The Heavens Are Home to More than One Hundred

In the fall of 2013, students took to the Maidan (Independence Square) in Kyiv in protest. Their complaint was with then-President Viktor Yanukovych, who had reneged on his pledge to sign the EU’s Association Agreement with Ukraine and was instead negotiating with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Euromaidan was underway. Additional protesters streamed into the streets, pitched tents, and expanded the demonstration into a national protest against engrained government corruption.

As 2013 passed into 2014, the protests continued to grow; eventually, the embattled Yanukovych regime resorted to bloodshed in its effort to assert control and silence the protests. Those murdered by the regime before it fled Ukraine have been remembered as the Heavenly Hundred: peaceful protestors who died demanding the end of corruption and insisting that their government adopt the standards its politicians had been promising since independence more than two decades before.

The third anniversary of the murders on the Maidan is February 20, but it is a disservice to those who died and to the people of Ukraine to think of the Heavenly Hundred as a defined historical group of patriots. The fight of the Maidan has never ended; thousands of lives have been lost since then, and more die each week.

Unsuccessful in propping up the Yanukovych regime and appalled by the former president’s flight to Russia, Putin nevertheless had no intention of allowing a democratic and free Ukraine to develop on Russia’s southern border. After all, such a thing might give the people of Russia ideas of their own.

In response, Putin’s troops seized Ukraine’s Crimea while a somnambulant West watched largely in silence, and then invaded eastern Ukraine. For nearly three years, Putin has waged war on Ukraine and the body count keeps rising. More than 10,000 Ukrainians have died and thousands more have been wounded, while more than 1.5 million have been displaced.

Indeed, less than twelve hours after US President Donald Trump’s telephone call with Putin on January 28, Russia launched a major assault in Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine. A second major attack on the city began less than twenty-four hours after that. Within two days of Trump’s overture, fifty-one more individuals had been killed or wounded in Avdiivka.

The Heavenly Hundred has grown by one hundredfold as the people of Ukraine again and again demonstrate that they want a Western country and a free country—a country worthy of those who have died and who are currently dying for Ukrainian liberty.

On this anniversary, we must remember not only the Heavenly Hundred but the “Heavenly Hundred Times One Hundred”—all of the brave fighters who have died defending Ukraine’s freedom. And we must continue to staunchly support the people of Ukraine as they man the front lines against Russia’s bloody assault on Ukraine, freedom, and the established international order.

Robert McConnell, cofounder of the US-Ukraine Foundation, served as assistant attorney general during the Reagan administration.

Image: A demonstrator places flowers at the monument of the Heavenly Hundred, the anti-government protesters killed during the Ukrainian pro-European Union (EU) mass protests in 2014, during a rally commemorating the third anniversary of protests, in central Kyiv, Ukraine February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko