As many as 10,000 people rallied at the central Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv and thousands more in other Ukrainian cities in the “Stop Capitulation Rally” on Oct. 6.
Capitulation is what the rally’s participants call President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plans to end the war in the east of Ukraine using the so-called Steinmeier Formula. The members of the Trilateral Contact Group on Ukraine – Ukraine, Russia, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – agreed to it on Oct. 1.
The agreement envisages a “special territorial status,” a regional autonomy in fact, for the occupied areas of Donbas after they hold local elections. The elections have to take place in accordance with the Ukrainian legislation and be approved by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“Holding elections in the occupied territories is inappropriate because people there have been under occupation and intensive propaganda for five years,” a student protester Dmytro Horyslavets told the Kyiv Post.
“I’m against some special status for these areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. I’m against capitulation,” Hanna Kuznietsova, a protester who came to the rally with her family, said.
“We didn’t fight with the occupants for five years just to surrender now. It’s a disgrace. We won’t allow it,” Olesia Radchenko, a mother of a Ukrainian serviceman killed in the conflict Bohdan Radchenko, told the Kyiv Post.
The rally was organized by the “Resistance to Capitulation Movement” formed from servicepersons, diplomats, scientists, volunteers and organizations who signed a “Stop capitulation!” letter with demands to Zelensky. It was published on Sept. 17 after the president announced that the Steinmeier Formula would be discussed at the next Normandy Four meeting of leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.
The letter demands that Ukrainian authorities follow 10 principles in the Normandy Four negotiations. Two of them define Russia as an aggressor that has to bear responsibility for its crimes against Ukraine, and demand that Donbas and Crimea should be returned to Ukraine simultaneously.
The organizers of the rally prepared a resolution that follows these principles and read it from the stage at Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The resolution puts several demands to Zelensky, the government and the parliament. It also includes appeals to local communities, Ukrainians abroad and Ukrainian allies.
The Resistance to Capitulation Movement defines itself as non-partisan. The organizers of the rally asked the participants not to bring symbols of any political parties to the rally. The protesters instead carried national Ukrainian and Crimean-Tatar flags, and the red and black flags of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army.
But members of many political parties, including acting lawmakers from the European Solidarity, Batkivshschyna and the Voice (Holos) parties, participated in the rally and even spoke from the stage to the protesters.
“The main goal of the movement is to unite the whole spectrum of Ukrainian patriotic organizations – from the fringe nationalistic National Corps party to the liberal Voice party – that share a common position that capitulation is unacceptable,” Andriy Levus, the co-organizer of the Resistance to Capitulation Movement and former lawmaker with the National Front party, told the Kyiv Post.
The organizers coordinated the approval of the rally with the city authorities in Kyiv. The police chose not to close the road on the adjacent Khreshchatyk Street, but the number of protesters grew large enough to block off traffic naturally. The police did not record any violations, and the rally went on peacefully.
Both the police and the organizers estimated the number of protesters in Kyiv at about 10,000. The numbers dwindled after a drizzle started two hours into the rally. But large crowds still went on to march to the Presidential Office, the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ukrainian Parliament buildings to protest. The march part of the rally was unsanctioned.
The organizers of the Resistance to Capitulation Movement called on participants to join another rally on Oct. 14, the Defender of Ukraine Day. This should be days before the next Normandy Four meeting, that should take place at the end of October, according to Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko.