The Interpreter

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Ukraine Liveblog: Day 2 of The Battle For Maidan

The battle that has raged in the Ukrainian city of Kiev has entered its second day. On Tuesday, at least 25 were killed and perhaps hundreds wounded. Wednesday is already starting with bloodshed.

If you’re just tuning in to Ukraine, our podcast covers the basic questions – what is happening, why are people protesting, and what does this have to do with Russia?

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For a summary, see our translation, What Happened Overnight in Kiev and Throughout Ukraine.

Here is a livestream of the events:

Updates are below. Refresh the page, as we make regular updates:


0200 GMT: Things are very quiet in Maidan. The explosions are now rare, though the occasional molotov or firework or grenade, usually aimed at the water cannons that are spraying the fires, can be heard. The fires are burning low. For now, the night belongs to the prayers and the speeches coming from the main stage. It is clear that the truce is holding, at least for now. A night raid is unlikely.

Tomorrow morning the headlines will probably not come from Maidan, but away from the city of Kiev, in the regions that are set to boil over. Several of the regions in the West appear close to declaring independence. But even regions in the center and east have been rocked by violence today. The protests are spreading, and Ukraine’s President clearly needs a strategy to deal with them, not just in Kiev but across Ukraine.

Our updates will start at approximately 12:30 GMT tomorrow morning. Until then, make sure to listen to our podcast (open in a new window), which has an overview of what is happening in Ukraine, and how it affects Russia, and even the United States.


0120 GMT: The Ukrainian news site LB.ua has a liveblog dedicated to some of the intense events in the other regions. One of the highlights are the videos and reports of the seizing of the building of the Volyn Regional State Administration and Regional Council. According to the report, the police tried to negotiate, rather than fight, but the people eventually stormed the building.

The crowd outside:

In Lviv, where the regional leadership declared that the Lviv Oblast would be politically autonomous, the army backed down rather than fight. Here’s a picture of civilians in control of artillery.

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0055 GMT: Earlier we reported that the governor of Volyn Oblast was captured by protesters and beaten (jump to update 1832). Volyn News has published pictures that show him handcuffed and displayed on a stage.

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0045 GMT: The peace has been shattered. We’re not sure what sparked it, but a barrage of fireworks and grenades appears to have disturbed the night.

broken ceasefire

fires again

They are shouting over the PA systems. It’s not clear what’s going on.

But for a brief moment, this was Kiev:

man and police


0031 GMT: The most amazing thing… One of the livestreams is showing a civilian, wearing a ski helmet, standing nose to nose with a line of perhaps hundreds of riot police. But he is simply talking to them. He is telling them about his life, and his struggles, and his concerns, and his hopes, and his dreams. And the riot police are simply standing still, silently, and listening.

man talking to police

He’s pointing out that this is not just about west Ukraine, but about all of Ukraine, and the hopes and dreams of a common person.

It’s almost completely silent. Except the very rare explosion, and the revving of motorcycle engines in the distance.

man gesturing

police wall


0012 GMT: Sometimes a picture is worth 1000 words. This time it’s worth 10,000. This picture has been shared on Reddit. Here is Kiev’s Independence Square, before and after.

kiev before and after


0004 GMT: Ukrainian troops may be on the move:

The link goes to a CNN article that suggests that the move is a defensive one, in order to ensure military hardware does not fall into the wrong hands:

Ukrainian military forces have moved into defensive positions around bases and weapons depots in the past few hours, according to a U.S. defense official familiar with the latest intelligence.

The move is seen by the United States as an effort to ensure the military’s facilities remain secure.


2207 GMT: More from the State Department:


2202 GMT: Will the truce hold? For starters, there have been small clashes, a trading of what sounds like stun grenades and fireworks, on the Maidan front line – nothing like the height of clashes, but not entirely quiet either. If both sides are serious about a ceasefire, they’ll have to ignore the fact that some people will continue fighting.

As far as the reaction to this ceasefire goes, many are skeptical as to how there can be any healing between a group of people dedicated to the removal of the President and a group of people working to ensure that this never happens. It sounds like foreign governments, including the US, are at least as skeptical as some analysts:


2135 GMT: We now have confirmation, from the President’s website, that a truce is in effect:

President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych held a meeting with Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Volodymyr Rybak and members of the Working Group on the Settlement of Political Crisis.

The meeting was attended by Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Andriy Kliuyev, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration of Ukraine Andriy Portnov, Acting Minister of Justice Olena Lukash and leaders of opposition parties Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Vitali Klitschko, Oleh Tiahnybok.

Following the meeting, the parties declared:

1. Truce

2. Beginning of negotiations aimed at cessation of bloodshed and stabilization of the situation in the country for the sake of civil peace.

It’s not just the President saying this, either.


2131 GMT: Is it hyperbole to say that Ukraine is nearing a civil war? Maybe, but you’d never know it from watching Youtube. The fact is that the western regions ARE exploding:


2115 GMT: The main reason for the start of the unrest in Ukraine is not just the desire to be part of the European Union. At a deeper level, the economy of Ukraine has been struggling. Those who joined the Orange Revolution 9 years ago wanted a better life, but it was the economy that was driving anger at the political system. This is why the supporters of EU integration wanted to join the EU – they see EU membership as the route to a stronger economy, and they see a corrupt political system as an obstacle to both a better economy AND EU integration.

With all that said, the fact that Ukraine’s currency is plummeting won’t help the prospects of a swift recovery any time soon:

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2108 GMT: Ukrainain President Viktor Yanukovych has fired his top general, Mikhailovich Zaman, from his roles as the Chief of the General Staff and Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

What is this about? Earlier, the Interior Ministry declared that the military would be engaged in an anti-terrorism action that would have allowed them to search, detain, or arrest activists. Speculation is that Zaman refused to carry out the order.


2100 GMT: Pravda is reporting that opposition leader Vitali Klitschko and others have re-entered negotiations with President Yanukovych, and there would be a temporary ceasefire where police officers would hold off on assaulting Maidan Square.

This is a developing story.


2031 GMT: The water cannons are intensifying, and there was just a large fireworks barrage fired by protesters. It’s unclear whether that signifies another police assault, however, as it is relatively calm. Riot police, as always, are staged just outside the shadows of Maidan’s fires, so an attack is always a possibility.

fireworks in maidan


2026 GMT: US President Barack Obama has made statements about Ukraine:

“I want to be very clear as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that we’re going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protestors,” Obama said. “We’ve also said we expect peaceful protestors to remain peaceful, and we’ll be monitoring very closely the situation, recognizing that with our European partners and the international community there will be consequences if people step over the line.”

Another “red line”?


2021 GMT: Another attack on a police headquarters in western Ukraine:

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2010 GMT: It is raining in Maidan, which may have an effect on the defensive barriers around the protests that are burning.

rain


1954 GMT: A quick look at the map below (Kiev is the blue dot) gives a sense of where the crisis has spread in Ukraine. Government officials or offices have been attacked at each of the marked points, and the Lviv Oblast, the left-most point, has declared political autonomy. The crisis in Ukraine is no longer just about the Kiev, or even the European Union, but it is growing into a regional crisis. No, Ukraine is not in a state of civil war. But the seeds have been sown that may grow into just such a calamity:

map ukraine


1933 GMT: The Euromaidan twitter account has just posted an image from inside the Trade Unions building, now completely gutted.


1927 GMT:UNIAN reports that protesters have stormed the offices of the regional state administration in Poltava, breaking windows and throwing Molotov cocktails. Police are reported to have subsequently dispersed the crowd. Earlier today, protesters there attacked the regional offices of the Party of Regions, smashing windows and doors before setting fire to the office.

Photo: poltava.pl.ua
Photo: poltava.pl.ua

1907 GMT: It is being reported that Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian deputy prime minister, will arrive in Kiev tomorrow. RBK Ukraine notes that the details of the visit have not been disclosed.


1842 GMT: According to a report from Gazeta.ua, at approximately 13:30 (11:30 GMT) around 2000 protesters approached the Vinnytsia regional police department and demanded that the police chief, Oleg Shkolny came outside. They also demanded the recall of Vinnytsia-based Berkut and Jaguar special forces from Kiev. The protesters later announced that they had taken Shkolny hostage, and that he would not be released until the governor, Ivan Movchan, came to meet them. According to a report from local site, Real, three woman tried to beat Shkolny, who denied deploying titushki to Kiev, but were prevented from doing so.


1832 GMT: The governor of the Volyn region, just north of Lviv, has been captured and abused by anti-government protesters. Voice of Russia reports:

“Protesters captured Volyn Governor Alexander Bashkalenko, while storming the regional police office. Bashkalenko came out to the crowd along with police chief Alexander Tereshchuk. Protesters struck him in the head and then led him to a local ‘euro-maidan’ and handcuffed to a stage and poured cold water on him, demanding that he sign a letter of resignation,” the RIA Novosti news agency reports, quoting a local source.

Below is a video of the incident. Protesters confront the governor and security forces. Towards the end some in the crowd pull the governor into a mob and attack him:


1731 GMT: A news site in Boryspil (map) is reporting that a bus carrying titushki into the city has been torched. According to reports from witnesses working at a nearby petrol station, no one was aboard the bus when it was set on fire, the occupants having fled in different directions.

140219 - borispyl burnt bus

The site also reports that at around 12:00 local time, 5 buses were stopped in the center of Borispyl by a crowd.

When asked by the residents, who were outraged by the events in Ukraine, they refused to get out of the buses or open the doors. People identified them as titushki and then began to beat on the windows to prevent them from driving any further. The buses then turned around and drove back.

A video was posted in the report, apparently showing the burning bus towards the end.


1724 GMT: Things seem to be heating up a little in Maidan. It’s 7:24 PM in Ukraine. Last night, the main attack on the square was launched by riot police at 8 PM.

fire hoses in Ukraine

smoke rising


1706 GMT: Here is video from Lviv, taken earlier today, where protesters have overtaken many government buildings. Radio Svoboda reports that the police station was overrun and at least 150 weapons have gone missing:

As we reported earlier, the regional assembly in Lviv, the 5th largest region of Ukraine, has declared political autonomy and has taken control of government offices and operations, and police in several areas of Lviv Oblast have surrendered and shown support for the protesters. The question is whether this is just another part of a protest movement, or the beginning of a civil war. (jump to update 1553)


1659 GMT: Oleh Lyashko, a Rada (parliament) deputy and the leader of the Radical Party, has just completed a speech on the Maidan stage. Having announced that 40 protesters had died so far (we’re not sure that’s accurate), he turned to stare into the camera and addressed President Yanukovych:

“Yakunovych, you will end your life like Gadaffi!… Nothing is forgotten, no one is forgiven.”

140219 - ляшко


1651 GMT: The White House has condemned the Ukrainian government’s actions as “outrageous.” AFP reports:

Clashes in Kiev between police and anti-government protesters that have claimed 26 lives are “completely outrageous” and “have no place in the 21st century,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One.

“The fact of the matter is we have made very clear to the Ukrainian government that it is their responsibility to allow for people (to) protest,” Rhodes said.

“We consistently oppose any of the violence by all sides, but the responsibility is on the government to pull back its riot police, to call a truce and to engage in a meaningful discussion with the opposition about the way forward.”


1634 GMT: The military has been authorized to engaged in an “anti-terror” operation:

Yesterday, police gathered near Maidan square, and right before 8 PM they announced an anti-terrorist operation before they stormed the square, effectively branding all protesters who remained in the square as terrorists.

Now, this may be an escalation from this, indicating that the military could be used.

Right now, the square is relatively calm. It’s just after 6:30 PM there. Is this the calm before the storm?


1610 GMT: Lviv is beginning to look like Euromaidan. Here is a picture posted by NBC (see the rest of their gallery):

 Lviv, Ukraine, early on Feb. 19, 2014.
Lviv, Ukraine, early on Feb. 19, 2014.

Pro-EU Ukrainian opposition activists burn documents thrown from the seized regional Prosecutor’s office in the west-Ukrainian city of Lviv, Ukraine, early on Feb. 19, 2014. According to reports, hundreds of opposition activists seized and smashed regional Interior ministry department, Prosecutor’s office and a military unit in Lviv.

Ukrainian protesters throw out papers from prosecutor's headquarters in Lviv early on Feb. 19.
Ukrainian protesters throw out papers from prosecutor’s headquarters in Lviv early on Feb. 19.

This is the center square in Lviv. This is the Taras Shevchenko monument:

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1553 GMT: A civil war? Live Mint has more information related to our last update that the city of Lviv has declared political autonomy, and not just the city but the entire Lviv Oblast, the 5th most populous region in Ukraine.:

Lawmakers in Ukraine’s Lviv region declared independence from President Viktor Yanukovych’s government after backers evicted the appointed governor and seized the security service’s headquarters overnight in support of protests in the capital Kiev.

Lviv’s parliament formed an executive committee with department heads in governor Oleh Salo’s administration that will take over the functions of the regional government, Oksana Dmetryv, a spokeswoman for Speaker Petro Kolodiy, said on Wednesday by phone from Lviv, the regional capital. The region of Lviv, bordering Poland, has a population of 2.5 million.

Last night we reported that police in the city of Ternopil, just east of Lviv, had surrendered to protesters and expressed solidarity with their cause (update and video here). Now the BBC reports that security forces in Lviv has taken off their armor in a sign of support of the protesters, and government buildings have been seized.


1539 GMT: The prospects for civil war have never been higher, especially since opponents of President Yanukovych in the western city of Lviv have declared political autonomy today after last night’s violence. Reuters reports:

Raising the prospect of Ukraine splitting along a historic cultural and linguistic faultline, the regional assembly in Lviv, a bastion of Ukrainian nationalism near the Polish border, issued a statement condemning President Viktor Yanukovich’s government for its “open warfare” on demonstrators in Kiev and saying it took executive power locally for itself.

In other signs of fraying central control for a government seen as close to business magnates from the Russian-speaking east, Poland said Ukrainians blocked the Korczowa border crossing near Lviv. And local media said opposition groups in other western cities, including Khmelnitsky, Ivano-Frankivsk, Uzhorod and Ternopil, also took over public buildings.

Ukraine is a very diverse country, or perhaps several countries, or perhaps even five different countries, all rolled into one. In December, security expert and lifelong Eastern-Europe watcher Dan Kaszeta wrote an article where he suggested that it was possible for Ukraine to dissolve into a civil war.

Read his article: If Ukraine Disintegrates Will it Be a Divorce or an Explosion?

At the time, we posted this map of the linguistic distribution in Ukraine:

Stratfor
Stratfor

Lviv is on the western border with Poland (map). Maybe this newest development suggests that Kaszeta may have been right.


1531 GMT: Yesterday there were many reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin was trying to call Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and could not get through. Now, after dodging the question for more than 12 hours, Putin’s spokesperson has said that Putin talked to Yanukovych last night, the Kyiv Post reports.

Did the conversation really happen? Did it happen last night? Or is this just spin after the fact?


1517 GMT: Voice of Russia announces that the US will annul visas for Ukrainian officials directly implicated in this new wave of violence. the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, also said the US is likely to pass sanctions:

Pyatt said he expected Washington to announce new sanctions soon. The US condemns the violence that occurred during the Maidan protests and thinks that the right to peaceful protests should be protected, he said.


1453 GMT: We’ve been watching the brutal video we posted at 1432 (jump to the update). The video starts with two people, who look like men, inside the security building and breaking windows. Then the gunfire starts, but it looks like it comes from outside the building, hitting the lower left of the front doors.

It’s possible that the man who is shot in his side may have been inside the building, but the more serious injury appears to be a woman who was a bystander.

But where did the gunfire come from if the protesters were already inside?


1445 GMT: Just tuning in and want to know what is going in Ukraine? Why are Ukrainians protesting? Why is the government resisting? And what does all this have to do with Russia and the United States?

Each week, The Interpreter’s managing editor James Miller is joined by Boston College Professor Dr. Matt Sienkiewicz. This week, we delve right in to the crisis in Ukraine.

Click here to open the podcast in a new window, see a list of articles referenced in the podcast, and see links to our previous podcasts, or simply listen below:


1432 GMT: Shocking footage has been posted by Artur Litinsky on Youtube showing a horrific shooting of protesters from within the offices of the Ukrainian Security Service in Khmelnitsky. At least two people are shot, one of them appears critically injured. The protesters then commandeer and push a trolleybus in front of the offices to act as a shield.


1420 GMT: AP is reporting a Ukrainian security agency announcement that protesters seized over 1,500 firearms last night.


1325 GMT: The riot police are maintaining a standoff, and water cannons are again harassing the square.

Press Club Spilno.TV (1)

Meanwhile, this morning the burning hulk to the Trade Union building, the former headquarters for the opposition in Maidan, was still smoldering. Kyiv Post says this was take at about 9:27 a.m. today, about 6 hours ago:

trade union house smouldering

Less than a third of the square has been retaken by police since they stormed it at 8 PM last night.


1315 GMT: An extremely effective video — Posted by Radio Svoboda, this was taken yesterday afternoon, after the height of the first wave of battle. Explosions can be heard in the background, and riot vehicles advance through the lines of riot police.

But that’s not what makes it powerful. On the ground are the bodies of two protesters. Nearby a woman cries. The police ignore her, and celebrate the arrival of their heavy armor:


1214 GMT: Good morning. Our live coverage will be restarting shortly. Here is a quick update.

Though Maidan’s fires have died down considerably, the battle lines have not changed. The riot police did not break through. Scenes from the from appear significantly calmer for the moment:

the front

same battle lines


0635 GMT: Our small staff has now been working for nearly 19 straight hours, so it is time to get some rest for a few hours. Updates will resume later in the morning.

Until then, activists in Maidan have made this video, a kind of testimony of who they are, what they want, and what they are up against:


1211 GMT: Good morning. We are restarting our live coverage shortly. A brief update — despite the fact that the fires have died down since last night, it seems that the battle lines have not shifted. The police never broke through. Things look considerably calmer for the moment. Here are pictures from the front:

the front

same battle lines


0627 GMT: Vesti, the site whose journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy was killed last night, are calling on the authorities to conduct a prompt investigation. They are asking any one with information about the killers to write [email protected]

They recount how at the corner of Vladimirskaya and Bolshaya Zhitomirskaya, across from the Chorne Porosya restaurant, unidentified men with clubs and arms, in hardhats, camouflage and black masks, set upon Veremmiy and Aleksey Lymarenko, an IT specialist from Vesti.

The two Vesti employees were returning from work in a taxi. When they stopped for a light, the masked men jumped out, and began rocking and throwing Molotov cocktails at the car. The taxi driver, Vyacheslav and Aleksei were dragged out of the taxi and beaten. The driver suffered serious leg traumas. Aleksei’s face was disfigured. They were given first aid. Vyacheslav took a gun shot to the chest. He died due to extensive blood loss and severe wounds.


0611 GMT: Reinforcements have arrived. Late yesterday we reported that 18 buses of protesters had broken through the blockade and were moving to Maidan to reinforce the protesters:

 

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From a little while ago:

 

It’s almost like Stalingrad

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0602 GMT: A very tense standoff in Maidan, as the fires that have raged through the night appear to be running down, and the riot police have staged on the other side of the barricades:

state of affairs


0545 GMT: More information on the journalist who was reportedly killed yesterday:

 

Translation: Vyacheslav Veremiy of the newspaper Vesti died in the ER. He was dragged out of a taxi on Mikhailovskaya Street. He was beaten and shot in the chest. I remember him from the newspaper in Kiev. He left a son, Maxim, age 4,” says one of his colleagues.

1392784735-6271-vyacheslav-veremiy


0534 GMT: A page claiming to be the official Berkut Facebook page has posted some extremely offensive posts (screenshots below):

Screenshot 2014-02-19 00.33.33

Screenshot 2014-02-19 00.33.19

Screenshot 2014-02-19 00.32.45

The page was only started on January 22, however, and it is unclear if this is an official page, an unofficial page, a page made by Berkut members, Berkut supporters, or whether it is there to discredit the Berkut.


0515 GMT: A bold statement of defiance, and one that endorses violent resistance:

 

Meanwhile, this is what the new day looks like in Maidan:

dawn fighting

day2fires


0511 GMT: @reutski from Lugansk reports

 

It’s growing light. The rebels have repelled something like a small attack again. The water cannons were used, but they quickly went quiet.

 

There’s one operating table in the Mlintsi tent, another right on the street, near the Bank of Cyprus. It’s filled up everywhere.

 

We’re carrying the wounded. They’re joking around. Operating tables right on the street. They are taking shrapnel out of his leg.


0500 GMT: Here is TV Rain’s summary (translated by The Interpreter’s Catherine Fitzpatrick) of comments made by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych:

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych called on the opposition to make a compromise in order to end the disorders. His appel on the morning of Wednesday, February 18 has been placed on the head of state’s web site.

“We must sit down at the negotiation table and save Ukraine. The coming generations will not forgive us, if we destroy the state which must belong to them — our descendants,” said Yanukovych.

He also noted that some of his advisors were trying to incline him to using force, however ‘there is the best and most effective means – finding a common language. Make a compromise. Come to an agreement.”

The president placed the blame for the clashes in Kiev on the leaders of the opposition which, in his words, “have flouted the fundamental principles of democracy — power is taken not on the streets or the squares, but only at the ballot boxes.”


0445 GMT: It is nearly morning in Maidan:

almost morning


0438 GMT: Two weeks ago, The Interpreter‘s editor-in-chief Michael Weiss interviewed Oksana Forostyna, executive editor for Krytyka Journal (think Ukraine’s London Review of Books). An outspoken intellectual and pro-Euromaidan activist, she talked about what the protestors in Kiev, now facing the bloodiest day of a three-month-long uprising (for more on this, see our liveblog), really want and what the United States and European Union can and should be doing to force the Yanukovych government’s hand. A month ago, Forostyna wrote a piece titled, “Ukraine Was Hijacked and America and Europe Are Next” warning of the consequences of Western inaction on Ukraine. Now we have published the interview as Forostyna’s remarks are both prescient and relevant.

Read Oksana Forostyna: “Kiev hasn’t faced such violence since the Second World War.”