"Russia's moves on Crimea, where its Black Sea fleet is based on territory leased from Ukraine, has diverted the international spotlight from Maidan. And the shift of battle lines from Kiev to Simferopol, Crimea's regional capital, has raised further questions about why and whether the revolutionary stragglers at Maidan are serving any useful purpose."
Jackbooted young men in World War I helmets patrol the muddy sidewalk in front of the parliament building, their chapped hands wrapped around clubs and ax handles, their black-and-crimson armbands telling of allegiances to the far right.
Camouflage-clad men armed with hunting rifles control traffic a few hundred yards away, their faces hidden by black balaclavas no longer needed for warmth in the early spring thaw. The self-appointed sentries eye drivers and pedestrians funneling into a single-lane gap in the walls of bricks, firewood and sandbags that barricade Ukraine's once-elegant capital city.
At Independence Square, the baroque, monument-filled plaza known here as Maidan, the jobless and aimless have taken the place of the victorious political activists who have gone on to parliament or gone home. The stragglers sit hunched around barrel fires, dull eyes peering out from soot-stained faces, rolled-up sleeves baring the tattooed insignia of ex-cons and forgotten military veterans.