Anti-government protesters who set up camp on Kiev’s main square last year are defying plans by the Ukrainian capital’s new mayor to vacate the area.
Ex-world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who won a May 25 election to run the city of 2.8 million people, wants tents removed and the occupied mayor’s building freed. Demonstrators whose persistence eventually ousted President Viktor Yanukovych say the nation’s new rulers still need to complete a purge of previous state officials and punish police violence.
“A lot of promises that were made still haven’t been fulfilled,” said Yuri Synytsky, a 33-year-old former policeman who traveled 450 kilometers (280 miles) east from the Ternopil region town of Zbarazh three months ago. “We’ll stay here until all these issues are handled. We could stay here for life.”
Ukraine is seeking to turn over a new leaf after Yanukovych fled to Russia in February and billionaire chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko won a presidential election at the weekend. Independence Square, around which more than 100 people died in clashes during the protests’s peak, remains blocked by makeshift barricades. Demonstrators, some of whom have knives and rifles, continue to live there in tents.
Klitschko, who was among the leaders of the protests that deposed Yanukovych for breaking off a European integration pact, visited the mayor’s office to urge activists to leave. He also wants the nearby Kreshchatik thoroughfare cleared to allow traffic to pass.
“We’ve changed the country’s authorities: Ukraine elected a new president, Kiev elected a new mayor and a new city council,” Klitschko said. “New city lawmakers need to hold meetings and make decisions. We need the building.”
Klitschko said local residents are complaining about the state of the square and is offering an alternative building where protesters can live temporarily. Acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said today that a celebration of Poroshenko’s election victory would be held on the square, known as Maidan.
Turchynov named Klitschko and First Deputy Prime Minister Vitali Yarema to a working group tasked with “normalizing the situation on Maidan and the nearby streets and creating conditions for the normal functioning of the city.”