The massive pro-European protests in Ukraine's capital have all the makings of a picture-perfect revolution: a square filled to the brim with demonstrators around the clock, a toppled statue of a former dictator, and riot police shields adorned with flowers provided by protesters.
Thousands of Ukrainians are demonstrating a decision by President Viktor Yanukovych to forgo an association agreement with the European Union in favor of maintaining closer ties with Russia, the country's powerful neighbor. On Sunday, somewhere from 100,000 to 300,000 protesters gathered in Kiev's Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti), which has inspired the hugely popular eponymous hashtag #Euromaidan. It was the largest rally the country has seen since the Orange Revolution in 2004 when the opposition succeeded in contesting a rigged election and ousted the pro-Russian government.
Protesters have now made use of Ukraine's shared national colors -- yellow and blue -- with those of the European Union's flag to create a conveniently nationalistic visual language for a pro-Western protest. Ukrainian women, wearing traditional outfits and sheepskin coats, handed out flowers and warm tea this weekend to the police forces assigned to prevent protesters from entering government buildings. All in all, the protesters look to be winning the media war, especially after they installed a blue and yellow piano in front of a tight riot police cordon where protesters took turns at the keyboard. The image served as a powerful contrast to scenes of a violent police crackdown that marked coverage of the protests last week. Twitter and Facebook exploded. "These gestures are calculated for their media effect -- not that it's bad," Tomasz Bielecki the correspondent for the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza in Kiev told Foreign Policy. They're trying to say "we are not looking for confrontation."
But behind images that seem almost tailor-made for Instagram (including a selfie from opposition leader Vitali Klitschko in front of riot police), the political situation remains unclear, if not utterly disquieting. On Monday, the government increased the number of riot squads in the capital, with protesters fearing a showdown.