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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies 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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid