This post is part of our Special Coverage Ukraine's #Euromaidan Protests.
Euromaidan protests in Ukraine took a turn for the worse on February 18, 2014, as special Berkut police forces began their most violent crackdown yet on citizens and political opposition supporters in Kyiv. Instead of quelling protesters, the protests quickly strengthened and even spread to new towns and regions in the country. The government announced de facto martial law, with the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claiming that the military now had the right to search, detain and even fire on civilians.
Earlier in the day, opposition representatives attempted to deliver a request to Parliament that would limit presidential power and were denied access to the building to do so. Soon after hearing this news, protesters moved in on the Parliament building. The situation then gravely escalated when police forces violently cracked down on protesters around 8 pm, with devastating results. The following morning, several independent and international news outlets reported that the several-hour-long aggressive police action resulted in 25 deaths and at least 1,000 people injured, but casualties are still being counted. One journalist reported that at least 40 people had been burned alive in the Trade Union building in Kyiv alone.
As this was happening, news of the crackdown traveled quickly through social media and other channels, with people following the events live throughout Ukraine and the world through several live streams. Newly angered protesters marched once again on what has been the main protest site since November 2013, Independence Square, but also took to the streets in several other cities and towns in Ukraine's 24 administrative regions. The images and information users on Twitter and other social networks were sharing, like the one below from @slava_slav, angered citizens throughout the country and incited more protests:
Trade Union Building on Independence Square pic.twitter.com/pJdjE2CZjz
— Slava_Slava (@slava_slav) February 19, 2014
Вчера украинская власть наконец-то приняла решение. Обьявила открытую войну гражданам Украины. Рубикон пройден.
Всего два выхода для честных ребят: перестать быть гражданами Украины, променяв кафкианскую реальность на нормальный мир или же остаться гражданами, приняв навязанную войну. Третий, трусливый вариант, не рассматриваем — это default route.
Голыми руками на БТР идти не надо, это не наши методы. Программисты лучше действуют головой. Я за ненасильственное сопротивление.
Yesterday, Ukrainian authorities finally made a decision. Open war against Ukrainian citizens was announced. The Rubicon has been crossed.
Honest men have only two solutions: stop being a citizen of Ukraine, changing the Kafka-esque reality to a normal world or to remain a citizen and accept the imposed war. The third one, a cowardly choice, is not considered – this is a default route.
There is no need to go against armoured personnel empty-handed, it is not our way. Developers work better by using their heads. I am for non-violent resistance.
After receiving information of the murders in Kyiv, many protests throughout other regions have been refueled, and some have now newly joined the protests. The most radical demonstrations of civil resistance, other than in Kyiv, now come from the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, which was active in the Euromaidan movement from its inception. During the night between February 18 and February 19, several government organizations fell into the control of protesters, such as the local Security Service of Ukraine in Lvyv and the Regional State Administration.
In Lviv, there is no possibility to telephone the police, as they have simply stopped responding. The majority of police stations in the region have been defeated and taken over by protesters. Information has also been circulating both on and offline that police stations in the city had been looted and fire arms stolen. Ukrainian news agency ZIK reported in a tweet:
У Львові з райвідділів міліції також зникла зброя: У Львові з райвідділів міліції викрадена певна кількість зброї. http://t.co/EOSWx5QXUc
— ZIK IA (@ZIK_IA) February 19, 2014
In the morning of February 19, Ivan Franko Lviv National University students and professors announced that they would go on strike indefinitely and asked other universities to do the same. In the meantime, students have been doing their best to organize self-defense units to protect citizens and museums from looting and violence. Young Twitter user @yostap from Lvyv said:
— Йостап (@yostap) February 19, 2014
In Uzhorod, the Regional State Administration is now occupied by the protesters, with many citizens expressing relief that their town has awoken to join what many are calling a revolution. Twitter user @mikekomar tweeted a photo of the building when it had just been occupied by the protesters:
— Mikekomar (@mikekomar) February 19, 2014
@ukrpravda_news Zakarpatska RSA [Regional State Administration] was taking by storm, and it is now in the nation's hands! Finally, Uzhgorod has awoken! Photo [taken at] 12:35
The same has happened in a few other regional capitals. In Lutsk, a city in another western Ukrainian region, for example, the Regional State Administration is now also in the hands of Euromaidan protesters. Local users on Twitter, like @deep_monday, tweeted images and updates as they happened:
— lucy (@deep_monday) February 19, 2014
MIA [Ministry of Internal Affairs] and RSA [Regional State Administration] are defeated, everything is in flames, Bashkalenko [Volyn Region Governor Alexander Bashkalenko] was beat. We have the feeling this is not happening to us
What many feel is the cruelest news over these two days has come from Khmelnytskyi. At the Security Service of Ukraine building in this city, an elderly woman was killed and two others were injured. They were a part of the protest group that had come to that building after hearing what happened in Kyiv. Someone opened fire from the Security Service of Ukraine building. According to witnesses, the woman was unarmed and was kneeling in front of the building. The terrible image of this killing was shared by many online, including the official Twitter feed of one of the Maidan movement organizations, Will of the Nation:
— Воля Нації (@WilloftheNation) February 19, 2014
— Демократичний Альянс (@demalliance) February 19, 2014
Eastern parts of Ukraine also are no longer peaceful. In Poltava, a protest was held in the city center. A Twitter account represented as Poltava Svoboda (Poltava Freedom) tweeted this image of the protests there:
— Свобода Полтавщина (@poltavasvoboda) February 19, 2014
People are once again joining forces to try to help the Euromaidan movement in any way they can. Some are collecting and bringing warm clothes and medication, while others are buying and preparing food for their fellow protesters. Food has now become more important than ever at the protest sites in Kyiv, as the Trade Union Building, where most of the food collected for the protesters had been stored over the past weeks, was burned during the February 18 police attacks, leaving protesters with no food at all.
In Kyiv and Lviv, people have also been donating blood and more donors are needed. Information about this is also being spread through social networks and a new hashtag #ядонор (#Iamadonor) can be seen along with the now standard #Euromaidan. Twitter user Ana Toliivna from Lvyv was among those who donated and called for others to do the same:
— Альона (@Anatoliivna) February 19, 2014
#Iamadonor RT @euromaidanlviv: On Pekarska street 65 it is possible to donate blood for those affected [at] #Euromaidan #Lvyv
People are also collecting money for those affected by the latest escalation of events. Even those with very little to give are offering what they can in support of the protests. Ukrainian author and journalist Dmitry Gordon shared this image of an elderly woman showing undeniable support of the protests in her country:
— Дмитрий Гордон (@dmitry_gordon) February 19, 2014