Europe

Ukrainian society: Fractured and fearing for the future

People standing at a memorial covered in flowers in Independence Square Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Memorials have sprung up around the site of the Kiev's violent confrontations

Kiev's Independence Square has been turned into a giant memorial complex.

Dozens of impromptu shrines to dead anti-government activists are scattered around the movement's camp and its barricades.

Sunday was a day of mourning and people poured into the square. At the shrines, piles of flowers became mountains and the candles became a glowing sea.

After the previous day's jubilation at the flight of Viktor Yanukovych, the reality of what happened finally seemed to be sinking in.

People stood silently in front of the shrines with stunned expressions, as if the incomprehension and grief was too great to process.

Ukraine at the moment is like a bone with a small fracture - many small fractures in fact. Support and attention could help them heal, maybe even make the body grow stronger. But added pressure could make them rupture even further.

Different agendas

The issue is whether the new government is capable of starting that healing process. Vitaly Klitschko, a boxer turned politician, recognised the urgency of the situation. "We do not have much time," he said.

At the moment, opposition leaders are speaking with one voice. But this may be only temporary.

Their different political agendas and ambitions may emerge now that the unifying goal of deposing Mr Yanukovych has been achieved.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dressed for battle but carrying a flower, it is hard to predict which direction the country will go in
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Standing firm, supporters of the deposed president try to prevent celebrations by his opponents in Donetsk
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Once the iron fist of the president, police in Donetsk are now cast in the role of diplomats as they try to prevent clashes between supporters and opponents of Mr Yanukovych
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In Sevastopol, home of Russia's Black Sea fleet, thousands of people turned out to oppose the new government

And then there is the matter of Ms Tymoshenko.

As her dramatic speech in Independence Square on Saturday night demonstrated, the last two and half years of incarceration have not diminished her rhetorical power.

She remains a formidable politician and operator. If she is determined to, she will undoubtedly become a major force in Ukraine once again.

But she is also a divisive, and ultimately disruptive, figure. For many on the Maidan she also represents much of what is wrong with Ukraine's political class as a whole - filled more with more ambition than imagination, ability or honesty.

Cautious Kremlin

Much speculation has been devoted to whether or not there is an East-West split in Ukraine. There is. Even if separatism is not an immediate threat - and this remains to be seen - the east and south have their own economic and cultural concerns, which have contributed to Ukraine's long-standing political dysfunction.

It should be remembered that many in the industrial east echoed Mr Yanukovych's concerns over the possible economic consequences of the planned association agreement with the European Union.

Although his popularity has waned amongst traditional supporters, that does not mean they necessarily back the people that were - until Saturday - the opposition, or their new administration.

Already there have been demonstrations against the incoming government. In Sevastopol in Crimea on Saturday thousands of people waved placards calling for "Mother Russia" to save them.

Many in the east and south greatly distrust the Euromaidan movement and its leaders. Even if they acquiesce for now, that does not mean they will continue to do so in the months to come.

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Image caption Protesters in Sevastopol hold up a sign reading "Russia, we are your abandoned children, we ask you to help in our fight against fascism".
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It remains to be seen whether these symbols of national unity in Kiev, will win over their opponents elsewhere

But right now, Ukrainians are waiting to see what the next move will be of two people in particular - Viktor Yanukovych and Vladimir Putin.

Mr Yanukovych says that he is still the country's president, but he has still not spelt out what he is prepared to do to assert this. It is not even clear where he is.

Officials around Mr Putin have expressed their disquiet at what has happened in Ukraine, but so far have not said what they will do.

Kremlin officials have indicated they might delay an economically vital $2 billion loan to Ukraine, pending "what the position of the new government will be." But, at the same time, they floated the possibility of an IMF bailout as a replacement.

The carrots, and especially sticks, that Moscow has at its disposal are many. If Russian officials choose to, they could easily add to the pressure on Ukraine's already dangerously fractured society.

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