Report by New Cold War.org, Monday, August 31, 2015 (updated)
Today, August 31, in Kyiv, several thousand right-wing protesters staged a violent protest against proposed decentralization measures for Ukraine’s constitution. The measures are being proposed by President Petro Poroshenko with support from a cross-section of deputies in the Ukrainian Parliament (Rada). The protest took place in front of the Rada.
The protesters were armed, including one who threw a grenade at police and National Guard forces who were blocking entrance to the Rada. The grenade injured many, including one guardsman who lost a leg. This video captures the grenade thrower in action.
One guardsman was shot dead by a pistol. Dozens of police were injured, as were journalists on the scene. Two policemen later died from injuries (New York Times). The protest was spearheaded by the extreme-right Svoboda Party, the Right Sector party/paramilitary agglomeration and the Radical Party.
Enclosed below are two news reports from Western media sources on the clash. The reports come with typical, misleading Western media phrasing describing as “separatists” the people of eastern Ukraine who are resisting the civil war launched by the governing regime in Kyiv in April 2014. The war is a part of the pro-European Union/austerity economic agenda of the Kyiv regime and its backers among the countries of the NATO military alliance.
The decentralization measures being protested by the right wing are a maneuver by the Kyiv government to evade its responsibility under the terms of the Feb. 12, 2015 Minsk-2 ceasefire agreement. That agreement obliges Kyiv to negotiate political autonomy with the rebel forces of eastern Ukraine. It sets out very specific, minimum conditions required to address the grievances of people in the Donbas region (Donetsk and Lugansk) of eastern Ukraine. Full background to the autonomy/decentralization issue is contained in a recent article by Halyna Mokrushyna published on New Cold War.org—Decentralization reform in Ukraine–and in a July 17 compilation of news and analysis on the website–Ukraine’s cunning ploy for ‘autonomy’ for Donbas.
The extreme-right in Ukraine detests the idea of granting any autonomy to eastern Ukraine because according to its hateful, anti-Russian ideology, the people of eastern Ukraine are ‘cattle’ whose national aspirations must be crushed in the name of Ukrainian nationalism. As well, meaningful autonomy for Donbas will have wider implications because the majority of the population in other important regions of Ukraine also favours autonomy, including Kharkiv in the east and Odessa and Bessarabia in the southwest.
President Poroshenko’s ‘decentralization’ laws would grant a small fraction of the range of powers which the constitutions of Canada and the United States accord to provinces and states, respectively.
The violence today is so very reminiscent of the violence in Kyiv during the ‘Euromaidan’ protests of late 2013, early 2014. Right-wing forces unleashed extreme violence back then, including sniper fire that killed dozens of police as well as pro-Euromaidan protesters. This time, the violence is directed by the rightists against their erstwhile allies and protectors—the governing regime which issued from the overthrow of the elected president Victor Yanukovych in February 2014.
Western media, governments and human rights organizations are ignoring the growing body of evidence of the sniper fire unleashed by right-wing paramilitaries on Maidan Square on Feb. 20, 2014. The sniper fire that day was a pivotal event in the coup which overthrew Yanukovych one day later.
Beginning last year, researcher Ivan Katchanovski at the University of Ottawa has been progressively revealing the grim story of the events of February 20, 2014. Each week brings fresh new evidence which he reports, including videos published by eyewitnesses to the day’s events and video and other testimony being given to the official inquiry being held.
Katchanovski has harsh words for Western media, which he says is shamefully silent in the face of the mounting evidence. He accuses it of playing a central role in propagating blatant lies and falsehoods at the time of the Euromaidan coup when it told the world that the Yanukovych presidency and the government he led were to blame for the sniper fire.
Further below are several recommended readings about the rapidly evolving political situation in Ukraine.
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1. Kiev protests against separatists turn violent as grenade thrown at police
Deadly clashes broke out between police and nationalist protesters in Kiev today after politicians gave their support for greater autonomy in the separatist regions in the east.
At least one Ukrainian serviceman was killed and more than 100 people injured after grenades and firearms were used in some of the worst violence in the Ukrainian capital since the revolution that overthrew of Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014.
The 25-year-old officer, identified as Igor Derbin from the Kherson region, died after being shot in the heart, Anton Gerashchenko, an advisor to Ukrainian Minister of the Interior Arsen Avakov, said in a statement on Facebook.
Clashes with riot police saw both sides using batons, tear gas and smoke bombs before a live hand grenade was thrown into a crowd gathered outside the parliament building in Kiev. 30 people were arrested.
Earlier in the day, the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, passed the first reading of constitutional amendments that would decentralise some powers to regional governments. The vote passed by 39 votes, with 265 MPs of the 450-seat chamber backing the changes in a fraught session of parliament on Monday morning.
The changes are required under the February Minsk peace agreement, a road map to ending the 16-month old war with pro-Russian separatists [sic] in the east of the country.
The decentralisation plan is backed by Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, who is under intense pressure from Western governments to find a political solution to the war that has claimed nearly 7,000 lives.
Supporters say the changes will allow Kiev to put pressure on the separatists and Russian president Vladimir Putin to fulfil their part of the agreement, including allowing elections to be held under Ukrainian law and eventually handing back control of the border to Ukrainian forces.
But the move has been denounced by nationalist and some MPs and protesters as tantamount to surrender and legalisation of the occupation of large swathes of eastern territory.
The violence began after protesters including members of the far-Right militia Pravy Sektor and the nationalist political party Svoboda gathered outside parliament and stopped traffic in the street.
A video filmed from inside the parliament building showed an object flying over the heads of the police cordon before an explosion that sent apparently wounded officers scattering in several directions.
Interior Minister Avakov said that 30 people, including the grenade thrower, have been arrested. He attacked the Svoboda party for the violence. “90 people have been injured and one national guardsman killed by a bullet wound to the heart,” he said in a statement on Facebook.
“This is the result of several explosive devices being thrown from the side of people in Svoboda party T-shirts who started a fight with the National Guard outside parliament.”
The grenade thrower, he wrote, was found to be carrying several other devices including a Soviet-designed F1 fragmentation grenade.
Vitaly Klitschko, the mayor of Kiev, called the perpetrators “scum.”
“The murderous provocation at parliament must be met with legal response and consequences,” he wrote on Facebook. “The public should know who the perpetrators and organisers of this terrorist act are and what punishment they will get.”
The amendments will have to pass a much tougher second and third reading before being adopted.
Separatist [sic] leaders have already said that the law does not go far enough to fulfil their reading of the Minsk peace agreement, however.
While the changes grant new powers to all regional governments, it does not specifically grant ‘special status” to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions where the separatists hold territory. Instead, the draft text says that the final status of those areas will be defined by a separate law.
2. Ukraine crisis: Deadly anti-autonomy protest outside parliament
BBC News, Aug 31, 2015 (includes brief video report)
One national guard member has been killed and about 100 injured outside Ukraine’s parliament after MPs gave initial backing to reforms for more autonomy in the rebel-held east.
National guardsmen were pelted with fire crackers and petrol bombs as explosions were heard.
MPs had just voted in a rowdy session to approve more powers in areas of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine under control of pro-Russian [sic] rebels.
A fragile ceasefire is in place. Pushing through greater autonomy for the rebel-held areas is a key part of the Minsk deal, originally signed in February.
During the summer, fighting between Ukrainian army forces and the rebels has escalated. But the two sides agreed last week to halt the violence as of September 1, the day which children in the region return to school.
Although the number of ceasefire violations appears to have fallen in recent days, a senior official in the OSCE international monitoring mission in Ukraine, Alexander Hug, warned that neither side was respecting the truce. “Violations have become the norm,” he told Swiss media.
Shortly after 265 MPs backed the first reading of the decentralisation bill in the Ukrainian parliament, the Rada, on Monday, the protests outside parliament became more intense. A missile was hurled from the crowd of demonstrators, many of whom were carrying banners supporting ultra-nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) party.
A loud explosion rang out and an AFP reporter described seeing several people covered in blood. One policeman’s leg was torn off below the knee, Interfax Ukraine reported.
Journalists who had been covering the developments were also among the wounded.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said some 30 people had been detained and more would follow. He bitterly criticised Svoboda leader Oleh Tyahnybok, writing on Facebook that several explosive devices had been thrown by people wearing Svoboda T-shirts.
Under the draft constitutional changes going through parliament, there will be a special law covering local government in rebel-held areas. However, parliament speaker Volodymyr Hroysman was adamant that would not mean special status for Donetsk and Luhansk, which rebel leaders have declared republics.
If President Petro Poroshenko is to succeed in pushing through the reforms, he will need the support of 300 of the Rada’s 450 MPs, seen as a tall order for the Ukrainian leader.
Decentralization reform in Ukraine, by Halyna Mokrushyna, New Cold War.org, Aug 28, 2015
Ukraine’s cunning ploy for ‘autonomy’ for Donbas, New Cold War.org, Aug 17, 2015
Integration of extreme-right battalions into Ukraine policing and military, New Cold War.org, Aug 28, 2015
Marxism and the war in Donbas, by Victor Shapinov, of Ukrainian Marxist organizatoin Borotba, Aug 28, 2015