Unlike Orange Revolution current Ukrainian protests lack a colour

Battle for the country's future finds pro-EU side wearing a variety of hues

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 9:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 February, 2014, 12:36am


Standing on the top floor of the giant Ukraine Hotel on the capital's Independence Square, guests may be forgiven for thinking that the crisis currently rocking the country is yellow and blue, the national colours.

But nine years after the Orange Revolution rocked Ukraine in the autumn of 2004, propelling pro-Western forces to power, the latest crisis pitting pro-EU protesters against President Viktor Yanukovych has yet to identify itself with a colour in that same way.

"We haven't found it yet," said Svetlana, lost in her thoughts on Sunday as she took part in the tenth major protest to rock Ukraine since November, when Yanukovych ditched a key European Union trade and political pact in favour of closer ties with Moscow, sparking angry demonstrations by pro-EU parts of the population.

"Yellow and blue? Those are the colours of Ukraine, we're fond of them, but the others [authorities] use them too ... I would say grey, because this revolution is lasting so long, and we don't know how it will end anymore," Svetlana said.

What started out as a localised, domestic bout of unrest has snowballed into a titanic tussle for Ukraine's future between Russia and the West.

On Sunday, an estimated 70,000 pro-Western Ukrainians thronged the heart of Kiev vowing never to give up their drive to oust Yanukovych. Opposition leaders addressed a crowd of supporters wearing blue and yellow ribbons in Independence Square, demanding that Yanukovych appoint a new pro-Western government.

"None of the kidnappings and tortures have yielded any results," said Igor Lutsenko, an activist who survived a severe beating after reportedly being abducted from hospital during deadly unrest in January.

Yanukovych has found himself trapped between Russia and the West, and while he recently yielded ground to protesters by dismissing the unpopular government, he also has to appease Russia, to which his country owes billions of US dollars for unpaid natural gas imports.

As far as the right colour for the protesters, there is a breadth of choices.

The European blue - darker than that of the Ukrainian flag - has appeared on many banners during the protests. The parties of former boxer-turned-opposition-icon Vitali Klitschko and of imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko both use red and white on their banners.

Then there are the red and black of the far-right nationalist group Pravy Sektor and the nationalist Svoboda (Freedom)party.

The artists covering the walls of Grushevsky street in Kiev, where clashes between police and demonstrators in January saw several die and hundreds injured, have for their part not chosen any fixed colour.

None of the kidnappings and tortures have yielded any results

"We will never forget the heroes of Maidan [Independence Square]," one blue inscription reads.

"The east and the west together," another red slogan reads.

Others use green to pen graphic threats: "We will drown the Berkut [riot police] in their own blood," one reads.

The protesters who have been occupying central Kiev for more than two months have seized several state buildings.

Ukraine’s anti-terrorist units placed on high alert

Ukraine's state security service announced that anti-terrorist units had been placed on high alert due to increased threats against key sites such as airports, stations, pipelines and nuclear plants.

The SBU counterintelligence agency said on Sunday the measures were "primarily preventative" and made no reference to the mass protests that have been shaking the country since late November.

But it mentioned "threats of explosions" at strategic transport hubs and energy installations as well as "calls to occupy sites sheltering large stocks of weapons" and the "blockading of government buildings". The protesters who have been occupying central Kiev for more than two months to oust President Viktor Yanukovych have seized several state buildings and repeatedly clashed with police.

The SBU statement said the new measures were "only aimed at ensuring public safety and preventing criminal activities with a terrorist goal". The agency said "anonymous threats of bomb attacks" had been received but did not go into specifics. The statement was released after a Ukrainian opposition sympathiser was arrested in Istanbul for attempting to hijack an airliner to Sochi, where Yanukovych was holding crisis talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday.