In Kyiv’s Euromaidan (Independence Square), makeshift positions look firm but they are steeped in suspense.
For the moment, an uneasy truce between protesters and police is holding.
Since Ukraine’s last major demonstration two weeks ago, radicals have dug in here.
The core group is Pravy Sektor (Right Sector). These are anti-Russian ultranationalists. This does not make them pro-European. The representative we spoke to told our correspondent that he served as a volunteer with the Georgian Army in Abkhazia and with the Russians in Transnistria, and served three years in prison for taking part in protest clashes in 2001.
Andriy Tarasenko said: “The Russian empire is the biggest and the first threat for Ukraine. We [also] consider the European Union to be an imperial formation, as it negates nations and de-Christianises Europeans through liberalism.”
On Monday, Right Sector leaders said they would keep the truce if the police free all the people they have detained before the end of this week.
Ihor Mazur said: “On February 7, the Olympic Games will begin, and I hope that before that everybody will be freed, that our demands will be fulfilled to the maximum. I hope there will be victory, because nobody wants to die for Yanukovych. The security forces have shown that they are ready to kill for Yanukovych, but they do not want to die for him.”
Not far from blackened Euromaidan, supporters of President Yanukovych are also camped out. Many of them have come from Ukraine’s eastern regions and Crimea. They are some of the estimated 45 percent of Ukrainians who are against the protests in Euromaidan. Those in favour of the anti-government protests are estimated at 49 percent. The Party of Regions currently in power says that the radicals hijacked peaceful protests.
Party of Regions camp commander Oleksandr Zinchenko said: “Opposition gave birth to Maidan. Maidan gave birth to extreme behaviour, extremists, radicals. I see that the peaceful people, Kyiv citizens who supported European Union ideas are no longer there. We’re here for a peaceful settlement of any conflict. The proof lies in our behaviour and actions. We do not have helmets or bullet-proof vests. Our hands are clean. We don’t have guns or any sort of weapon.”
As the centre of Kyiv remained blocked, another Right Sector leader said he hoped the government wouldn’t use force, noting: “There are 400,000 registered weapons” in the capital.