"EMPTY WITH A WHIFF OF BLOOD & FUMES"
Empty With a Whiff of Blood and Fumes" is a headline borrowed from a local newspaper that ran the day after the first casualty of the 2014 Maidan Revolution was recorded.
Around 2012, state officials began to systematically assault Ukrainian activists, journalists and members of parliament opposed to the then-President, Victor Yanukovych. Each of the attacks directly succeeded the activists’ political protests or their attempts to resist the hijacking of city landmarks by businessmen close to President Yanukovich’s party.
After the collapse of Soviet Union, Ukraine experienced a period of relative freedom of the press. The degree of press freedom varied from one administration to another, and is generally considered to have peaked during the administration of Yulia Tymoshenko. However, a majority of Ukrainian magazines and electronic media remained financially dependent on oligarchs, and, while journalists were never directly told what to write and what not to write, each media outfit had a monitoring unit, usually of the political faction with which it was affiliated. The monitoring unit processed all media on a weekly basis, creating a detailed spreadsheet of political publications to make sure the outlet was fulfilling its quota of favourable or neutral articles.
On 22 February 2014, two days after the flight of the ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, a large cache of state documents was discovered floating in the lake inside his private residency in Mezhgorye. The recovered documents offered in-depth accounts information from at least ten large Ukrainian companies. At the same time, employees of “Arena City” - a business centre formerly owned by Sergei Kurchenko, a famed Ukrainian oligarch with close ties to the Yanukovych family - attempted to dispose of forty-five large garbage bags of shredded documents. The contents of the documents varied ranging from correspondences with high-ranking officials and transaction details to photographs of desired and purchased properties, services, and luxury items.
Hundreds of people immediately volunteered to help salvage the findings. While most of the shreds will remain a puzzle, they serve as a historic and cultural evidence of both an irrational faith in the rule of law, and an attempt to reclaim agency.
In the spring of 2015, Petro Poroshenko was democratically elected as Ukraine’s new president. Poroshenko’s assets are estimated to be US$ 1.6 billion.