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Provocateurs’ protest: Radicals 'hijacking' Ukrainian demonstrations

Published time: December 05, 2013 10:28
Edited time: December 05, 2013 15:14

Protesters try to break through police lines near the presidential administration building during a rally held by supporters of EU integration in Kiev, December 1, 2013.(Reuters / Sergii Polezhaka)

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The protest in Ukraine has turned from a jubilant pro-EU youth action to an angry violence-sprinkled stand-off after last weekend’s clashes. Radical nationalist activists are among those likely to score most points in the confrontation.

A week of mostly peaceful protest descended into a brutal dispersal of a protest camp on Friday night and the consequent attacks on police and governmental buildings on Saturday and Sunday. The slogans, which initially called on President Yanukovich to reconsider his delay in European integration, were replaced by those calling for the government resignation.

The escalation of violence invigorated the Ukrainian protest, which was losing pace by the time of the camp eviction. The response in a protest against police brutality was the most massive in years.

It also proved to be quite bloody. According to latest figures, a total of 412 people, including 220 security officers, were injured over the days of the protest.

Protest radicalized

On the top of the anti-government violence were Ukraine’s radical nationalists. Once a marginal political force, they say a surge in popularity in the last years. The nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party currently has a faction in the Ukrainian parliament and is an active player in the ongoing blockade of the legislature by opposition MPs.

Radical nationalists also play an active part in the streets. Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said activists of the nationalist organization Bratstvo (Brotherhood) were involved in Sunday’s assault on a security cordon near the presidential administration in Kiev, which involved a grader pushing with its blade against the police line.

While the ministry said that leader of Bratstvo, Dmitry Korchinsky, was coordinating the offensive, his name is not among the nine of people arrested this week over the Sunday violence. The activist himself denied any role in the scuffles.

“In fact Bratstvo does not ever take part in any action, any provocations. We are overall oriented on literary work rather than street work,” claimed Korchinsky.

The denial is somewhat disingenuous. In a 2003, interview the Bratstvo head said he has a natural gift for destruction and “feels at home at war.” It’s no surprise that he welcomed the eviction of the protest camp, which made President Yanukovich from a ‘loathed’ figure into a ‘hated’ one.

“If the opposition fails to organize an uprising, there are other people, who will do it. I will be doing it too, because no Ukrainian can be outside of this process,” he pledged.

The fighting moods are evident among some protesters.

Pro-European Ukrainian demonstrators spray tear gas on police members protecting the presidential adminstration office in Kiev as 100 000 outraged Ukrainians swarmed the city in a call for early elections meant to punish authorities for rejecting a historic EU pact, on December 1, 2013.( AFP Photo / Vasily Maximov)

“We will fight for the European Union until the end - and even if they bring out tanks, we will win. Yanukovich must go! I'm ready to pick up an AK-47 and start shooting,” activist Miroslav Mikityk told RT’s Irina Galushko.

“Up to a thousand people go to Kiev every day - and our motto is ‘together till the end’. Our resistance forces consist of Afghanistan war veterans and former security service officials,” another one, Roman Martsinkiv, said.

Provocations behind violence?

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office is currently investigating all suspected crimes during the protests, be it police brutality like the beating of detained protesters during the camp crackdown night, or the protester pelting of police with flares and stones. What it is certain about is that the protesters, who stormed governmental buildings, were well trained in street warfare.

“They went to the rally well-prepared; with clubs, metal chains and tear gas. They acted under clear orders from their leaders. They were the ones provoking the fights and instigating the people,” Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka said.

The provocation card however is played by various opposition leaders as well. They claim that the Ukrainian government employs paid agents, who are called by a derogatory term ‘titushki’, to spark fights and give police a pretext to use force against the protesters.

‘Titushki’ were blamed for the reported attacks on police on Friday night, which were said to have triggered the crackdown, for the attacks on governmental buildings and for virtually any instance of violence, which happened in the last days.

At the same time the lack of any material interest in the protest is a crucial part of the activists’ identities. Stickers saying “I am not here for money” are all over the Kiev mayor’s office, which was taken over by the protesters and turned into their headquarters.

As the confrontation continues, provocation concerns loom over Ukrainian protest. The latest alarm was raised on Thursday by the Svoboda party MP Oleg Osukhovsky, who claimed that security officers dressed as civilians are planning to start fights at one of the protester camps. This would trigger a massive assault on the demonstrators, he said. So far this didn’t happen.

A protester with a chain clashes with police during the storming of the Viktor Yanukovych Presidential office in Kiev during a mass rally of the opposition in Kiev on December 1, 2013.( AFP Photo / Genya Savilov)

Earlier on Wednesday a similarly alarming, but directly opposite claim was voiced by Vladimir Oleynik, an MP from the ruling Party of Regions. He said the opposition is going to smuggle a corpse into Kiev’s Independence Square and blame the authorities of an activist murder.

A Ukrainian court ordered on Thursday that the protesters leave the buildings they captured. Police pledged that they will not use force to evict the squatters, but demanded that the court order is fulfilled in five days.

Comments (14)


Orest Verba 17.02.2014 16:10

He became permanent participant of “evromaidan” from the moment of its beginning in Kyiv. In social networks posts laid out photos with Vitaly Klychko, Yuriy Lutsenko and landscapes of Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kyiv.
Presently Artem Kozlov suspected by Ukrainian law enforcement in organization of mass disturbances and preparation of terrorist acts in Kyiv.
After the search of his apartment was found documents that affirm his active political activity- leaflets of "evromaidan " and "black-list of “Party of Regions” properties.


Orest Verba 17.02.2014 16:10

Personality of the terrorist was identified. It was a citizen of Ukraine Artem Kozlov (born in 1969). He is from Kharkiv. It is known as an active opposition political figure. On last summer he was an author of comments "Get up, Ukraine" in social networks posts. In 2012 he headed Leninist district organization of "Front zmin" (leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk), and in 2013 he was personal web-site administrator of the deputy of Kharkiv Regional Council from "Batkivshchyna& quot; (leader Yulia Tymoshenko) Ivan Varchenko. Presently he is the activist of "BLOW of Vitaly Klychko" political party.


Orest Verba 17.02.2014 16:09

The crew decided to make two distracting circles above the Black Sea and landed in the Istanbul airport. Two F - 16 of the Turkish Air Forces were lifted in the air to accompany the airplane. After landing the airplane was towed off to a safe place.

The airplane was searched but explosive materials or some weapons on the board were not found. The "terrorist" ; was detained by the Turkish law enforcement authorities.

View all comments (14)
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