To Kyiv – Aftermath of the Euromaidan revolution
Vinnitsa is about a 3-hour train ride from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. We arrived in Kyiv soon after the uprising that led to the former president, Viktor Yanukovich, fleeing the country, which I had personally experienced on a previous trip to view the protests against his regime on Maidan (Kyiv’s independence square).
In the weeks following the change of government, a section of the protesters remained on the square and on the city’s main street (Khreschatyk). Some were still wearing balaclavas and practicing military drills on the square itself. Groups of baseball bat wielding guys in military fatigues patrolled the square and part of Khreschatyk in the absence of the disbanded Berkut (former Ukrainian special police). Some of them did look intimidating but none of them did anything untoward from what we observed.
Map of route from Vinnitsa to Kyiv in Ukraine
A Berkut vehicle with graffiti that was commandeered by protesters during Euromaidan
One of highlights and a new edition to the Kyiv tourist trail was a trip out to Yanukovich’s residence at Mezhyhirya, just outside Kyiv. Set in a 140-hectare estate located on the banks of the River Dnieper, the vast palatial former private residence of the deposed president is an awe-inspiring site.
Me in front of Yanukovich’s former club house
The estate includes hunting grounds, a yacht pier, tennis court, shooting range but my favorites were the Galleon barge, the club house and the ornamental BBQ. My mind boggled trying to calculate the upkeep on such opulence, especially considering how meager money the former president was officially and legitimately earning.
The “Galleon” barge at Yanukovich’s former estate
Most of our conversations with locals inevitably led to the question: ‘Почему приехать в Украину, когда будет война с Россией?’ We are here to see what is really going on in Ukraine. Why rely on the international media when you can come to the source and form your own opinions about the political situation? With that, I insisted to my friend that we must go further east to Kharkiv (15 kms from the Russian border) to see what is going on there for ourselves.
The news reports were of rival protests for and against the region staying in Ukraine. Putin’s Russia was already occupying Crimea and in the process of de facto annexing this part of Ukraine. Fears abounded in Kyiv that the east of the country would the next territory to suffer the same fate.
Member of a “Сотня” self-defense unit sitting just off Maidan with Molotov cocktails at the ready