Pieniążek from Kyiv: Violence on Euromaidan


[dropcap]O[/dropcap]n Saturday morning, November 30th, Berkut special militia units dispersed Euromaidan. On the Independence Square there were at the time few hundred people. – There were about ten Berkut members per demonstrator – says a sixty year old Serhiy from Kyiv who was at the Square.

A pro-European Union protest, where opposition leaders where present, took place on the 29th of November. Although president Viktor Yanukovych did not sign the European Union Association Agreement the Independence Square wasn’t heavily crowded. During speeches of leaders of the three major opposition parties there were about ten thousand people gathered at Euromaidan, far fewer than were expected. After the addresses people started to leave. As a result in the evening there were fewer people on Independence Square than on previous days. There were no concerts through the night, there even was no music played, therefore the scene was rather drowsy.

At 4 AM Berkut special units appeared and attacked those on the Square. – Many people were simply asleep wrapped in blankets. They were beaten too – says Serhiy. There was no provocation from the demonstrators, they weren’t doing anything that might incite militia units. The officers were very brutal – they beat the demonstrators, kicked them, dragged them on the ground. As a result seven people were hospitalized, thirty five were injured, and several dozens were arrested. The Internet was quickly rife with photos of bloodied members of Euromaidan.

As Oleh, a university teacher from Lviv who also was at the Square, describes it the militia did not give a chance for the demonstrators to disband. They also wouldn’t allow helping the injured. – I have never seen something like this before. They were hitting on the backs and legs so that people couldn’t flee – says Oleh – There was no reason for them to act like this.

Some people from the Independence Square scattered around the city. Main shelter was the St. Michael’s Church. Berkut were unable to get inside. When the journalists started to arrive the militia left Officially stated cause for the brutal intervention by Berkut was enabling the finish of Christmas tree construction on the Independence Square. The demonstrators were supposedly preventing that. Gradually opposition politicians started to appear in front of the Church as well as people started to gather. The MPs are calling for joining a demonstration planned for a Sunday afternoon.

Disperal of Euromaidan by force is nevertheless a shock. Pro-Union demonstrations were waning, they’ve lost their power and after Sunday there would probably be no more energy to continue them. Now the authorities gave a reason to still come out on the streets.

Originally published in Political Critique’s Opinion Daily (Dziennik Opinii Krytyki Politycznej) on November 30th.

Translated by Konrad Zwoliński. Photo by Ivan Bandura, cc,


Paweł Pieniążek
Pawel Pieniazek is a Polish journalist. He is a contributor to major Polish media, including Tygodnik Powszechny, Gazeta Wyborcza, Krytyka Polityczna, and New Eastern Europe, and is a freelance contributor to Polish radio. In 2015 he was named as a Poynter Fellow in Journalism at Yale University.