Slava Ukrayini! Maidan, behind the scenes (Part I)

, by Dimitri Halby

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Slava Ukrayini! Maidan, behind the scenes (Part I)

My name is Dimitri, a Russian name, but I’m French, I live in Ireland and my wife was born in the Ukraine (a part of USSR at the time). Yes, I know, kind of complicated. When the Ukrainian revolution started in Maidan, we started following it very closely. During 3 months, I admired the protestors that had the guts to stay there even when being watered by cops under the temperature of -10, -20 degrees Celsius. Then the bloodshed happened last Tuesday, more than 20 people died. We spent the Wednesday hoping for a peaceful resolution of the conflict but the Thursday went even worse: more than 60 dead protestors. Oksana was crying until I said: “Wanna go to Kiev? Join the protestors on Maidan?”

When coming back from Ukraine, a lot of my friends asked me questions to know if media were telling the truth. I noticed that there were a lot of omitted and not accurate information. Here is my understanding of the situation on the big questions about the conflict. Big thanks to Oksana for her help understanding the situation and reviewing these articles.

I did not follow, can you explain the situation in a few words?

It will be hard to put it in a “few words” but, when we departed from Ireland, people were fighting to have the Ukrainian president resign while police and snipers were shooting at people. When we landed in Kiev, Yanukovych was fleeing to the east of the country. People were mostly fighting against politicians’ corruption, which will be the hardest part to change. Actual politicians of all the political spectrum have bad habits and bribes can be seen at all levels.

Politicians are not the only ones that are corrupted. To take an example, if you need to go to the hospital, you’ll have to bribe a few people to be taken care of and not put in a waiting list, even for an emergency. If you are speeding, you can easily avoid the ticket by bribing the cop that stopped you. There is a whole non official price list for the bribe to give depending on which speed you were over the limit. There is a “tradition” of corruption that can be seen at all levels of society. This is what Maidan wants to change and the most difficult task from my point of view.

Hey, but I’ve read in newspapers that it was a fight between Pro-Europeans and Pro-Russian, is it wrong?

This is what European countries would like but it is not the reality at all. At the very beginning, people were protesting against the choice of the president to turn his back on EU and sign a deal with Russia. It quickly turned into a protest against the president himself and corruption. People will get interested again in joining the EU when the situation gets more stable and it is far from that right now. You should still keep in mind that not everybody among the protestors are in favour of Ukraine being part of the EU.

Pro european flags can be seen on Maidan but they are not really showing people’s main concern at the moment. Ukraine mostly hopes that Europe will pay attention to what happens in the country. People were really happy and welcoming us when they would learn that we were living in Ireland and following the events. Pro-european claims are still here but as a “background noise”, you’ll have to wait for the situation to become stable to see it come back to the forefront of news.

Can Timoshenko “save” Ukraine?

What European media forgets to mention most of the time is what is behind a so-called cabal that sent Timoshenko to prison: she has really used her position and relations with Russian to get a deal on gas that was bad for Ukraine. She got a lot of money out of it and out of corruption in general. In short, she is far from being the ideal candidate despite the fake aureole of her hair.

Was Yanukovych that bad?

When he ran away from Kiev on the night of the 21 to the 22d of February, he tried to eliminate a lot of compromising papers. After analysing those, it is easier to understand the level of corruption of the country and on how high standard Yanukovych was living.

He was giving money to all political parties in the country. From what we know, only Klitchko, the ex-boxer, did not receive a dime from him. This explains why Yatsenyuk was booed when announced prime minister on Maidan. Yanukovych was also taking a lot of money directly from the state’s funds to transfer it into accounts in foreign countries. Since that has been found, some of them have been blocked. To give a little idea of the excessiveness of Yanukovych’s luxury lifestyle with Ukraine’s money, we found proofs that he spend a nice 39 million euros to buy chandeliers for his second home. One of the claims of Maidan was to have the 2004 constitution back, that is done!

Is it true that the new government wants to ban the Russian language and harass Russian speakers?

Nobody hates Russian speakers and as a protest against these rumours, the newspapers from the west part of the country that would traditionally write in Ukrainian were printed in Russian this week. I had also the opportunity to see how people are using both Ukrainian and Russian language in Kiev. Nobody harassed me when I was trying to speak the few Russian words I knew either.

Is it true that Ukraine has a lot of resources such as gas and that the EU and the Russia are fighting for it, even thought they would not admit it?

The main resources of Ukraine are cereals and metal. Most of the gas is imported from Russia which explains why Yanukovych turned his back on the EU. In my opinion, the goal is mainly a political and a strategic one. The country being at the border between the EU and Russia, both of them are trying to get it on their side. The only thing that Ukraine has in huge quantity is an enormous debt. Russia is trying to create an economic zone on EU’s model and cannot let Ukraine join the EU’s side instead of its side. The real economic part that is influencing everything is that lots of Russian pipelines are going through Ukraine to Western Europe.

Why did Putin want to increase taxes on Ukrainian products imported to Russia?

He is only trying to create some economic pressure. The message is: keep quiet otherwise I will increase taxes on Ukrainian imported products and gas.

But what is worrying Russia so much in the actual events?

What we need to keep in mind is that whatever happens to Ukraine potentially can happen to Russia. This is always the first country to rebel and others sometimes follow. For example, it was the first one of the first to declare independence from the ex-USSR, leading to this one being dismantled. This is the reason why Putin keeps a close eye on the country. Don’t forget as well that Kiev is the cradle of Russia, the town that is being considered as the very origins of the Russian empire. This explains a lot of things. Moreover, Putin and Yanukovych have a very similar way of acting as presidents and dealing with the country.

Photos: Dimitri Halby and Oksana Halby, common license // Article written with help of Oksana Halby

Your comments

Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom