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Beware, the revolution is coming. The events of the Maidan in the photographs of Viacheslav Ratynskyi

On November 21, 2013, Azarov's government disrupted the signing of the European integration agreement. As a result, the first protesters began to gather in the center of Kyiv. Later, on November 30, students were beaten on Euromaidan. This was the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity, which forever transformed Ukrainian society and launched political changes in the country. The Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers publishes the photos of Vyacheslav Ratynsky, who documented the main events of the Revolution.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


"Ukraine is Europe"


In November 2013, Ukraine was supposed to sign an association agreement with the European Union. But on November 21, 2013, the then President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, refused to sign it.


On November 21, 2013, Ukrainians began protesting for their country's European future on Kyiv's Independence Square. People united because Viktor Yanukovych and the Cabinet of Ministers wanted to stop preparations for the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. Mass protests and rallies in the country's main square escalated into the Euro-Revolution or Revolution of Dignity. Eventually, protests spread throughout the country.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


The refusal to sign the Association Agreement was a great disappointment for Ukrainian students: they felt deceived, as Europe would have been closed to them. In the evening of the same day, Ukrainian journalist Mustafa Nayyem wrote on his Facebook page: "Okay, let's get serious. Who is ready to go to the Maidan by midnight tonight? Likes do not count. Only comments under this post with the words "I'm ready". As soon as there are more than 1000, we will organize."


That night, students came to the Maidan. They chanted the slogan: "Ukraine is Europe!". At four in the morning on November 30, 2013, Yanukovych sent the Berkut special forces to the Maidan to disperse the students. The violence against the youth caused a wave of resistance, and many people joined the students.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


The Maidan became not only a place of protest, but also a kind of city. There were field kitchens, musicians performed, and artists painted. There was also a library, an open university, and a piano. People were setting up tents, making fires, and cooking soup in iron cauldrons. Volunteers were clearing snow and ice.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


"The Laws of Dictatorship"


On January 16, the government of Viktor Yanukovych passed the "Laws on Dictatorship" that deprived people of the right to freedom of speech and assembly. All people present on Maidan were automatically declared criminals. "The Berkut used tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and water cannons against the protesters in sub-zero temperatures. Protesters went missing. The body of one of the activists, Yuriy Verbytsky, was found crippled and frozen in the forest...


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


On January 19, after the Viche on Maidan, at around 3 p.m. and later, numerous clashes between protesters and security forces took place on Hrushevskoho Street in Kyiv. People were trying to get to the building of the Verkhovna Rada. Vitali Klitschko tried to stop the violent confrontation, but he failed. Stun grenades, rubber bullets, truncheons, water cannons, Molotov cocktails, and stones were used against the protesters; the protesters used firecrackers, Molotov cocktails, stones, slingshots, and burned five pieces of special equipment, the remains of which were used as the basis for the barricade. On the same day, Vitali Klitschko met with President Yanukovych, and an agreement was reached to hold another "round table". However, the planned talks never took place.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


On the night of January 21, special forces attacked the protesters' barricades and pogroms by titushky began simultaneously. Some of the titushky were detained by the protesters. Around 8 a.m., priests stood between the protesters and the special forces, which helped to stop the fighting for almost a day.


Negotiations between the authorities and the protesters took place with varying success throughout the month. In particular, on January 28, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned "in order to create additional opportunities for a socio-political compromise for the sake of a peaceful settlement of the conflict."


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


The Verkhovna Rada, in accordance with an agreement between the President and the government, repealed 9 out of 11 laws that restricted civil liberties and were adopted on January 16 in a "manual mode".


On January 31, Viktor Yanukovych signed an act repealing the dictatorial laws adopted on January 16 and the amnesty law adopted on January 29.


On February 18, when the Verkhovna Rada was to consider possible amendments to the Constitution, Protestants approached the building of the Verkhovna Rada, most of whom, given the peaceful nature of the march, were without batons, stones, or Molotov cocktails. Special forces met the protesters with water cannons and gas. At the same time, the protesters were attacked from the flank by a large force of security forces and thugs, which resulted in the column of demonstrators being cut into several separate parts. This led to a renewed confrontation between the rebels and the security forces. The fighting was conducted, in particular, with the use of firearms. Several people on both sides were killed.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


By the morning of February 19, the death toll had already reached 25, including: 9 law enforcement officers; 16 civilians and Maidan self-defense fighters.


The Revolution of Dignity lasted 94 days in total, with up to 4 million Ukrainians taking part in it. The most tragic days of the Revolution were February 18-20, when during large-scale clashes in the center of Kyiv, the Trade Union Building was set on fire and snipers killed 107 protesters. On February 20, Ukraine annually celebrates the Day of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


The main geopolitical consequence of the Revolution of Dignity was the beginning of Ukraine's withdrawal from Russia's zone of influence in the economic and political spheres, and a reduction in dependence in the cultural aspect. Ukraine's non-aligned status, which meant that it was not a member of international collective security and defense structures, was canceled.


"A clear line - before 2013 and after"


Photographer Viacheslav Ratynskyi filmed the Revolution of Dignity every day for three months. He came to Maidan on November 21, 2013, during the first protests, witnessed the confrontations between protesters and security forces and saw the aftermath of the shootings of the Heavenly Hundred. The photographer was wounded twice in the clashes.


"Once, a stun grenade exploded at my feet, and a little later, my nose was cut by a piece of rubber bullet. Then there were clashes at the corner of Shovkovychna and Instytutska streets, and I climbed up on the balcony of a residential building to see the full picture and shoot from above. When it hit my nose, I remember being normally scared. After all, it was very close to my eyes. Although, of course, compared to the injuries that the activists received on the same day, my scratches were just nothing," Vyacheslav Ratynsky recalls.


From the end of November 2013 until the spring of 2014, Viacheslav Ratynskyi took pictures every day in the center of Kyiv. In addition to filming clashes and provocations by the security forces of the time, Ratynskyi also photographed the everyday life of the protesters.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


On the day of the first shooting of the Heavenly Hundred, Ratynskyi went home to sleep for the first time in several days. However, he still followed the events via stream. There he saw a report that people had been shot in the center of Kyiv.


"I didn't sleep for two or three days. But I still got up quickly and went back to the Maidan. I saw the bodies of the dead being lowered. In addition to the tragedy itself, I was impressed by the actions of the protesters. They didn't scatter - on the contrary, they built new barricades and united even more. Everyone had some kind of work. For example, I have a shot of a man picking up ashes from the asphalt - sweeping the Maidan because he can't stand idle," says Ratynsky.


Photo by Viacheslav Ratynskyi


The last photos of the Euromaidan events were taken by Ratynsky not in the center of Kyiv. The images show men of all ages in old military uniforms and helmets that can even pierce rubber bullets. The men are training at a former police training ground near the capital. These men are new recruits to the National Guard. In a month they will become the first volunteers in Donbas.


"I remember how uncomfortable it was for the guys from the Maidan Self-Defense who joined the National Guard to train. The former police officers were their enemies yesterday, and now they are teachers. The activists were uncomfortable, but still listened to the advice of the security forces," Viacheslav Ratynskyi shares his memories. "For me personally, there is a clear line between before 2013 and after. The Revolution of Dignity changed all of us."


We worked on the material:

Researcher of the topic, author of the text: Vira Labych

Literary editor: Yulia Futey

Editorial editor: Olga Kovaleva

Photo author: Viacheslav Ratynskyi

Site manager: Vladislav Kukhar


 

Viacheslav Ratynskyi is a Ukrainian reporter and documentary photographer. He was born in Zhytomyr. For the last 9 years he has been living and working in Kyiv. He is a graduate of the Faculty of Journalism at the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. He has been published in many Ukrainian publications (Ukrainska Pravda, Hromadske, Novoe Vremya, Focus, Forbes, Ukrainian Week, Reporters and others), as well as in a number of foreign publications (Time, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, The New York Times, El Pais, Radio Freedom Europe, BBC, Reuters, Der Spiegel).


Social networks of the photographer:


As a reminder, the Ukrainian Association of Professional Photographers has launched a series of materials dedicated to the key events of the Russian war against Ukraine, where it publishes memoirs and photographs of Ukrainian documentary photographers.


The material was created with the support of the international non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders.

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