14 Dec 2013 05:00
"Here Kabul 2, copy."
In the frigid night, a man in uniform speaks into the radio beside a military tent. But this is not Afghanistan. It is the centre of Kiev where, since November 21, protesters have been occupying Maidan Square. Almost a thousand of these demonstrators are Ukrainian miltary veterans who, as part of the Soviet Army, took part in different conflicts the USSR was engaged in around the globe before its dissolution, particularly in Afghanistan. This is also known as Soviet Union’s "Vietnam," where the USSR fought one of its bloodiest conflicts to date, between 1979 and 1789. This massive unrest in Ukraine that started initially as a demand to President Viktor Yanukovych to reconsider his decision of no longer committing to integration with the European Union has now turned into more of a demand for his resignation.
Andrei, who once served in Kabul for 19 months, still does not understand the reasons behind Yanukovych's decision to attack and injure unarmed students on November 30. “If they would not have attacked, the protest would have dissolved. Before I came to watch, then I came to remain to defend my own people against a President which behaves as a dictactor. We want a democratic country where people have real rights, like Europe."
Andrei, along with tens of thousands of others began living in Maidan Square in tents, occupying buildings and buses, warming themselves with firewood and listening to the never-ending music and speeches which run day and night on the main stage of Maidan Square. According to the commander on the ground of the Afghanistan’s Veterans, Oleg, 49, this all happened without any prior organization or connection with politics. “Veteran individuals just met on the square, they recognised each other, they organized themselves and they chose me as their coordinator. We are currently around 1,000 and we all have the same vision, in which a government should not use force against its own people. And so we put ourselves, experienced soldiers, who know the price of life, blood and death, in the middle.”
After a surprise attack on the night of December 11 and into the early morning of the 12 after Yanukovych's promise to European Union representative Catherine Ashton that he would not use force to disperse the protesters, the occupiers have become more organized, building strong barricades with snow and organizing shifts to defend the people. The system works in a sort of anarchy with the different defence groups, of which Afghanistan’s Veterans are the largest, having a dialogue on the ground as situations happen.
Every night, when the fear of attacks is highest, veterans patrol the area within and around Maidan Square. Since the major risk at the moment is that the government will use agent provocateurs to promote disorder or to give a wrong idea of what is happening in Maidan Square, veterans also control suspect people, and whenever found, bring them to the police.