The Euromaiden protests, a great tragedy waiting to happen?

Before you read this, know that I in no way claim to present an unbiased opinion. All views are my own. Pictures and links in this article may contain disturbing images.

This post will not attempt to explain the motivations behind the protest, which can be found here.

At what point does a protest become a riot, at what point does a riot become a revolution and when does a revolution become a war?

The Euromaiden protests started as a peaceful rally

Yesterday the Ukrainian secret service announced the start of “anti-terror” operations. Defence Minister Pavlo Lebediev also said that the armed forces would be deployed once state of emergency is declared. This was in response to claims that Ukrainian police forces had been firing live ammunition into crowds of protesters. Video footage has even emerged of protesters and doctors being fired upon by snipers.

There is a saying, though I don’t know where I heard it: “Fire on a protester and you create a revolutionary.” Peaceful protests in Russia at the turn of the 20th century were met with cavalry charges. It lit a fuse that exploded as the great revolution in 1917.

If there was ever a time to stop the escalation it is now. Trainfulls of pro-government thugs have been armed and sent to attack the protesters. Fuelled by government rhetoric and infused with the idea that they were now the law, anti-EU gangs dragged journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy from his car and beaten, before executing him with a bullet in the chest. Both sides have resorted to using firearms. Today upwards of 100 or more people may have died. Where will it stop? The men and women manning the barricades at Euromaiden have proven that they are willing to die for the cause they support: the ousting of what in their view is a corrupt government. The killing of police officers and security personnel should be enough evidence that these people will not just surrender.

Protesters clash with police in Kiev

Equally, the forces sent to deal with the rioters, protesters, whoever, are just as brutal, if not more. The lines of shields that are being charged in the street battles are not ordinary policemen, they are the Berkut, the Ukrainian special police, renowned for cases of brutality. Though there initially the keep the peace and herd protesters away from the public, this special police force took matters into their own hands, using molotov cocktails and rocks, as well as armed vehicles, to beat back protesters. As of midday, 20th of February, 34 protesters have been shot dead by police.

Berkut police fire at protesters

Returning to my original question. At what point does this riot, this defiance, become a revolution? At what point will Ukraine’s military decide to step in and use even more brutal methods of lethal force? Above all perhaps, what will the rest of us do? Will the EU and the UN step in and take action, or simply send strongly worded letters to president Yanukovych? What will stop people who empathise with the Ukrainian protesters from flocking to the capital to join the fight?

The longer it takes for an outside body to take affirmative action against the Ukrainian government, the longer this tragedy continues.

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