Viktor, 26, is a strong figure in the activist scene and works for The Reanimation Package of Reforms, an organisation aiming to introduce more democratic, transparent government reforms. He is an extremely confident man, with forward looking plans, although one contact who introduced us described him as being nationalistic.He played an active role in Maidan, despite studying abroad at the same time.
DOM- Why do you think people are in support of Russia?
VIKTOR- I don’t think, after four years, there are people left willing to join Russia. Since these four years, things have been muddled, you don’t even know who is your friend or not.
D- Where you involved in the revolution?
V- Yes and no. I was doing my masters degree in France. On the first day they [Yanukovych] didn’t sign the EU agreement I gathered together the Ukrainian students in my university and other Ukrainian students in Brussels. We held the first EuroMaidan in Brussels. I wasn’t in Kiev when the first shootings began, but I tried to organise protests across Europe with Ukrainians- expats, immigrants, anyone. During winter break I went back to Kiev and joined in with the protest then. It was peaceful when I was there. From December 15th to January 20th we protested in front of the courthouse when they tried to punish protestors. We held a demonstration in Luk’yanivska, as people were still being held since December 1st. They had been beaten and held for no reason, so we went there to cheer them up. Some were released in January and some only after the revolution had ended. Officially the seven of them were arrested for resisting arrest, but in a video you can see the riot police just chasing and beating the protestors. I can say if Yanukovych ordered this, but all the police were under his control.
D- How did social media play a role for you?
V- It helped me be involved in the revolution. From the first post, people wanted to contribute. The least people did was like and share. It was the fastest way to spread information, to organise and the government couldn’t control it. It also helped you to know if your close ones were OK. Plus in Europe we made a Facebook page for EuroMaidan in Brussels and Lille. It shows that many people are involved and it’s not just a one-man show.
Some politicians gave some words a bad name. For example the current government party is called Solidarity. Yanukovych used ‘Improvement’ a lot in his speeches. These words have no lost their meaning.
D- What did you hope from the revolution?
V- My plan in 2013 was to study abroad to get an internship and experience to get back to Ukraine for the 2015 elections. I knew Yanukovych couldn’t be ruler forever. But then the revolution started and my hopes were broken. My hopes were to get rid of the regime. But I wasn’t thinking about what could replace it instead. My current work was created in 2014, at the end of Maidan. Maidan stood against Yanukovych and corruption, but it didn’t have a plan. My company was there to offer a difference, to stand for something, not just against. Now I am always looking for a solution. There's a difference between now and the Orange Revolution. People thought there job was done after the protest. This time people have positive plans and so I have hope. It’s getting harder and harder to push for change as the current government is getting used to our techniques, so now we have to use different methods to advocate change. We need to educate people to fight for their rights and encourage them to make change on a local level. We need to be prepared for the next elections, as this is our window of opportunity.
The revolution was definitely positive. This war would of happened sooner or later. Ukraine is in Russia’s field of interest and Ukraine was not made to stay there forever. We became independent from the Soviet Union without bloodshed. Empires don’t usually let go so easily. Maidan was a trigger for them but war was the last resort for Russia. They annexed Crimea to show Ukraine that they could not survive without Russia. The revolution, annexation and war placed everything on the spot where it was supposed to be. For many people it’s part of nation building. Who do you associate with? Maidan was the trigger to answer this question, it wasn’t Russia.
I don’t know if people want to be part of the EU. Europe doesn’t see Ukraine as joining EU. I don’t see it as a good. I would prefer an independent Ukraine with no corruption and a stable economy over joining the EU. But it can be an indicator at some point. Standing up for European values and respect for human rights. The EU flags all over Kiev indicate our direction. It has symbolic meaning.
Our organisation is very well respected. John Kerry met us first before going to the president. We have a strong image of truth. Our work is respected by many partners as reliable and trustworthy.
D- Why do you think people in Donbas want to be independent?
V- If you look at why they claim independence, it’s basically 25 years of brainwashing through media. For me they are claiming independence voluntarily. The people that resisted had to escape and I know some people who were bullied or threatened with death for their pro Ukrainian position. I know there are western authors saying it’s a civil war and they are fighting for their freedom, but in 2014 it was clear that Russia was involved. I’m disappointed that the West doesn’t do fact checking and rely on Russian sources. If you look at developments of protests in April 2014, when East Ukrainian cities started putting Russian flags on government buildings, it wasn’t natural development. For me, its not part of Ukraine fighting for independence. It’s an external threat that has become a war.
D- Will it be united again?
V- I will not give up on these people and this land. We also work on displaced university students who had to escape terroristic groups. [Groups of Russian militants, Donetsk republic, and the Ukrainians trained to fight for them]
Displaced universities will be a key to reconciliation. 18 universities, 50 000 students and 10 000 professors displaced. They moved and showed their loyalty to Ukraine. We need to change Ukraine, to show the manipulated people what we have built, even during the conflict, to prove what we can do if we are united. It’s hard for Ukrainians to trust each other, due to Soviet times. They told us e had to turn in our family if they said something bad about Stalin. Before that we were a close farming community. Reform is about bringing back this trust of each other. It’s not just about the age gap when it comes to tolerance. It’s about education, awareness and where you were raised.
D- Were the protestors unarmed?
V- I cannot say definitely, as I was away I have read that they were both armed and unarmed. My view is that when your being shot at, you better arm yourself. If people did have weapons I can understand that because you want to be protected. The protestors were definitely not the ones who started it. There were armed thugs hired by Yanukovych patrolling the streets, beating people who had Pro Ukrainian flags and ribbons. He had his own group under protection.