Ukrainian crisis, in Kiev among the “veterans” of Maidan Square: “Ukraine was born here”

Of Francesco Battistini

In the square of the anti-Russian revolution of 2014, the anniversary of the uprising is celebrated. But many desert the demonstration: “Too dangerous”

KIEV – Formidable, that year: «I was a kid, I used to prepare pots of hot soup for everyone. I worked night shifts on the barricade, manned the Deutsche Bank. Sometimes I slept on it, ten below zero. What times … ». Today he is not there: «Too much work. I am in fashion, I travel, I am leaving for Milan. And I haven’t been around the square for months now. But I still do my little daily resistance: I refuse to work with the Russians ». Alarms, we are fashionistas: at the age of 25 Oleksandr Melnik came down from the barricade, “then came the fascists, the businessmen, a whole other stuff”, and now the Russian revolution, indeed if it does Russian, is hiding, covered, dozing. For the tiredness, the disappointment, the fear. We celebrate the eighth anniversary of the Maidan uprising, the Day of the 100 Heavenly Heroes killed by special forces snipers, and Independence Square it is almost empty: some veteran shouting from the microphone “Let’s defend the Donbass!”, a small crowd replying “Glory to Ukraine!”, in the distance the blanks of the honor guard, a pale and very tired Volodymyr Zelensky who passes by to give a presidential greeting, “the enterprise of the 100 must teach those who continue to fight for the future …”.

One thing unites Russians and Ukrainians, the taste for thundering celebrations, but this time the most dramatic of the eight anniversaries of the anti-Putin revolution is also the most deserted. “Not even my friends went to the square,” says Oleksandr. “This year is dangerous. There are always bomb alerts, there is a fear of provocation by the Russians. Better to stay away ».

Self Ukraine is not dead yet, as the national anthem sings, thanks should also be said to Putin. Other than painting him with a Hitler mustache: in 2014, this country was little more than a geographical expression. And the gunshots of the Russians have changed many things: look at our flag, Zelensky said one day, thirty years ago it was forbidden to wave it, now who could give it up? «When does a national identity increase – says academician Igor Semyvolos, one of the most listened to voices in Kiev -, if not in tragic moments like Maidan, Crimea, Donbass? With the uprising, the old Russian order ended altogether, and the nation acquired even more significance. However, there had always been a positive attitude towards Russia. But what is happening now is something else: the Russians are always considered to be of our stock, the Russian regime does not. ” Even in distant Kharkiv, where half of the inhabitants in 2014 he was waiting for the Russian troops with welcome flagsAccording to a poll, less than 15% of Russian-speaking Ukrainians would now like the Moscow tanks.

“This does not mean that they love Kiev here”, explains Mayor Hennadij Kernes: like the veterans of Maidan, even in the East they have seen corruption and the perpetuation of the oligarchs grow, in short «A state is not built only by singing hymns in the square. Last summer, while celebrating 30 years of independence from Moscow, Putin granted the right to vote to the inhabitants of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Lugansk: “A very serious thing that was accepted almost with resignation,” says Oleksandr. The divisions between the leaders born of the revolt, the inquiries into former President Poroshenko, the contempt with which Zelensky has always spoken of the barricades: all contributed to the disillusionment of the veterans.

“What’s Zelensky going to do in Maidan?” Oleksandr is indignant. That underneath arises a widespread question: isn’t Putin’s war convenient for this Ukrainian leadership too, at the minimum of popularity? «A war is never a“ good opportunity ”, Semyvolos replies,“ And when they say these things, the old demonstrators still have a somewhat naïve approach. Certain problems, such as corruption, are much more complex. And let’s not forget that those too are a Soviet legacy ». Maidan, however, regroups. It unites. And even empty, the sanctuary of the new Ukraine remains. It is evening, when the veterans leave the square singing “our enemies will disappear like dew in the sun”: from this morning, we’ll see.

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