In the early hours of Saturday, riot police surrounded and beat hundreds of camped Ukrainian protesters, many of whom were asleep, at Independence Square in the capital Kyiv, the site of week-long peaceful “Euromaidan” rallies, in support of Ukraine's integration with Europe.
According to citizen photos and videos, on November 30, 2013, the police tried to intimidate and forcefully remove protesters from the square, by beating them with batons, chasing unarmed protesters, and even kicking and beating protesters who fell to the ground [photos, videos] while trying to escape. Witnesses say police did not discriminate, beating young women and journalists, including a Reuters photographer Gleb Garanich [photo].
Journalist and blogger Mustafa Nayem shared a video shot from the center of the riot police crackdown. The videо below [warning: graphic content] shows police encircling protesters at the base of the Independence monument, beating everyone indiscriminately. Screams can be heard and people shouting “What are you doing?!” and “Shame on you!”. The video ends with the videographer escaping the monument site, which is completely filled with riot police, while more screams are heard in the background.
Many have circulated another video [ru] shot by Danish journalist Johannes Wamberg Andersen. As he speaks to an injured journalist from Ukraine, riot police is shown in the back, dragging and kicking unarmed protesters.
Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL), posted this video from security cameras on its YouTube account. The cameras recorded riot police chasing and beating unarmed people in the center of Kyiv.
Night before the brutal police attack
After the Ukrainian government failed to fulfill demands of protesters and sign the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in Vilnius on November 29, coordinators of the protests called on people to regroup and gather again on Sunday, December 1.While some protesters went back to their homes after the announcement on Friday, others remained through the night at the main protest site in Kyiv, Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square).Reports say that the majority of those attacked by police were students, some of whom had traveled from other regions to participate in the Euromaidan rallies.
“Square needed to be cleared for Christmas tree”
According to city officials, police needed to disperse protesters so that the square could be prepared for installing the traditional Christmas tree on the square. According to media reports and eye-witness accounts, however, the brutal force used by police was uncalled for and unjustified.
Shock and anger spreads
Ми сховалися в Михайлівському Соборі… Нас тут біля ста чоловік… Є поранені.
Майдан захоплений. Потрапити на нього неможливо! Я намагалася. Сказала, що там залишилися мої особисті речі, на що мені відповіли, що всі речі вже викинули.
Ми чекаємо світові медіа і представників Посольств іноземних держав.
We have taken cover at Mykhailivsky Cathedral… There are about a hundred of us… There are injured [among us].
Maidan [Square] is taken. It is impossible to enter it! I tried. Told them I left my personal belongings there, to which [they] replied that everything has been thrown away already.
We are waiting for the representatives of international media and embassies of foreign states.
Майдан по-звірячому зачистили. Десятка поранених. Десятки затриманих. Такого Україна ще не бачила
— Andriy Shevchenko (@ashevch) November 30, 2013
Maidan [Square] was brutally cleared. Dozens are injured. Dozens are detained. Ukraine has seen nothing like this before.
— Vitalii Moroz (@vitaliymoroz) November 30, 2013
— Just Hovens Greve (@JustHovensGreve) November 30, 2013
As shock from the morning's horrendous events subsided, many began to express anger both online and offline. Throughout the day, people gathered to protest police brutality in Kyiv and other cities.The pictures of these spontaneous protests were circulated widely on social media. Radio Svoboda (RFE/RL) shared this photo on Twitter:
— Радіо Свобода (@radiosvoboda) November 30, 2013
Youth on the Independence Square, sitting under the [Christmas tree] to express their protest
Ukrainian daily Ukrainska Pravda, shared a photo of police protecting what was until recently the main protest site, on its Twitter account. The inscription next to the policemen reads “Happy Bloody New Year!”[uk]:
— Українська правда (@ukrpravda_news) November 30, 2013
Maidan [Square] after the police break up. 30.11.2013. Photo by Mykhailo Petyakh
Opposition party Svoboda posted this photo of a girl with a sign that reads “Choke on your Christmas tree!” [ru], which immediately went viral on social networks.
— ВО Свобода (@vo_svoboda) November 30, 2013
An online citizen activism hub, Maidanua.Org, shared a photo of Mykhailivska square in Kyiv, where people began to gather during the afternoon of November 30:
— Site Maidan.Org.Ua (@sitemaidan) November 30, 2013
Mykhailivska: Articles from Ukraine's Constitution, UN Statute, and Bible verses are posted on the stanchions
At the time of writing this post, people continue to gather on Mykhailivska Square in Kyiv, with rallies also taking place in Lviv and other cities. Ustream user Myhajlivska has made live stream broadcast of protests from Kyiv available through her account.
A nation-wide protest is called for Sunday, December 1, at noon.