At least one person died and up to 28 were treated for injuries following clashes between rival rallies in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Reports said that smoke grenades, fireworks and eggs were thrown in the unrest.
Tensions erupted in the Ukrainian industrial center of Donetsk on Thursday, where the Russian-speaking population has been rallying in support of creating an eastern Ukrainian autonomy and against the decisions of the coup-imposed government in Kiev.
A rally of Ukraine’s integrity supporters was taking place in Donetsk at the same time and place as anti-government protest.
According to local media reports pro-Maidan activists started provoking the pro-Russian crowd, by shouting far-right slogans “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to heroes”, loudly demanding the respect of Ukrainian territorial sovereignty.
Clashes between the rival rallies reportedly erupted after a crowd of demonstrators broke through a police cordon separating the crowds. Law enforcers were trying to take provocateurs away in police buses.
It was not immediately clear, how many people were injured from both sides of the clashes, but reports indicated that some had their faces bloodied in the fight.
Police deployed additional personnel and managed to separate groups of activists who remained at the square. According to reports there were around 1,000 people on each rival side.
The pro-Maidan crowd had asked the “ultra-nationalists” from a local pro-Ukrainian football club to join their rally, and to bring weapons with them, including baseball bats, an activist from Donetsk, Sergey Tsiplakov told RT.
“Today we have witnessed a planned provocation, when the pro-Russian crowd was basically provoked to harsh measures,” Tsiplakov claims.
Thursday clashes were, Tsiplakov says initially started by the pro-Maidan protesters who had to show their strength to the OSCE observer mission.
“What they needed was to create a show for the OSCE observers, a show of display that was aimed to show that in this region, everyone supports the local government and the events on Euro-Maidan”
He accused the government in Kiev of constantly provoking the increase of tensions in the Donbas region by “directly insulting” the population of a region where “75-80 percent of the people share a pro-Russian attitude.”
“The authorities keep on provoking us. They are provoking us by holding paid rallies in the same place, organized under the umbrella slogan of ‘For a United Ukraine’ but actually they are organized to show support for the regional governor, an oligarch, and his Kievan junta.”
“The authorities pursuing through repressive and provocateur methods,” Tsiplakov says. The people in Donbass region are angry at the Kiev’s government because the authorities there have simply “armed” and offered government positions to ultra-nationalist “fighters”, he says, warning that plans to officially create militarized units out of extreme right fighters “will lead to guerrilla warfare.”
“Right now the tension within society is great,” the activist told RT. “No-one has listened to Donbas people when they were holding peaceful rallies, and when we had People’s Governor Pavel Gubarev, who strictly insisted on a peaceful course of action. He and his like minds were arrested,” Tsiplakov says claiming the reasons for Gubarev’s detention and arrest were fabricated.
The wife of Pavel Gubarev told LifeNews that there is indeed strong support for Russia in Donetsk.
"Yesterday, there was news that the OSCE observer mission arrived in the city and that they along with local students were planning to hold a small rally to show that the people in Donetsk support Ukraine's integration with Europe and that there is no support for Russia at all,” Ekaterina Gubareva told LifeNews. “This deeply angered us because it is not true! We have decided to organize our own peaceful rally to go out and tell everyone that there is more of us and we support the referendum!”
Pavel Gubarev, a local advertising executive, was proclaimed the People’s Governor at a mass rally on March 3. Denouncing Ukraine's coup installed government, he brushed aside the governor appointed by Kiev, Sergey Taruta, calling for a referendum in Donetsk.
Gubarev was detained in Donetsk by Special Security Forces last week and has been under house arrest in Kiev on charges of violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine, takeover of power, and seizure of government buildings.