The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

People haven’t left Kiev’s Maidan. Here’s what it looks and feels like now.

A man prays in Independence Square on Wednesday. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

KIEV -- In Ukraine, attention has shifted to the peninsular region of Crimea from Kiev and its Independence Square, home to the opposition's biggest, longest-lasting protest. The square was such a source of power that when the interim government picked its leaders, it brought the nominations there to get the crowd's approval. A new government is in place, but people are still in the square, also known as Maidan.

There is not so much a feeling of victory here as one of lingering anxiety and grief mixed with cautious hope, a sense of a battle won in an amorphous war for change. The hypnotic chanting of black-robed Orthodox clerics filled the square on one morning this week. Pictures of the fallen were tacked onto impromptu shrines. One young father, hand in hand with his small daughter, walked past the heaped barricades and tents where dozens fell, both of their faces streaked with tears.

For the site of a revolution, there remains a powerful sense of an unrequited triumph here. Though ousted president Viktor Yanukovych has taken flight, those who died are being honored as martyrs to a cause viewed as very much unfinished.

Some of those who remain in the Maidan, or Independence Square, are expressing a measure of skepticism even about the pro-Western government now in power. They want an entirely new political class, none of the old names they've heard. And a sense of fear remains over the bear their actions have stirred: Russia, now threatening to absorb Crimea. Will it stop there?

Among those still holed up in tents sprawling across a quarter-mile parcel of central Kiev near Independence Square are die-hard Ukrainian nationalists from the "Right Sector." Donning camouflage, trademark black and red flags, and, occasionally, black balaclavas to hide their faces, they are manning blockades and virtually in control of this part of town.

This is the narrow segment of those here who brush up against Russian President Vladimir Putin's stereotype of these protesters as far-right anti-Russians. Many of them decline to speak to the press. But one, Valentin, a 21-year-old who declined to give his last name, had choice words for Putin and pro-Russian Crimeans.

“We will get Crimea back in whatever way we need to,” he vowed. “And if there are those in Crimea who want to part of Russia, there is a simple answer. Take your things, board a train, and go live in Russia. This is still Ukraine.”

(Here's what the square looked like in December and on Feb. 19.)

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