August 26, 2016

August 31, 2015


Last year, on August 31, 2015, violence erupted outside of Ukraine’s Parliament that left three National Guardsmen killed (Ihor Debrin, 24; Oleksandr Kostyna, 20; and Dmytro Slastnikov, 21) and more than 130 people injured after a grenade was thrown by an ultranationalist protester from the Svoboda party. The violence marred a public protest against legislation that proposed granting more autonomy for the Russian-occupied territories in eastern Ukraine.

Svoboda and the Right Sector parties put the blame on President Petro Poroshenko, with Svoboda issuing a statement that “the responsibility for the attack near the Parliament lies with the current government,” and that the explosion was “a preplanned provocation against Ukrainian patriots.”

Right Sector spokesman Artem Skoropadskyi told 112 Ukraine TV, “this is exactly the same thing that happened during the regime of [former President Viktor] Yanukovych – the use of force, the violent dispersal of peaceful protests, beating the opposition, and so on.”

Despite the role that ultranationalists played during the Euro-Maidan revolt that forced Mr. Yanukovych from power, voters soundly rejected the ultranationalists during the May 2014 presidential election and the November 2014 parliamentary elections.

Mr. Poroshenko called the violence “a stab in the back” for the entire country.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk elaborated further, “The cynicism of this crime lies in the fact while the Russian Federation and its bandits are trying and failing to destroy the Ukrainian state on the eastern front, the so-called pro-Ukrainian political forces are trying to open another front in the heart of the country.”

Following an investigation, 18 people, including the alleged grenade thrower, were arrested, however, critics argued that this would not be an adequate response to the ultranationalist threat.

Serhiy Leshchenko of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc said, “The radicalization of society is inevitable in a climate of corrupt government and a lack of decisive reforms. Or radicalization is intensified by our total militarization.” Mr. Leshchenko noted previous attacks by ultranationalists that had gone unpunished, including a grenade attack on a gay-pride event, a grenade-launcher attack on the Zakarpattia Oblast, and the beating of the head of UT-1 state television channel by Svoboda party lawmakers. Mr. Leshchenko suggested that Right Sector could emerge politically viable from these events if its distances itself from Svoboda.

“This was a terrorist act,” popular blogger Oleksiy Bratushchak wrote on the Ukrayinska Pravda website. “Those who threw this grenade and injured people are terrorists. No matter what they did yesterday, today they are terrorists. And together with this comrade-in-arms, he belongs to a terrorist organization.”

Source: “Kyiv violence steps up pressure to reject ultranationalists,” by Robert Coalson (RFE/RL), The Ukrainian Weekly, September 6, 2015.