MAYDAN, UKRAINE & THE HYBRID WAR

Ukraine, 2015


 
© Sam Asaert - Ukrainian Flag at Maidan 2015
 

The MAIDAN commemoration

 
© Sam Asaert - Flowers for the fallen

On the first ‘Day of the Heavenly Hundred Heroes’, exactly one year after the most deadly day of the Maidan revolution in Kiev, thousands of people gathered once more on Independence Square and accompanied by Mozart’s Requiem played by the Ukrainian National Orchestra solemnly walked up Institutskaya street, which exactly one year ago saw the protestors on their way to the Presidential offices being met by deadly, still unidentified, snipers.

 
© Sam Asaert - Lights for the heroes

Every spot were one of these protesters was shot dead, to the day one year ago, is now marked with a bright beam of light shooting up into the Ukrainian night’s sky, converging on the fast moving clouds hanging low over the city to form a massive thundercloud which silently gives expression to the thunderous emotions of everyone present.

 
© Sam Asaert - Marching to commemorate

Endless tears flow and countless candles are lit. And whenever an emotional voice from within the crowd cries out ‘Slava Ukraini’ hundreds reply with a thunderous ‘Geroyem Slava!’

 

One thing is evident; with their sacrifice these Heavenly Hundred have forever instilled in the Ukrainian people the understanding that they must never allow their government to gain a position of absolute power over them. “I like Poroshenko, but he should know we have the power to relief him if he doesn’t work out.”

© Sam Asaert - Portrait on Independence Square 2015

“When Poroshenko comes out, he walks in between the people. When Putin comes out he has to close down Moscow.”, another noted. To some, however, Poroshenko’s presence at this remembrance is overshadowed by the fact that one year after the deadly revolution no Ukrainian official has yet been convicted.

 
© Sam Asaert - Boy lighting a candle

With fathers telling their sons tales about the Heavenly Hundred and daughters helping their mothers to lay flowers on the sites of their death, it becomes evident that for generations to come these Ukrainians will bear with them the understanding of the price at which government with absolute power comes and goes.

 
© Sam Asaert - Father and Daughter
© Sam Asaert - Where a hero fell
 
 

the HYBRID war

 
© Sam Asaert - Recruiters

Ukraine is a country at war. Even though veterans of the war in the East of the country are baffled to find Kiev’s vibrant energy seemingly unaffected, there is no way of escaping the machinery of the Ukrainian war effort.

 
© Sam Asaert - Recruiting material

Aside from being exposed to recruiting posters and billboards all over the city, people can now also inspect the actual machinery of war for themselves. Attracting a massive crowd on Mikhailyvska Ploshcha captured Russian war equipment, or so the government forces claim, is on display.

 
© Sam Asaert - Ukrainian Children on a Russian Tank

While parents let their children climb on the rocket launcher and tank on display – one kid filled with glee upon finding fired machine gun shells in the belly of the T-64 tank – this is more than the ideal weekend family photo opportunity.

 
© Sam Asaert - Child looking at a burned out vehicle

With weapons, artillery shells, destroyed cars and several home videos showing the horror and violence in the East, this event proves to be both an effective way of letting this conflict hit home for the people of Kiev, as well as the ideal cash collection point for many of the volunteer battalions active at the Eastern front of what they call a “hybrid war”.

 
© Sam Asaert - Boxes for the troops

“The Russian forces we are fighting in the East fight without any insignia. Therefore Russia can deny their involvement, preventing the world from acknowledging this is actually a Russia-Ukrainian War.” This is explained at the Volunteer Battalion Azov’s Kiev headquarters. Here food packages are being prepared for the soldiers fighting in the East.

 
© Sam Asaert - Message for the Troops

These packages include personalized messages from Kiev’s schoolchildren.

 
© Sam Asaert - We Are Europe

“In the war against Russia we have people from all over Europe joining our battalion (which is now a regiment in the Ukrainian National Guard). We have 6 nationalities fighting with us to stop Russia’s expansion. He might speak of this being a fight against separatists, but they are terrorists and we know they are being backed by him and his troops.”

 
© Sam Asaert - Putler

Him being Putin: who in the minds of many looms over this conflict like a menacing shadow. “He just wants to be remembered as the man responsible for the re-unification of the Soviet Union.”

 
 

Text & Photographs © Sam Asaert