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KIEV, Ukraine, March 1 (Reuters) A World War Two movie set in Crimea was playing on a giant screen in Kiev’s Independence Square on Saturday when a politician stepped on the stage to break the shocking news.
Yuri Lutsenko, a former interior minister who had gone over to the protesters’ side to topple their country’s leader, said events in Ukraine had now moved beyond their control.
“It was a peaceful hope that we had,” he began his speech.
Their movement, launched last year, wanted to edge Ukraine closer to the European Union to share its free markets and its political rights.
The hundreds who had spent winter in this amphitheatre of protest in a movement that came to be known simply, like the main square itself, as the Maidan had survived bitter cold, police assaults, and clashes in which dozens of their number were killed, mostly by police bullets.
A week earlier their nemesis, Viktor Yanukovich, had been deposed as president. And since then the Maidan had continued to play a central role; its approval was sought for a new government before its members were approved by parliament.
But now, Lutsenko said, there was “tragic news”. Beneath the darkening evening sky above a soot stained square lit by the thousands of candles left to remember the dead, he declared that a Russian invasion had begun.
“War has arrived,” he said, urging calm. It was no longer the time for people to take an individual stand, as they had in the past weeks, but instead to support the government.
Another more radical speaker, Oleh Lyashko, also a member of parliament, then took the stage. “Russia has declared war and the entire country should mobilise,” he said.
As these speeches finished, many looked shocked.
Natalia Kuharchuk, a Kiev accountant, said: “When a Slav fights another Slav, the result is devastating. God save us.”
Whether, as the speakers believed, the crisis would escalate into a full blown war remained to be determined.
B tommy hilfiger uk ut it was still a day when, for the first time, the preoccupations of those in the Maidan people regarded by at least one part of the country as tyrant topplers suddenly seemed completely overshadowed by much greater forces.
BROOMS AND DUSTBIN BAGS
The day had begun in a hopeful mood when, responding to social media, hundreds of residents of Kiev arrived with brooms and dustbin bags tommy hilfiger uk to help clean up the square.
And, as troops patrolled the streets of Crimea and military installations, many of those who lived on the square struggled to take in the rumours of war.
Alexei Kuznetsov, a 51 year old driver, part of a group of protesters from the Donetsk region, had lived in the square for weeks and been wounded in the leg during fighting.
He said it was hard to follow events in Crimea, a Black Sea peninsula which has an ethnic Russian majority.
“Mobile phones are not working down there. We don’t know what is happening,” he said.
Instead, he was keen tommy hilfiger uk to have his photograph taken next to a large blue water cannon which he said he and the others had captured with the aid of “a lot of Molotov cocktails”.
One of his group’s leaders, Angela Skudar, a court clerk from the city of Mariupol, based in a nearby shop, was better informed about events. The Maidan movement, she said, shared the blame for failing to win over those in Crimea.
“I am afraid we have caused what has happened because our opposition figures have been unwilling to respond to people in Crimea, to go there and make them feel comfortable,” she said.
She said four of her group had already slipped away from the Maidan to head for Crimea, but none had reported back yet. If war brok tommy hilfiger uk e out it would last for years, she predicted, with Chechens coming to assist the Tatar minority in Crimea.
But, she said, her group had its own worries. One of its leaders had been beaten during the night by the Kiev police.