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    Posted February 22, 2014 by
    jfrancisco
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Ukraine unrest

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    Independent report from Lviv

     
    As Ukraine watches to see whether the peace will hold in Kyiv, after this week's violent clashes between the Russian-backed government of Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition––reports now place the death toll in Kyiv at over 100, with many hundreds wounded––the situation in the western city of Lviv is different. Without saying that extremist provocateurs are absent in Lviv, extremists have not been a part of the city's collective response in the most public and visible gathering points. Violence has not so far defined Lviv's response to the crisis in Kyiv. Instead, that response has so far been defined almost entirely by non-violent resistance, both organized and spontaneous, on a broad scale. What is happening on the ground in Lviv shows the constructive and not destructive side of the movement for political change in Ukraine.

    The city is expressing strong and determined political resistance through peaceful marches, free and open speech from a city-sponsored stage built in the center of the city, peaceful public prayer, spontaneous acts of voluntary public service, vigilance and quiet solidarity. The photographs here show what I have seen in Lviv from February 19-21, including demonstrations, before and after pictures of the cleanup around the police precinct (which occurred within less than a day), the situation in the main gathering location on Prosp. Svobody, collection of donations for transport to Kyiv, and something of the mood in the city.

    Specifically on Prosp. Svobody, the square next to the Shevchenko statue is Lviv's "maidan," where people of all kinds gather for news information, a sense of solidarity with others. Some come to listen, some to talk, some to contemplate, some to pray, some to buy a flag, some to receive a bowl of soup, some to pace, some to stand in one place, some to shake their fist, some to weep. I have seen all of these things. From the stage, many types of speakers address the crowds. I have seen overtly political speeches, as well as testimonials, songs, and many prayer vigils by lay people and clergy alike. The mood of the gatherings in the last days has been anxious and tense, but calm.

    Very important to the resistance has been the public outpouring of donations in massive amounts: medicine, food, clothing, shoes and boots, bedding, tents, phones and phone cards, and very importantly, protective equipment for those occupying Independence Square in Kyiv, including helmets, shields, gas masks and armored vests. The pictures here show two such locations for the donation and storage of these materials: the Garrison Church of Saints Peter and Paul, just next to the Lviv maidan, and a former palace on Kopernika Street, also in the center of the city. These centers are receiving far more donations than they can handle. Volunteers working in these centers are young and old, and from all walks of life. One is run by a Ukrainian-born monk from New York, the other by one of the city's chief archaologists.

    It is critical to note that the security situation in Lviv is starkly different from the situation in Kyiv. There have been no deaths, no near deaths, no conflicts between the police and the public whatsoever. Not only are the police not stopping peaceful public protest in all its varieties, but there is essentially no uniformed police presence on the streets at all. Isolated attacks on a police precinct buildings and a prosecutor's office occurred as the police stood by watching it happen. Some reports I have received indicate that the police have taken a decision to remove their uniforms and patrol in civilian clothes for fear of retribution from the public, others say that they have done so as an expression of solidarity with the protest movement. Nighttime citizen's patrols have become common, in squads that include plainclothes police officers.

    I am concerned that the image of Ukrainian political resistance for the foreign media is focused on violent actions, i.e. the foreign media recognizes shadows of what's going on in Kyiv, but not that there are several forms of coordinated non-violent resistance going on here very publicly. Of course we don't know what will happen and whether Lviv will also descend into violence, but I do worry that the western media is inclined to discount the ways that political resistance has more than one face and is not just violent. Or to put it differently, what is occurring in the public realm runs against a simplistic version of events that pits Russian-backed government thugs against insurgent neo-fascists representing the western part of the country. It also runs counter to the vision of Ukraine as apocalypic wasteland, which has become a stock image of Independence Square in Kyiv. The open dialogue, peaceful dissent and cooperative networks in Lviv are not being sustained in the name of cataclysmic oppositional extremism. From my perspective, the people of Lviv are largely modeling the change they wish to see, backed by very conspicuous police non-intervention.

    For the full report, see: jasonfrancisco.net/crisis-in-ukraine-2014--the-view-from-lv

    Lviv, Ukraine, 21 February 2014

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