Despite some outside similarity between two Ukrainian protests – the Maidan [Euromaidan] and the so-called separatist demonstrations in eastern Ukraine now taking place, they are radically different, starting with the fact, that pro-Russian/separatist protests almost entirely lacked the peaceful phase, say political scientists.
“Let’s remember one thing: for two months, people stood on the Maidan absolutely unarmed and demanded punishment for those guilty of beating students on Nov. 30 – Dec. 1. By contrast, in the easternmost oblasts, we are seeing militants in Russian uniforms and gear, shooting and taking over the government buildings,” Ukrainian political scientist Oleksiy Haran told BBC Ukraine.
His colleague Mykhailo Pohrebinskiy says that there was far less weaponry on the Maidan even during the violent phase that started on January 19. He points to yet another difference between the Maidan and supposedly pro-Russian movements: “The public arena does not have any obvious political leaders in this new ‘protest’.”
BBC Ukraine has put together a selection of photos illustrating the similarities and differences between these two Ukrainian protest movements.
The photos of pro-Russian actions are on the left, while Euromaidan photos from Kyiv are on the right.
During both protests, in the East and on the Maidan, mainly men threw paving stones at police and took over administrative buildings
In both cases, activists within the crowds wore elements of military ammunition.
Both protests had participants who used the symbols of radical ideas and non-existent states or parties.
Both sides accused their opponents of fascism and neo-nazism..
Priests supported both protests.
Both groups made and used Molotov cocktails.
The followers of the both camps included people from different social groups who often were not ready for radical actions but sincerely supported them.
But the differences between the Maidan and pro-Russian protests in the East can be immediately spotted.
The most significant difference is the participation of professional military forces in eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian government claims that these are Russian Special Forces. Russia denies its involvement in the riots.
Some of the protesters in Kyiv had arms and camouflage, but BBC correspondents never saw professionally equipped soldiers on Maidan.
The protests on East are under the flags of Russia and the putative Donetsk People’s Republic. The main flag on the Maidan was actually the flag of Ukraine, initially together with the EU flag.
Journalists report thousands of pro-Russian protesters in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv, but the numbers are no match to the winter anti-government protests in Kyiv and other cities.
Not all participants in the current “pro-Russian” demonstrations openly support assimilation with Russia, and some openly oppose it, saying only that they want federalization. But the very fact that people are making demands under the flag of a foreign country causes many Ukrainians in the rest of Ukraine to feel suspicious about the protests in the east. Of course, eastern Ukrainians were also suspicious of Euromaidan.
Source: BBC Ukraine
Translated by Irina Shnitsar, edited by Lidia Wolanski