Protests in Ukraine have been going on for more than two months, with up to a million protestors marching and camped out in the street and clashing with police armies, but in the last two days, it’s gotten a lot darker. Watching the reportage of journalists on the ground is the closest thing to tracking military clashes… with pyrotechnics.
Protesting fervor increased since Kiev’s passed a law making protesting illegal. There were tens of thousands protesting the law in the Kiev streets on Sunday, hitting cops with giant sticks and overturning riot buses.
What’s even more surreal is that police have apparently been using cell phone networks to intimidate protestors. People in the “protest zone” actually received this text message a bit after midnight: “Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.” As per a law that was officially passed Tuesday, participants in protests will be arrested and imprisoned as violent criminals.
The law also limits journalist activity, or at least, attempts to. Photo above: “Protestors surround two police officers during a mass action of opposition at Independence Square against laws recently accepted by the Verkhovna Rada that toughen requirements to carrying out mass meetings and restrict journalists activity” take by obviously very active journalist Vladislav Sodel.
There were many clashes, with police using tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets on crowds of protestors.
The protestors used fireworks as weapons.
(Video still: BBC)
Here’s a video of a terrified BBC journalist, reporting to the sound of rhythmic clanking while the protestors throw fireworks at the cops. There’s also footage of the police beating a protestor with clubs, after he climbed on a roof and “rained fireworks down” on them.
If at one point earlier on in the protests, there was a certain sense of elation watching the beaten-down public do the beat down — flailing the cops with chains (on fire), plowing through crowds of cops on tractors (on fire), smashing old statues of Communist leaders in a symbolic fuck-you to Russia, whose leadership had allegedly manipulated the Ukrainian president into not entering into a landmark treaty with the EU — the initial reason for the massive protests.
Shit’s turned Medieval, with one protestor telling the New York Times, “We’re on a crusade now,” while pointing to a catapult made of scrap wood that could launch cobblestones (on fire) as far as 200 yards at the police — the threat of which kept the combat line at bay — while others moved under make-shift moveable forts and wore DIY knight armor. UPDATE: The catapult works.
Meanwhile, there are reports of protestors gone missing after being grabbed off the streets by uninformed thugs. And here’s Al Jazeera’s raw video of bullets and molotov cocktails flying, the camera operator seemingly catching the slipstream of the guys plowing forward with plastic “shields.” The only thing more dangerous than being a journalist in Ukraine right now is being a Ukrainian in Ukraine.
(Lead image: Vladislav Sodel/Kommersant Photo/Getty Images/Time)