Sergey Melnik: the senseless and the ruthless

Sergey Melnik: the senseless and the ruthless

During two days spent on both sides of the barricades in Kiev, one recollection from the youth is constantly in my mind. Year 1992. Hungary. Budapest. As a result of the explosion of a powerful petard in the central street the Magyars, who were standing nearby, dropped to the ground with their hands covering the heads. Those who were a bit further ran away bending down. And only our group from Ukraine, consisting mostly of Kiev residents, including escorting adults, turned calmly into the direction of a sound and went to have a look at what happened there…

That is why there are no drunken people on the barricades. Not a single person. There is no need for it. There is so much boldness and madness there that all the necessary substances are naturally produced in the organisms of the fighters. The majority perceives the happening events as a 5D computer game. However, there is no «save» option here… That is why when a “present” is thrown at them from another side and when they are arrested during the attacks; people are indignant about it and say, «for god’s sake, they are children».  This is not fair; you should not play like that…

January 21-22. Day/night. On the side of the ruthless

… I am on the hillock, from the side of the police cordon. The appeals «to lay down their shields and disperse» may be heard from the propaganda machine of Batkivshchyna from the side of the barricades. They promise that the police officers, who will surrender, will get a job with the «new government». And all this is happening on the background of the monotonous strikes at the metal objects and of the drum roll on the metal barrels. In short, the sound support is done observing all the canons of the Ericksonian hypnosis therapy. But the internal troops and the Berkut have their own magic and witchcraft. They rattle on their shields in response, muffling the «drum & bass» of the opposition. The priests of Desyatinnaya church (the monastery) of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy) are carrying out a service between the barricade and the monolith of the internal troops.

… The first paving stones are thrown in the evening at half past eight between the colonnade and the metal tower with plasma screen, separating Hrushevskogo Street and the entrance to the alley of the Mariyinsky Park. The priests and a few Kiev residents holding icons stand between the police and the barricade. Priest Dmitriy gets on the burned bus and appeals to the fighters to stop the attacks. The lull lasts for 15 minutes, exactly till the cry from the barricades: «These are not our priests, they are Moscow priests, beat them.» The priests and their flock are standing under the hail of stones and Molotov cocktails till the first hit at the head. They are forced to go away and they continue the service in Hrushevskogo Street. It is a little bit quieter there. They will pray until the morning, till the attack.

… Stones and bottles with napalm are thrown into the dark of the park. For those, who are not aware: Molotov cocktail is the home-made napalm. Soap in combination with gasoline makes wonders: it sticks perfectly, burns perfectly, and it is very difficult to extinguish. The first victims among the internal troops. The first «shit», hitting my leg. Good that it is spent.

… The police are angry, very angry. They are angry with the «for god’s sake, they are children», with the three leaders of the opposition, and with their heads. This will happen at about 3:00 a.m., when the relief of the monoliths of the internal troops, of the squadrons of the Berkut and of the Tiger will take place for three times, all of us will get acquainted and will start bumming cigarettes and water off each other. And now it is 10:00 p.m., there are evil eyes from under the masks, and any dialog starts with the words: «You will finally show the truth, finally the truth! Stand from our side, don’t go, watch with us»… There are only two vests with the inscription «the press» on this side: mine and of a guy from ТВі. Oleg Krychkov from New Channel will come a bit later.

… And they are angry not only because of their heaped and crippled companions in arms, but first of all, probably, because of the ambiguity of the situation: they are allowed to do almost nothing. The guys say: «If we had an order, we would clean up this hamfatter in one day…» But there is no order, and a sad game is going on: «a heap of yours then a heap of ours». The new legislative package does not cancel the parliamentary privilege, and thus, any deputy may lie under the track of a field-engineer tank, and the tanker will be imprisoned. The police officers are sure that in such a situation the tanker will be imprisoned anyway and with any government.

…10:30 p.m. Gas grenades are started to be used. Do you think that the police are throwing them? Yeah, right! I don’t know, where from did the fighters get so many grenades «Teren-6″, but the cannonade  from behind the low barricade and colonnade is almost continuous. And it is in addition to the already familiar stones and Molotov cocktails, and the traumatic and pneumatics weapons from behind the fence of the Mariyinsky Park, and the screw-nuts of the slingshots. Till 1:00 a.m. the police are snarling by simply throwing the unexploded bottles back across the barricades. And the service in Hrushevskogo is going on. The commanders say: «As soon as the service will be finished, the attack will start.»

… By the way, about the commanders. First of all, Colonel Yuriy Rudenko is up-front the internal troops. Major Viktor Denisov is up-front the Berkut from the Crimea.  They face the line of their fighters. They are not wearing the helmets. They are not wearing the masks and do not conceal their faces. And they express their opinion and are not afraid of telling the names.

…01:00 a.m. The militants set on fire the low barricade near the colonnade and covered with the smokescreen lead their fighters to the roof of the colonnade and to the metal tower. From there they throw stones, screw-nuts and bottles much further, and the stock was prepared in the daytime. The trees in the park start to burn. The Berkut, covering behind the shields, bring out the fighters with fowling-piece to the front line. They are shooting with the bullets «Teren-12″, and are complaining that the cartridges are of Ukrainian production and shoot for the distance five to seven meters; it is not effective for longer distance. Here comes the relief with the stock of gas grenades. The police are complaining about them as well, arguing that every fourth explodes not on time, other times they explode almost in their hands. Covered by the small tactical groups the firemen drag up the fire hose and start extinguishing the barricade and the seats of fire in the park. In 5 minutes the engagement tears up and the unmanageable hose pours on some soldiers of the internal troops. The temperature is 10 degrees below zero. I thought they would shoot their own firemen, but everything was ok.

… Fighters finally noticed our orange vests in the dark of the park. Now any attempt to put out the camera is met with a laser beam from behind the barricades into our faces and into optics. … By the way, about the vests. Shooting the journalists during the attacks is stipulated by the elementary fact. The vests were given out in the press center of the opposition in the House of Trade Unions; therefore, practically everyone is wearing them. As a result, there are a lot of «journalists» among the opposition who are «having a camera in one hand, and a stone in another.» The police honestly warned that they would investigate it later, and during the attack the vest meant nothing for them.  The press center of the MIA could have distributed some identification, but we live in a different country…

…The guys from TV channels New Channel and TVi went across the barricades to Hrushevskogo Street into the direction of the European Square. I remained alone I think it was a mistake, because the barricade was shut tightly in half an hour.  I thought that I will not get out till morning, but I was mistaken. But I could enjoy the work of Titushky along the fence till 4:30 a.m. These guys drink for boldness a lot. They are totally crazy: they pick up the half broken burning bottles and throw back into the fighters sneaking up the slopes. They speak using only foul language and thieves’ slang and understand each other perfectly. I have considerably «enriched» my vocabulary.

…4:30 a.m. The mayor warns that they will soon sally and begin to attack. The guys honestly warn that with the beginning of the attack my status of a journalist is nothing for them, and I will get the first baton strike. I will not go over the barricade to the European Square. So I leave through the home front through the entire cordon in to the direction of the Mariyinsky Park and subway station Arsenalnaya. Till the last cordon and turn to the Cabinet of Ministers I joined the squadron of the Berkut, who were going from their relief. Further I went alone till Hrushevskogo Street. And already in front of the Chinese Embassy a couple of Titushky from the Mariyinsky Park spot me out with my camera. I realize that they will catch me up and will take away the camera. And this is in the best case. I was saved by an accidental and the only taxi in the street. I rushed into the car shouting: «Let’s go commander, we’ll settle it later…»

January 22-23 Day/night. On the side of the meaningless

…4:00 p.m. This time I am on the side of the European Square. One cannot go behind the barricades to the side of the monolith of the police shields; there is a solid wall of fire. The column of smoke could be seen from Svyatoshyno. By the way, from there the trailers are pulling heavy field-engineer machinery, some giant armored grader machines on the chassis of a tank T-72.

… People are arriving from Maidan. The protesters are trying not let women and children go to the direction of the European Square. The people, pulling the load, have the priority of movement. They are pulling tires, disassembled advertising constructions in Kreshchatik Street; pavement blocks in wheelbarrows, which are picked out on the European Square and in Kreshchatik Street. Te injured people are pulled in the opposite direction.  However, the main first-aid post is arranged in the parliamentary library.

… «The Arcadians are fighting courageously, but they are amateurs and they are dying one after another» (300 Spartans). There is the wildest mixture of organization and of amateurishness on the barricades. A punched eye is the main serious injury among the fighters, and a burn is the main slight one. Those people, who stay too long near the fire screen to throw Molotov cocktails or paving stones, get eye injuries. Rubber bullets of 12 caliber and the «returned» paving stones are thrown from the side of the Mariyinsky Park. Those people, who throw the burning tires, get the burns. Amateurs are trying to unseal the lids of the welded manholes using crow-bars. The crow-bars bend and crease, but the lids do not yield. Some people are trying to cut off water, with which firemen are trying to extinguish the barricades. They do not know that this is the manhole of a heating main. Amateurs are constructing the huge slingshot every half an hour, designed to throw paving stones and cocktails into the direction of the hateful police, but every fourth stone is thrown in the opposite direction, not far but accurately. Amateurs throw cocktails into the arch, the mixture sticks to the columns and to the architrave and drops with the sticky burning lumps onto the other throwers. Amateurs burn the tires near a huge storefront; it breaks up and injures people underneath. But all of it is not important; anyway the fault for it will rest with the police.

…11:00 p.m. There is the space filled with people immediately behind the fire screen, and behind them down Hrushevskogo Street 6 barricades were constructed. The first one is another heap of tires as high as a two-storied house. Then there are four barricades made of car bodies and all kind of rubbish, bound with barbed wire. And on line of the first-aid post in the parliamentary library there is a barricade made of concrete foundation blocks, which were dragged here by the participants of Automaidan. They dismantled the supports of the bill-boards and harnessed the cars tandem, like horses, 2 or 3 in a row. Now even tanks will not pass here. But, but! Those 8-10 thousands protesters, who are behind the fire screen will have to overcome these six barricades.  Amateurs, pursuing strength of protection, constructed themselves a huge mousetrap.

… Firemen behind the line of fire do not even control the water monitor; they simply set it in such a way that it would pour the most angle of fire wall, because there a residential house may set on fire.  However, anyway it will set on fire in the morning.

… The priests of Philaret patriarchate arrived.  They carry out a service, blessing the kneeling «fire throwers.» They justify the fact that God is on their side by the wind rose; and indeed the thick stench of the burning tires goes in the direction of the police barrier and the Mariyinsky Park all night.  So, the religious war may join the political one. Who told that Ukraine is a mono state?

… Refat Chubarov, the leader of the illegal ethnic parliament of the Crimean Tatars arrived. He is involved in an active discussion with the commanders of the «First Sector». And he knows for sure that, Kiev and central mass media do not know him very well. That is why, having noticed that he is being recorded, he hides his face and goes into the direction of Maidan.

…12:00 p.m. A man with a penetrating wound of a lung is being operated for the second hour in the first-aid post. The caliber is 12.7 mm. I mentioned above the guns which the police use. By the way, three rubber bullets reached me spent. This shot is barely felt if it does not hit your face. But there is another situation the fighters lament about the snipers of the Berkut on the roof, though, in principle, the Berkut does not have the arms of this caliber in their ammunition. Just for understanding: this is the bullet of the size of a small cucumber, and if three such bullets hit a person, there will remain nothing but boots and helmet with the parts that were there, and the rest will be blown into the world space. However, there is another rumor in the crowd about the foreign snipers, brought to stir up the conflict.

…01:00 a.m. By the way, about the rumors. Sometimes it is useful, while delighting the fight of fire and water, just to listen attentively. A plump woman wearing the NATO camouflage, a Kevlar shield and a Soviet helmet, brings me tea and bums cigarettes. She talks incessantly. I am just smiling and nodding.  The lady speaks a terrible mixture of Russian and Ukrainian. She told that her head was stuffed with the accurate knowledge from the headquarters on Maidan, where she lived. She is a soldier from Berdichev. The Commander let her go for a vacation but she went to struggle for Maidan. She has an interesting concept of a military oath. She told me about the tanks that were coming from Chernigov, about the snipers on the roofs, and about the fact that she personally poisoned 20 officers of the Berkut by throwing at them 150 pharmaceutical bottles with ammonia last night. After that she heard 10 officers telling their commander that they would go home and would not fight against people.

… And, according to her, it turns out that the police officers are not allowed to use their cell phones, they are even taken away in order that they would not call their parents, because their mothers tell them to go home and not to fight.

By the morning the fire screen is as high as a two-storied house. The opposition gradually breaks up. There will be no attack, as it is obvious that the Berkut will not go through the fire. A computer game does not let the fighters-players to go to a new level yet. The «monsters» hid in the smoke, and the «boss of the level» does not come out. They are getting bored. I will go and have some sleep, because the tires will burn for a long time…

Елизавета Будько


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