KYIV, Ukraine – Even as missile attacks continue in eastern Ukraine, and as Russian troops remain massed at the border for what Western leaders call an impending invasion, people in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv paused on Sunday to remembers another dangerous moment: the shooting eight years ago, by dozens of protesters by the Ukrainian government, then affiliated with Moscow.
At Maidan Square, where the massacre took place, a ceremony was held on Sunday morning to honor the “Hundred Heavens”, for those killed on February 20 and 21, 2014, known in this. Many celebrations have been planned in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine.
The ceremony began with a performance of the national anthem, followed by a rifle salute and a solemn procession of flower-layers at the site of many of their deaths.
Iryna Horbachova, with tears in her eyes, said when people fight, the whole country is ready to fight again.
“For our identity, for our freedom,” she said.
“Because of our right to live in Ukraine that we want. Not the type that Putin and Russia want to point us to,” referring to Russian President Vladimir V. Putin.
Ukraine’s current government is calling on the spirit of the 2014 protest movement to rally the nation as the country faces a major threat – a crisis that, like the one before it, begins Moscow wants to prevent Ukraine from drawing closer to the West.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited the square on Sunday, said the dead gave their lives “for the right to live in an independent state, in the family of European nations”.
“Their feat is a testament to the steadfastness of the Ukrainians, who continue to fight for their future,” he said.
It was a decision by the then president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, not to sign an agreement that would bring Ukraine closer to the European Union, which prompted tens of thousands of people to take to the streets at the end of 2013. Up, Maidan Square, in the heart of Kyiv, became the center of international attention – and subsequently, global shock over the murders.
Opponents, at great personal risk, persisted. For days, they threw tents, sleeping bags and countless tires on the fire fence, hoping to drive away security forces.
After the massacre in the square, Mr. Yanukovych negotiated a deal with French and German middlemen to stay in power in exchange for the promise of early elections. But the protesters negotiated their own deal with mid-level security service commanders, who understood that Mr Yanukovych intended to stay in power by blaming them for the shootings.
Under the agreement, the police commanders left the city, escaping prosecution, but also leaving Mr. Yanukovych and his inner circle without police protection.
Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia, and Ukraine’s parliament voted to remove him from office. New elections have been held. But Moscow soon responded. Its soldiers, insignia removed from their combat status (Ukrainians call them “little green soldiers”), occupied Crimea. And a Russian-backed separatist movement has emerged in the eastern Donbas region, sparking an armed conflict that has never stopped and is now on the rise again.
The shelling increased significantly there on Saturday. Separatist leaders have urged a mass evacuation to Russia and called on armed men – claiming, without evidence, that Ukraine is planning a large-scale offensive into the territory they control.
Just as many Ukrainians were surprised in 2014 at a possible massacre in their capital, some find it difficult to accept that a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine is possible. out. The idea that Russia is planning”biggest war in Europe since 1945“As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned in an interview with the BBC this weekend, is something many in Kyiv simply do not believe.
Mr Zelensky also cited the nation’s recent history on Saturday in Munich, when he urged Western leaders to put sanctions on Russia now, before an invasion takes place.
“Eight years ago,” he said, “Ukrainians made a choice, and many have given their lives for that choice.”
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