A group of Ukrainian vigilantes have been hunting out people they accused of being "pro-Russian thugs", according to a video which surfaced on YouTube. The "thugs" were detained, frisked, roughed up and handed over to police.
The video was shot in Dnepropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine and shows a group of people wearing paramilitary uniform – some of them masked – run after and catch several people. Judging from the comments heard, those caught are suspected of trying to stage a pro-Russian picket of a police station.
At least two of the people, whom the hunters brand as ‘titushki’, or hired thugs, were caught and frisked. Both had St. George ribbons on them, a common pro-Russian symbol associated with the Soviet Union's contribution to the defeat of Nazi Germany.
On discovering the ribbons the attackers apparently start to treat those caught more violently. One of them is threatened with a knife while another one gets punched in the face.
It appears the footage was taken and uploaded by the vigilantes themselves. In addition to the activists the video shows what appears to be a television crew covering the hunt, complete with a cameraman, his assistant and a couple of female reporters.
Those caught were then dragged to a police station to “check
their identities”, as the vigilantes said. The group
apparently acted of their own, as they refuse to identify
themselves or explain why they detained people in the street.
The security situation in Ukraine is turbulent, following the armed coup in Kiev and the change of government, with anecdotal reports of a sharp rise in crime. Last week Russian passengers on a train going from Russia to Moldova through Ukraine were reportedly robbed by members of the local ultra-nationalist Insurgent Army.
There were also several high-profile incidents of apparent anarchy taking reign, including a night takeover of a Kiev bank by armed civilians and a raid on a liquor plant.
Eastern Ukraine remains divided. Many people there are opposing the new authorities and call for greater autonomy for their regions. Several activists have been taken into custody on orders from Kiev accused of separatism.
Street protests in eastern Ukraine turned violent on several occasions over the past week, with at least one case of unidentified attackers shooting at a group of pro-Russian activists and injuring one of them.