Ukraine activist weighs in on Kiev protests

Anti-government protestors march towards the Ministry of Justice, occupied overnight, on January 27, 2013 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Anti-government protestors march towards the Ministry of Justice, occupied overnight, on Jan. 27 in Kiev, Ukraine.
Credit: Getty Images

The anti-government protests in Ukraine are getting more violent, with Justice Minister Olena Lukash threatening a state of emergency if protesters don’t leave the Justice Ministry.

Metro spoke with Vyacheslav Likhachev, a Ukrainian human rights activist.

The situation is changing quickly. Are protesters sensing victory?

The government doesn’t seem to be serious about negotiating with the protesters. Police and bandits are attacking protesters, and as a result, the protesters willing to accept violence are the ones most willing to go out on the street. They have homemade weapons, which is why they’re on the front lines.

These armed protesters are a small minority of the protests, but of course it’s very good for the government to be able to show them on TV. And being able to show protesters like these makes it easier to pass legislation banning peaceful protests. And the government needs to be able to show Western governments why it’s beating up protesters. Now it can say, “They’re fascists. What can we do?”

How do other protesters view this violent minority?

There’s a conspiracy theory that these radical right groups are collaborating with the government, and there’s some justification to such thoughts. For example, soon after the protests began, radical right protesters showed up with signs protesting against Ukrainian EU integration. But the protests are in favor of Ukrainian EU integration, so why are they participating? Of course, they’re also protesting against police violence, so it’s logical that they’re participating for that reason.

Do protesters consider Vitaly Klitschko their leader?

Step by step, he’s become the leader of the protest, but he wasn’t in the beginning. Opposition politicians weren’t part of the protests in the beginning. Many protesters still don’t view him as their leader. If he were to say, “Let’s end this protest and go home,” I’m sure half of them would say, “No, we’re not here because of you.”


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