Ukrainians rebuild raided protest camp with revolutionary zeal
By confronting protesters, riot police seem to have emboldened them
Anti-government protesters rebuild barricades destroyed by riot police at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine. Photograph: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
A burly organiser bustled out from trade union headquarters in Kiev and sent a cry up into the snowy air: “Volunteers, I need volunteers!”
“Here! Here we are,” came the reply from a middle-aged man who was tugging his friends by their coat sleeves. “What’s our job?”
They were sent off across Independence Square with some urgent task, swept up in a huge effort to repair and reinforce the heart of Ukraine’s “revolution” after it was besieged by thousands of riot police in the early hours of yesterday morning.
Within minutes of the withdrawal of the riot police at about 10.30am, protesters of all ages were smashing snow and ice packed hard on the square and shovelling it into sacks and piling it into heaps to make new barricades around their encampment.
Groups of men appeared carrying big sheets of corrugated metal and sparks flew as welders forged new defences which, by evening, appeared to be bigger and stronger than before.
In the occupied trade union building and Kiev city hall, where protesters faced down special forces, the revolutionary routine quickly returned, with people ferrying trays of sandwiches and hot drinks on to the square to feed some of the thousands gathered here to demand the resignation of Ukraine’s leaders and the hope of a future in the EU.
Other volunteers were producing pamphlets and posters, offering basic medical help, sourcing food and firewood and devising methods and routes of delivery to avoid cordons of police who have been ordered to block protesters’ supply lines.
Opposition support is strongest in Kiev and western Ukraine, but protesters and supplies are coming from all regions – one truck arrived from president Viktor Yanukovich’s eastern stronghold carrying a tonne of frozen meat and 1.5 tonnes of potatoes, hidden under fire wood.
Mikhail, a volunteer organiser in city hall, said he hoped it would last “until the end of the revolution”.
No one knows when that will be. But by confronting protesters while failing to drive them from the square, Mr Yanukovich and his riot police appear only to have emboldened them.
“We won round one, or at least we didn’t lose,” said Taras (43) from Lviv in western Ukraine, after spending a night face-to-face with riot police on Kiev’s barricades.
“We are tired but we have to rebuild,” he said. “There are more battles to come.”