News / Europe

    'Maidan' to Ukraine's Next President - We Will Be Watching You

    FILE - Hundreds of Ukrainians remained encamped in central Kyiv's Maidan (Independence Square) after the old government was ousted. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    FILE - Hundreds of Ukrainians remained encamped in central Kyiv's Maidan (Independence Square) after the old government was ousted. (Steve Herman/VOA)
    Reuters
    As Ukrainians prepare for Sunday's presidential election, the message from Kyiv's main square is clear - the new leader will be closely watched and the people could rise up again if they feel cheated.
     
    Three months after Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovich fled the capital in the face of a street uprising, Independence Square, or the “Maidan”, still looks like a war zone, bedecked with barbed wire and barricades, covered with tents and patrolled by khaki-clad “defenders” in no hurry to pack up.
     
    “I have been here since December. We will stay here until after the presidential election but the new president and authorities must fulfill our demands for genuine democracy and an end to corruption,” said Ivan Stratyenko, 40, one of the “sotniki” or commanders of the Maidan.
     
    “The revolution is not finished. Yanukovych has gone but the system that nourished him and allowed him to plunder the country is still in place,” said Stratyenko, a former musician from the city of Lviv in the nationalist-minded west of Ukraine.
     
    “We expect wise but radical actions from our new president.”
     
    Opinion polls suggest confectionary magnate Petro Poroshenko will win the election, either in Sunday's first round or - if he fails to muster more than 50 percent of the vote - in a second round set for June 15.
     
    Poroshenko, a former government minister who was once allied to Yanukovych but backed the Maidan protests, is viewed as a pragmatic, experienced operator who will maintain Ukraine's tilt to the West while trying to mend shattered ties with Russia.
     
    Another Maidan commander, Andrei Veremiyenko, made clear the new president would face careful scrutiny, especially after an earlier street uprising, 2004's Orange Revolution, brought in a government many activists consider a discredited failure.
     
    “If they try to go back to the old corrupt system, there will be a third Maidan and it will be more savage than before, much more savage,” said the 40-year-old former sports teacher.
     
    “Our demands must be met - namely a decentralization of power and the creation of a system that truly fights corruption. That is not yet happening,” he said. “Bureaucrats are still rigging auctions and taking bribes, those involved in the killing of people on the Maidan have still not been punished.”
     
    His remarks were tinged by anger and grief over the deaths of more than 100 people in the uprising, many shot by police snipers while defending the barricades during three days in February.

    'Another Oligarch'
     
    Amid the camp clutter, the posters, placards and Ukrainian and European flags, photographs of the “Maidan martyrs” - old and young, men and women - greet visitors as they pick their way past the tents where some 1,000 people are said still to live.
     
    But on a sunny May afternoon, the Maidan mood is relaxed. Men in combat gear sit around, gossiping or playing cards. Some, locals say, have no other home to go to or simply prefer the cameraderie of camp life and the belief they are serving a higher cause over the humdrum routine of a normal job.
     
    A woman plays a piano standing near the tents. A young woman wearing a Minnie Mouse costume strolls past an old man dressed in a Cossack uniform who looks somewhat the worse for drink.
     
    Kyiv's - and the world's - attention is now firmly focused  not on the Maidan but on eastern Ukraine, where troops are clashing daily with the separatists who have declared “people's republics” and say they want to join Russia.
     
    The separatists depict their uprising against Kiev's rule as a mirror image of the Maidan protests that toppled Yanukovych, who came from the eastern region of Donetsk, and replaced him with what many in the east see as a “fascist junta”.
     
    Some former Maidan fighters have since signed up to join a newly formed National Guard that is helping to recover territory seized by the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Kyiv and the West accuse Moscow of backing the separatists. Russia denies arming them but says their aims are legitimate.
     
    “The troubles in the east have diverted our attention. Instead of fighting Ukraine's internal problems like corruption we are having to deal with the Russian threat, with the separatists in the east,” said Veremiyenko.
     
    Kyiv's Western-backed interim government hopes Sunday's election will restore normality and stability after months of  turmoil that also saw Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.
     
    But on the Maidan, views about Ukraine's probable next president are not very positive.
     
    “We are now about to elect another oligarch. We got rid of one gang only to see it replaced by another. I am very disappointed,” said Nikolai, 57, a retired soldier. “I am sure that in six months or so, people will again appear on the Maidan with placards shouting 'Ukraine without Poroshenko',” he said.
     
    Nikolai, who declined to give his second name, added that he would vote on Sunday for Yulia Tymoshenko, a feisty but divisive former prime minister and Orange Revolution leader who opinion polls show trailing far behind Poroshenko in second place.
     
    Stratyenko, the musician-turned-commander, agreed that Poroshenko was part of the old system, though “not a bad man”.
     
    Irrespective of who wins this election, he added, Ukraine can never return to how things were before Yanukovych's fall.
     
    “The Maidan shows that people are starting to wake up, they want to take on responsibility. We don't want a state dominated by our leaders, that was the Soviet Union. We are the masters now, we are the owners of this country,” he said.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora