Echoes of the “Russian World” – Kharkiv Two Years Later

By IT Sector
Posted on 03.01.2016
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Two years ago marks the first storming of the Kharkiv Oblast [Regional] State Administration (HOGA).

March 1, 2014 is a day remembered by many. It was then that the Federation Council [of Russia], due to “the extraordinary situation” and “the threat to the lives of citizens of the Russian Federation,” unanimously voted to give Putin the authority to use Russian armed forces on the territory of Ukraine. Back then, many were completely seriously discussing the prospect of a full-scale Russian invasion along the entire length of the Ukrainian land border. But residents of Kharkiv remember that day for one more reason. It was on that day that pro-Russian activists, riled by the emotional speech of [Hennadiy] Kernes [Mayor of Kharkiv] and supported by “visiting performers” from Belgorod, Rostov, Voronezh, and Moscow, stormed the building of the Kharkiv Oblast Administration (HOGA). The building was full of Kharkiv’s Euromaidan activists…

But let’s rewind a little. On February 22, after a 40-thousand-strong pro-Ukrainian march passed through the city, the representatives of Euromaidan, with the consent of the regional government, took over the first floor of the HOGA building. The next day, an Antimaidan camp started to appear opposite [the building]. Soon, Hennadiy Kernes and Mykhailo Dobkin [then Governor of the Kharkiv Oblast] returned to Kharkiv (either from Chechnya or from Switzerland) and decided to take command of this action. Today’s most patriotic of patriots, back then Hennadiy Adolfovych [Kernes], did not hesitate to stand under Soviet and Russian banners, advocating for federalization and the right of self-determination for the regions. At that time, the “little green men” [Russian military servicemen] were already openly operating in Crimea, and Donetsk and Luhansk were witnessing the beginnings of pro-separatist hysteria. It seemed that any time now, our strongman mayor would announce “the constitution of the KNR (Kharkov People’s Republic)” from the stage and, with the approving roar of the mob, bring the “Russian world” into Kharkiv.

On March 1, this scenario seemed more real than ever. When the assault began, the attackers were coordinated and knew their way around the building and the back yard of the regional administration. Stones and sticks were flying,  there were sounds of (pneumatic?) gunfire. The police stood aside. Only some law enforcement officers were helping to evacuate the civilians. As it later turned out, [they were doing that] at their own personal risk. They had been ordered not to interfere, under threat of dismissal. When the “supporters of federalization” broke into the building, they ransacked it. They spared no aggression for their opponents – men were beaten indiscriminately. They were a little softer on the women, but still did not stand on ceremony. After taking full control of the HOGA, the invaders set up a “corridor of shame” through which they led out the remaining activists onto the stage for public humiliation. The people who were led through the corridor received a generous measure of kicks, spitting, and insults. There was also a highly peculiar case of exorcism, by way of being beaten over the head with a religious icon. The “Russian world” demonstrated to the Kharkiv citizens the full strength of its “spiritual bonds.”

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One of the leaders of Maidan in Kharkiv, the writer Serhiy Zhadan, had to be hospitalised, as were many others. To ensure the safety of the victims, activists had to organize guard duty by the hospital wards. There were many attempts to take the victims from the hospitals. The reports of abductions of Maidan activists from Kyiv medical facilities were still fresh in our memories, and we could not allow this to happen in Kharkiv.

On March 1 [2014], many of us felt truly afraid for the first time. Not of being spat at or insulted, of sticks and stones, or batons or pneumatic rifles. Maidan taught us not to fear trifles like that. We were afraid of tanks on our Constitution Square, and of artillery shells landing in the yards of Saltivka [district]. We were afraid of one day waking up in the KNR.

That day marked the start of a confrontation that would decide whether Kharkiv would become part of “Novorossiya” and the “Russian world.” The city stood its ground, and March 1, 2014 has already become part of history. A history that is being written before our very eyes. And we must remember it, so that our city is never again under threat of separatism, war, and [of becoming] a “people’s republic.”

Source: IT Sector FB

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