Thursday 20 November 2014

Life must go on in city stalked by silent menace

Robin Hilliard

Published 22/02/2014 | 02:30

Anti-government protesters man a barricade in Kiev. Reuters
Anti-government protesters man a barricade in Kiev. Reuters
A priest stands next to anti-government protesters at a barricade in Kiev. Violence flared again in Kiev on Friday as Ukraine's opposition politicians pondered a draft deal with Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich which EU foreign ministers brokered to resolve the country's political crisis. Reuters
Anti-government proterters discuss next to an improvised catapult in the Independence Square in Kiev. Ukraine's opposition leaders signed an EU-mediated peace deal with President Viktor Yanukovich on Friday, aiming to resolve the political crisis. Reuters

I am in Kiev's beautiful city centre, settling down in a small, comfortable apartment about 200 yards to the north of Maidan, the centre of the protests against the Ukrainian government.

There were no guns visible and it's surprising to see how easily people adapt to the silent menace that's visible everywhere in the city's centre.

The whole of Maidan Square and two-thirds of Kreshatik, the city's grand, tree-lined street, are cordoned off by barricades between eight and 15-feet high made from sand bags and frozen sawdust. Each barricade has a small gate which is guarded by activists 24 hours a day.

On Monday, the atmosphere changes. The president is satisfied he's made the protesters blink and the Russian government announces it will resume buying Ukrainian government bonds, without which Ukraine can't meet its obligations.

FLAMES

Armed protesters descend into the metro station beneath Maidan and riot shields are produced.

The news on the street on Tuesday is that the president has blocked a parliamentary vote which would have stripped him of some of his powers.

On Institutska several thousand people are crowding the street, ripping up the cobble stones and stacking them for the protesters.

The protesters are running riot at this point, throwing the cobble stones through the thick, oily smoke at the riot police beyond.

Everybody else who's not ripping up the cobblestones is simply walking up and down the street as though on a Sunday afternoon stroll.

The police respond to the stone-throwers with water cannon and rubber bullets and one protester is hit on the other side of the street, yards from where I'm standing.

By the time I get to Maidan, the first walking wounded are coming in and they're conveyed with much shouting into the Trades Union building on Maidan. The building was burned down later that evening, with people leaping from its sixth- floor roof to escape the flames and be caught in tents on the ground.

Yet just a minute away from Maidan, the city looks as it always does. There's no sound of explosions, no wounded, just people going about their business.

Irish Independent

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