The cameras of the world’s media are trained on Kyiv, where the violence of riot police against peaceful protesters has been documented. Last night (4 a.m. on 30 November, local time) the Euromaidan in Kyiv was cleared from Independence Square. This afternoon in Kyiv, a large-scale demonstration has sprung up spontaneously on St Michael’s Square after some of those injured fled up the hill and sought sanctuary in the Church and its monastery. Some riot police then blockaded those people inside the monastery.
The tent city occupation in Ivano-Frankivsk voluntarily disbanded on Friday afternoon. However, this does not mean that the city’s activists escaped violence. Maksym Kitsyuk (Максим Кицюк, @kyts_me), the leader of Ivano-Frankivsk’s student protests, was last night attacked on his way home by three unknown assailants. They held back his friend while Kitsyuk was attacked and stabbed with a broken bottle. His leg is now in plaster and has been given numerous stitches. It could, of course, be a coincidence this attack – but that seems hardly likely. Instead, the authorities have most likely sought revenge, while also sending out a signal to other organisers that they ought to fear for their safety. A press conference was held today, well-attended by local and national media, condemning the attack. (I also happened to be teaching in the building where the conference took place).
Already on the first day of public gatherings in the city on 22 November, an ominous sign hung over the square where Ivano-Frankivsk’s population has gathered. A huge screen stands on the square outside the post office, issuing a constant stream of overly loud adverts. (One speaker questioned the legality of the planning permission for this screen and another on the Market Square outside the town hall. Certainly the are an eyesore). On that first day, one of the adverts running in the cycle was for a national boxing championship to be held in Ivano-Frankivsk. It’s main sponsor was… the ruling Party of Regions. Throughout Ukraine there is a network of sports clubs, into which the ruling Party has invested a lot of sponsorship. It seems that the deal rests on the fact that, when required, the ruling party can call on these sponsored boxers and others (sportsmeny, as they are known here) to act as a something akin to a street-fighting paramilitary.
The question of what to do next for local activists and students, meanwhile, remains. There are constantly a few dozen people gathered on the city’s square, debating and discussing, or displaying national symbols and colours. Given that it is the weekend, the number of students in the city declines greatly. Again, the mean in identical flat caps are more visible although they are now talking to students and younger people, something that was not evident a week ago.
While implicit before the events of the last week, the pro-European sentiments and hopes of many people in this city are now very much in evidence. However, it seems that the current authorities are determined to crush them with violence, leaving perhaps only these traces – see the pictures below – of a “Europeanisation” of the city.
Bike rack: Ivano-Frankivsk is a European city. Sponsored by an Austro-Ukrainian bank.
Throughout the city there are rubbish bins promoting segregation waste and recycling, with “EU Project” forged into the bins themselves.