Ukraine protesters vow to stay as doubts emerge over new leadership

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 3:21am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 March, 2014, 6:12am

In the place that made the revolution against ousted president Viktor Yanukovich, hundreds remain to defend its hopes.

As Ukraine's new government confronted a grave security crisis, however, there were doubts about the quality of the new leaders from the people who put them in power.

Although many in Kiev's Independence Square, or what is popularly called Maidan, were quick to say Russia's incursion into Crimea was a provocation, most were as keen to discuss their wide distrust of their own state.

"Army? There is no army. It's all on paper. There's no army," said Kostya, a man who joined in a conversation on the square where Crimea, and the names of ousted President Viktor Yanukovich and Russian leader Vladimir Putin were often heard among people walking in and out of the square.

The EU should stop thinking ... It needs to take a concrete decision
Kiev protester

Sashko, a man in his 50s, had been at the square for three months and was standing besides Artem, an ethnic Tartar. Both were dismissive of the new political elite.

"The EU should stop thinking and making statements and negotiating. It needs to take a concrete decision," he said.

His younger Tartar friend added: "The Tartars in Crimea have been there for 15 centuries - 15 centuries! It is true that the Ukrainian Tartars are supporting a unified Ukraine."

On the square, where a McDonald's has been turned into a "psychological centre" to help protesters overcome the impact of months of demonstrations and the deaths of around 100 people, there is an atmosphere of permanence.

Many on the square distrust the new leadership to enact the kind of reforms they want and have vowed to stay.

Protesters on the square universally tell tales of the wild riches that ordinary parliamentarians gain. They reckon that the leaders of the opposition-turned government, such as acting President Oleksander Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk will enjoy such benefits.

Meanwhile, the "self-defence" units of the square insist they will stay by the barricades they've built up over months at least until early elections planned for May 25. That is, unless Putin and Russia force them to rethink their plans.