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Kyiv’s Maidan, five years later: A photo essay
On February 21, 2014, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich left Kyiv for Kharkiv and fled from there to Russia. At the time, Ukraine was in the throes of the largest social crisis in the country’s modern history. Anti-government protests had been ongoing in Kyiv since the previous November, and at the Maidan, or Independence Square, more than one hundred people were killed during clashes with the police. The consequences of that crisis included a burst of Russian interference, the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the ongoing war in the Donbass region, and a major rupture in Russian-Ukrainian relations. In this photo essay, Meduza recalls the events that rocked Kyiv in the winter of 2013 – 2014.
November and December 2013
On November 21, 2013, the Ukrainian government announced that it was putting a stop to preparations for the country to enter the European Union. Its official justification was that the move was necessary “to provide for the national security of Ukraine” and “the restoration of lost production volume as well as trade and economic relations with the Russian Federation.” The next day, the first protesters emerged on Independence Square in central Kyiv. Most of them were university students. After several harsh attempts on the part of the special police division Berkut to break up the protests, they grew to include many thousands of people and stretch for twenty-four hours a day. By then, many Ukrainians joined the protests because they were generally dissatisfied with the actions of Viktor Yanukovich and his government.
In January of 2014, the protests continued, and up to half a million people had emerged onto the streets. Clashes between the protestors and law enforcement became increasingly fierce, and they led to the Maidan movement’s first casualties. Viktor Yanukovich attempted to resolve the conflict peacefully in part by offering amnesty to those who had already been arrested in the streets, but it was too late. People began building barricades on the Maidan, and the crowd stormed a government building on Grushevsky Street multiple times.
February was the most violent month of the conflicts in Kyiv. Between February 18 and 20 alone, 77 demonstrators and 17 soldiers and law enforcement officers were killed, and hundreds of people were wounded. The Trade Unions Building near the Maidan was set on fire. Having lost all control over the situation, Viktor Yanukovich fled Kyiv on February 21. On February 23, Alexander Turchinov, the head of Ukraine’s federal legislature, became the country’s acting president. After Yanukovich’s escape, the clashes on the Maidan came to an end, but the last of the protestors’ tents were removed from the square only in the summer of 2014. In 2015, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared February 20 to be a federal holiday in honor of those killed. They became known as the “Heavenly Hundred.”
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