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Lockdown and vaccination opponents protest in Kyiv amid COVID-19 surge.

Editor’s Note

Roughly 2,000 people in Kyiv protested new lockdown rules on 3 November. Amid a COVID-19 surge, the government has restricted entrances to cafes, trade centers and transport for unvaccinated individuals without a PCR test, saying it will help to counter a new wave of COVID-19 in Ukraine and foster vaccination.

Participants said the new policy is contrary to the Constitution and Ukrainian laws, seeds a deep split in society and is a potential window of opportunity for Moscow. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to register record COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Where we are now?

According to official data, Ukraine remains the least vaccinated country in Europe and also sees the highest peak of COVID-19 cases and deaths right now.

Source: ourworldindata

Source: ourworldindata In comparison to 3.5 times higher vaccinated states, Ukraine faces considerably more covid-related deaths per 1 million of population albeit United Kingdom still faces more new cases per 1 million

According to the latest survey, 54% of unvaccinated Ukrainians or about 40% of all Ukrainians don’t want to take the jab (down from 56% in September). At the same time, all pro-western and presidential political parties such as European Solidarity, Voice and Servant of the People advocated for vaccination, accepted governmental restrictions for unvaccinated, as did the majority of Ukrainian most popular patriotic NGOs and Facebook opinion leaders.

None of them took into account the opinion of the vaccine-hesitant part of society which, however, was considered by pro-Russian party the Oppositional platform.

According to the latest survey, the support for presidential Servant of the People party fell down dramatically but pro-Russian Oppositional Platform rose to the second place for the first time ever.

Two main movements that organized the protest, opinions of the participants

However, the rally in Kyiv on Wednesday gathered not only supporters of pro-Russian agenda, who were there but did not constitute a majority. The protest gathered a very diverse audience — both Ukrainian and Russian speakers, young Ukrainian activists and orthodox believers of the Moscow Patriarchate, nationalists and supporters of Oppositional Platform — people who could probably never gather together on any other occasion.

People’s motivation not to get the jab and participate in the rally also differs. People say that vaccines were not sufficiently tested or that potential risks for their age group related to vaccination side effects are higher than the risk to die from covid. They also claimed that other countries, such as the UK, have vaccinated people still contract COVID-19 and die from the disease.

While it is true that vaccinated individuals contract COVID-19, a recent bulletin from the UK’s state statistics office revealed that those vaccinated with two doses are 32 times less likely to die than unvaccinated individuals, calculated by the age-standardized mortality rate.

Some also said that they generally prefer methods alternative to vaccines to be healthy, such as sports, religious practices, and healthy eating. Supporters of various sorts of conspiracy theories were also present, saying about the danger of 5G or the intention of governments to control people by data from microchips.

Photo by Serhiy Danyliuk

There are two main movements that participated in the rally. The first one unites supporters of court hearings initiated by Odesa lawyer Oleksander Humirov, who claims quarantine restrictions are unconstitutional. The other is Human Rights movement by Lviv musician and activist Ostap Stakhiv. They mostly communicate with their supporters via Telegram after multiple bans by Facebook.

At least 20 other lawyers, bloggers and activists also supported the movement and some of them talked from the stage. Two of them were spotted earlier expressing pro-Russian views, i.e. saying that Ukrainians and Russians are one people, but the majority including organizers openly acknowledged a pro-Ukrainian position on Crimea and Donbas. However, organizers encouraged “everyone regardless of language, political or other differences to unite for the re-establishment of Constitutional order.”

Supporters of lawyer Humirov headed to the Office of the President and handed in their demands.

“ We will not accept discrimination, segregation, forced medicine and other nonsense that are allegedly committed for our health and safety,” Humirov stated, announcing an online collection of signatures of those opposing quarantine measures.

He has initiated two lawsuits that are currently considered in courts. The first claims that some quarantine restrictions are illegal, and the second case claims that COVID-19 was illegally classified as a particularly dangerous disease because it does not meet the criteria established by law.

Another prominent leader of the movement, Lviv musician and activist Ostap Stakhiv, moderated a rally in front of Parliament. During this rally primarily bloggers spoke against discrimination, censorship, “corrupt media,” and “government fulfilling what transnational corporations and pharm-industries say,” against “social genocide” imposed by restrictions for unvaccinated individuals. They announced that if the government does not abandons the policy of “segregation,” they will organize people in each Ukrainian town to protect their rights and “reestablish Constitutional order.”

Governmental response

Ukraine’s minister of Health Viktor Liahsko commented about the protest:

“In my opinion, this is a mockery of our doctors and families who have lost their loved ones. Believe me, in resuscitation department, this anti-vaccination spirit quickly disappears.”

He has also reminded that currently Ukraine sees the record COVID-19 death toll with 700 people dying every day. On 4 of September Ukraine recorded the record number of 27377 new COVID-19 cases.

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