Ukrainian protesters

Nobody expected that while she was peacefully walking along, a colorful bouquet of flowers in her hand, that the young and nice-looking 17 year-old student from Kyiv-Mohyla University, Daria Stepanenko, would hit her Minister for Education, Dmitro Tabachnyk, right in the face in front of his European colleagues. A few months ago, one of her like-minded friends and fellow-devotee to provocative actions, Anna Sinkova, cooked fried eggs on the flame of the Unknown Soldier Memorial in a cold park overlooking the Dnieper River, just several hundred meters from Metro Arsenalna, in the centre of Kiev. Anna spent three months in prison; Daria only a few hours, as she immediately received support from a Member of Parliament, Andrei Parubin of the nationalist wing, and her case, highly popular among the Ukrainian students, was rapidly covered by the press. Both women belong to the Brotherhood of St. Luke, a 2009-founded apolitical, religious and artistic movement (St. Luke is the patron saint of artists), made up of painters, writers, designers and “historians” in their twenties. Brandishing the Bible as their main ideological reference, the group mixes Nationalism, Leninism and, naturally, Revolutionary ambitions. While explicitly positioning themselves at the radical left and ultra-right, their project is simply to change everything in Ukrainian politics.

The St-Lukes are nothing other than a Christian and anarchic vanguard. Ukraine, today, is in a pre-revolutionary mood. Daria and Anna are only two activists among many others, all members of a large variety of civil movements, more or less anarchist, more or less Christian and more or less effective, but all devoted to impulsive radical political evolution. Not a single week passes without a happening in the centre of Kiev, aimed at raising awareness among the Ukrainian public about one of its social problems. Of course, not all actions occur successfully. The police and internal secret service (SBU) watch and strictly hinder the most radical moves. On Thursday 13th October, Anna and her brotherhood had to cancel their new and so-called “striking” demonstration. The day after, however, on the 14th, there were thousands of people in the streets of Kiev, commemorating the unofficial Ukrainian army, which fought both the Nazis and the Soviet Union during the 2nd World War. Highly visible in the cortege, several groups of veterans (Afghanistan), supported by younger nationalist activists and former military groups, such as the old UNA-UNSO, and, notably, a “Coalition of Participants of the Orange Revolution” were leading the protest.

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By Laurent Vinatier

Photographs by Rita Scaglia