Euro-Majdan look forward to elections” “

Two-thousand people on Independence Square, ahead of the May 25 elections

Euro-Majdan, the Square that was the beating heart of the “Dignity Revolution” in Kiev, is still thriving. That’s the place where – with the demotion of President Viktor Yanukovich and the installation of a new ad interim government – was decided the destiny of Ukraine, a Country with 45 million inhabitants, the largest in Eastern Europe. There are still some two thousand people that stand guard over it day and night: you can see them sleeping, eating, talking … Some also play a grand piano. They are encamped in a couple of dozen huge military tents scattered across the square. Beds, blankets, victuals, and most of all, many young people, who can be glimpsed inside. On Sundays it becomes the venue of political meetings ahead of the presidential elections of May 25. The square is packed with people: some of them took part in the protests, others arrived later because they are given free meals and shelter. It’s a mixed audience. There is also the risk that some drunkard may set off gunfire at night. Protesters say they want to stay in Majdan until the presidential elections. In the Square they continue telling citizens: “We are still here and we do not forget what has happened in the past, nor the values for which we have fought”. Over 100 victims. Majdan Nezaleznosti (Independence Square) is between Khrescatyk Road and Instytuts’ta Road. The golden statue that depicts Independence is still there, it stands tall and majestic in the midst of an impressive architectural complex, but nothing is left of its neo-classical Stalinist style. Euro-Majdan – as it has been renamed by the students – is intact. It remained just at it was at the end of the demonstrations, with the barricades, sandbags and tires. They are like the wounds of a war that is still being waged. Smell of smoke still hangs in the air and the building that once housed the headquarters of trade unions has been completely gutted and blackened by fire. That’s where the special police forces ousted the students, forcing them to move out by setting it to the fire. Over 100 people have died during the riots. Some of them were shot to death by snipers lurking on top of the buildings facing the main streets. The faces of the dead are framed in photographs placed along sidewalks. Every now and then someone stops to look at them and stands in silence. A young man stops at the sight, and makes the sign of the Cross. Tension in eastern regions. How has life changed in Kiev? “There was no time to celebrate, since Crimea was abruptly lost, followed by the crisis in the eastern part of the Country, that needs to be faced”, said Fr Mikhaylo Melnyk, from the Iustitia et Pax Commission of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. In fact, in eastern Ukraine, in particular in the cities of Donetsk, Lugansk, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, tensions have peaked. In Donetsk, for example, a city that has already self-proclaimed itself “Popular Republic”, four foreign journalists and an equal number of Ukrainian journalists have been put into prison. Nothing has been heard of them since, and they have been officially declared missing. A few days ago the Ukrainian foreign minister asked the Russian Federation to respect the Geneva agreement signed past April 17 by United States, Russia, Ukraine and European Union, calling for a de-escalation of the crisis. The Minister has also denounced that the Russian Federation continues intensifying its armed forces at the Ukrainian borders. A few days ago in the city of Kramatorsk unidentified men shot against a helicopter of the Ukrainian armed forces while in the city of Kharkiv were held, fortunately in a peaceful way and without clashes, two demonstrations, one pro-Ukraine and the other for the Country’s federalization. A difficult future. A lot will be at stake with the presidential elections of May 25. But whoever comes to power will have to face the uneasy task of the Country’s recovery. The State’s finances amount to zero, in fact they’re in the red, although the financial aids from the ECB, IMF and Europe have given some respite to the local currency, the gryvnia. The echoes of the words of Pope Francis who on Easter made an appeal for peace also for Ukraine linger on in this fragile and suffering context: “may all interested parties, supported by the international community, undertake every effort to prevent violence and build a spirit of unity and dialogue: the Country’s future”, the Pope said. Thus there are great expectations for the meeting on April 26 between the premier ad interim Arseny Yatsenyuk and Pope Francis. Maria Chiara Biagioni for Sir Europe, from Kiev

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