Final countdown. The last days of the Revolution of Dignity – a chronicle of the events of February 20-22, 2014
Author: Inna Semenova
Seven years ago, on February 18-20, 2014, the most tragic events of the Revolution of Dignity took place . It was on these days in the center of Kiev that the largest number of participants in the three-month protests – almost 100 people – died.
At the same time, the Verkhovna Rada finally condemned the actions of Viktor Yanukovych’s regime, and the Maidan for the last and decisive time rejected compromise agreements with the president, who had already begun to prepare his escape from Mezhyhirya.
Finally, as the Ukrainian parliament later acknowledged, it was on February 20 that Russia began the active phase of the operation to annex Crimea.
In memory of the events that changed the country forever, NV recalls how the culmination of the Revolution of Dignity unfolded.
Prologue: two days of hopelessness
By the morning of February 20, Maidan experienced two of the most difficult days since the beginning of the Revolution of Dignity.
On February 18, security officials and “titushki” brutally suppressed the Peace Offensive – a non-violent rally of protesters heading to the Verkhovna Rada with a demand to support the return to the 2004 Constitution ( in which the president’s powers were significantly limited). On the same day, special forces began a forceful assault on the Maidan, during which the House of Trade Unions broke out, and the protesters were pushed back into a narrow ring inside the main square of Kiev.
The authorities closed the metro for almost two days – for the first time in the history of the Ukrainian capital. A February 19 SBU has announced the introduction in Ukraine of the antiterrorist operation mode – in fact, against the participants in the revolution, it was decided to quit the army and use weapons. Viktor Yanukovych urgently replaced the chief of the General Staff: instead of Vladimir Zamana, Admiral Yuri Ilyin, more loyal to the president, was appointed.
Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko ordered to issue military weapons to law enforcement officers and gave the right to use them, although he later disowned Berkut’s actions. In addition, as the head of the GPU’s special investigation department, Sergei Gorbatyuk, later said , these days the authorities also armed the “titushki”: they were given more than 400 units of automatic firearms and 90 thousand cartridges.
On the night of February 19, journalist Vyacheslav Veremiy was also killed at the hands of the ” titushki”. By the evening of the same day, the death toll exceeded 20 people, including several security officials.
Shooting on Institutskaya
February 20, morning
On the morning of February 20, after the retreat of the security forces, the protesters had the opportunity to regain positions lost during the confrontation of the previous days. Most of the unarmed activists began to climb Institutskaya Street, adjacent to the Maidan. However , targeted fire was opened at them : many of the dozens of victims on “Bloody Thursday” received severe gunshot wounds to the neck, head and chest. About fifty activists have lost their lives here, including those who tried to take out the victims or help them. Several dozen more people later died from their injuries in hospitals. In total , over 100 people were killed in the heart of Kiev during February 18-21 .
The beginning of the collapse of the Party of Regions
The events at Institutskaya were the last turning point of the Revolution of Dignity, after which the Yanukovych regime lost the last of its support. So, on the afternoon of February 20, law enforcement officers of the Lviv region and employees of the SBU – Transcarpathian region announced their transition to the side of the protesters. In addition, this day was the beginning of the end of the Party of Regions – the then head of the Kyiv City State Administration Volodymyr Makeyenko and the head of the Vinnitsa Regional State Administration Serhiy Tatusyak were among the first to announce their withdrawal from it, and in the next few days – dozens of “ regionals”.
February 20, evening
By the evening of the most tragic day of the Revolution, the Ukrainian parliament gathered for an emergency meeting. At about 22:00 on February 20, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution Condemning the use of violence that led to the death of civilians in Ukraine. The document recognized the actions of the security forces as illegal, banned the use of any types of weapons and special equipment against protesters, and instructed the Cabinet of Ministers, the Security Service of Ukraine, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Defense and the security officials subordinate to them “to immediately stop and prevent the use of force in the future. 236 deputies voted for the resolution, among them 35 “regionals” and 35 non-factional ones.
The beginning of Russian aggression in Ukraine
It was on this day that Russia began a special operation to annex Crimea. On February 20, the first cases of illegal crossing by the Russian armed forces of the Ukrainian border in the Kerch Strait region were recorded. In addition, the first episodes of blocking of Ukrainian military units in Crimea by ” green men” – Russian military without identification marks took place. These facts are recorded in the resolution of the Ukrainian parliament ( No. 2332, Otpor of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation and overcoming its consequences), which the Rada adopted on April 21, 2015.
Agreement with Yanukovych
Diplomats from Poland, Germany and France arrived in Kiev and, together with the leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, on February 20, began hours-long negotiations with President Viktor Yanukovych. Their result was an agreement concluded on February 21 – in addition to Yanukovych, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, Oleg Tyagnibok, Vitali Klitschko put their signatures on it, and the heads of the German Foreign Ministry Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Poland Radoslaw Sikorski and the French Foreign Ministry representative Eric Fournier were witnesses. Russian Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who took part in the negotiations, refused to sign the document.
The agreement stipulated that within the next 48 hours it is necessary to renew the Constitution as amended in 2004 and form a new coalition government; by September 2014 – to carry out constitutional reform; no later than December 2014 – to hold early presidential elections, moreover, within the framework of the new electoral legislation and with the new composition of the CEC. The document also provided for the investigation of the tragedy on the Maidan under the supervision of the Council of Europe, and the authorities and the opposition promised to abandon the use of force.
Veche on Maidan and speech of Parasyuk
February 21, evening
At the end of Friday, February 21, Maidan said goodbye to the heroes of the Heavenly Hundred. United opposition representatives from the stage told protesters about the agreement reached with the president. However, their speeches were interrupted by the 26-year-old centurion Vladimir Parasyuk: he reached the microphone and said that after all the events of the Revolution of Dignity, it is unacceptable to negotiate with Yanukovych. Parasyuk voiced a short ultimatum:“No Yanukovych will be president for a whole year. […] 77 people were put to death [by shots] in the head, and they agree! If tomorrow before 10:00 am you do not make a statement that Yanukovych must resign, my hundred will go to the assault with weapons, I swear to you, ”he addressed the opposition politicians. Tens of thousands of people who gathered at that moment on the Maidan and passed from hand to hand the coffins with the bodies of the dead, met Parasyuk’s speech with an ovation.
Night of February 22
The morning of February 22 brought unexpected news: the president is not in Kiev. As it turned out later, starting from February 19, preparations were made for Yanukovych’s escape at the presidential residence Mezhyhirya. For three days there they collected and removed antiques and valuables, which was later confirmed by the recordings of CCTV cameras. On the night of February 22, Yanukovych left Mezhyhirya , and the dispatch of trucks from his estate was completed by about four in the morning. As Russian President Vladimir Putin said later, two days later Yanukovych was “ evacuated” to Russia.
Dismissal of Yanukovych by Parliament
On this day, 328 people’s deputies supported the resolution of the Verkhovna Rada on self-removal of Viktor Yanukovych from the post of President of Ukraine. Parliament has appointed an early presidential election for May 25, 2014.
In addition, the Rada has reinstated the 2004 Constitution ; supported the bill decriminalizing the article under which Yulia Tymoshenko was convicted ( which legitimized her release from the Kachanovskaya colony). He was dismissed and. about. Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaly Zakharchenko.
Parliament Speaker Vladimir Rybak resigned, and Alexander Turchinov was elected as the new speaker.