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Anger And Shock In Kiev Over Russia's Land Grab


Now, Russia's actions are being celebrated in Crimea. Many people there are excited about the idea of joining Russia. The emotion is much more downtrodden in the capital, Kiev, where there's a feeling of loss setting in.

And here's Eleanor Beardsley is there.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Where there was a TV, it seemed people were gathered around it to watch Putin's speech. The Russian leader said Crimea rightfully belonged to Russia. And with the stroke of a pen, took away part of Ukraine. In a hotel lobby, Nicolai Shevechenko shakes his head and stares with contempt at the Kremlin leader on the screen.

NICOLAI SHEVECHENKO: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Putin is a bandit, says Shevechenko. He's lying about everything to the Russian people. They don't even know the truth.

In Kiev's Maidan Square, live-in protesters and other regulars line up for their daily meal, described on a large placard as a Putin-expletive menu. Seventy-three-year-old Yevgeny Marchuk says Putin's words took him back to Soviet times. He says Ukrainians are in a state of shock over the events unfolding in the past two weeks.

YEVGENY MARCHUK: They cannot understand what does it mean their native land is attacked by military structures of neighbor country; as it was told many years, its brothers.

BEARDSLEY: Marchuk says Ukrainians ideas of their Russian brothers are changing drastically.

MARCHUK: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: He recites a poem written 150 years ago by Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov. Marchuk says it sums up Russia today.

MARCHUK: (Foreign language spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Farewell unwashed, indigent Russia, the land of slaves, the land of lords.

But some Kievites are taking a more pragmatic view. Like financial analyst Alexander Paraschiy. He says Crimea will be the definite loser if it leaves.

ALEXANDER PARASCHIY: Because of this change of Crimean status, maybe 60 or 70 percent of regular tourists that are visiting Crimea, they'll just stop visiting. And all the tourist industry will die in Crimea.

BEARDSLEY: But for now, it's war not tourism on most people's minds. News that a first Ukrainian soldier on a base in Crimea had been killed brought crowds to the streets.


BEARDSLEY: These men are angry that Ukrainian soldiers aren't fighting back. Soon word came that they could. That seemed great news for everyone, including Vladimir Naoumenka, a professor at East European University.

VLADIMIR NAOUMENKA: Well, we are waiting for this. For how long shall we wait? Putin, he has completed the transition from the inferiority complex to megalomania. I hate this man. I hate him.

BEARDSLEY: Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Kiev. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.