Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day of Europe Festival, Kyiv, Ukraine: May 18, 2013

EU Flag with "Вставай Украино!" (Rise Ukraine) signs in background

Proximity is everything.  This morning, from our apartment we could hear music and noise coming from Khreschatyk Boulevard the street that becomes a pedestrian street on weekends and holidays.  What we discovered was that it is the Day of Europe Festival with booths sponsored by many different European countries.  These countries were handing out travel brochures to promote their countries.  There were school bands and small groups of children singing and dancing.  It was a nice family atmosphere.

Ukraine would like to join the EU, but there are some stumbling blocks.  For one thing, the EU has said many times that Yulia Tymonshenko is a political prisoner.  Before being jailed in August 2011, she was a co-leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution, became Prime Minister in 2005, and ran for president in 2010 receiving 45.7% of the votes in runoff voting.  She lost to Viktor Yanukovych who is currently the President of Ukraine.  The Ukrainian government has brought at least 10 criminal cases against Tymonshenko.  The one that sent her to prison for seven years in 2011 found her guilty of "abuse of office when brokering the 2009 gas deal with Russia."

Since Tymoshenko has been in prison, supporters have been keeping her plight alive with a camping vigil along Khreschtyk Boulevard.

Tents used by Tymoshenko supporters

Specifically, the EU voiced its concern for a "stark deterioration of democracy and the rule of law" including the imprisonment of Tymoshenko and other politicians.  The Orange Revolution is dead.

The united opposition (Rise, Ukraine) figured that the Day of Europe Festival would be the perfect day to stand together and protest the imprisonment of Tymoshenko so,very suddenly, Dan and I found ourselves in the middle of a 15,000 strong protest that was at that time peaceful.

 "In Europe without Political Prisoners"
 ❤юля (Love Yulia)

 The Blue Flags say "Свобода" (Freedom) and the Red Flags "УДАР" (Democratic Alliance) Political Party

 "Ukraine without Yanukovych"

There were many signs with Tymoshenko's picture, signs that said "Free Yulia", signs that said "Freedom", signs that said "Ukraine without Yanukovych" (the president).

After taking hundreds of repetitive photos, we left to see what else the Day of Europe Festival had to offer.

We saw a few anti-EU signs like this one that needs no translations.

After we departed the "Rise, Ukraine" protest, we found that the ruling party's "Party of Regions" had bussed in people from all over the country and that group of protestors (led by a band of black track-suited thugs) walked toward the opposition's protestors.  Where they met, a fight broke out and a journalist and a photographer recording the confrontation were beaten.

Someone told me that politically, "there is always something happening in Kyiv."  I guess this is what she meant.

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