EuroMaidan is shaping up to be an entrenched battle, a political stalemate appears to have settled over Kyiv and neither side seems to have the means to score a decisive blow against the other despite renewed violence on the streets. We talk to people from across Eastern Ukraine both based in Kyiv and outside the capital to get their take on which side of the barricades they stand.
Voices From The East:
Ihor, 28, Myrhorod, Poltava Region
“In my home town oof Myrhorod, as in Poltava which is pretty close to us, I would say about 40% of the citizens support EuroMaidan ideas. At the same time, half of the city seems like it doesn’t really care about what’s going on in Kyiv and there are around 10% of people who are totally against EuroMaidan. Sadly, I think about 70% of youngsters in Myrhorod would join the titushky with great pleasure, as jobs are hard to come by here and 200hrv per day is a good deal for them. I really hope I’m wrong with these statistics.”
Serhiy, 25, Sevastopol, Crimea
“People say different things in Sevastopol, but mostly no one really understand what’s going on in Kyiv or why the President can’t put an end to the riots. The protestors are fighting for Euro integration, burning militia, and doing whatever they want. We’ve always been in good relations with Russia, so why to spoil it? People say activists are coming from Kyiv to Sevastopol and we are ready to protect our city from them. Extreme actions never bring good results.”
Oleksandra, 28, Severodonetsk, Lugansk Region
“I had trouble with my sense of national identity growing up in an industrial city in the Lugansk region. I left Severodonetsk, my hometown, in 2003 when I turned 18. None of my family members, including me, speak Ukrainian in daily life though we all learnt it in school.
Even still, I support the Ukrainian revolution with all my heart. I participated in the Orange Revolution in 2004, but as I grow older and wiser I see a whole new reason for me to be there with all the other people on Maidan now. I have been greatly disgusted with politics in this country for about 10 years, but I’ve never had this sense of ‘I can’t stay at home’ like I do now. My idea of this Ukrainian revolution is as a national struggle for our future, and for future generations. I strongly believe that people living in Ukraine deserve a better life, no matter who they are, what language they speak or what cultural or ethnic background they are from. I despise President Yanukovych and his Party of Regions for ripping off my country economically, and for trying to hide their crimes. The whole reason for them to hold power is to enrich their families, nothing else. My mother supports me and shares the same thoughts about Maidan, but unfortunately she is the only one in my family. My father tries to take a neutral position, but when I ask him what he really thinks he supports the idea of strong connections with Russia, though he knows what it will mean for Ukraine (gas prices, manipulation in the field of international relations, economic and political dependence). I think my father really is a patriot, but he worked for the Russian Federation for more than 20 years.”
Olena, 27, Zaporizhya, Zaporizhya Region
“People who want to live honestly and fairly came out in support of EuroMaidan. Unfortunately, our country does not educate us to be humane and respect other people. As a result – the government or rather uneducated officials do not allocate funds for the development of modern science, medicine, or the arts. Our country lags behind all other indices of the civilised world. Corruption, bribery and nepotism runs in the veins of our officials. I was saddened to see in the media events back home in Zaporizhya. Officials can choose to react differently to peaceful demonstrations; it is absolutely not acceptable when alongside the police are unknown perpetrators armed with sticks attacking peaceful demonstrators. It’s shameful for Zaporizhya! Not just the shame of a city – but shame for the whole of Ukraine! There are different opinions, but all of them are united by one – our country is going backwards. Ukraine could become a developed country, strong competitor to other European countries. We need to stop talking of getting rid of corruption, and actually prove it in deeds, be open and honest in our business dealings. These are the changes we need, and we must ensure these changes happen in a peaceful and civilised way.”
Roman, 31, Simferopol, Crimea
“I was pleasantly surprised by the unity shown by Ukrainian people in fighting for a better future and fighting against a corrupted government. The EuroMaidan movement has actually shown everyone that Ukrainians really can stand up and fight for their rights and ideas. I support EuroMaidan, even though my parents and most of my friends who live in Crimea do not. They still support Yanukovych; they are still blinded by the idea that Russia and Ukraine are forever united by bonds of blood, religion, culture and history. But in my opinion, joining the EU is a step forward for our country, if we are wise and do not waste this opportunity.”
Dasha, 25, Teplohorsk, Lugansk Region
“I don’t support Maidan. Here (Eastern Ukraine), people are working and the west (of Ukraine) is just drifting. We give money to the budget on time, but there’s not much money coming from the west and that’s why there’s a budget deficit, no pensions, and salaries aren’t paid on time. We all need to work and then everything will be good.”
Tetyana, 18, Tokmak, Zaporizhya Region
“Thank God everything is peaceful in our city so basically there’s nothing to talk about.”
Masha, 25, Stakhanov, Lugansk Region
“Of course, I’m not supporting it (EuroMaidan). There’s no point in talking about it. This is obvious.”
Elena, 45, Sevastopol, Crimea
“I’m categorically against any form of lawless acts and methods of protest. I take what’s happening in the country as nothing more than a simple lawless attempt to overthrow the government. Fascist, nationalists, and other marginal groups have shown their true faces on Maidan. The opposition is not controlling the situation and doesn’t have the power. I don’t see any point in an Association Agreement with the EU at this stage of Ukraine’s development.
Kateryna, 34, Alchevsk, Lugansk Region (currently lives in Moscow)
“Of course, I’ve heard about Maidan. Some sort of protest with burning tyres and shooting. But I’m not sure what it’s all about, and I’m not really interested. Sounds like déjà vu...”
Oleksandr, 50, Sevastopol, Crimea
“I’m totally against what’s happening on Maidan. The opposition is not the whole of Ukraine (and the last elections prove it). It does not take responsibility for what’s happening and does not have a straight-forward programme or adequate leader. They change their demands all the time. I think the actions of extremists are financed by the US and the EU. Visits from officials from the West, their pleas to overthrow legally elected authority, and intimidation with sanctions are unacceptable for the sovereignty of Ukraine. I’m sure if extremist actions like these happened in those countries (in the EU and the US) they would be stamped out very quickly.”
Tamara, 54, Stakhanov, Lugansk Region
“I saw how they (protestors) left Lviv City Council. Everything was clean. No garbage, because they tried to keep what was their home clean and tidy. Real Europeans….In Kyiv they’re damaging everything. And who’s going to pay for the reconstruction? I think this is the wrong way. They should learn to negotiate at the table, like normal people and not barbarians.”
Unfortunately, the divide is not limited to the east and west of the country, but within Kyiv as well. And just like EuroMaidan supporters, those against have harnessed the power of social media to push their point. Of a number of AntiMaidan Facebook pages, groups and events an example of the latter called Kyivites Against the Sh*t on Maidan (Kyivlany Protiv SracheMaidana) boasts more than 2,300 people who committed to taking part in a citizen’s attempt to clear the EuroMaidan protest site. While the cleanup crews failed to materialise, the numbers who stated they would take part spoke volumes. What’s On made attempts to get in touch with the page’s administrators Ivan Protsenko, Tatyana Taran, and Kristina Hubbezoglu for comment, none of whom were forthcoming.
by Jared Morgan and Vadym Mishkoriz