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

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    Clinton, Sanders Fight for African American Votes

    Some African American lawmakers lining up to support Clinton in face of perceived surge by Sanders in race for Democratic nomination in presidential campaign

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.