Ukrainians Remain Uneasy In Kiev

Mar 21, 2014

As Russia consolidates its control over Crimea and international sanctions intensify, it is easy to forget the traumatic events that took place in the Ukrainian capital Kiev exactly one month ago.

The new Ukrainian government is promising justice for the murder of at least eighty protesters, killed by gunmen in and around Independence Square. But as the BBC’s Chris Morris reports from Kiev, many people remain wary.

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As Russia annexes Crimea, it's easy to forget the traumatic events that took place in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, exactly a month ago. The new Ukrainian government is promising justice for the murder of at least 80 protesters killed by gunmen in Independence Square. But as the BBC's Chris Morris reports from Kiev, many people are wary.

CHRIS MORRIS: Attention may have shifted to Crimea, to eastern Ukraine. But Independence Square in Kiev is still a self-contained world. There's the stage with a big screen. There are people camped in tents in every corner. There are countless flags fluttering in the breeze, and everywhere - everywhere - there are flowers honoring the dead, a reminder of what happened here.


MORRIS: One month ago, this was the scene of a massacre. More than 80 people shot dead, killed by snipers in the heart of the city in the last days of former President Yanukovych's rule. It was deeply shocking. It still is. Many of the people still camped on the square are frustrated by the pace of the subsequent investigation.

OLEKSANDR BILOUS: I believe that guys from police, guys from secret services, they still here, medium level. Maybe now the government changed the shifts, but the medium level, they make distortion for this in (unintelligible).

MORRIS: Oleksandr Bilous and his friends from western Ukraine have been living on the square for weeks. And for now they have no intention of leaving. Why are you still here in the square?

BILOUS: Still now, we're not sure that democracy completely won. Until we will be sure, until the system change some economical, political democracy changes, till that time, we would be here.

MORRIS: Answering awkward questions about the murder of those known now as the Heavenly Hundred would go some way towards re-establishing trust, and the new government knows it. But it's only been in power for three weeks under huge pressure, and it says it needs time.

OSTAP SEMERAK: (Foreign language spoken)

MORRIS: We're working in difficult circumstances, Cabinet Minister Ostap Semerak told me at a news conference, and the Heavenly Hundred are living in our hearts. We've given all the video evidence to the investigators and information on who was going in and out of buildings. I can't say much more because we want to be able to punish the guilty.


MORRIS: It's all left many people in this city reeling since Yulia Marushevska posted this video on YouTube a few weeks ago, appealing to outsiders to take notice of Ukraine. It's been viewed more than 10 million times.


MORRIS: Since then, events have moved on at extraordinary speed. But Yulia still hasn't come to terms with the killings here on the square.

: It's really unbelievable - a live show on the 21st century. And, of course, I have this guilt and anger. Why didn't we stop them? Why didn't we do anything to stop them? And it's very hard. But now we have even harder situation.

MORRIS: At the beginning of February, in your video, you asked the world to take notice. Now, at the end of March, more than a hundred people have been killed. Russia has taken Crimea.

: I didn't think that the world didn't take notice. I think that the problem was bigger than anyone could imagine. No one expected Putin to do his steps.

MORRIS: And there's the rub. While the sound of the national anthem floats across Independence Square, the terrible events here certainly haven't been forgotten. But this country's bitter internal battle has now been overshadowed by an external threat. Crimea has gone. Russia is flexing muscle. And while Ukraine tries to build for the future, it wonders what it might lose next.

YOUNG: The BBC's Chris Morris in Kiev. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.