The first day of Ukraine's new laws restricting public demonstrations erupted in chaos and bloodshed on January 22 as the country's two-month-old Euromaidan protest claimed its first victims, two men killed by gunfire amid clashes between demonstrators and police.
Fellow demonstrators said both men had been Euromaidan stalwarts for weeks, and many paused to praise the two—one an ethnic Armenian, the other a Belarusian native—for taking up Ukraine's democratic cause.
The first victim identified was Serhiy Nihoyan, a 21-year-old from Bereznovativka, a small village outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk. Nihoyan's Armenian parents reportedly immigrated to Ukraine from the embattled enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1992, a year before Serhiy was born.
His father, Garik, told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service that he had hoped to discourage his son from joining the Euromaidan protesters but that Serhiy, who had recently fallen into a depression after breaking up with his girlfriend, had insisted on traveling to Kiev.
"We were very critical of his decision from the start, but he wouldn't listen," he said. "We asked if someone was forcing him to go, but he said, 'No, no one's forcing me, I can leave whenever I want.' But he had other problems, with a girl. He was depressed, he started growing a beard. And then he contacted some girl over the Internet, and the next day he got up and left."
Activists say Nihoyan, with his distinctive dark beard, was a permanent fixture from early December at the Euromaidan demonstrations, where he chopped wood or served as security—standing guard on the perimeter of the crowd, often with the red-blue-and-orange Armenian flag draped around his shoulders.