Thursday

17th Oct 2019

One year after Euromaidan: 13 people dying every day

  • Anti-Yanukovych demonstrator at the height of the Euromaidan clashes (Photo: Christopher Bobyn)

One year after the start of Ukraine’s pro-Western revolution - the Euromaidan - people are dying every day in east Ukraine despite the 5 September “ceasefire” pact with Russia, a UN report says.

The survey, by the UN’s human rights body, the Geneva-based OHCHR, out on Thursday (20 November), estimates that “on average 13 people were killed every day between 6 September and 31 October”.

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The death toll since the ceasefire includes more than 80 women and 36 children.

The UN says “at least” 4,042 people have died since fighting began in April, with 9,350 wounded.

But with Ukraine authorities currently handling some 2,600 queries on missing people, the real figure is higher.

The UN survey adds that the number of internally displaced people in Ukraine also jumped from 275,489 in mid-September to 436,444 by the end of October.

It cites abuses - such as irregular detentions, beatings, and cases of disappeared persons - by Ukrainian forces.

But looking at the situation in Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, it says there is: “a total breakdown in law and order … including torture, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, summary executions, forced labour, sexual violence, as well as the destruction and illegal seizure of property”.

“These violations are of a systematic nature and may amount to crimes against humanity”.

It adds that in Russia-annexed Crimea, there are “reports of increasing human rights violations”, especially against the Crimean Tatar minority.

It notes that the Ukrainian economy - with GDP plunging by 4.6 percent in the first three quarters and with inflation at 103 percent - is suffering due to the war.

It also notes “there has been no significant progress in the investigations of crimes committed during the Maidan protests”, which saw Ukrainian riot police and unidentified snipers kill over 100 people in February.

Dignity and freedom

The UN report came out on the eve of the first anniversary of the Euromaidan demonstrations on Friday.

The revolution began at 8pm local time on 21 November 2013 when Mustafa Nayim, a journalist at the Kiev-based online news agency Ukrainska Pravda, posted a Facebook message criticising the government’s decision, earlier the same day, not to sign an EU free trade and political association treaty.

“Come on guys, let’s be serious. If you really want to do something, don’t just ‘like’ this post. Write that you are ready, and we can try to start something”, he wrote.

One hour and 600-or-so Facebook comments later, he added: “Let’s meet at 10:30 p.m. near the monument to independence in the middle of the Maidan”.

The initial protest gathered around 1,000 people.

Many of them stayed there, despite biting cold, until Friday 29 November, when Ukraine's then president Viktor Yanukovych, at an EU summit in Vilnius, officially said No to the EU pact.

On his way home, he ordered his riot police, the Berkut, to use violence to scatter the Maidan camp in the small hours of Saturday morning.

Later on Saturday some 10,000 people came back to the scene, while another 10,000 held a rally in Lviv, in western Ukraine.

But on Sunday, more than 1 million people took to the streets of Kiev in a show of mass revulsion against Yanukovych’s corruption and pro-Russia politics, setting off events that led to his downfall on 23 February.

With Yanukovych and many of his top men now living in luxury mansions in Russia, Nayim, the Ukrainska Pravda journalist, has become an MP in the post-revolutionary parliament, while many other Maidan veterans are fighting as volunteers against Russian forces in east Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Kiev is to mark the anniversary by lighting thousands of candles on the Maidan cobblestones on Friday morning.

It will also hold a wreath-laying ceremony attended by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko and US vice-president Joe Biden on Friday evening.

Large crowds are expected to come to the square on what Poroshenko has ordained as Ukraine’s “Dignity and Freedom Day”.

But fear of provocations or bomb attacks will see the events accompanied by a huge security operation in the capital, local media report.

For their part, European VIPs will be largely absent at Friday’s solemnities.

Information war

With Russian propaganda continuing to depict the Euromaidan as a Western-orchestrated coup, Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite tweeted on Friday morning: “One year ago people of Ukraine made a democratic choice that cannot be changed by force & lies”.

With Russia, according to Nato, also pouring troops and armour into east Ukraine in what looks like preparation for a fresh offensive, EU chancelleries are also debating extra Russia sanctions.

For his part, Poroshenko, on a visit to Moldova on Thursday, said he is ready to resume peace talks with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in any format.

He voiced “gratitude to the world, and especially to the countries of the G7 [a club of rich nations which includes the US and Japan], and our European partners for the support of Ukraine”.

Referring to the broken ceasefire pact signed in Minsk on 5 September, he added “the main thing is to fulfill Minsk agreements not in word but in deed".

"Unless there is a positive change, the [EU and US] sanctions should be continued”.

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