Peaceful rallies in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov turned violent as a crowd of several thousand football ultras attacked a crowd of some 300 anti-government protesters. At least 14 people were injured, including two law enforcement officers.
Thousands of fans of two Ukrainian football clubs Dnipro and Metalist gathered in Kharkov’s Constitution Square where they joined some 250 pro-Kiev activists holding a rally.
Up to 5,000 ultras, according to local media estimates, intended to march in support of the country’s unity from the square to Metalist stadium, which is some 3km away and where the game between the two clubs started, as scheduled, at 7:30pm local time (16:30 GMT).
The march started with Ukrainian anthem and drum-rolls. Football ultras, some equipped with burning torches and petards, were chanting “Glory to Ukraine. Glory to heroes!” and “Ukraine’s above all!”
According to local media, several groups from the Right Sector radical network also took part in the rally.
A massive fight erupted when the football ultras reached the street where the anti-Kiev protesters with St. George ribbons (the symbol of victory in WWII) were holding their rally in support of broader regional autonomy from Kiev.
Multiple videos shot by local TV channels show crowds of masked football fans chasing and beating activists. This footage from the scene below shows a group of fans severely beating a man lying on the ground (00:59).
According to the local UNIAN news agency’s correspondent, he saw at least five people lying on the ground with injuries.
It can also be seen that some of the ultras with covered faces are hurling stones.
Local police confirmed that 14 people sustained injuries, including two of its officers. At least eight of the injured have been taken to hospitals, while another six received help at the scene where ambulances were immediately dispatched. Volunteers from the Red Cross also arrived to provide assistance.
The football ultras smashed cars and beat random people. This man in the video below is seen with his head covered in blood and the windshield of his car broken in pieces.
Kharkov police said aggressive football fans were using baseball bats and sticks.
Despite the damage and violence, no attackers have been arrested.
According to local Vesti.ua the fight seems to have been planned in advance. The news portal cited anti-Maidan activists who were posting on social networks: “Organizing ... Looking after each other, neutralizing provocateurs. Act tough, but remain on the defensive. Take remedies and medicines."