On the 10th anniversary commemorating the “Heavenly Hundred,” who died during Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity in 2014, Kyiv Post recalls the seminal events that changed the country and the world.

Why did the Euromaidan start?

In November 2013, Ukraine was on the verge of signing the long-awaited Association Agreement with the European Union. This agreement, carefully drafted since 1998 and passed through all state institutions, seemed ready for implementation. However, on Nov. 21, 2013, just a week before the planned signing, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine decided to halt the process.

This abrupt move caused dissatisfaction among Ukrainians. On the same day, the hashtag #Euromaidan appeared on social media platforms, becoming a call for dissent. Then came a Facebook post from journalist and activist Mustafa Nayyem: “Let’s meet at 10:30 pm at the Independence Monument. Dress warmly, bring umbrellas, tea, coffee, good mood, and friends.”


In the evening, 1,500 protesters gathered at Independence Square in central Kyiv, including journalists, public figures, and opposition politicians. With each passing hour, their numbers grew, and by the evening of Nov. 22, there were about 3,000 – 5,000 people. At the same time, special units of the “Berkut” (special anti-riot police that was part of the Ukraine’s Interior Ministry) began arriving in the Ukrainian capital from all regions of the country. The name “Berkut” became synonymous with the police brutality suffered by many protesters in the capital, Kyiv, during the Euromaidan protests.

Kyiv Cyber Security Chief Vityuk Filmed Berkut Shootings Civilians on Maidan In 2014
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Kyiv Cyber Security Chief Vityuk Filmed Berkut Shootings Civilians on Maidan In 2014

According to Slidstvo.info investigative website, the head of the SBU Cyber Security Department, Ilya Vityuk, filmed Berkut shooting protesters on the Maidan in 2014.


Sergei Supinsky / AFP

Student beatings: Euromaidan crackdown

On Nov. 23, 2013, law enforcement agencies initiated the dispersal of activists gathered at Maidan Nezalezhnosti. Authorities justified this action as a necessity to clear the area for the installation of a New Year tree. However, such heavy-handed tactics by security forces only fueled a fresh surge of protests in the streets of Kyiv.

During the night of Nov. 30, 2013, the Berkut forcibly dispersed the protesters. Approximately 400 activists, mostly students, remained at Maidan. Armed security officers surrounded the square, using explosive devices, batons, and kicks against the demonstrators. As a result of these actions, 84 people sustained injuries of varying degrees of severity.


Viktor Drachev / AFP

The events of Nov. 30 proved to be a turning point in the Ukrainian protests, shifting the focus from pro-European sentiments to anti-government fervor and giving them a sense of mass solidarity.

The following day, Dec. 1, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Kyiv to express their support for the protesters and demand accountability for those responsible for the brutal crackdown on the rally.

Volodymyr Shuvayev / AFP

On the night between Dec. 10 and 11, 2013, authorities made another attempt to disperse the demonstrators and clear the city center. Then, for the first time in many years, the bells of the Kyiv St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery rang out, summoning Kyivites to defend Maidan. Security forces were forced to retreat.

Dictatorial Laws of January 16

On Jan.16, 2014, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) passed the so-called “dictatorship laws.” When adopting the laws, the Parliament violated a number of its own procedural rules. They were mostly voted on by a show of hands, not through electronic voting as required. The purpose of these measures was to grant police authorities expanded powers to suppress protests and limit Ukrainians’ ability to express dissatisfaction. Ex-President Yanukovych signed the documents the next day, on Jan. 17. This decision marked his final attempt to cling to power and silence the voice of Maidan.


The fate of the “laws of Jan. 16” turned out to be short-lived and predictable. On Jan. 28, the Verkhovna Rada repealed most of them. The government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned.

Piero Quaranta / AFP

The first killings of protesters

The standoff on Hrushevsky Street in Kyiv, later known as the “Bloody Baptism by Fire” began on Jan. 19, 2014 (the Old Calandar Epiphany, when the Orthodox celebrate the baptism of Christ). This protest was a response to the government’s adoption of the so-called “dictatorship laws” and marked the beginning of a tense phase of clashes between the people and the “Berkut.” The enforcers unleashed tear gas, flash grenades, and water cannons against the demonstrators.


The clashes on Hrushevsky Street continued for over two days and were halted by priests who stepped onto the streets, positioning themselves between the protesters and the law enforcement special units.

Sandro Maddalena / AFP

However, on the morning of Jan. 22, 2014, the Berkut unexpectedly launched an attack. This was a point of no return as it brought the first fatalities. Participants of the Euromaidan, 20-year-old Ukrainian citizen of Armenian descent Serhiy Nigoyan and 25-year-old Belarusian journalist Mikhailo Zhyznevsky, sustained fatal gunshot wounds. On the same day, the body of 50-year-old Lviv protester Yuriy Verbitsky, showing clear signs of torture, was found in a forest near Kyiv. The day before, he had been abducted from a hospital by unknown assailants.


The bloodiest days of the Revolution of Dignity and the start of war in Ukraine

The key and most dramatic stage of the Revolution of Dignity unfolded in Kyiv from February 18 to 20. During this time, more than 100 people were killed, and several thousand were injured.


On the evening of Feb. 18 and early morning Feb. 19, tensions in the country reached a breaking point. It was then that the authorities initiated the final and most brutal assault on the Euromaidan. Barricades and protest camps went up in flames, including the Trade Unions Building in Kyiv, which had been seized by protesters and used as their headquarters since the events of Dec. 1. Firefighters fought the blaze for over a day. According to the State Emergency Service in Kyiv, 41 people were rescued during the fire. When the flames were put out, the body of one deceased individual was discovered at the scene.

Piero Quaranta  / AFP

Feb. 20, 2014, saw the highest number of protesters killed: 48 peaceful participants of the Revolution of Dignity were fatally wounded. During the period from Feb. 18 to 20, 2014, various estimates suggest that between 78 to 83 activists died. The youngest of them, Nazar Voytovych, was 17 years old, and the oldest, Ivan Nakonechny, was 83. Another 20 protesters died later from injuries sustained on Feb. 20. All the deceased peaceful protesters went down in Ukrainian history as the Heavenly Hundred.


On Feb. 21, 2014, former President Viktor Yanukovych flew to Kharkiv accompanied by security and then fled to Russia via Crimea. On February 22, he was impeached as President. Criminal cases were initiated against him in Ukraine not only for the shootings on the Maidan but also for usurpation of power and state treason.


The Revolution of Dignity officially ended on Feb. 22, 2014. However, Ukraine faced new losses ahead. In March 2014, Russia held a bogus “referendum” in Crimea, occupying and eventually annexing the peninsula. In April of the same year, Russian forces invaded the Donbas, marking the beginning of the war.

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