Report from field of battle that never took place

They have been waiting all night. Columns of tanks that «witnesses reported» to be moving towards the capital from the small town of Irpin, never appeared. Those tanks, just like personnel carriers which moved in column along one of the Kiev highways, were one of the many hoaxes — delicious bait that all reporters and cameramen bit when they went to wait on approaches to Kiev that damp, dark night.
In the first hour of waiting journalist and cameraman joked, drinking tea from their thermos flask and watching cars passing. But than the snow started melting, and nothing is worth than squelching of wet slush in the boots. On that night even those who quit smoking ten years ago started smoking again. It was the only thing to do: smoke and watch the road, listening to remote din that inexperienced ear could take for rumble of heavy chain tracks.
«Shoot! Shoot!» But the cameraman is already shooting the column of 40 buses entering the city. «Buses from the Eastern Ukraine packed with bandits» was another fashionable saying those days, although there weren’t any bandits at all. Criminals released from prisons were another urban legend, another sweet fear of reporters lugging their cameras to dark backyards, where, as «well-wishers» informed, released prisoners were preparing to attack peaceful demonstrators.
Nobody was thinking that a released prisoner would never stand to fulfill orders of official authorities. But the threat seemed real, and even those who did not believe it, could not break the main principle of journalism: a reporter must not be smarter than the newsmaker, venturing to give arbitrary interpreting of things he hasn’t seen with his own eyes.
On that night every reporter in the street felt like he was in Beirut of early 1980s.
Reporter and operator waited for tanks like one waits for a woman after long solitude: with sweet dismay and trembling feet.
He could wait for this meeting endlessly, though praying to God that tanks did not come (the prayer was homage to consciousness, which did not let him think about the tanks as desired object, while those damned tanks no doubt were desired, and he wished to film them more than anything in this world).
The tanks still hadn’t arrived, and war journalists turned to frozen journalists, and than simply to tired journalists. But they continued waiting for a prize they came there for: to shoot these cursed tanks, beginning from the first in the column, from the first turret appearing from the darkness, and than go on air and tell,
HOW they proceeded, heavy, slow, along wet dark road. Tell that they will be in the city in half an hour, if they continue moving at the speed of 60 kilometers per hour.
The reporter has already written this text in his mind, not seeing it, yet anticipating it. But a minute later he thought about the Independence Square and hundreds of thousands of people, with women and children among them. And than he prayed to god again that tanks did not come… And they did not come.

Ode to those who abandoned bridgehead

One week later the revolution took off its winter coat and moved to the parliamentary hall under the glass roof. The street was calm again. Cold and fatigue brought home former revolutionaries, who were ready to storm the Cabinet of Ministers, the Administration, president’s villa or a railway station only one week before. Kuchma did not get «decimation» like the most reactionary «orange» politicians threatened.
Revolutionaries are sent to winter quarters. The Ukrainian politicians returned from the cold winter to their habitual malarial climate of parliamentary debates.
Who was the first to hoist the white flag? The orange? The blue? Rhetoric of the opposition and euphoria of the crowd were replaced with shaky truce.
«How are things, guys?» I ask wardens of the tent city. «Good,» intellectual bespectacled young man from the Western Ukraine answers tersely. His «good» sounds like «go to hell!» I sit down by the bonfire, and we start chatting. He is frying bacon on fire and complains about promiscuity of Kiev girls.
Maybe that was Yulia Tymoshenko who offended him? The most charismatic and uncompromising of all opposition leaders, she promised to block roads and announced an ultimatum to Kuchma, giving him 24 hours to fulfill it.
These hours turned to days, weeks… however, none of the opposition’s ultimatums has been fulfilled. The opposition divided into several separate camps finally compromised.
«Will you stand?» I ask people surrounding the President’s Administration. They are fewer than in the first days of the resistance, but those who left are as resolute as they were in the beginning. Middle-aged man in quilted jacket has tired eyes, «We shall stand till the end.»
The revolution is over. Leaders of the people’s sympathies are shaking hands with election falsifiers whom they call criminals behind their backs.
The new president who took an oath in a burst of euphoria asks the old one who hasn’t abdicated his responsibilities to endorse resignation of the prime minister already dismissed by the parliament. The old president shrugs and grants a paid leave of absence to dismissed prime minister.
This reminds of a joke from the Soviet times, when Brezhnev shot at a pheasant on hunting, the bird flew on, and obsequious party cadre exclaimed, «It’s a miracle! Dead pheasant goes on flying!»
While dismissed prime minister who falsified election is preparing for the new round, old president appoints experienced and influential finance minister Mykola Azarov as acting prime minister.
He is Kuchma’s old ally, reliable and tested. The voice closely resembling that of Azarov is repeatedly heard on Major Melnychenko’s recordings. Judging from what this voice says, its owner is very loyal to the president and will not let anybody neglect Kuchma’s will. Azarov was the head of the Tax Administration when authorities destroyed objectionable Bank Slovyanskyi. What will Azarov do now, after he received enormous powers of acting prime minister?
Leonid Kuchma clings to power with all his might. This tired old man remains a real ruler of the country of Ukraine with 47 million people, and the opposition fighting with his numerous representatives cannot get to the head.
Exclamations «Down with Kuchma!» ceased. It is now fashionable in the opposition to congratulate each other with victory. But did it actually take place?
Yanukovych’s campaign headquarters squashes piles of oranges with bulldozers and depicts its leader as «new age» politician.
Yes, there were really no tanks in Kyiv, but unknown people armed with bats and hammers are beating Yushchenko supporters in Luhansk, and governors of the eastern regions still dream to separate from Ukraine.
Political activity moved to the Verkhovna Rada managed by former head of President Administration Volodymyr Lytvyn – smart, composed and self-confident.
This mediator between parliamentary demagogy and presidential oligarchy speaks in an intriguing tone.
«People!» he says, addressing the session hall. «Oh, sorry,» he corrects himself immediately, «Excuse me please… people’s deputies. I wanted to say «People’s deputies!» Lytvyn smiles to his accidental slip of tongue.
Representatives of the people whom the speaker addressed that moment like participants of the rally on the square are laughing back. The incident is forgotten immediately.
«And now a signal vote,» says the parliamentary speaker, «300 votes… we may proceed. I remind, package vote, vote for political reform, political reform…»
Having agreed for the negotiations, having voted for reduction of presidential powers and having abandoned blockage of the governmental buildings, the opposition became involved in lasting and long political struggle.
It seemed in the first days of orange movement that it was very easy to get power. It seemed, you could just cry, «It’s time!» and lead the columns to Bankova Street to the President Administration. Obviously, opposition leaders could easily excite rebellion, which would inexorably end in bloodshed, and quite possibly, immediate overthrowing of the old regime.
But now, when it’s obvious that the rebellion did not take place, influential politicians and journalists from Yushchenko camp started explaining why.
The main reason is not political weakness that Yushchenko’s overly «right» supporters accuse him of. It is all because their leader believes that it is not tanks that must make revolution. And because revolution has already taken place: in the minds of people, who refused to be subdued.

by Aleksei Bobrovnikov