The Christmas Tree is not yet built up, but the party has already started. More than a thousand protestors, mostly young people, have gathered on Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) on Thursday late evening, 21st November. At the time of writing (2.45 a.m. on 22nd November), there were still a few hundreds left. A podium has been erected, speakers and singers keep warming up the crowd. Temperature does not exceed 6 degrees C. Yet it seems demonstrators will not leave soon unless they are forced to. Police officers have blocked the access to cars to the main avenue Kreshatyk. Yet protestors still stay on the square freely.
A live video coverage of the gathering may be found on the website of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty Ukraine
Citizens gathered to protest the government’s decision, earlier on 21st November, to cancel preparations to sign an ambitious Association Agreement with the European Union at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 28-29th November. The move contradicts earlier commitment to favor a deeper European integration. The Verkhovna Rada also failed to adopt a law, which would have permitted the medical transfer of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, to Germany. A decision, which would have satisfied the EU ahead of the Vilnius summit. Yet it does not seem like one of the major concerns of the demonstrators on Maidan Nezalezhnosti.
The popular gathering comes at a critical time in Ukraine’s political evolution, as well as a symbolic moment in the country’s collective remembrance. 22nd November marks the anniversary of the beginning of 2004 Orange Revolution, on the very same Independence Square. On 23rd November is to be the official remembrance day of the Holodomor, that is this great famine, which Ukrainians claim to be have decided and organized by Soviet authorities between 1932 and 1933. Many people establish a parallel with current political developments, as many fear Ukraine, if not associated to the EU, might fall back into Russian’s sphere of influence.
On 24th November, opposition leader Arseniy Yatseniuk has called for a mass demonstration to gather no less than 100,000 people in support of EU integration. Street demonstrations are not a popular form of civic action in Ukriane since 2004. And it remains to be seen if, what, where, when, how many. But this year, it may be possible that a giant Christmas Tree will not be the only occupying Maidan Nezalezhnosti.