By Dmytro Gorshkov ,AFP
KIEV — Two months since the first protests erupted in Ukraine over the government’s rejection of an EU pact, the protest movement has radicalized as impatience grows with the inability of opposition leaders to bring about change. Demonstrators are still occupying Independence Square in central Kiev, known locally as the Maidan and the center of the 2004 Orange Revolution, where a vast tent city has sprouted up.
However, over the last days the focus has switched to Grushevsky Street five minutes walk away, where radical protesters have been engaging in pitched battles with the security forces. The main opposition leaders appear unable to control the situation and for the first time found themselves heckled and whistled by a mass protest in Independence Square on Sunday afternoon.
A hard core of protesters then provoked bloody clashes with police who responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. Hundreds were injured and 50 activists arrested.
In a change from the last weeks of the protest, the hard core fighting the security forces do not appear linked to any political party, even the ultra-nationalist group Svoboda (Freedom). They have been linked to a little known group called “Right Sector” which has organized its actions on the Internet. The protesters have been particularly outraged by parliament’s adoption last week of new anti-protest laws, which make most forms of public protest illegal and ban the wearing of helmets and driving in a convoy of more than five cars. “The main motivation of people is discontent with the actions of the authorities,” said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko, director of the Penta research center in Kiev. “People were provoked in such a way, so they remain in the square and go to rallies,” said Fesenko.
“There is fatigue, but people still have enough protest energy. The Maidan will stay until either it is finally broken up or its requirements met,” said Fesenko. The protesters have not lost their determination, despite temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit), demanding opposition leaders to act properly to undermine Yanukovych.