It was nothing short of amazing in Kiev last night. Over 1000 Berkut, the Ukrainian riot police, faced off with a few thousand protesters in central Kiev. There was little violence, mostly pushing, with the Berkut eventually dismantling barricades and then retreating. According to the NY Times:
The police had taken control of a large section of the square and brought in front-end loaders and other heavy equipment to clear it. But by 11 a.m., the police presence had dwindled and pedestrians were walking freely through the square.
The interior minister, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, issued a statement on Wednesday saying the overnight crackdown had been needed to ease traffic congestion in Kiev and promised that there would be no dispersal of the protesters in the square.
“No one infringes on citizens’ rights to peaceful protests,” he said. “But we cannot ignore the rights and legal interests of other citizens.”
He said the clearing of the streets was carried out in accordance with a court order. Many protesters had been calling for Mr. Zakharchenko’s dismissal after a bloody crackdown on demonstrators on Nov. 30. Although the police pushed forcefully through the crowd in the square early Wednesday, they did not use their truncheons and there was no repeat of the flagrant violence of two weeks ago.
Officers descending a slope past the Hotel Ukraina punched an opening through a barricade that protesters had heavily reinforced. Officers later winched a rope to the barrier and ripped it down entirely. Ice and slush on the streets added to the unfolding confusion as some officers slid into a confrontation with demonstrators, who chanted “Peaceful Protest! Peaceful Protest!”
There were fights and shoving matches as officers pushed into the plaza from virtually all sides, taking up positions and blocking the crowd’s movements with interlocking shields. At least one of the tents or another makeshift structure erected by demonstrators caught fire. Officers in helmets pushed through the crowds with shields but did not use the truncheons hanging at their sides.
As the security forces spread throughout the square, a large crowd of protesters brandishing sticks, clubs, metal rods and anything else they could find massed in front of the Trade Unions building, which leaders of the demonstration had turned into the headquarters of what they call the National Resistance.
This will undoubtedly bring out more people to the Maidan to save the “revolution.”
The situation remains a tense stalemate. The opposition’s not budging and neither is Yanukovich. As many people have pointed out, Ukraine is divided mostly between a pro-EU, anti-Yanukovich West and Center, a hesitant South and an anti-EU, pro-Yanukovich East. How divided? There’s finally an opinion poll suggesting how much. It was conducted between December 4th and 9th by the Research & Branding Group on Euromaidan 2013. Here are some of the results.