“Kharkiv: The City I Got Wrong”

The anti-Maidan and pro-Russian sentiments we hoped to capture on camera proved to be so difficult to find that we had to go to a pro-federalization (which is code for separatism, illegal under Ukrainian law) rally in order to find them. The rally was attended by at most a dozen people and led by a middle-aged man that answered questions from the press. His answers were prepared and practically gleaned from Russian television, but when we approached some of the other people at the rally they had different and sometimes contradictory ideas about why they were standing there. Some claimed that they wanted Kharkiv to be an independent state, others advocated federalization, yet others even expressed a desire to join Russia.

Locals told us that in the weeks following the overthrow of the Yanukovych regime the pro-Russian forces in Kharkiv were quite active, with violent mobs of locals and “tourists” from Russia marching around the city and attacking random people whom they suspected of supporting the new government. Two people died as a result of such attacks, but police presence has since been increased and the violence has subsided.