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‘The violence in Ukrainian protests comes from protesters themselves’

Published time: January 22, 2014 17:02

Protestors clash with riot police in Kiev on January 22, 2014. (AFP Photo)

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Ultranationalists in Kiev have not only been attacking the police, but also left-wing protesters like feminists, gay rights protesters and labor union activists, Mark Sleboda, professor of international relations at the Moscow State University, told RT.

RT: The US is revoking its visas over what they call 'violence towards protesters'. We've mostly seen riot police moving to the barricades and taking them apart while coming under a rain of firebombs and rocks - has the US got a balanced picture here?

Mark Sleboda: What we are hearing from the US and from the EU is of course the most cynical hypocrisy. After the last few years of the brutal police repressions of the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US and the anti-neo-liberal austerity dictates that have been instituted around the EU, which brought literally tens of millions of protesters out onto the streets. They are calling against the violence in Ukraine where the majority of the injuries for the past few days have been from the police who suffered injuries from Molotov cocktails, firebombs, knife stabbings, clubbings with morning stars, wizard shots from trebuchets constructed in the Maidan and bows and the arrows. We are frequently seeing a level of medieval violence from the protesters. That’s where the real violence in these protests is coming from.

RT: There have now been first reports about deaths in Kiev. Is it going to become some kind of point of no return?

MS: We've had reports of three deaths at this point. One of them has been confirmed: Sergey Nigoyan. He was in photographs posted on social media just a few months ago, training for the protests in Kiev, wearing militarized camouflage gear and firing an assault rifle. This young man was on top of a colonnade where he was raining firebombs down on the police when he fell to his own death. Without a doubt the protesters will bring these deaths forward as an excuse for a further escalation. We could indeed see this as the flaming of a spark that could lead to a potential worst case scenario to civil war.

RT: Openly nationalist groups form the backbone of the rioters' fighting force and now we're seeing increased attacks on local Jewish people and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Are these the people that are going to be in power in Ukraine soon?

MS: I can’t imagine that these people themselves would come to power in Ukraine. The EU itself wouldn’t accept it, of course. They are simply hoping to ride the tiger of this nationalist violence and hope to see one of the moderate candidates that have lost, completely, control over the situation.

A demonstrator throws a stone during clashes between protestors and police in the center of Kiev on January 22, 2014. (AFP Photo)

But I think the observers should pay closer attention to two flags that they will see flying over these protests. One of them is the three finger blue and yellow salut of the liberal neo-Nazi “Svoboda” party led by Oleg Tyagnibok. And this is a man who is considered to be one of the three big opposition leaders and has posed with European and US political leaders calling for revolution on the stage of Maidan. The other one is the red and black flag that is now being called the “Right’s sector”, which is a loose coalition of ultranationalists’ right-wing group that can be described as both Arian and anti-Semitic. And this includes “White Hammer”, “The patriots of Ukraine”, “UNA-UNSO” and several other ultranationalist groups and a large number of football hooligans that have been called out to the street via the social media. These people have not only been attacking the police, and it’s not only the Jewish Congress that is concerned about this, but as the Nation Magazine in the US has reported this morning, there have been multiple attacks on left-wing protesters within Independence Square itself. Feminists, gay rights protesters, labor union activists and socialists have all been attacked by these ultranationalists, which at this point form the majority of the activists out there, not only at Maidan square but at Grushchevskovo Street.

RT: The opposition is about to meet the Ukrainian president in 30 minutes. From your point of view, can we expect anything good?

MS: I don’t think we are going to see anything at this point. I can’t imagine that the mainstream protest leaders - Klichko, Yatsenyuk - are willing to separate themselves from this right sector or from the “Svoboda” party violence. They have not denounced them so far, they have used the government buildings, they have seized as their own headquarters. I can’t imagine that they would have denounced the violence. I can’t imagine that the government is going to back down at this point because polls show that the majority of the citizens of Ukraine are disenchanted with these protests. I have in-laws in Kiev, they are afraid to leave their homes. They want order restored to the streets and want these protesters, particularly the ultranationalists, the majority of which have come from Western Ukraine, frankly driven back to Lviv where they come from.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.