In the early morning hours of November 30, 2013, Berkut officers used excessive force against pro-EU protesters, mostly university students, setting the stage for the revolution to follow
November 30, 2019 marks the sixth anniversary of the violent crackdown on protesters who had camped out in Maidan Square. Just prior to the protest, then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had broken his campaign promise for EU integration, turning towards Russia instead.
At 4:00am, several thousand Berkut officers descended on the square and began to forcibly remove the protesters, mostly young university students. The raid was headed by general-lieutenant Valeriy Koriak.
The officers, who were armed with rubber batons and explosive charges, surrounded the several hundred protesters who were gathered in dense rings near the monument of Independence.
Officers threw protesters to the ground, beating them with batons and giving them no chance to stand up. Those who tried to escape were chased over several hundred meters/yards in the neighboring streets. According to official data, 79 people were injured during the violent crackdown.
Pictures taken at the time showed the stark brutality of the Berkut against the unarmed and peaceful protesters. The justification for clearing the square was to make space for Kyiv’s Christmas tree in the square.
As news of the crackdown spread through social media, text messages and phone calls, thousands of residents of Kyiv rushed to the scene to provide support for the protesters.
By December 1, 2013, approximately one million people had occupied the square.
This brutal attack by the Berkut is considered the spark that ignited the Revolution of Dignity which eventually lead to the toppling of Viktor Yanukovych from the presidency and paved the way for the path to greater European integration.
The current Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, recognized the anniversary and expressed his interest in meeting with the students who on the square during the attack.