Kiev to crack down on militant nationalist group

A gunfight between Pravy Sektor members and local police in Mukacheve, killed up to four people and wounded 11, according to the Kiev Post.

July 16, 2015 04:07
2 minute read.

ukraine. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Kiev is promising to crack down on the Pravy Sektor nationalist group, after violence broke out between its members and security forces in western Ukraine.

Pravy Sektor, known in English as Right Sector, was heavily involved in the uprising that deposed pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich in early 2014, leading to the current insurgency in the east of the country. Its members are currently involved in that conflict as well, fighting alongside, but separately from, government troops in the Donbas region.

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A gunfight between Pravy Sektor members and local police in Mukacheve, killed up to four people and wounded 11, according to the Kiev Post.

On Tuesday The Guardian reported that booby traps allegedly set by the group wounded two policemen.

According to local media, around 10 members of the group were surrounded by police in a standoff in the Zakarpattia region as of Tuesday.

The group has also begun protesting in a number of Ukrainian cities, calling for the dismissal of senior security services officials over the shootout.

In response, President Petro Poroshenko ordered Ukraine’s security services and police on Monday to disarm “illegal groups,” saying they threatened to further destabilize the country.

Poroshenko said in a statement there needs to be a tough investigation into the events there and that the Interior Ministry, security services and other law enforcement officials must disarm “all illegal armed groups.”

“No political force should have and will not have any kind of armed cells. No political organization has the right to establish … criminal groups,” Poroshenko said.

Earlier this year the Simon Wiesenthal Center condemned the group, as well as the neo-Nazi Svoboda Party, of holding a march through downtown Kiev in honor of Holocaust-era Ukrainian nationalist leader Stepan Bandera. The insurgent’s faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists helped murder thousands of Jews during the Second World War.

The group, whose spokesman is proud of his Jewish identity, has worked hard to dog accusations of Judeophobia, honoring Jews killed during the revolution, meeting with the Israeli ambassador and protesting in favor of the IDF during last summer’s war against Hamas.

Russia has repeatedly accused it of anti-Semitism, with several pro-government newspapers falsely reporting last October that its members had perpetrated a pogrom in Odessa. Local Jewish leaders have denied that any incidents had occurred.

Kiev has previously tried to bring the group into the fold, making one of its founders an adviser to the minister of defense and attempting to merge Pravy Sektor units into the army.

These efforts were largely unsuccessful due to the group’s diffuse structure, explained anti-Semitism researcher Vyacheslav Likhachev.

Pravy Sektor is a “brand” that many local groups use to legitimate their activities, including crime, he said, accusing members of trafficking in anti-Semitic rhetoric during recent protests despite previous denunciations of such language by the national leadership.

While communal leaders in both Kiev and Dnipropetrovsk have previous stated that they do not see anything to fear from the group, one prominent figure who asked to remain anonymous told The Jerusalem Post in April that he believed efforts to enlist Pravy Sektor members constituted a “very disturbing development.”

Speaking to the Post on Wednesday, Rabbi Boruch Gorin of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia said that he “fundamentally mistrusts all expressions of remorse by nationalist organizations whose ideology is rooted in racism and xenophobia. I therefore see their alliances with the Jews as farcical and hypocritical.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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