Why did Maidan protesters start burning Berkut in Grushevski Street?


It is still quiet in Grushevski Street in Kiev. It is as quiet as it can be in a place where there are barricades within every 40 or 50 metres, burnt cars and buses and revolutionists are taking photos near buildings damaged by bullets.

“Constrained people are scared to say a word. And here is an example of how people can get up and do their business. You cannot keep silence all the silence. There are limits to patience...” my first radical acquaintance from Grushevski Street said.

His name is Konstantin and he is 70 years old. I met him about 100 metres away from the front line, he was warming up near a cast-iron moveable wood stove made of several metal barrels. It is -20 degrees Celsius. “I have come here to stiffen the youth’s spirit. My grandchildren and children are here,” he said. He asked me to condole with Belarusians on Mihail Zhyzneuski’s death.

“He gave his life for our freedom… However, but for this blood, we may not be able to achieve anything. The nation’s purification always follows bloodshed. It is classics.”

The bloodshed and activists’ deaths in Grushevski Street were needed to win, Konstantin said.

There are as many people near the Cabinet and the stadium Dinamo as there are at Maidan now. Every other person is armed with a piece of steel, metal pipe or a baseball bat (there is a high demand for them in Kiev sports shops now) or just a wooden stick. Whole families with children keep coming here – where else in Europe could you see it?

However, only experienced fighters and journalists are allowed to approach the front line. There are boxes with Molotov cocktails, slingshots and catapults and it is dangerous – plastic bullets may not kill you but you may be crippled. Doctors have to keep working despite the armistice.

They want us to become like partisans. They will not see it, we will fight openly,” a young man in a dirty white helmet said. His hands are covered with bandages or rags. He burnt his hands with cocktails (they may spill). He refused to talk about himself and to say his name. The revolution has not won yet – anything can happen.

But when will it win? I did not get an answer to my question in Grushevski Street. Yanukovich’s suggestion to change the government and appoint oppositionist Yatsenyuk Prime Minister cannot be the end, people think. My acquaintance Konstantin thinks that a meeting of the Verkhovna Rada should be held “to do everything in a legal way”.

“You cannot trust our President. However, the Rada will gather on Tuesday. We need to fetch the Party of Regions over. They are already hesitating. Everything must be legal,” old man Konstantin smiled and headed for the Berkut lines where his grandchildren were filling empty bottles with petrol.

“I must help my grandchildren, there will be no legal way out without a fight,” he added.

I return to Maidan. Activists are dragging boxes with sandwiches, medics are carrying stretchers and strong men in gas masks are dragging sacks filled with sticks and steel rods. Evidently, they are more interested in Grushevski Street now rather than in deserted Maidan with its prayers, oppositionists’ speeches and songs. They are as sick of being idle for two months as much as of Yanukovich’s presidency now.