yanukovich from power, the Kiev square that came to embody their uprising – Maidan – remains in much the same conflict-weary state as it did during the revolution.
Dozens of people were killed in the protests and hundreds more were injured.
Those victims are far from forgotten on the square, where makeshift memorials, candles and masses of flowers litter the ground between barricades. Nearby, a chapel is being built from wood.
“The people who died here are heroes, not everyone is brave enough to take to the streets and defend the people,” one young woman told FRANCE 24.
Behind the barricades, volunteers continue to hand out soup to the needy – an initiative which allowed protesters to stay on the square for months on end during the uprising.
Today, the community spirit that helped to sustain that winter-long sit-in – which sometimes saw temperatures drop to as low as -20°C (-4°F) – is ever-present in the square.
“Maidan is like a little village in itself, with a special atmosphere... It’s like a second home to me,” Victoria Jigadlo, a soup kitchen volunteer, told FRANCE 24.
Some of the protesters want the tyre and brick barricades that straddle the square to remain as a permanent fixture, in the hope of deterring future violence.
“We live in peaceful times, this should never have happened,” one woman on the square told FRANCE 24. “We have to remember it; future generations have to remember it, so that it never happens again.”
But others consider the revolution far from over. Mykola Tovar, a member of one of the Maidan self-defence groups that fought off violent police raids on the camp, told FRANCE 24 that he doesn’t trust the new authorities, and is determined to continue protesting on the square.
“The people responsible for murders here have not been punished, and nothing has really changed,” he said.
Date created : 2014-03-27