“Oooooh don’t go to Ukraine!” Said everyone. “It’s dangerous!” Well so is your kitchen. After spending a couple of days aclimatising to the local vodka, I’ve ventured into the centre of this beautiful city, and I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Now I’m not a political genius, or profess myself to have any actual knowledge of such matters at all. As far as I can glean, Ukraine’s former president Yanukovych was pro-Russian, while the majority of the people were pro Ukraine/the West. Clashes between protestors and police happened back in February, which after some bloodshed resulted in the overthrow of the powers that be. Yanukovych fled to Russia, allegedly taking billions of dollars with him. The new factions asserted control, and arranged diplomatic elections to be held in May.
Meanwhile in the South, Putin decided it would be a good idea to invade Crimea. Pro Russian separatists sprung up in Donetsk and other Eastern cities, and violent clashes have still been taking place there. A journalist and translator were recently killed in a mortar attack, tensions are high, and hitchhiking out there is probably a really stupid idea. I wisely decide to keep West.
So I arrived in the city on the eve of the elections, and after a very hospitable stay with my last hitch pick-up, I find myself in a hostel filled with a mix of journalists, humanitarian workers, and pro-Russian separatists. The latter being massive wankers. I take a stroll through the city’s Independence Square, or “The Maidan”.
Thankfully the protests have calmed down to a whisper, and peace has graced the city. Although I was told last night that I would have to be “killed if I didn’t like Putin.” Regardless, with the elections all but passing with barely a whimper of protest, the popular new man in charge (a chocolate factory owning diabetic) , has called for the barricades to come down. They have served their purpose. Where once the country rallied to the cause, now stands tumbledown tents and tyre walls, devoid of all but homeless and drunks. They’re not going to give it up easily, although the first have started to be removed. Hopefully in the East, common sense will prevail, and the clashes will settle down sooner rather than later. But that is like saying the troubles in Ireland are over. It’s a rocky road ahead.
But do visit Kiev! Ukrainians are a friendly bunch. So long as you don’t say the wrong thing to the wrong one. Check to see if they have Russian sympathies first. Or just give them a shit-load of Vodka.