Kateryna Kruk theguardian.com, Monday 20 January 2014 16.06 GMT
One could feel it in the air that something was going to happen. Growing frustration among protesters has suddenly changed to anger after the Ukrainian parliament, Verkhovna Rada, passed laws severely restricting demonstrations including banning the wearing of helmets and gas masks. It took the pro-government Party of Regions only 20 minutes to change Ukraine into a dictatorship simply by a show of hands, without even counting how many deputies voted.
On Saturday, the day before clashes, I tweeted: “Whatever will happen tomorrow, this day will change Ukraine.” And it did. For the first time in the history of our state, people have crossed the line from peaceful protests and started a huge street fight with police. For the very first time since the start of Euromaidan – the protests that began in November 2013 calling for closer relations with Europe – people booed opposition leaders and didn’t listen to their orders.
I believe the event that led to the violence took place on Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), while oppositionists were delivering their speeches. One activist, from a group organising a picket of officials’ mansions, read an appeal asking for the resistance movement to choose one leader. But the opposition politicians present, including former boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, called him a provocateur. At this moment, people felt abandoned and declared that enough is enough.
The Euromaidan protests have been continuing for almost two months. Many people have left their homes and their jobs to join this movement. It is obvious that people are tired of politicians’ flowery words, claiming to know how to save the country.
People are afraid that under the new laws everyone will sooner or later be brought before the police or courts. People are angry that their voice is being ignored by both sides. They are frustrated that no one is ready to take responsibility and lead the movement. People are furious that President Yanukovych and his government have not only ruined the whole country, but want to take the most precious thing – our freedom. Many of those who were fighting with riot police this weekend were shouting: “We don’t have a way back. Either we will win, or they will put us in jail.”
From the very beginning of Euromaidan, I took part in all rallies, tweeting in English and commenting on what is going on in Kyiv. According to the new law, just for these actions I could be sentenced to up to two years in jail. I can’t understand that I, a 22-year-old Ukrainian, could become a criminal in my own country merely for sharing information and telling the truth.
Many outside the country may wonder who started the latest conflict and why it has escalated so quickly. The far-right organisation Pravyj Sector (Right Sector) took responsibility for the first clash. After that, other Euromaidan protesters joined them. I don’t support violence; I don’t like to see my country on fire. But I can understand why people behaved this way and I can’t call them provocateurs. It is sad and wrong that they have expressed their feelings this way, but when there is no leader in the crowd to control people, they start to act as the street teaches them. What happened yesterday was shocking. But responsibility for this lies with both the authorities and the opposition. It looks like both of them failed to listen to their own people.
The next few days will be decisive for Euromaidan, for the Ukrainian opposition and for the authorities. The least we are expecting is for the repeal of the latest laws. But this should be just a beginning. After what’s been going on in Kiev since November, and what happened last night, Ukrainians won’t calm down until this president and his government resign. Because with them in power, no one in Ukraine can be sure our country won’t lapse back into dictatorship.
Source: The Guardian