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Frustrated, frightened Ukrainians debate what U.S. must do

Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A woman walks from a barricaded entrance to Kiev's Maidan near a sign that reads: “Mr Putin, you can lie to your own people and humiliate my self-confidence, break my bones, and you can even kill me. However, you cannot take my freedom.”
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A woman walks from a barricaded entrance to Kiev's Maidan near a sign that reads: “Mr Putin, you can lie to your own people and humiliate my self-confidence, break my bones, and you can even kill me. However, you cannot take my freedom.”
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A cross hangs from a spot where bullets from a sniper still mark a light pole near Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A cross hangs from a spot where bullets from a sniper still mark a light pole near Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Artist Boris Yeghiazaryan stands near his work on exhibit in M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev. The exhibit 'The Flame of Love, Dedicated to the Maidan Artists' features work from artists who witnessed the dramatic events of this winter in Ukraine and created works from their experiences.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Artist Boris Yeghiazaryan stands near his work on exhibit in M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev.  The exhibit 'The Flame of Love, Dedicated to the Maidan Artists' features work from artists who witnessed the dramatic events of this winter in Ukraine and created works from their experiences.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Elizabeth Bielska, artistic director of M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev, says 'The Maidan was our war. The United States, Great Britain and Russia, they are the guardians of our borders.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Elizabeth Bielska, artistic director of M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev, says 'The Maidan was our war. The United States, Great Britain and Russia, they are the guardians of our borders.'
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A man with one of the self-defense units sleeps in his tent in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A man with one of the self-defense units sleeps in his tent in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A woman looks over a memorial at one of the blockaded entrances to Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A woman looks over a memorial at one of the blockaded entrances to Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A Ukranian man lights his pipe as he sits in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A Ukranian man lights his pipe as he sits in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, was a beautiful destination for tourists and now is a burnt-out remnant of what it once was.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, was a beautiful destination for tourists and now is a burnt-out remnant of what it once was.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A person stands near a piece on exhibit in M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev. The exhibit 'The Flame of Love, Dedicated to the Maidan Artists' features work from artists who witnessed the dramatic events of this winter in Ukraine and created works from their experiences.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A person stands near a piece on exhibit in M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev.  The exhibit 'The Flame of Love, Dedicated to the Maidan Artists' features work from artists who witnessed the dramatic events of this winter in Ukraine and created works from their experiences.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - People gather in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, as musicians sing traditional Ukrainian music on a stage. Many in the square are paying close attention to the situation in Crimea and fear what is to come for Ukraine.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>People gather in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, as musicians sing traditional Ukrainian music on a stage.  Many in the square are paying close attention to the situation in Crimea and fear what is to come for Ukraine.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A man with one of the self-defense units that protect Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, stands near a line of people waiting for food as night falls on the square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A man with one of the self-defense units that protect Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, stands near a line of people waiting for food as night falls on the square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Members of one of the self-defense units that protect Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, sit near a tent in the Maidan.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Members of one of the self-defense units that protect Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, sit near a tent in the Maidan.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - Vladuslav Bitkovskuy, 31, an archeologist by trade, now heads a small division of one of the Maidan's self-defense units. Bitkovskuy says he will continue to protect the Maidan until, 'the structure of power is strong, social services work, people who beat people and are responsible for killing and kidnapping are brought to court.'
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Vladuslav Bitkovskuy, 31, an archeologist by trade, now heads a small division of one of the Maidan's self-defense units.  Bitkovskuy says he will continue to protect the Maidan until, 'the structure of power is strong, social services work, people who beat people and are responsible for killing and kidnapping are brought to court.'
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A young girl stands near a piece on exhibit in M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev. The exhibit 'The Flame of Love, Dedicated to the Maidan Artists' features work from artists who witnessed the dramatic events of this winter in Ukraine and created works from their experiences.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A young girl stands near a piece on exhibit in M17 Contemporary Art Center in Kiev.  The exhibit 'The Flame of Love, Dedicated to the Maidan Artists' features work from artists who witnessed the dramatic events of this winter in Ukraine and created works from their experiences.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A single flower hangs from a shield as a memorial in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A single flower hangs from a shield as a memorial in Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A young girl stands near one of the memorials for a opposition protester killed in clashes near one of the entrances to Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A young girl stands near one of the memorials for a opposition protester killed in clashes near one of the entrances to Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A woman carries flowers as she looks over a memorial at one of the blockaded entrances to Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A woman carries flowers as she looks over a memorial at one of the blockaded entrances to Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review - A man with one of the self-defense units that protect Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, sits in his tent near a small fire to stay warm. Many in the square are paying close attention to the situation in Crimea and fear what is to come for Ukraine.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Justin Merriman  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>A man with one of the self-defense units that protect Kiev's Maidan, Independence Square, sits in his tent near a small fire to stay warm.  Many in the square are paying close attention to the situation in Crimea and fear what is to come for Ukraine.

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Betsy Hiel Photo Galleries

Tuesday, March 11, 2014, 7:09 p.m.
 

KIEV, Ukraine — In the Contemporary Art Center, 3-foot-tall pages of sheet music are set in barbed wire. Bullet holes form the notes for Mozart's “Requiem.”

This is art inspired by the 3½-month uprising in Kiev's Independence Square, known as the Maidan. Elizabeth Bielska, the center's artistic director, describes it as “the flame of love, dedicated to Maidan artists.”

Bielska, 26, worked in the protesters' kitchen, feeding “the guys who fought for our dignity.”

Now, many who fought in the streets to oust Victor Yanukovich as president are frustrated or frightened by Russia's subsequent occupation of Ukraine's Crimea region.

Much of the talk heard here is about what the United States must do.

“The Maidan was our war,” Bielska explained, but “the United States, Great Britain and Russia, they are the guardians of our borders.”

What she refers to — as many Ukrainians do — is the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. In it, Ukraine agreed to give up nuclear weapons left on its soil when the Soviet Union collapsed; in exchange, Russia, the United States and Britain promised not to use force against Ukraine.

That agreement obligates the West to reverse Russia's seizure of the Crimea, many here insist.

“Russia has not shown (the agreement) any respect, and the other two parties are pretending that they do respect it,” said Alexander Bogomolov, president of the Association of Middle East Studies in Ukraine and an expert on Crimea.

“If agreements like this are not upheld, what will happen to subsequent agreements?”

He believes that ignoring Ukraine's plight “undermines even the current U.S. policies toward Iran” and “stimulates other countries to acquire weapons,” because “if Ukraine had not gone for disarmament … if it had a tiny nuclear weapon, this situation would be totally different.”

Russia tightened its grip on Tuesday. It banned all flights into Crimea's capital, Semferopol, that do not originate in Moscow.

The Russia-leaning Crimean parliament voted to declare independence from Ukraine, if a public referendum endorses that position, and then apply to join the Russian Federation.

In response, Ukraine's parliament threatened to dissolve the Crimean assembly unless it cancels the Sunday referendum.

Meanwhile, Yanukovich, who fled to Moscow as street battles unhinged his regime, dismissed Ukraine's interim government as “a gang of fascists” and promised to return to power.

That seems unlikely. His attempt to ally Ukraine with Russia, instead of the European Union and the West, prompted the protests that led to his downfall.

In Kiev, retired army Gen. Mykola Malomuzh, who headed Ukraine's external intelligence service from 2005 to 2010, said Yanukovich should be tried in Kiev for “crimes against humanity.”

“Yanukovich is no more than a puppet of the Russian government,” he said.

Malomuzh said he wished the Budapest Memorandum's terms were more clearly defined to guarantee Western assistance.

Boris Yeghiazaryan, a painter who joined the Maidan protests, believes Russia's occupation of Crimea directly challenges the West, and other Baltic nations “fear the same could happen to them.”

He wants “strong sanctions” imposed on Russian President Vladimir Putin “and his oligarchs. ... If you very quickly target Putin's inner circle, they will fall together.”

But Bogomolov, the Crimea expert, believes sanctions alone won't deter Putin from trying “to change the regime in Kiev ... and make Ukraine subordinate to Moscow.”

The “easiest and cheapest way” to force Russia to back down, he said, “is for the United States to take a serious position on the issue, which will include a military deployment.”

“This really doesn't call for boots on the ground,” he said. “It would be quite sufficient to have a U.S. Navy presence in the area … that would be enough to project power.”

Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent. Email her at bhiel@tribweb.com.

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