Ukrainian Right Sector militants, blocked in on the outskirts of Mukachevo after deadly clashes with police, are refusing to lay down their arms without their leader’s orders. Civilians in the area have been evacuated, as negotiations so far have failed.
SWAT police and special units of the National Guard, as well as Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) agents have secured the area and blockaded members of Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist Right Sector group on the outskirts of Mukachevo, which lies a stone’s throw away from Hungarian and Slovakian border.
“To prevent possible bloodshed, the Security Service and Interior Ministry demand that the illegal armed group lays down [its] arms and surrenders,” the SBU said in a statement, adding that fighters refuse to surrender unless ordered directly by Right Sector (‘Pravy Sektor’) leader Dmitry Yarosh.
Authorities said they will do everything necessary to disarm and detain the“organized criminal group”,that killed one, and injured four civilians. Six police officers were also injured in the standoff on Saturday afternoon.
As negotiations with the cornered gang failed, security forces on Sunday night began evacuating civilians living in the vicinity of the standoff.
“Taking into account the danger for the villagers in the area where the so-called Right Sector militants barricaded themselves, the evacuation of civilians, especially children, is being carried out,” the SBU statement reads.
Ultra-nationalists claim they will not go without a fight, according to regional prosecutor spokesperson, who said Dmitry Yarosh was engaged in negotiations with the fighters over the phone.
“People in camouflage threaten to continue armed resistance,” said Victoria Popovich, cited by UNIAN news agency. “So far efforts of security forces produced no results.” The spokesperson added that fighters were given a deadline to surrender, Popovich said, however without specifying exact time frame.
‘Entire Right Sector on combat alert’
Late Saturday, Right Sector issued a statement saying that two of their fighters had been killed and four other wounded during the initial standoff in Mukachevo. The statement added that “the entire Right Sector military and political movement has been placed on combat alert.”
Members of Right Sector have already began mobilizing, with ultra-nationalist crowds rallying in Kiev in front of the President Administration, as well as in Lvov and Dnepropetrovsk.
“Our brothers acted within the framework of necessary defence,” Yarosh wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday, adding that the Right Sector “calls to continue protests for indefinite term until those guilty in the tragedy are arrested.”
According to the group, the culprits are local MP Mikhail Lanyo, one of the negotiators on the Donbass issue from Kiev, Viktor Medvedchuk. The Right Sector is also calling for the resignation of the interior minister, Arsen Avakov.
On Saturday afternoon, about two dozen fighters wearing camouflage uniform bearing Right Sector insignia opened fire in a sport cafes. When police arrived, the fighters attacked law enforcement officers using Kalashnikovs, RPG-7 grenade launchers and other weapons.
The violence allegedly erupted as a result of on-going “turf war” between Right Sector members and local MP Mikhail Lanyo, who controls many businesses in the area. Meanwhile the gunmen claimed it was Lyano’s initiative to call them in for “negotiations, ” as he was outraged by the Right Sector’s successful raids to “disrupt contraband routes” he controls.
The extremists organization insists that its people did not provoke the violence and it was the fault of police, who are in bed with the corrupt politician controlling the smuggling channels in the mountainous Carpathian region.
“Members of the Right Sector’s first reserve battalion have been blocking smuggling channels for a long time,”Speaker for the Right Sector Andrey Sharaskin told 112.ua.
Meanwhile the blocked fighters released a video claiming that only 12 of them arrived at the meeting and were greeted by “over 100 armed thugs sent my Lanyo.” According to their version of events, the violence began only after a group “unidentified spetsnaz” charged into the scene while the Right Sector brigade was trying to flee.
Mikhail Lanyo meanwhile claimed he had been meeting with the local Right Sector leader, because he had asked for help with arranging accommodation for fighters returning from the “anti-terrorist operation” zone in eastern Ukraine. The MP told Ukrainian channel hromadske.tv that he was not even aware something was wrong, until his aide informed him that the nationalist group waiting outside had “shot a man.”
The Saturday incident which stretched into an uneasy standoff has already been called an “act of terrorism” by Ukrainian authorities. Meanwhile Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry fears the fact that the incident that took place less than 70 km from EU borders may compromise the prospect of visa-free travel between Ukraine and the EU.
“After a real battle by Right Sector virtually on the border with EU,” the Ukrainian authorities are “bearing responsibility for not fulfilling a number of requirements” for the establishment of a visa-free regime with the EU, Ukraine’s Ambassador at Large Dmitry Kuleba wrote on Facebook. “For months we have argued, trying to convince the EU that security risks have been minimized. And we convinced them…”
Meanwhile in Russia, where Right Sector activities are banned and the group is declared extremist, the Russian foreign ministry’s envoy for human rights Konstantin Dolgov said the group has once again “shown its bandit face.”
“Kiev just can’t break up with neo-Nazis, trying to mute them,” Dolgov wrote on Twitter. “Soon it will be too late.”