By ANDREW E. KRAMER FEB. 21, 2014
KIEV, Ukraine — The street fighters in Independence Square, kitted out with motorcycle helmets, plywood shields and baseball bats, are an intimidating lot by any measure, and this week they turned whole battalions of riot police officers on their heels in epic, bloody clashes that stunned the world. …
The exploits and fearsome appearance of the fighters, known as the defenders of Maidan, as the square is known, have been elevated to lore, at least among supporters of the opposition. Old men pat them on the back, children revere them, and women want to be their girlfriends.
“They are the best Ukrainians,” said Olena Iaschuk, 26, a website editor with a ready smile, who was making the rounds of the barricades to offer warm tea from a thermos, stepping gingerly among heaps of paving bricks. “They are the bravest men, they are fighting for our freedom, they defend us and they are our heroes.”
Well, the Ukraine girls really knock me out, they leave the West behind.
If Independence Square has become a crucible to test physical courage, many of the men who passed that test say they could not have done so without the undying enthusiasm of people like her.
Of course, not everyone considers them heroes. Within their ranks are fighters who tried to immolate the police with petroleum bombs, and some groups of protesters have been sustained and driven by dark, nationalistic ideologies from Ukraine’s past. But many, if not most, people in Kiev wholeheartedly support the men.
The adulation is palpable and only grew this week. “We want to cheer them up, and we want to support them,” Ms. Iaschuk explained. “They smile, and they say thank you for the tea, and sometimes ask for our telephone numbers. And we say, ‘No, boys, only after you bring us victory.’ ”
Her friend Galyna Kolodkevych, 26, a professor of Ukrainian literature at a college in Kiev, said she wanted to marry one of the men as soon as possible. Her future husband, she said, should belong “only to the Right Sector,” a coalition of hard-line street groups that have played a prominent role in the fighting. …
Above is a Right Sector propaganda video.
According to a Reuters article, “Insiders say the group has its origins among nationalist-minded soccer fans – the word `sector` in Russian denotes the spectator terraces of a stadium – and includes individuals from far-right organizations from across the country.” But don`t trust me to get translations right. (By the way, more than a few Right Sector fighters are Russian-speakers.)
On the other hand, here is pro-Ukrainian Yale historian Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin, in the New York Review of Books trying hard to assure the New York Review`s elderly leftist subscribers that Moscow, not Kiev, now represents the real right wing. In contrast, Snyder explains, “An important hotline that [Ukraine] protesters call when they need help is staffed by LGBT activists.”
I don`t know, though. Judging from videos, the lads who retook Independence Square from the riot police on Thursday and who are (if still alive) presumably enjoying tonight the traditional rewards offered to a nation`s brave young men by its appreciative young women don`t look too gay to me.
The objects of this outpouring of admiration are men like Dmitry Iliuk, 29, a classical violinist who teaches music in a high school in the town of Verkhovyna, in western Ukraine.
Thursday morning found Mr. Iliuk crouching behind a plywood shield, preparing for a dramatic and risky offensive to reverse an effort by the police to press into the square two days earlier. Protesters opened a breach in their barricades shortly after dawn, then ran a hundred yards or so across a scorched buffer zone to confront — and quickly push back — the riot police, who were firing shotguns at them. It was an action that turned the tide, but also cost the lives of at least 70 people.
“I was not afraid, not one drop,” Mr. Iliuk said. “There was just one idea in my head: ‘Run forward.’ ”
He was wearing a red ski helmet and ski goggles, and carrying a baseball bat attached to a cord looped around his wrist, lest it be knocked out of his hands, which are more accustomed to delicate musical instruments. “All around me, people were wounded because the police had nothing left to do but shoot, and they shot.
Roman Tokar, 31, a lawyer from Zolochiv in western Ukraine who wore an ill-fitting vest of bulbous plastic plates originally intended for dirt-bike riding, said he was continually scared but overcame his fear because of the support he felt from residents of the capital.
“I can’t drink any more tea, but they keep bringing me tea,” he said. “We are even joking now, telling the women, ‘Stop, you are making the defenders of Maidan fat.’ It’s really pleasant, and we really love these brave girls and even grandmothers who offer us tea.”
Simon in London comments:
Right Sector don`t look much like the typical Soros-ite types.
So if the US/EU backed side actually won in Ukraine, next thing we know the USA/NATO would likely be dropping bombs on their own guys in the cause of Totalitarian Liberalism?
Hopefully not. But, at minimum, the winds of change in 2014 are blowing fast and they`re not blowing in the conventional wisdom`s direction.