A KFC in Ukraine's revolutionary ground zero stirs protests

Kiev (AFP) –


The opening of a KFC outlet in Kiev, in a landmark building that played a central role in Ukraine's fateful 2013-14 revolution, sparked public anger and protests that forced it Thursday to temporarily shut its doors.

The US-branded fast-food restaurant opened on Wednesday -- the day Ukrainians marked the fifth anniversary of the revolution's start.

It is located at an address on Kiev's Maidan square that served as a makeshift hospital in the bloody final days of the uprising in February 2014 which resulted in the toppling of the pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, and during which the building was gutted by fire.

For many Ukrainians, the presence of the fried-chicken joint in the building disgraced the memory of the dozens of people killed by snipers and police in the unrest.

Far-right protesters demonstrated in front of the outlet on Wednesday, and six of them arrested. On Thursday, public anger swelled as internet users posted scathing messages on the Facebook page of KFC Ukraine.

"How can you open your restaurant in a place where people died fighting for a free Ukraine?" read one message.

"The people won't tolerate such an outrage," warned another.

Faced with such fury, the outlet closed late Thursday, putting up a sign stating it was a "temporary" measure.

"We are provisionally closed until Monday at least," an employee told AFP without giving his name.

The Ukraine branch of the American chain declined to comment on the uproar, saying in a statement that the restaurant was opened by a franchise licensee, not the US company itself.

Ukraine's revolution kicked off on November 21, 2013 when Yanukovych suspended negotiations on closer ties with the European Union.

It came to a climax in February 2014 with the deaths of a hundred protesters and about 20 police officers. Yanukovych escaped to Russia and was removed from office.

Ukraine has since turned firmly pro-West -- but Russia backed an insurgency in its eastern region and annexed its Crimean peninsula.