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That’s me in the picture: Markiyan Matsekh plays the #piano for riot police in #Kiev, 7 December 2013
Markiyan Matsekh plays the piano in Kiev. Photograph: Andrew Meakovsky, Oleg Matsekh and Marikiyan Matsekh.
Erica Buist, The Guardian.
Markiyan Matsekh: My dad thought it was a stupid idea. He said, “Son, it’s a nice thought, but these people have been beaten by riot police. How is a piano going to cheer them up?” I just wanted to give people a reason to keep protesting.
On 30 November, there were 300 students in the city square singing in peaceful protest at the president’s resistance to greater integration with the EU, and they were brutally beaten by riot police. We demanded that the president resign, but nothing happened. There was no justice. We had lost hope.
I managed to convince my father we should use a piano, and it was his idea to put it in front of the police, to give the world a strong, visual image of what was going on. We saw the piano for sale in the paper and we set up a workshop in a friend’s garage, to paint it in the national colours, in secret – the flag was a sign of protest at the time. I work at a software development company, so we had to wait until the evening to paint it. We finished around 3am.
I knew that taking the piano to the site was risky, so I told journalists to be there. I figured: if I’m going to get beaten up over a piano, it should at least make the news.
The police were strict on not letting cars through. I told the piano movers that if they were stopped they should tell the police they were delivering it to someone’s house. The police bought the story, and let them into the square, where I was waiting. We took the piano out and put it in front of the line of officers. I watched for a second, but they just looked confused. I said, “Move it five metres closer!”
Straight away, people gathered and started playing it, and it transformed the mood into something positive. I took off my coat and started playing Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp minor. It was about -15C, and my fingers could barely move. I only managed to play for about a minute and a half. Not my best performance.
One of our aims was to get the police on side: we had been chanting: “The police are with the people.” We wanted them to know they could refuse to be violent. Their reactions were mixed – some had been told to be stern, but others were singing along.
We were shocked at how quickly the picture spread on social media. We wanted to show the world we weren’t extremists, and it worked. I woke up one day to a phone call from a friend, screaming, “You’re on Richard Branson’s T-shirt!” (He was pictured wearing an illustration of the photograph.)
Afterwards, the piano was moved to Maidan square in Kiev, where it stayed (and was played by protesters) until this summer.
It’s hard to measure whether the piano did anything for the revolution, but one story did strike me. A few days later, I was staying at a hostel in Kiev, and the owner, Olga, came to me with her friend’s Facebook status update: she was walking past the piano site in Maidan and saw a stationary bus with riot police inside. One of them beckoned to her. He wiped away the condensation on the window, and wrote her a message on his mobile phone. He held it up to the glass. It said, “We are with you.”
Interviewer: Erica Buist
Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk (wearing glasses), parliament leader Volodymy Groysman (L) and President Petro Poroshenko (back towards camera) talk during the Nov. 27 session of Verkhovna Rada. © Anastasia Vlasova
Ivan Verstyuk, Kyiv Post.
Lack of public service professionals on the Ukraine labor market has pushed the government to look abroad for qualified applicants who can take positions.
Prague-based Pedersen & Partners and Korn Ferry, global headhunting firms, have found 185 potential employees, many of whom are members of Ukrainian community in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K.
After the job interviews, 24 candidates were recognized as fully qualified to serve in Ukraine’s public offices. However, their names haven’t been disclosed so far.
Four of them are expected to be employed with the Agrarian Ministry and another four with the Finance Ministry.
The Renaissance Foundation, a global network of policy consulting centers launched by American billionaire George Soros, has sponsored the headhunting process. It paid as much as $82,200 to two companies involved in finding the capable employees for the government agencies.
As of now, Ukrainian legislation doesn’t allow the foreigners to hold any public offices, which is why those who’ll accept the government’s job offers will have to take Ukraine’s citizenship. Meanwhile, dual citizenship is not allowed.
President Petro Poroshenko during his Nov. 27 speech in parliament offered to allow the foreigners be officially employed in the country’s government. Moreover, he asked the lawmakers to provide him with legal tools to grant Ukrainian citizenship through special decrees.
Central Bank Governor Valeriya Gontareva also thinks this should be changed. “Unfortunately, current Ukrainian legislation does not allow me to hire foreign citizens and to get the best experts on the NBU staff,” she said.
“Ukraine is facing very special challenges – complicated situation in the economy, aggression from the side of the Russian Federation, necessity of pivotal reforms and efforts focused on fighting the corruption,” commented Dmytro Shymkiv, deputy head of presidential staff. “Ukraine needs Western practicians of public administration, fight against the corruption, financial planning, anti-crisis management.”
Meanwhile, Natalie Jaresko, U.S. citizen of Ukrainian descent and chief executive officer of Horizon Capital, a private equity fund with $650 million in assets, is considered to be a candidate for the position of finance minister, according to the Kyiv Post research.
Georgia’s former president Mikheil Saakashvili, who is currently a political science lecturer at Tufts University in the U.S., may become Ukraine’s deputy prime minister.
Spare a thought for the poor suffering civilian population who are too poor or feeble to flee the war zone, or maybe they simply have nowhere else to go.
Women stand outside their damaged house after government shelling in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk on Nov. 27. © AFPPeople shop at the market in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Nov. 17 as artillery fire continues to rock the eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian rebel bastion. © AFPWomen stand outside their damaged house after government shelling in the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk on Nov. 27. © AFPA woman tries to get cash from an ATM machine on Nov. 26 in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. No automated teller machines were working and most shops didn’t accept payment by credit cards in Donetsk after Kyiv asked for the suspension of banking activities in the eastern area controlled by pro-russian separatists. © AFPSchoolchildren listen to their teacher in the Eastern Ukraine City of Donetsk School number 32 on Nov. 18. © AFPA man stands with crutches as he buys vegetables in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Nov. 20. © AFPA market vendor sells clothes in the Kirovskij district of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Nov. 23 as houses were destroyed overnight in the district during fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russia militants. © AFPPeople buy food in a Kievsky district street of the eastern Ukraine city of Donetsk on Nov. 28. © AFPWorkers repair a gas pipeline damaged during shelling between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukrainian village Krasnyi Pakhar, in the Donetsk region on Nov. 23. © AFPPeople wait in front of a post office to register to receive their pensions on Nov. 27 after Urkrainian government suspended their payment in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. © AFP
Mr. Putin you say that you care about the russian speaking population in eastern Ukraine, If that is true then pull back your troops now, let ‘your’ people live a normal life for they have suffered far more these last few months than at anytime in the last 25 years. or are we to believe that your intentions are politically motivated and nothing else, if you REALLY do care then do the right thing and withdraw your armies and ‘little green men’ and show the world that you are not the warmongering dictator intent on grabbing more land for mother Russia and that you truly want peace! Only you can stop the suffering.
Pro-Russian militant ride on a tank taken from Ukrainian forces during fighting in August, on their way to test fire in open fields, in the eastern Ukrainian town of Ilovaisk, some 40 kms east of Donetsk, on Nov. 18. © AFP
The Editorial Board, The New York Times.
The crisis in Ukraine has reached an impasse. The cease-fire signed in Minsk, Belarus, in September never really took hold, but at least it provided a cover for efforts to reduce the level of fighting and focus on stabilizing and reforming the Ukrainian economy as a prelude to a serious, long-term search for a resolution of the crisis. Now even the fig leaf of cease-fire is gone. Russian armored vehicles are rolling into eastern Ukraine — disowned, of course, by Moscow.
Gunfire is exchanged constantly in and around Donetsk, and Kiev has basically disowned residents of territories claimed by separatists by cutting most government services, benefits and pensions. And though elections to the Ukrainian Parliament on Oct. 26 brought in a new, pro-Western legislature, Kiev is still far from forming a government or producing a viable program of reforms.
The United States and the European Union have made clear, and correctly so, that they hold President Vladimir Putin of Russia largely responsible for this state of affairs. He was snubbed at the Group of 20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia. Then Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, once the European leader deemed most cautious in relations with Moscow, assailed him for reviving a Cold War atmosphere 25 years after the Berlin Wall fell.
There is no question that by annexing Crimea and arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, Mr. Putin has done great damage to East-West relations — and to his country, which finds itself isolated and in economic trouble. The decision on Monday by the European Union to add more separatist leaders to the list of Mr. Putin’s allies barred from Europe may be largely symbolic, but along with the cold reception in Brisbane, it does let the Russian leader know that the West is not about to let him off the hook.
That said, it is important to acknowledge that officials in Kiev, and more specifically President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, have responsibilities they must live up to. Ukraine has been plagued by corruption since it became independent, and the current crisis has made it even more imperative for the leaders to form a government and come up with a credible economic and political strategy.
The Ukrainian economy is in terrible shape — the currency has lost almost half its value against the dollar in 2014, the industrial centers of Donetsk and Luhansk are in separatist hands, coal mines have shut down. The International Monetary Fund has provided emergency aid, but the hard fact is that the European Union and the United States cannot be expected to make substantial commitments until Ukraine provides a clear reform plan and priorities for outside investment. Johannes Hahn, the new European Union commissioner for enlargement, is right to insist that the union will not hold a donors’ conference without this.
In addition to an economic strategy, Kiev needs to prepare a plan for loosening central control in a way that might satisfy residents of the eastern provinces. The decision by President Poroshenko to cut government benefits and pensions to residents of areas under the control of Kremlin-backed separatists, though understandable in the circumstances, has left those unable to flee feeling betrayed by Kiev, creating a vacuum for Moscow to fill.
There is no question that ordering painful reforms when a country is already on its knees is asking a lot. That is why it is imperative that Western leaders make clear that they will give Kiev substantial assistance only after it embarks on a serious program of economic and political reform. After all, that was what the Ukrainians who took to the streets in December 2013 fought for.
Volunteers attend a training session at the base of Ukrainian self-defense battalion “Azov” in the southern coastal town of Mariupol on Sept. 3, 2014. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters
Russia said Thursday that the U.S. would violate international agreements and destabilize the situation if it supplies weapons to Ukrainian forces fighting separatists in the country’s east. 1
A U.S. official suggested Wednesday that Washington should consider providing weapons to Ukraine.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said that sent a “very serious signal.”
“If there is a change of policy [of providing only non-lethal assistance to Ukraine], then we can speak of a serious destabilizing factor that can seriously impact the balance of forces in this region,” Lukashevich told a news conference.
Lukashevich was addressing reporters before a visit to Ukraine by U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden, who was due to arrive in Kiev on Thursday evening.
Lukashevich cautioned against “a major change in policy of the U.S. administration in regard to the conflict” in Ukraine.
“That would be a direct violation of agreements reached, including agreements reached with the participation of the United States,” he said.
Washington backs Kiev in its struggle against the pro-Russian separatists in two eastern regions of Ukraine and has imposed sanctions on Russia over its policies in the crisis.
Moscow supports the separatists but denies it is part of the armed conflict which the United Nations says has killed more than 4,300 people since mid-April.
- But isn’t this exactly what the Russians did? Don’t they know that the same rules apply to them? ↩