One half is bright and clean, the other a flaming wreck of char and chaos. Three months after the Ukrainian uprising began in November, Kiev's somewhat ironically named 'Independence Square' is barely recognisable; a harrowing reminder of the rapidly deteriorating political conflict. After their bloodiest day to date yesterday - with the health ministry confirming at least 77 people dead and another 577 injured - an EU-mediated peace deal was signed between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition, opening the way for an early election this year. In the mean time, the death toll continues to rise.
The uprising began in November, after the people of Ukraine set to the streets to oppose President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject the EU’s offer of association and trade in favour of closer ties with its neighbour, Russia. But when, in January, Yanukovych approved anti-protest laws he sparked a second uprising - the protesters, unhappy with being denied their free speech, rebelled. On Wednesday, a truce between the sides was broken. Violence tore through the streets of Kiev, with hotel lobbies being used as makeshift hospitals, the floor lined with bodies.
Ukraine Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been out on the streets of Kiev helping casualties since the beginning of the dispute. “This week things have got worse,” Victor Sherbanyuk, a Red Cross worker in the Ukraine, told Grazia yesterday. “Before, there were many injuries from guns with rubber bullets. Now, people are using metal bullets. It is much worse.”
The Red Cross are providing first aid, ambulances and manning first aid points. But it hasn’t been easy - even the workers themselves are finding themselves under attack, despite wearing their Red Cross emblems which are protected under international law. First aid stations being attacked is becoming common - and, frighteningly, one medic was shot in the leg in a separate incident.
“They are attacking us too,” continued Victor. “But we are still trying to help them as much as we can. Many we see refuse to go to hospital - they are scared or they don’t have the money. Around twenty per cent of the protesters are students, school children. It is dangerous. This conflict needs to end.”
For now, peace may resume. For how long, it's not clear yet.