The possible civil war in Ukraine appears to be imminent as the crisis in Kiev explodes. Just hours after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich declared a truce between protestors and the police, Kiev’s Independence Square was again awash in blood, fire and rubble. Many watchers are implying that the truce was a double ploy by the president to prompt the protestors to fall back even as the president appeared to grant his diminishing popularity a reprieve among world leaders. The days leading up to the brief pause in civil strife had already seen an eruption of violence similar to the conflict in Kosovo from February 1998 until June 1999.
Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is approximately 865 miles (1400 kilometers) northwest of Sochi where the 2014 Winter Olympics will continue until February 23. There has been no apparent effect of the violence in Kiev on the Olympics in Sochi.
In Kiev’s central square, protestors had been camping out for several days even as the bodies were literally stacking up prior to the president’s ostensible truce. Although police claimed to have been attacked by the protestors, the bodies of dead protestors in the burned-out square appears to have implied otherwise. Police snipers, under cover of the smoke from burning buildings, have been blamed for the mounting death toll. Unarmed civilians with gaping head wounds indicative of well-aimed, high-caliber rifle shots have been collected over the weekend.
According to the Telegraph, a UK paper, one attempt to collect two decaying bodies with single head shots that appeared to be fatal resulted in a third fatality occurring during the collection.
Despite President Yanukovich’s announcements, fighting in the square continued. According to Fox News, protestors and police were exchanging fire even as he claimed a resolution to the conflict on Thursday. Along with all the other problems related to the Olympics, it is highly possible that if the crisis in Ukraine further explodes, there could be long lasting problems that Putin is unable to contain.
While the violence seems to be relegated to a small area, the widespread damage indicates otherwise. The artful square, which features a great number of significant architecture and statuary, has long been the site for dissidence.
The Square is known locally as the “Maidan” which in the country’s tongue is translated as “square” but is formally recognized as Maidan Nezalezhnosti. For nearly 150 years, it was a pleasant plaza with a dynamic terrain that was central to trade, politics and social life in Ukraine. The defining statuary is the archangel Mikhail which sits atop a remarkably tall, thin and strong column. Mikhail is said to be Kiev’s patron saint. In 2004, the Orange Revolution was staged in the square and was in world headlines. Prior to that, peaceful protests and non-political actions had recently taken place in 2001 and 1989.
According to the official website for the Ukraine, it was during the mid-20th century that the architecture of the square was destroyed as a result of World War II. Some structures remain. Many buildings were destroyed to stop the Nazi advance, and in the aftermath, the square was renamed a number of times to appease various Soviet rulers.
With this weekend, which marks the end of the Winter Olympics, all eyes may instead be on Ukraine as the crisis explodes anew.
By Randall Fleming
Follow Randall Fleming on Twitter: #BreweryObserver