Spectacular images of riots and clashes in the streets of the Ukrainian capital Kiev have made the rounds of newspapers and social media in the past weeks. A new video by Max Zabolotnyi, however, shows a completely different side of the protests.
In the 3-minute compilation, Zabolotnyi gives viewers a glimpse into the world of Kiev's demonstrations and barricades, highlighting the sense of camaraderie and community among the protesters. The film was shot over a 3-day span in mid-December at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Nezalezhnosti Square, in the heart of the city.
"I want them to see their friend, mother, sister, grandpa, and neighbors in these faces," Zabolotnyi told The Huffington Post. "[I want them to] understand the diversity of protesters, and probably start changing their mind. For the Maidan-loyal people, it's another chance to feel support that they are not alone."
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators have taken to Kiev's streets since last November to protests against Ukrainian President Yanukovich's decision to scrap a trade deal with the European Union in favor of stronger ties with Russia and the former Soviet states. While the "Euromaidan" protesters initially urged Yanukovich to reverse the decision, they are now calling for his resignation.
According to Zabolotnyi, who currently works in Kiev as a visual effects artist, the way the protests are framed and analyzed in the media varies starkly from place to place, even within Ukraine itself.
"On the south and east of Ukraine so many people don't get clear information about what's going on in Kiev," Zabolotnyi said. "TV gives them completely different pictures."
He continued: "Historically, those regions are more loyal to the current authorities, and they couldn't be compared culturally to the capital -- like any smaller towns to any country's capital. That's probably why they are more likely to be receptive to official propaganda."
Zabolotnyi acknowledged that the violence and riots are part of the situation in downtown Kiev. But he insists the majority of the protesters are not "vagabonds, people without a job or losers."
During the filming, Zabolotnyi did his best to keep politics out of the video.
"First of all, I didn't want it to be a commercial to any of the political forces," he said. "I was also being cautious showing actual people's faces -- even though they're peaceful protesters -- because of the possible problems for these people."
Zabolotnyi added that he hopes his fears of government retaliation are superfluous.
Ukrainian president Yanukovich announced on Thursday that he is taking sick leave for a respiratory illness. The Associated Press notes that the news leaves it unclear whether the president will further be involved in efforts to settle the political crisis. Late on Wednesday, the opposition rejected a government proposal that promised amnesty for arrested demonstrators if the protesters remaining in Kiev's streets would vacate the barricades.