Lviv’s mayor Andriy Sadovyy took matters into his own hands after his city experienced protests and riots similar to those in Ukraine’s capital Kiev. He declared Lviv autonomous from the government when the violence escalated in Kiev.
“The only boss I report to is the local community, ” Mr. Sadovyy said in an interview inside the town hall building, at the cobblestoned centre of this city that has the most European look and feel of any in Ukraine.
“We are a free city, we have a free people. We have respect for the constitution of Ukraine. We live in freedom and we want the rest of Ukraine to be free.”
After the announcement, the police force ran away. The residents started to riot and loot the city, but Sadovyy spoke up and asked the people to take responsibility.
“[After February 20th] the mayor addressed the citizens of the city and asked for help in cleaning up the city and getting it back to where it was in the past,” says Polishchuk. The citizens answered his call and started their own police force. Polishchuk describes it as a glorified nieghbourhood watch. People have joined the force and drive around in their own cars with badges on the side protecting the city. If you call 102 (their version of 911) it won’t work, but there is a new number to call now. “Most of the citizens have gone out and have swept everything, all the rubbish from the streets. The city looks neat and clean.”
The parliament in Kiev ousted president Viktor Yanukovich on February 22nd and the three opposition parties are working on forming a new government. Sadovyy said Lviv will keep its independence until Kiev shows stability. The residents formed self-defense units to protect the buildings. Sadovyy said many are police officers, but they will not put on their uniforms in fear of retaliation.
Some of the riot police returned and asked for forgiveness.
— Joseph Weisenthal (@TheStalwart) February 25, 2014
Lviv is near the Poland border and always felt more European than Russian. The city constantly fought back against the Soviets after the it came under Moscow’s control in 1939. The Soviet KGB managed to keep them under control until the USSR fell in 1991, but they chose Lviv as the home of the Secret Service of Ukraine. Now the building is guarded by ordinary citizens who no longer live in fear of the group.