Kiev Diary: 'This is a cheerful but very noisy revolution. Sleep is impossible'

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The Independent Online

Sunday 28 November: On my second day in Kiev I walk to Independence Square. Tens of thousands of people are still demonstrating against the election result. Others roam between the square and state buildings, trying to stay warm and joining blockades. The whole city seems to be on the move - I have never seen anything like this before.

Sunday 28 November: On my second day in Kiev I walk to Independence Square. Tens of thousands of people are still demonstrating against the election result. Others roam between the square and state buildings, trying to stay warm and joining blockades. The whole city seems to be on the move - I have never seen anything like this before.

The Writers' Union has opened its doors to the protesters. Volunteers are handing out plates of potatoes and bowls of soup to exhausted protesters - wearing orange armbands - who are slumped in chairs. Others are asleep on stairs. In a makeshift medical centre, tired doctors hand out medicine. The room is ringed with plastic bags stuffed with clothes and other donations brought in by people who want to help.

Eastern regions near the border with Russia, which support the ostensible winner, Victor Yanukovych - backed by the outgoing President, Leonid Kuchma - are threatening to secede. Everyone is talking about a separatist meeting under way in eastern Ukraine, at which Yanukovych is present. His wife, once a trolleybus driver, says that opposition supporters in Independence Square are so happy because they are being fed oranges imported from the US that are laced with hallucinatory drugs.

Monday: I am staying in a flat backing on to Independence Square. This is a cheerful but very noisy revolution, which makes it impossible to sleep, even with earplugs. An important Supreme Court session is broadcast on TV. The court has begun to deliberate opposition allegations of electoral abuse, and the street outside is packed with protesters, including some from the Yanukovych camp. Yushchenko supporters are trying to persuade them to switch sides. Cellphones are ringing everywhere and text messages flash in as demonstraters co-ordinate who should be where, when.

Tuesday: Kateryna Maksym has returned briefly to her office at the Kiev Mohyla Academy, the first university to strike over the election results. She is on the strike committee, and circulates through the camp set up by students on the main street.

Maksym says ordinary people fed up with corruption are finally taking a stand, and that one look at Yushchenko's face, covered in hideous blistery bumps, is enough to know something is wrong. "A lot of people believe [he] was poisoned," she said. "People were really shocked, and a lot of them were very angry."

We picked a lucky spot for dinner: during the main course the beautiful billionaire Yulia Tymoshenko swept into the restaurant, clad in her trademark orange jumper, a single braid of blonde hair wrapped halo-like around her head.

While Yushchenko is the distinguished future statesman, Yulia is the charismatic, dynamic member of the duo. It is fascinating to see her up close; on day nine of the revolution she still looks fresh and charged with energy as she meets a street leader. Earlier in the day the crowd, usually disciplined, restrained and sophisticated, tried to storm parliament.

Wednesday 1 December: Inside the tent city, Kiev Mohyla university students keep their feet warm by standing on sheets of styrofoam. Some prepare tea and pass around medicine and cough drops. They offer us sweets made in the factory owned by Petro Poroshenko.

One of the oligarchs who back Yushchenko and the orange revolution, Poroshenko owns the alternative Channel 5 TV station, a vital source of information. The students are tired, and some are ill.

Thursday: Kuchma flies to Moscow to meet the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Both reject opposition demands for a repeat of the second round of the elections. Many people are now returning to work, but continue protesting in the square during lunch breaks or after work.

Friday: In the evening the Supreme Court decision comes down in favour of the opposition: the run-off election will be repeated. The city erupts in a frenzy of celebration. On the way to Independence Square I pass a beaming man shouting: "There is a God!" More and more people flow into the square. Soon Yushchenko and his team arrive. Yushchenko tells his supporters that the judges are the real heroes, and that "from today Ukraine is a democratic country".

Saturday: Parliament still needs to adjust legislation to enable the election to take place. Yushchenko has urged supporters to go to parliament to demand the changes. The court ruling was a big victory, but there is still much to be done.

On the streets car horns are still honking and people are still singing the rap anthem of the revolution: "We are many, they will not defeat us."

Susan Viets, the first foreign correspondent accredited in Ukraine, reported from Kiev for 'The Independent on Sunday' between 1990 and 1992, and for the BBC from 1994 to 1996. This is her diary of her first trip back to the country since 1996

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