Ukraine Euromaidan Protests: The Stories Behind Astonishing Pictures Of Deadly Riots


The astonishing images coming out of the Euromaidan protests in the Ukraine are some of the most gut-wrenching and haunting portrayals of conflict of the past few years.

And those years have not been short of conflict, in Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Libya. But photographers in Kiev are up close with the protesters, not several hundred yards away, not (thus far) fearing that their cameras make them a target.

The Huffington Post UK spoke to photographers embedded in the protest camps, on how they get so close to the action, the spirit they sense in the ranks, and the feeling they are there for the long haul.


A priest stands in front of the barricades in Independence Square

The oddest thing about this conflict is that there's no continuity, there doesn't seem to be anyway of predicting what the police will do. Last night they'd gain a lot of ground but then they just came right back, the protesters have now pushed them up the hill.

This morning was the first time I felt it was really dangerous, you could hear gunshots, real bullets. Then there was a lull, people go to regroup and sleep. It's incredibly well-organised on the protesters part, you see them linking arms in chains of hundreds and hundreds of people, carrying bricks and tyres. These people do not want to lose, you can see it set in their faces. And there are all kinds of people here. There was a woman driving her car up to the barricades with tyres loaded into it, just a normal housewife.

Anti-government protesters rebuild barricades following continued clashes

The main difference with these pictures is how you are not a target, compared to covering Cairo for example when some people seriously do not want you taking pictures. Here, there's no objection, at least from the protesters. It might be different with the police, though I have had colleagues who have go on the police lines and reported no problems.

But mainly people don't notice you because there are just so many people. When you're covering a riot in London, for example, there's one bloke kicking a window and 30 photographers. It's not like that here. I spotted only a few photographers, couple of camera crews.

After several weeks of calm, violence has again flared between police and anti-government protesters

It doesn't feel like Syria or Iraq, because here, you can get right in the fray, there you had to take pictures from way, way back, well out of the action because it was so dangerous. That could certainly change here. Now it feels like what I imagine it was like covering revolutions in the 1970s and 80s, perhaps like the revolution in Romania, before you became a target, when photographers were killed by accident rather than intention.

It's all concentrated in one area, outside my hotel the side-streets are quiet. Cairo was like that too. It felt a world away before it began to spread to other cities. Here, it doesn't feel like the end is near. The last time I was here was to cover Scotland versus Ukraine football match, about 10 years ago. And it was such a lovely place.


It was today that I took the photo which had the greatest impact on me personally, and that was away from the fray, the rows of dead bodies lined up, next to a small shrine of the Virgin Mary. They are young men, one or two older.

That's when it hit home how dangerous it is here, seeing the people crying around them, especially one young woman, I don't know if one of them was her brother, maybe her boyfriend, but weeping next to one of the bodies.

Bodies lined up on a Kiev street after a morning of violence

When I was here in January people were saying, 'We are prepared to die', and now you see they are. Though we can get close to the action, it's still very dangerous. The protesters are facing down AK47s with sticks and shields. It's an unbalanced fight.

A young woman reacts to seeing one of the bodies laid out in the street, close to the western barricades

I've seen photographers injured, some journalists have been killed in the fray. To a sniper, you just look like any other protester. You are not safe, even if the protesters are not hostile to you. They warn you of danger, but they often ask you, 'Are you scared?'

A protester holds a tyre aloft as activists set fire to barricades to put a wall of smoke between them and police

But it's not really about us, because we can get on a plane and leave, but people here are fighting for their future. Thursday is really a monumental day for the Ukraine, we had seen deaths before but this was a massacre.


The protesters here are so welcoming and especially to foreign press, they want you to cover what is going on, and so you have a lot of access to the action. And it's all confined to a very small space, the Independence Square and then around 200m after that. But that enclosed space makes it very dangerous too.

Last night you could hear bullets flying around, and in an urban environment it's very, very difficult to tell where they are coming from, from up above, from behind you. And you hear the echo, so you don't know what is a real gun shot. We have seen the snipers, so we know they are there, but we don't know where they are. The front line is never clear, it just develops throughout the day.

An Orthodox priest after clashes between anti-government protesters and riot police

I have also seen some of the protesters with guns too, but very very few with real guns, some are toys or air guns. But if they point them through the burning tyres and the smoke, at the police, that can look very real. It becomes confusing.

In the last three hours, I took some photos when some of the police came to the other side, defected to the protesters. That was a very strange atmosphere because they were so emotional, the protesters were applauding and there was one guy who was nearly crying.

Clouds of smoke billow over the barricades in Independence Square

I keep the window of my hotel open at night. It's on the square so I hope, when I go to sleep, that the noise will wake me up and then I run down with the camera. But half a mile or so away, Kiev is normal, people getting on with their lives. There is very little traffic around here though.

Last night I walked through the camp until half three in the morning and it is like a whole other world. The restaurants and bars around the square, they are makeshift hospitals, people stand around in white coats, sitting at the bar, having a drink after they helped someone who was injured. It's a kind of community, but very odd. These people don't know each other but they are very close. They really think they are going to win, they can feel it.

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