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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid