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The Ukrainian Government Wants to Disarm Right-Wing Groups, But No One Is Listening

Officials want to combat the “aggravation of the crime situation and systematic provocations on the part of foreigners" in Ukraine and Kiev.

by Olivia Becker
Apr 1 2014, 7:45pm

Photo by Reuters

The Ukrainian government is taking a tougher stance on control over right-wing nationalist groups that have grown in prominence by ordering the disarmament of all vigilante militia groups.

A bill introduced to the Ukrainian parliament Tuesday seeks to combat the “aggravation of the crime situation and systematic provocations on the part of foreigners in southeastern Ukraine and in Kiev.”

Many interpret this as an attempt by the Ukrainian government to regain control over the capital from nationalist groups that have been patrolling the Euromaidan square and central Kiev for the past several weeks.

The announcement comes after violence broke out on Monday night in central Kiev, where at least one activist affiliated with the Right Sector — a nationalist group that played a significant role in the uprising in Kiev — reportedly opened fire, which left one person dead and at least three wounded in the resulting shootout with police.

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In response, Ukrainian police surrounded the Hotel Dnipro where dozens of members of the Right Sector were reportedly staying. Dozens of members of the Right Sector left the hotel early Tuesday morning but it is unclear if more remain inside.

Many eyewitness reports stated that the activist that opened fire on the police appeared to be drunk.

In a statement on their website the Right Sector reported the “unfortunate incident” was due to a “misunderstanding arose on home soil and resulted in a conflict with firearms.”

One of the people injured from the shootout was reportedly Kiev Deputy Mayor Bogdan Dubas, who was later released from the hospital on Tuesday.

Activists associated with Right Sector, a nationalist group formed by right-wing demonstrators on Kiev’s Independence Square, opened fire in central Kiev on March 31.

The Right Sector is one of the major groups that fueled Putin's allegations of fascism and anti-Russian violence in Russian state media that he used in justifying the invasion of Crimea several weeks ago.

“It appears that the government [in Ukraine] is trying to repress the Right Sector with these actions,” said Freddie Paxton, a freelance videographer currently in Kiev for VICE News. “This seems like an attempt to show both the western world, Russia, and Ukraine that the government [in Kiev] has control.”

Paxton said that it appeared as though as many as 300 policemen were waiting outside Hotel Dnipro as members of the Right Sector left the building with various bags and packages. They were later loaded onto waiting buses. It was not clear where exactly they were going.

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Despite the apparently peaceful departure from Kiev, the Right Sector does not seem in any rush to comply with the new laws handed down from the Ukrainian parliament.

Right Sector regional Kiev leader Ihor Mazu responded to the new law in a statement to Ukrainian television on Tuesday, vowing to continue arming themselves.

"If the war continues to come to Ukraine, Right Sector will be in the first trenches, it will be defending the Ukrainian state. And a sufficient number of enemies know that," he said.

Mazu continued that most of the weapons that the Right Sector had were perfectly legal, registered and borrowed from friends who happen to be avid hunters.

Ukraine’s Interior Minister Verkhovna Rada Arsen Avakov told reporters on Tuesday that there are currently about 3,000 illegal weapons left in circulation in Ukraine.

Avakov said that the disarmament was “a key factor of stabilization of current situation in Ukraine."

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928