A few decades ago, they were sent abroad to fulfill an “internationalist” duty. Today, Afghan war veterans in Ukraine are answering a domestic call, and are playing a prominent role in keeping the Maidan movement going in Kiev.
Anti-government protesters, representing a wide variety of views, have occupied central Maidan Square for almost a month. What started out as a demonstration against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a European Union Association Agreement has morphed into a struggle for Ukraine’s geopolitical soul, with the stakes for Yanukovych’s own political future seeming to rise by the day. The Ukrainian president’s December 17 trip to Moscow, and the announced $15-billion Russian bailout package for Kiev, has done little to take the edge off the Maidan protest.
On any given day, hundreds of Afghan vets can be found on Maidan Square, infusing the mélange of protesters with an element of cohesion. The organizational structure that is now in place came together spontaneously.
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Jacob Balzani Lööv is a freelance photographer/writer currently on assignment in Kiev for TRANSTERRA Media, a EurasiaNet.org partner.