Kiev’s Euromaidan protesters began 2014 the same way they ended 2013: by rioting in the streets in an attempt to bring down their government. Key victories have already been won, with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigning. The demonstrators also forced the annulment of a new anti-protest law that was, ironically, the cause of much of their protesting.
The protesters haven’t been contented by this. They are still out in the streets, demanding the head of President Viktor Yanukovych and the staging of fresh elections. What began as a protest against the Ukrainian government’s close ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin has become a focus for wider discontent. However, Yanukovych seems in no mood to relinquish his power. As the social unrest spreads across the country, its first post-Soviet President, Leonid Kravchuk, has gone as far as to warn that Ukraine is on the brink of civil war. Dozens of people have lost their lives in just the last two days of violence.
At the end of January, VICE flew to Kiev as rioters hurled Molotov cocktails at police and the city turned into a battlefield.
For three weeks, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian protesters have been flooding the streets of Kiev, occupying government buildings and taking over the city’s Independence Square. Initially, the demonstrators were expressing discontent at President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to pull out of a deal that would bring Ukraine closer to joining the European Union.
After an initial brutal police crackdown, the protests have grown in size and are now more about toppling the government and putting an end to corruption than joining the EU. The police have tried and failed to clear the tent city that has sprung up in the Independence Square—also known as the Maidan—and the occupied city hall that has been dubbed the “Revolution HQ.” Protesters remain in the streets, despite the below zero temperatures.
Police Tried and Failed to Clear Kiev’s Independence Square
Following Sunday’s massive rally in Kiev’s Independence Square, the pro-EU, anti-Russia protesters were bracing for a police crackdown. At lunchtime on Monday, that looked likely—there were alerts that the cops had surrounded the square and were about to strike.
However, it wasn’t immediately as bad as all that. The police didn’t stop anyone wandering through their barricades, and volunteers actually positioned themselves in front of the police to block any potential provocateurs who might have been looking to start trouble. Priests in long black robes also stood at the entrances in an attempt to diffuse the tension.
"Today will be decisive," declared a speaker on the stage, as opposition leaders urged those Ukrainians who are unhappy at their government’s reluctance to move towards full EU membership to flock to the Maidan (the common name for the square).
Ireland Must Act to Combat Its Growing Heroin Problem
In the early 1980s, a man named Tony “King Scum" Felloni began importing large quantities of heroin into the Republic of Ireland. The drug quickly began to work its way into daily life in Dublin’s working-class areas, and thanks to its relatively addictive nature it has remained wildly popular. Take a walk down certain streets in Dublin and you’ll get a pretty good indicator of its prevalence in the capital.
Unfortunately, the government’s plans for treating heroin addiction nowadays appear to be much the same as they were in the 80s: almost nonexistent. The government at the time paid very little attention to the problem, and—despite the implementation of new, progressive harm reduction laws in other European countries—Ireland’s attitudes are still very much lingering in the decade of fax machines and Billy Idol.
According to the 2012 annual report by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, Ireland has the highest number of heroin users per capita in Europe. They claim that seven people in every thousand are addicted to the drug, which translates to roughly 30,000 Irish citizens. Worryingly, Ireland also has the third highest death rate from drug use in Europe, behind only Norway and Estonia. The EU average is 21 deaths per million people; for Ireland, it’s 68 per million.
Corsicans Are Using Bombs to Protest Their Island Paradise
If you’ve never been to Corsica, you really should. The island, which lies just off the Italian coast, is one of the most beautiful places in the world; it’s covered in snowy mountains, picturesque little towns, and luxurious golden beaches. In certain months, you can ski in the morning and sunbathe in the afternoon; it really is paradise (if combining sunburn and heavy nylon jackets is your idea of paradise). However, perhaps its strongest sell is that it is, officially, the murder capital of Europe.
Last year, I went to Corsica to explore the island’s historical predilection for violence. A week before I touched down in Napoleon Bonaparte airport, two prominent Corsicans—a lawyer named Antoine Sollacaro and Jacques Nasser, head of the chamber of commerce—had been shot dead. I was there to try to figure out who did it (and to make a film about trying to figure out who did it). Murder isn’t shocking in Corsica; there have been more than 110 murders since 2008, the majority of them Mafia-style hits. “At the beginning of the week, we think, It’s strange; we haven’t had a killing yet," Gilles Millet, a local journalist, told me. "This society is soaked in death. You call someone to do something and they say, ‘I can’t. I have a funeral to go to.’ Death is part of [daily] life here."
I asked Gilles who he thought was responsible for the deaths of Sollacaro and Nasser. “Normally everyone knows who’s done the killings, but with Sollacaro and Nasser, we don’t know,” he answered. “Despite everybody usually knowing who did it, there have only been four prosecutions since 2008—out of more than 110 murders. There’s a culture of silence here. Nobody talks, partly out of fear, partly because it’s just not the done thing.”
Italy’s Largest Immigrant Ghetto Is Incredibly Bleak
The colored neon lights and the music pumping from the speakers rip through the silence of the countryside near Foggia, in the region of Apulia, southern Italy. I should be in the middle of nowhere but there’s actually quite a lot of traffic here: cars, motorbikes, and people coming and going. It’s around 10 PM and after almost two hours wandering in the roads around Foggia I find myself in front of what the locals call “The Big Ghetto,” or more simply the Rignano Ghetto.
The “ghetto” was spontaneously formed more than 15 years ago, after the evacuation of an abandoned sugar mill, which had served as accommodation for foreign men working in Foggia’s “slavery triangle.” Exploitation of migrants in agriculture is not particular to Apulia—it is common all over Italy, especially in the south. A 2012 report by the Flai Cgil (the Italian General Confederation of Labor’s affiliated Agro-industrial Workers’ Union), said that 700,000 regular and irregular pickers work in the fields and about 400,000 of them are recruited irregularly for very low wages.
Over the last decade the Rignano “village” has expanded. The demography of the ghetto changes depending on the season and the demand for work in the tomato fields. During winter it hosts around 200 immigrants (mainly coming from French-speaking African countries), while during summer the population rises to 800. Some of its inhabitants arrived in Italy by plane 20 years ago, while those who arrived recently had to cross the desert and pay thousands of dollars to travel in rickety fishing boats across the Mediterranean, hoping they wouldn’t lose their lives like those inLampedusa recently.
Once they succeed in crossing the Mediterranean, day laborers in southern fields are forced to camp out in abandoned factories, with no money and a daily dose of violence from landowners who make enormous profits out of their work. The work conditions border on the Medieval.
No One Wants a Nazi Body Except These Shady Catholics
On October 11, Nazi war criminal Erich Priebke died. He was 100 years old and had been under a very lax state of house arrest at his lawyer’s apartment in Rome, serving out the final days of the life sentence he was given for orchestrating and conducting the Fosse Ardeatine massacre on March 24, 1944.
The ex-SS captain never expressed any kind of remorse for the 335 civilians and soldiers who were killed that day, always maintaining that he’d simply been following orders. Even in his “testament”—a seven-page message released by his lawyer last week—Priebke denied both the Holocaust and the Nazi gas chambers, claiming they were just “very big kitchens.”
While remarks like these have turned him into a kind of spirit animal for fascism fetishists and Nazi nostalgists, unsurprisingly Priebke remains widely despised. Argentina, where he lived for 50 years after the war, wouldn’t allow Priebke’s body to be returned to the country to be buried alongside his wife, and his German hometown of Hennigsdorf also shunnedhis corpse, fearing his grave would become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.
The Swedish Police Are Keeping Tabs on Roma Immigrants
Yesterday, it was announced that the Swedish police keeps a registry that contains detailed information about 4,029 people of Roma descent. According to the newspaperDagens Nyheter, more than half of the people on the registry have no criminal record, and there were 1,000 children on the list who are too young to have even committed a crime—some as young as two years old. All of which would seem to imply that when the Swedish police were compiling the list, they were creating a small but perfectly lazy and borderline-racist monitoring network.
Lawyers told the Dagens Nyheter that the database breaks several laws, including the European Convention on Human Rights, police data laws, and the law against general police surveillance registries. Anna Troberg, leader of the Swedish Pirate Party, was quick to express her outrage, tweeting: “I wake up to the news of the police cataloguing Romani. This makes me enraged to all fucking hell.”
A few hours after the registry’s existence was reported, demonstrators took to the streets to give the police a piece of their mind. I ventured out to see what they had to say.
More than 200 infuriated human rights activists, anti-racists, and concerned citizens turned up at a public square in Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city. As often happens at protests, angry speeches were made. One person took to the mic to remind the crowd that, “this was how the Holocaust started,” which seemed somehow both a bit rash and actually quite accurate.
Greek Neo-Nazi Beach Party!
The Golden Dawn is a steel truncheon crunching the bones of the European Project. In the lifetimes of the generation who fought in the Second World War, mainstream Nazis have returned to the continent. To openly read the anti-Semite blood libels The Protocols of the Elders of Zionin the Greek Parliament. To suppress entire towns beneath their thumb as vigilante social “cleansers.” To increasingly hold the balance of power in an increasingly unbalanced state. And, to party.
That’s right, just because you spend your spare time whipping Egyptian taxi drivers with a bike chain doesn’t mean you don’t need to blow off a little steam every now and then. Which is how, every year, the Golden Dawn hardcore end up in Crete, having a racially-pure away-day, where they pretend to be Spartans. Spartans in Crete. A bit weird, but historical anachronism is not something they can spell, much less avoid. The basic idea is simply to have a bonding sesh, get all Judd Apatow and express their man-feelings with one another.
Watch Episode 4 of VICE on HBO Now, for Free
Our Emmy-nominated HBO show recently wrapped up its first season, and complaint numero uno that we got throughout its run was: “I reaaaalllyyy want to watch your show, but I don’t have HBO.” Well, your cries have been heard. Yesterday we released the first episode on VICE.com, and today, right here on the page you’re on right now, we’re airing the fourth episode. Next Monday and Tuesday we’ll release episodes nine and ten, respectively.
In epsiode four of VICE, Thomas Morton investigates China’s dating customs, where old-fashioned courtship has been replaced by lucrative matchmaking businesses, and Shane Smith travels to Greece and Spain to see how the youth are responding to Europe’s crippling financial crisis.