A unit of the ‘Maidan Self-Defense Force’ may have played a key part in a raid on a liquor factory in Ukraine. Armed civilians used smoke grenades to storm the building as court bailiffs stood by.
The take-over of the Nemiroff vodka plant in the city of Nemirov, Vinnytsia Region in central Ukraine, happened on Wednesday. It was the latest and arguably most violent development in a conflict between shareholders of the company, who have been wrestling for control over the property since 2011.
Footage of the siege of the building showed a large crowd of people gathering just outside of the factory fence. Among them were court bailiffs and a group of fully-equipped riot police officers. Comment heard in the background identify them as the Grifon unit of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, who are responsible for giving backup to bailiffs in enforcing court decisions.
The main actors however were dozens of men, some of them in civilian clothes, others wearing military uniforms without insignia and protection gear, who entered the premises. They proceeded to break glasses in the closed doors of the lobby and toss multiple gas grenades inside, the footage showed.
Some voices are heard warning to be careful with guns, although most of the arms the group carry are pipes, clubs and metal shields. Eventual break-in in accompanies by loud chanting of “Glory to Ukraine, glory to heroes!” a Ukrainian nationalist slogan, which became very popular among the supporters of Maidan protest. At least one person refers to the assailants as “self-defense” apparently implying that they are members of the ‘Maidan Self-Defense Force’.
(Video courtesy Yury Basyuk)
Aleksandr Glus, who holds a minority stake in Nemiroff together with his wife, whose management was ousted from the plant, told vesti.ua news website that the raid had been in preparation since at least Tuesday.
“It all started on yesterday evening. Some people started gathering near the plant. The management was alarmed by the situation. We called the police, filed complaints with them. But no reaction followed,” he said.
There were 300 attackers taking over the property, he estimated, adding that they were “armed ‘titushki’ [Ukrainian term for hired thugs – RT] mixed with members of the ‘Self-defense’, who stormed into the plant, wrecking everything in their way.” He added the plant’s guards could not stop the assailants while officers of the law witnessing the raid did nothing to stop it.
The majority shareholders, who took control over the plant, have a different view on the same events.
“By the time the majority shareholders and law enforcement officers arrived at the scene the plant was taken over by numerous guards armed with firearms. They rejected the demand to let legal owners into the territory. Their resistance to the law enforcers was swiftly suppressed,” they said in a statement, accusing the Glus family of “vandalizing” the plant.
The conflict between majority shareholders of Nemiroff, Yakov Gribov and Anatoly Kipish, who own just under 75 percent of the company, and the Glus family, who own the rest, is about control over the brand and different facilities of the company and its subsidiaries in Ukraine and Russia. The battle so far has mostly been legal, with parties clashing in courts of Ukraine, Russia and Cyprus, where the main division of the company is registered.
Nemiroff specializes in strong spirits, including vodka and Ukrainian horilka, and exports alcohol to over 50 countries, according to the company’s website. As of 2011, it was one of the top three vodka producers in terms of sale volumes. It was found by Stepan Glus, Aleksandr’s father.
It’s not clear why civilians were involved in enforcing a court ruling and whether they were paid for the participation, acted out of ideological reasons or for merely the thrill of storming the plant. But armed men acting on murky grounds are obviously a force playing a major part in conflict over property in post-coup Ukraine.
The raid on the liquor plant is just one example of chaotic state and lack of security and proper enforcement in Ukraine at the moment, reports RT's Marina Kosareva. Earlier there was the seizure of 50 Kamaz trucks by the radical Right Sector, a night raid on a Kiev bank, which ended with attackers walking free and similar incidents.