The blackened ruins and gaping windows of Ukraine’s landmark Independence Square have left Kiev looking like a warzone for the first time since WWII. The square has always served as a main stage for Ukrainian politics – but not a literal battleground.
Featured on every postcard, the grandiose post-war complex of monuments has been the true – if slightly touristy – heart of Kiev.
But now, the square is divided by ad hoc barricades built from paving stones, wooden debris, and tires. The iconic Trade Union building, which has served as the protesters’ headquarters, was set on fire earlier this week and is now just a shell, after its floors and walls collapsed one by one.
In contrast to the normal, everyday hustle and bustle, the square is currently filled with hastily-appointed leaders deciding who mans the entrances and who is responsible for food and barricade building. But regardless of security measures, people in the area are an easy target for snipers lurking in the buildings that surround the square from all sides.
Police dressed in riot gear are stationed several blocks away, taking turns between sitting in their vehicles and patrolling the perimeter. Journalists with the world ‘PRESS’ written on their jackets float between the two sides, but find themselves in the crossfire once skirmishes begin.
Once the conflict ends, the square will have to be rebuilt. It may be more difficult to do the same with the country that surrounds it.