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Ukrainian volunteer medic lives outside President’s office, protesting Russian peace push

Yaryna Chornohuz holds a solo protest near the Presidential Office next to the portrait of her loved one who was killed by a Russian sniper last winter. Source: Hromadske
Edited by: Sonia Maryn
Yaryna Chornohuz, a paramedic volunteer from the Medical Battalion of Hospitalers, holds a one-woman 24/7 protest near the Presidential Office, now for two weeks. Several volunteers have joined her. She doesn’t appeal to others to join now, calling for physical distancing during the COVID-19 crisis.

Chornohuz started her protest on 13 March, when Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak signed establishing a joint Ukrainian-DNR/LNR “Consultation Council.” The agreement may de facto grant quasi-legal status to the self-declared republics. Possibly, his intent was to diminish the Russian role as aggressor-state.0a

Chornohuz has more than one reason to hold her protest near the Presidential Office. Her beloved partner was killed in Donbas in January by a Russian sniper. Since the beginning of January, 41 Ukrainian soldiers have died. Meanwhile, President Zelenskyy continues his policy of appeasement. Members of his team are increasingly calling for “reconciliation” with Russian proxies that show no will for disengaging troops or establishing ceasefire.

Chornohuz supports the Capitulation Resistance Movement, as well as those NGOs and political parties who stand against the “traitorous” policy. She has four demands:

  1. Cancel the last Minsk agreement that raises the status of occupied territories and diminishes the role of Russia as the aggressor.
  2. Dismiss the current Head of the Presidential Office Andriy Yermak for treason of the state.
  3. Dismiss Serhiy Syvokho from his post of advisor to the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. (Syvokho is an advocate of the appeasement policy. He openly spreads Russian propaganda that the war is an internal conflict, not a Russian aggression.)
  4. Stop the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops, until the adversary does the same.

In a novel approach, Chornohuz has set up a makeshift “camp” on the sidewalk near the Presidential Office, displaying the four demands on placards. Beneath them she has added this warning: “Otherwise, impeachment will come soon.”

Protest camp near the Presidential Office. Source: Facebook page of Roman Barvinok-Skrypal.

In her comments to media outlet Hromadske, Chornohuz added:

“We demand public apologies from Zelenskyy and Yermak, for the humiliation families of heroes killed in battle have suffered, because of the last Minsk agreements.”

A manifesto written by Chornohuz criticizes the president. She argues that rather than meeting with veterans who have frontline military experience, Zelenskyy is alienating and even repressing them.

The manifesto calls for a stop to the marginalization of Ukrainian fighters, saying that today, not only Russian propaganda frames Ukrainian soldiers as violent radicals, but the Ukrainian government attempts to harmonize with this melody of dissonance. She says this is all part of the naive policy of appeasement:

We are aware that we will be marginalized in line with Zelenskyy’s policy of alienation and marginalization of Ukrainian volunteers. Therefore we aim to show the president and society that the military are self-sufficient creative people who can systematically protect the values of their country, both on the frontline and on granite by the Presidential Office, which secretly surrenders our country to the enemy. We are convinced that bullets and weapons are for the frontline, while here, in the capital of Ukraine, we conduct only a peaceful protest. Each of us will protest here for an unlimited time. We are united by the idea of an independent democratic Ukraine, able to fight for itself, able to defend itself.

The manifesto points directly at Zelenskyy, questioning his ability to organize the defense of Ukraine, and asking him to prove that he is serving Ukrainian interests:

It is the seventh year of Russia’s occupation against Ukraine. Despite years of struggle by Ukrainians who went to defend their country, despite thousands of casualties among Ukrainian heroes, the President of Ukraine agreed to retreat from Ukrainian positions, leaving behind land drenched with the blood of Ukrainian fighters and filled with their thoughts of families and loved ones. In doing so, he demonstrated that he is a weak leader of the state. A Commander in Chief who does not understand people with military experience.

He has to prove that he is not a Kremlin puppet. Or leave the post of President of Ukraine. We know that Russia will attack. Sooner or later. This war did not start in 2014 … War for one’s own country is an art, and President Zelenskyy does not possess it.

Chornohuz and her friends have named their protest the “Spring on Granite.” The name is an homage to the 1990 Revolution on Granite, 30 years ago. The revolution was successful in attaining its goals.

The Revolution on Granite, 1-17 October 1990. A large-scale campaign organized by Ukrainian youth, mostly students, who maintained a hunger strike on the Square of the October Revolution in Kyiv — now Independence Square and the site of the 2014 Revolution of Dignity. The Revolution on Granite protested the ratification of a new Soviet Union treaty and called for the election of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian SSR) to be conducted according to the multiparty system. The Revolution of Granite succeeded and paved the way to Ukrainian Independence in 1991.

The war and the art

The statement, “War for one’s own country is an art,” has literal meaning for Chornohuz and her friends. Artists have set up closeby, supporting her campaign through their own work.

One of them is Roman Barvinok-Skrypal, a soldier of the independent infantry squad “Wolf.” He is a violinist and accompanies the artists in an important ritual that starts their day — singing the Ukrainian Anthem:

Ukrainian painter Irena Mykoliv is also supporting the protest through her art. She has painted Barvinok-Skrypal playing violin, as well as Chornohuz in her protest vigil.

Roman Barvinok-Skrypal plays his violin at the protest camp. Painting by Irena Mykoliv.
Yaryna Chornohuz maintaining her protest vigil near the Presidential Office. Painting by Irena Mykoliv.

Several Members of Parliament have publicly supported Chornohuz. MPs Yana Zinkevych and Sofiya Fedyna joined Chornohuz in her camp for a period of time. Chornohuz wrote:

“These are the real MPs! Sitting on the tourist rug here, holding a cup of tea and coffee with people who are protesting in defense of their right to live in a Ukraine not occupied by Russia. Not like that glamorous television pathos about ‘servants.’”

MP Fedyna has good reason to join the protest. Recently, the court applied preliminary penal measures to her, limiting her freedom of movement. She may face up to five years of imprisonment for a video post on Facebook that criticized Zelenskyy’s policy of troop withdrawal. An MP from the presidential party had the charges brought forward, claiming the post was intended as a threat to the president.

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Edited by: Sonia Maryn
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