This blog had gone quiet for almost two months owing to the fact that I had been out of Ukraine and back in the UK. It did not seem fair or insightful simply to offer comments from abroad based on media reports.
I arrived back in Ivano-Frankivsk this morning following a typically adventurous coach journey from Warsaw. The exhaust pipe required fixing in Lublin, so the drivers and many of the passengers helped out, treating a multi-tonne Volvo in much the same way as a Zaporozhets, taking apart the exhaust pipe, clearing out some pipes, and fitting it all back together again to stop the fumes coming inside the coach. At the border I had the usual exchange which initiates an attempt to get a bribe as the border guard claims my photo does not resemble me and so on, asking for additional id, while I pretend not to speak Ukrainian. Ultimately she found that I have temporary residence in Ukraine and the efforts to question the legitimacy of my documents stopped.
Returning to the city, I found that the greatest change was that the square outside the Regional Administration (ODA), also known as the “White House”, has been surrounded by barricades built by protesters. Very professional they seem, too, these barricades. At some four or five metres high, there are outer walls protecting an inner compound that surrounds the main entrance to ODA, while all the side doors have been blockaded. There is no police presence whatsoever, as representatives of the National Resistance group guard the doors and volunteers staff the barricades which can be entered with little difficulty, other than the fact that the entrances are very narrow, forming corridors that permit only one person at a time. The barricades are made of snow, sacks of snow, pallets, tyres and other items. They should survive for at least another six weeks while the frosts last, possibly longer.
We entered the ODA building, with only males being patted down. It was policy, the doorman said, not to pat down women. What this reveals about the gender relations of Maydan is perhaps quite insightful, or perhaps at least about the gender relations that prevail among the more active, military-minded groups that are involved in Maydan. I will return in the week and explore the ODA building and the workings of the occupation there. There is a system of passes and clearances that need to be acquired to get beyond the first foyer, it seems. Adverts meanwhile revealed that in the city there is something of a vigilante protection group, offering support and protection for any activists that have been subject to threats. Equally, the Maydan in the city seems highly transparent, publishing daily accounts of income and expenditure.
The photos below depict the barricades around the Ivano-Frankivsk White House.
This is one of the middle zones between the outer walls and the inner compound with homemade shields.
The building sustained some minor damage in the taking of it a couple of weeks ago but there seems to be little evidence of anything more substantial being damaged.