Close And Personal Photos From The Heart Of The Revolution In Kiev, Ukraine

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

Ukranian photographer Ilya Varlamov has been covering the uprising in Kiev, Ukraine over the last few weeks. He shared his experience along with an incredible series of photographs and allowed us to post them on the blog to increase the spread of the story. The post below describes two days in Kiev: January 22 and 23. Some of the photos may be hard to watch. Aside this post, Ilya has an ongoing coverage of the uprising on his livejournal account (some in Russian, some in English).

In the last days I received multiple requests to translate my posts for foreign readers, as they have very limited information about the happenings in Ukraine. This material describes events which took place in Kyev on January 22 and 23.

Sharing and distribution is appreciated.

22 January 2014. Battles on streets of Kiev.

I came to Kiev. I came to see for myself what is happening here. Of course, an hour after arriving at Maidan, you begin to understand that everything what you’ve read in dozens of articles, saw in TV news reports is total crap. In the upcoming reports I will try to, as objectively as possible, to sort out this new wave of Kiev revolution.

Usually reporters try to answer the question: “Who came out to Maidan and why.” Depending on the political leaning of MSM, the answers are different. Some say it’s “fascists who came out to lynch the Moscali (Ukranian derogatory for Moscovites and Russians in general).”, some say “they’re bums and slackers, who’ve got nothing better to do” and “instigators on the government payroll.” In reality, there is no answer. Those who came out are completely different. Remember, how a couple of years in Moscow there was a MSM buzzword “angry townspeople.” Here you see football fans, retirees, office plankton. And everyone is standing together. A sweet, ol’ grandmother is pouring Molotv cocktail in a nationalists’ bottles; and a manager of a large company is carrying ammunition to the student. And as it seems to me at this time, these people do not have a specific plan, nor idea of what to do next. Of course, individually, everyone has their own plan to “save Ukraine.” For some its “we need a couple of crates of AKs and grenades, we’ll sort things out here quickly.” Others “need to ask the world community for help and bring in the UN troops.” At this time there is no central idea of what to do, an idea that can unite and point in one direction the people at Maidan.

The only thing that is completely clear – people came out against Yanukovich.

The burning barricades are visited by people who have come to let out anger and resentment that have accumulated over the years – for the excesses of cops; for the corruption; for the ‘golden toilet’; for the stupidity of the sell-out officials. An elderly man, 80 years of age, walks up to young guys in masks and asks them for a bottle of flaming liquid. They ask him:

“- Grandad, you wont be able to throw it far enough!

- Just give me one, I want to show these beasts that they cannot treat me like this”

Unfortunately, the Ukranians had bad luck with opposition. The street mob is not controlled by anyone. Klichko and his company met with Yanukovch yesterday. Later they came out to the people, began to say something, but no one believes them. And no one wants to follow them. The main mass of people are completely non-political. They come out to kick Yanukovich and his company’s ass. Everyone has their own grievances and vision of the future.

There are very real battles on the streets of Kiev right now. Unfortunately, Yanukovich is far, so the Berkut (Ukranian SWAT) and soldiers have to play the role of Yanukovich’ ass. The scenery in Kiev is scary. Black smoke, burning barricades and constant explosions. Berkut’s flashbangs and the protestors’ fireworks explode in the streets. Each side is shooting at the other and there are already first casualties(2 to 5 based on different sources).

Let’s go to the barricades?

I rented a room in the hotel “Dnepr”, the very center on the European square. I come up to the main entrance, all doors are locked, lights are out. A group of men in helmets and protection, hanging nearby, greet me “Welcome to Kiev, Mister.” – they’ve confused me with a foreign tourist. Everyone’s laughing. It turns out that the entrance to the hotel is through a local bar. The security guy opens the door and leads me through dark hallways to the lobby. The lights are off, so as not to attract attention. After all, the hotel is almost at the front line.

1. European square. Back when it was all starting, there was a stage here, from which politicians pontificated their smart ideas about the future of Ukraine. Now the politicians have move on to Maidan, and the European square has become the rear base of the revolution. Cars with food arrive here; old tires for the bonfires, wood, medicine and reinforcements.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

2. Mihaila Grushevskogo street. The first barricade has been erected here. The guards do not allow in outsiders. Only the press, the volunteers, and the activists, ready to fight Berkut, are allowed to pass. All onlookers are stopped at the approach, to prevent them from interfering with work.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

3. This is main burning barricade near the Dinamo stadium, about 100 meters away from the first. It consists of hundreds of burning tires, which are brought here from all parts of the city. The demonstrators got lucky with the wind – it carries the black smoke directly at the squads of Berkut and national guard standing behind the fires. The smoke completely obscures the view and both sides are currently working blind.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

4. A bunch of onlookers watch the fight. The battle continues for 4 days in a row.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

5.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

6. Activists run up, bearing shields and toss stones. Nobody sees the enemy, but everyone knows how far Berkut can toss grenades. No one approaches the determined line without a shield. The grenades that land are flashbangs and tear gas. This does not have much effect on the seasoned protestor. The key is to avoid a direct hit or a nearby explosion, which can cause concussion.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

7. The fire is constantly fed by more tires. The smoke screen must be dense! At one point Berkut attempt to feel out the protestors from a hill using a powerful projector.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

8.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

9. There are special men on the field of battle, who watch the troop movements of the opponent. The man in the mask and shield will always tell you where it’s safe: “Stop! There’s a devil shooting from behind the column, don’t go father that line! We’re about to smoke him out of there!”

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

10. The scouts constantly refresh information about the enemy position and coordinate activists, who toss stones and Molotov cocktails.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

11. The authorities turned several water cannons at the demonstrators. Surprisingly no one is afraid of the water. This scout is climbing a balcony to see what’s behind the smoke screen. The drenched people dry at the campfires. And some just walk around wet. There’s an incredible atmosphere here: on one hand you can feel the weariness of the frustrated people, on the other hand euphoria and expectation of victory. In such light, no one is paying attention to wet clothes. Only medic volunteers ask people to go warm up to avoid frostbite.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

12. Activists with Molotov cocktails at the front line.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

13.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

14. Actually the center of Kiev is very pretty right now

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

15. Protestors periodically shoot fireworks at Berkut. The entire square lights up and people cheer.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

16. Somewhere over the the Berkut troops are getting ready for another assault. The assault is always sudden and everyone fear its. This morning Berkut has already shown that if the need be they can scatter everyone in 5 minutes. Why they do not – is a different question.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

17. Catapult 1, seized and destroyed, is replaced by Catapult – 2. In reality it’s just a large slingshot, but to keep continuity the call it Catapult – 2.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

18. Miracle of the engineering thought! Catapult -2 quickly went through testing and was admitted into the armament of the rebels. The crew consists of six people: three people pull the elastic; two people hold the frame; one person loads and delivers ammunition.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

19. The wonder machine works well, but slow. The missiles fly far into the night, but reloading takes 2-3 minutes.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

20. In a nearby alley people prepare Molotov cocktails. In reality, most of the bottles contain either pure kerosine or gasoline, the recipe is no longer followed – no time. Empty glass bottles are in a big deficit.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

21. I’m looking at the guys and everyone is drinking Pepsi. I’m wondering: why drink this crap, it’s freezing outside? As it turns out, bottles ran out and someone brought several crates of soda. So as not to waste, everyone’s drinking together. Even infant food jars are used. All glass containers fly at the cops. The filling of the containers at the front line is done by the activists of the ‘right sector,’ but in the rear the bottles are filled by regular grandmas and pretty young women. Those who the guards do not allow passage to the front.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

22. There are problems with bottles here. The mixture inside is liquid, not thick like in the original Molotov recipe, and the fuse is a simple rag. During the throw part of the gasoline can spill out and light up the thrower. Of course the fire is quickly put out, but the effect is very low. Almost 50% of all cocktails spill out before hitting their target.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

23.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

24. The onlookers on the hill help out in any way they can. Sometimes they use lasers to blind the Berkut fighters. At one point the police was able to climb the colonnade entrance of the stadium and began to rain Molotovs and gas grenades down on the protestors. The onlookers use lasers to hit a Berkut in the eye, or try to find snipers on the roofs. There are constant rumors of snipers, although no confirmation of their existence has been produced.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

25. Volunteer giving out dry, waterproof boots at the front line.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

26. A young woman with a tea kettle approaches an activist on the front line to keep them hydrated. Some carry sandwiches, some dry clothing. Later I will describe in detail how things work here.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

27. Campfire behind the barricades, where the wet and the frozen dry and warm up.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

28.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

29. On my way back I see a group of people, trying to open a manhole. I ask them why are they trying to open the manhole? “We want to turn off the water so that Berkut will stop hitting us with water.!” The manhole does not open, this is a government district and all manhole covers are sealed securely from inside. Later they tried to break the manhole cover with sledge. I tried to explain that this is pointless, but I was ignored. The were not able to break through and they’re still getting hit with water.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

23 January 2014. Temporary cease fire at Maidan.

30.

I would like to dispel the most common myths about Maidan.

1.”They destroyed the whole city”

Not true. All of the action you see in the pictures are happening on a small square near the entrance to a Dinamo stadium. This is a government sector, there is no intereference in peaceful life outside of this area. If you make an analogy with Moscow, imagine that the barricades are someone in the area of Ilinka or Varvarka, near the president’s administration. Sure, it’s the center, but regular Moscovites wouldn’t notice. There is dark smoke and fire on all pictures: those are mostly burning tires. There is not tangible damage to the buildings. Unfortunately one store burned down last night near the barricades, resulted from a poorly thrown molotov cocktail. Even the statue of Lobanovsky, located in the epicenter of fighting has been covered with cloth to prevent damage. Overall, the protesters are very careful regarding property. They’ve take apart fences and benches, but no windows are broken, noone is vandalizing, and all looters are caught and beaten. So the picture is pretty apocalyptic, but things are not so bad.

2. “This is not a revolution, nothing horrible is happeneing”

Also not true. This is a real revolution. Decide for yourselves: it’s been two months since the center of Kiev has been in the hands of the opposition. Several government buildings are seized. The work of many government offices is paralyzed. The opposition has created barricades, which the authorities have not be able to take. Despite the freezing temps, tens of thousands of people are on the streets for the last two months. The system of defense and supply chain are established. There is perfect order at the protestor HQ, people are fed, dressed, people are pooling money to gather supplies. The most important thing: the people in power are unable to restore order. The police has failed several times at try to storm the barricades. I’ll make a separate post about this, but trust me, the only way to dismantle this is with heavy artillery, or drop in commandos. Every day the opposition is securing more territories. What is this if not a revolution?

3. “The entire Kiev is paralyzed, there is no peaceful life for the regular people.”

Kiev is living its own life. All stores and cafes are working, people are going to work, study in universities, get married, divorce and even die their own death. Most of the Kiev populace are not inconvenienced. Imagine if Navalny took over the Red Square and set up his camp there. What would change for you, Moscovites? Nothing. So the only people who are inconvenienced are toruists. A few stores and cafes had to close down in the very center. Also, those living in the center have troubles with logistics. But the entire Kiev is not paralyzed.

Now, when you know all the truth, let’s see how this day was.

31. From the morning everything remains in fire.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

32. The protestors use metal shields to defend themselves from water the police are pouring them with.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

33. Road signs can serve as good shields.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

34. The Maidan’s missile forces. Lots of pyrotechnics are being brought up to the camp, all these rockets fly towards Berkut’s positions.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

35. Hearths always require more tires to be thrown into. Because of ash and ice, ground level already rose by one meter.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

36.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

 

37. Where necessary, the police gets stoned.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

38. Everything is tightened with a smokescreen. Burning tires turned out to be a very efficient tactics. Police troops can’t see what is happening and are unable to attack, though there are disadvantages as neither the protesters can see the police’s positions.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

39. This night was burned children’s clothing store.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

40. A catapult is always working on the front line.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

41. Not many people show up on the Maidan in the morning – the majority arrives at night, after work.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

42.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

43. At midday Klichko came to the barricades and announced the temporary truce. Second round of negotiations with Yanukovich was due to take place today, and Klichko asked to cease fire and extinguish tire blazes until 8 PM. The police promised not to open fire on protesters, to stop throwing grenades and pouring water. Everyone agreed – Klichko happened to be the only opposition leader whom the crowd listens to. Well done! Just yesterday nobody was listening to him. After the truce came into effect, firemen started extinguishing the burning barricade.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

44. A wonderful view opened once the fire went out.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

45. People immediately started advancing to the forefront which was previously engulfed by fire.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

46. Berkut’s positions.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

47. Berkut troops were standing angry and soaked in smoke. Throughout the truce I spotted no provocations from either side.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

48. Protestors are making photos in front of Berkut, Berkut in front of the protestors – war is war, but everyone needs to updates pics in social networks.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

49.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

50. Scores of soldiers and Berkut are standing in small groups up to the horizon.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

51.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

52. Monument to Lobanovsky next to the stadium is neatly covered with cloth.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

53. People get warm next to campfire. Is revolution possible without a bicycle? I say no!

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

54. People on the hill are prepared for an assault. Stones, incendiary bottles and tires tightened with barbwire will be thrown to the attackers in case of necessity.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

55. “Katyusha rocket launchers” used for shooting fireworks to the police.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

56. Preparation of Molotov’s cocktails.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

57. Bottles and stones.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

58. Cocktails are being prepared by women.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

59. You’ve probably heard about people banging metal with sticks. Many asked why – this is sort of a signal. When nothing happens, nobody is taping. When casual stone- and grenade-throwing takes place, the knock is monotonous, in order to set rhythm and keep the morale. When Berkut attacks, drumming becomes louder and everyone hears that – for some it is a signal to run away, for some, on the opposite – defend the barricades.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

60. Man glues his store’s showcase, even though not a single his window was broken in four days. This store sells expensive furniture, and the ad urges not to rob it. As I said, there are no marauders in Kyiv – everything is perfectly organized, contrary to Bishkek, where, as I remember, the city was plundered in half a day. Nothing like that takes place here.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

61. People hammer the snow, then load it to sacks and bring to the barricades. Snow serves as the main building material here. Sacks are being poured by water and snow turns into ice – monolithic barricades which come out are very difficult to destroy.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

62. The Maidan’s quarries. People break the sett into easy to throw stones, load into sacks and bring to the frontline.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

63. That’s how it looks.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

64. They carry.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

65. A stove.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

66. Modern art.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

67. Someone started a rumor about the Armenian Diaspora willing to pay for any information about the murder of their compatriot on Maidan. Later it turned out to be fake.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

68. One of the protesters. Russian press usually describes the participants of Maidan as “extremists, radical thugs, ultras, members of nationalistic groups, motley nationalist, sometimes openly Nazist public, extremist militants, rioters, pogromists, rebels” etc…

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

69. A journalist.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

70. According to NTV (russian pro-government tv-channel), this is an “amuck radical”.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

71. Look at the people. I said it already, but will repeat: all social classes are present on the squares – from students to pensioners.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

72. Grannies for Timoshenko.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

73. Another extremist.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

74. Women with food and tea always walk among the protesters – sometimes it looks like you’re on a banquet, not on a revolution. To find someone hungry is an uneasy job: the man on photo complaints that he put on three kilograms in a month :). Food is being brought every day, usually it is supplied by sympathizing Kyevites and businessmen who can’t go to the barricades but support the revolution.

2 Days In Kiev, Ukraine

About The Author

Ilya Varlamov is a traveling photographer based in Moscow. He travels the world and documents it. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter and livejournal. This post was originally published here.

Comments

  1. Rostislav Alexandrovich says

    Mesmerizing documentary,
    any opposition against corruption is an opposition against slavery, and unfortunately most of the governments are corrupt to one level or another.
    Thank you for bringing this brave people’s story forward.

  2. Jacknobre says

    Outstanding photo journalism.
    Fighting a good fight for what one believes in is always worth fighting for. Stay safe and keep up the great work.

  3. S.P. says

    Every story has two sides. Even in Syria and many other countries the rebels are freedom fighters, than at one point they become terrorists.

  4. Lyle says

    Now, for a truly balanced story, I’d like to see you cross over the line and tell us what you see from the other side of the smoke.
    Excellent reporting. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>