Not a single resident of the Ukrainian capital Kiev will forget the days of January 22 and 23, when pitched battles between protesters and security forces took the lives of three demonstrators — the first casualties of the political crisis.
Fierce clashes that had started after police moved in on one of the main “Euromaidan” protest camps turned parts of the capital into chaos and flames. As images of the brutal violence emerged, demonstrations swept across Ukraine and protesters occupied many government buildings.
Russian photographer and blogger Ilya Varlamov captured the events of the days in a series of powerful photos. Published on his blog, the images provide an up-close look behind the battle lines in Kiev.
Activists run up, bearing shields and toss stones. Nobody sees the enemy, but everyone knows how far Berkut can toss grenades. No one approaches the determined line without a shield. The grenades that land are flashbangs and tear gas. This does not have much effect on the seasoned protestor. The key is to avoid a direct hit or a nearby explosion, which can cause concussion.
Massive protests against the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych have rocked Kiev for more than two months. The demonstrations, which started as a cry against the president’s decision to forgo a trade deal with the European Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia, eventually revealed deep-running fault lines within Ukrainian society.
Days before the January 22 – 23 clashes, Ukraine’s parliament passed sweeping anti-protests laws that enraged many of those who had been camping out in the capital for weeks.
“It seems to me at this time, these people do not have a specific plan, nor idea of what to do next,” Varlamov writes about the protest movement. “Of course, individually, everyone has their own plan to “’save Ukraine.'”
“The only thing that is completely clear – people came out against Yanukovich,” he adds.
Take a look at Varlamov’s incredible photos from behind Kiev’s battle lines below.
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