News / Europe

Ukrainians Rally for Unity Amid Fear of Division

Ukrainians Stage Mass Unity Rally in Kyivi
X
Steve Herman
March 23, 2014 7:44 PM
Thousands of Ukrainians held a unity rally in the heart of their capital, a day after elite Russian forces stormed and took control of the last major Ukrainian military bases in Crimea. VOA's Steve Herman reports from Kyiv's Independence Square.
Ukrainians held a unity rally in the heart of their capital, a day after elite Russian forces stormed and took control of the last major Ukrainian military bases in Crimea.
 
The theme for the rally is Ukrainian unity, but everyone is aware this is a country physically divided.
 
The country's anthem begins: "Ukraine's freedom and glory has not yet died." It reminds Ukrainians of the fragility of their country.

  • Priests from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church offer prayers to kick off a national unity rally. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • A paramilitary officer shows off the large tent in which he has been living for the past four months in Kyiv's central square. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Two men sit atop an armored personnel carrier in downtown Kyiv. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • A man wearing a Ukranian flag listens to speakers at a unity rally in Maidan, central Kyiv. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Hundreds remain encamped in central Kyiv's Maidan (Independence Square) even after the old government was ousted. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • A large burnt-out office building sits adjacent to the Maidan, where violent protests led to the ouster of Ukraine's government. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Participants at a unity rally in central Kyiv unfurl a giant flag. (Steve Herman/VOA)
  • Visitors to Maidan look at a makeshift memorial for two of the more than 100 people killed in anti-government protests earlier this year. (Steve Herman/VOA)
 
The Crimean peninsula, less than 700 kilometers from Kyiv, has been annexed by Russia. Pro-Russian groups on Ukraine's eastern and southern mainland could soon request a referendum on whether to join Russia.
 
A month after deadly street protests drove out the country's pro-Russian president, the situation is anything but normal.
 
Maidan, which means "square," has been Ukraine's nerve center for public political activity since the fall of the Soviet empire. Those on the square said they expect to remain for months, perhaps even past the May 25th presidential election.
 
A captain with the Ukraine Interior Troops [National Guard], who only wanted to be identified as Sasha, has been camping in the square for four months and has no plans to leave anytime soon.
 
"I will lay down my life here, another one will down his life, four more will too. Because we are Banderstadt [patriots], we are Ukrainians, we are the nation," said Sasha.    
 
Noting the reversals after the 2004 Orange Revolution, many here, such as dentist Tatiana Turkot, are skeptical the interim government, with its familiar faces, will put Ukraine on a stable path to democracy.
 
"For 20 years we have not been lucky with any government we have had.  The movement in this square is a chance for us now to finally be able to reach freedom and equality.  No more of our young men should have to die," said Turkot.  
 
While the Maidan demonstrations, which began last November, were generally viewed globally as a pro-European and anti-Russian movement, the participants say it is more than that.
 
Writer and poet Maria Vlad explained that the demonstrators yearn for rule of law in a country where corruption became systemic.
 
"Here [this square] is Ukraine. Here the real Ukraine begins. Everything that we see and hear in Maidan, the songs, the history, the films about our liberation movement, it all led to the moment Ukraine became free," said Vlad.
 
Change is occurring quickly.  While Russia was swallowing Crimea, the interim government signed a political cooperation pact with the European Union.
 
In this square, Ukrainian loyalists can only wonder what the coming days will bring - either a new era in alignment with Europe or further division of the country through Russian occupation.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
March 24, 2014 11:11 AM
As viewed from Russia, the ultranationalist and ultra-right activists from predominately Svoboda party of Ukraine don’t understand that with their hasty Russian and Semitic intolerance in the country with huge Russian presence they have harmed the noble exploit of Ukranian people for the liberation from the tyrany. Even more, those extremists have given enough examples of their readiness to fists fights in public and other illegal extreemes. It’s hardly welcomed in Moscow and other capitals of multinational Europe that had suffered dearly from national-socialists and such attitude in the XX-th century. No wonder that voices in the State Duma of Russia are becoming louder and louder, more appealing to Poland, Hungary and Germany to dismember ultranationalist and ultra-right Ukraine before it has become late.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid