Magazine article The World Today

Beautiful Kyiv Has Been Brutalized

Magazine article The World Today

Beautiful Kyiv Has Been Brutalized

Article excerpt

My beloved golden-domed Kyiv with its cobbled streets and laid-back people will never be the same. We used to enjoy a slow, Mediterranean-style routine of cafes and gossip. Muscovites treated our city like a resort. These days the city centre is a war zone.

It all changed at 4am on December 1 when riot police beat up peaceful demonstrators on the main square, the Maidan. They were mostly students protesting against President Viktor Yanukovych's decision not to sign a planned Association Agreement with the EU. Not that Ukrainians were happy before - the economy was captured by three business clans and corruption was everywhere - but this was the last straw.

Hundreds of thousands took to the streets the next day to demand punishment for the police. Many erected tents and stayed. A friend, the owner of an advertising agency, became head of a platoon of self-defence militia.

Protests turned violent after two months when Yanukovych and his faction responded with new laws that effectively banned freedom of assembly, freedom of speech and even the right to wear helmets to protect one's head from police batons. The new legislation promised prison terms to about 100,000 people in Kyiv alone. Among the protesters the radical wing prevailed and Molotov cocktails flew at the police.

In response, Yanukovych unleashed mobs with hammers, knives and baseball bats to attack demonstrators and regular citizens at night and discredit the protest. The police did not interfere. It was a tactic reminiscent of Latin American juntas. …

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