With shields and catapults, Ukrainian protests look like Medieval battlefields
In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, protesters clad in improvised protective gear prepare for a clash with police in central Kiev, Ukraine. After a night of vicious street battles, anti-government protesters and police clashed again Monday in Ukraine's capital. Hundreds of protesters, many wearing balaclavas, hurled rocks and stun grenades. Police responded with tear gas. (AP / Sergei Grits, file)
The Associated Press
Published Friday, January 24, 2014 9:17AM EST
Kyiv, Ukraine -- The towering fleece hats and elaborate beards of Ukraine's 16th-century Cossacks are favoured by many of the demonstrators on Kyiv's main square, who have camped out in anti-government protests for nearly two months.
When events turned violent this week, demonstrators' weapons also had an antique aura and clashes resembled a Medieval assault.
Armed to the teeth
Protesters have armed themselves like Crusaders with plywood shields, often painted with a cross, against the stun grenades and rubber bullets from police lines. They broke up the pavement on nearby streets and squares, lobbing the chunks toward the police.
They also hurled firebombs, firecrackers and fireworks at riot police officers, many of whom were injured when firebombs spilled burning fuel on their uniforms and helmets. Meanwhile, pro-opposition websites have alleged that the police are wrapping their stun grenades with nails and pieces of metal in order to inflict injuries.
Many protesters are protecting their heads with helmets and even colanders. One man came in Medieval battle armour, and another fashioned himself a bow and arrow for the fight. One group of men made a massive catapult from boards to pelt firebombs a longer distance; when it was burned down in a police attack, they rebuilt it the next day.
Protesters have attempted to keep the police at bay by building 10-foot-high (3-metre-high) barricades along all the entrances to Kyiv's Independence Square. The barricades are piled high with everything from wooden poles to rubber tires.
On Thursday night, as temperatures dropped to minus-15 C (5 F), demonstrators shovelled snow into burlap sacks and tossed them to the top of the heap. They splashed the barricades with water to make them freeze solid and be tricky for police to climb.
On Wednesday, after police chased demonstrators away from one clash site, demonstrators set huge piles of tires alight, engulfing much of downtown Kyiv in billowing black smoke.
Taunting the enemy
Some protesters erected a mock tribunal with an effigy of President Viktor Yanukovych in a striped inmate's uniform, sitting in a cage with his arms and neck tied up to the metal bars. The opposition has invented a wide variety of chants mocking Yanukovych and his deputies.