Ukraine’s Aidar battalion fighters besiege military HQ in Kiev (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Fighters of the notorious paramilitary battalion Aidar have rallied in Kiev against their disbandment, attempting to storm the Ukraine Defense Ministry’s HQ and accusing the regular army of deliberately shelling Aidar’s own positions with heavy artillery.
Ukraine’s most infamous volunteer squad, the Aidar battalion – condemned by Amnesty International for its unmatched brutality in eastern Ukraine – allegedly came under Grad and Smerch rocket fire by the regular military near the town of Schastya in Lugansk region.
“[Ukrainian] artillery is working against Aidar battalion’s positions,” said Aidar commander and MP representing Ukraine’s Radical Party, Sergey Melnichuk, during a protest outside the Defense Ministry’s building in Kiev. Citing his own fighter, Melnichuk claimed that Kiev’s artillery targeted the battalion’s positions “15-20 times.”
Melnichuk and his fighters called the rally outside the country’s military headquarters on Friday, after the volunteer battalion was disbanded – or "rebranded" – according to the Defense Ministry.
“The battalion was disbanded three days ago. It does not exist according to documents. The Minister of Defense and the Head of the General Staff say that they have not signed such an order. However, documents confirming that such a unit does not exist as well as the seal of a new unit have already been delivered to the frontline,” Melnichuk told Apostrophe publication.
According to the battalion’s press secretary, Yuliya Evdokimova, the voluntary units are being disbanded “because it is detrimental to have voluntary battalions at the frontline.” All voluntary battalions will be “re-formatted into other organizations, merged with other brigades or other units, and thoroughly purged,” she told Ukrainian Pravda.
However, the next day, the Facebook page of the battalion refuted the disbandment of the fighting force, claiming that Evdokimova does not represent the volunteer fighters.
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) January 30, 2015
The confusion on the status of the battalion continued on Friday, as some 50 Aidar fighters rallied to show their “under-appreciation” by their own command. Formally, all volunteer territorial battalions are detachments of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.
Melnichuk said that his squad “will not leave the frontline, no one will leave positions even if our own will storm us, and we have such instances,” as quoted by NTV channel.
— Revista Amor y Rabia (@Amor_y_Rabia) January 30, 2015
The commander told the Russian outlet that the decision to get rid of the nationalistically committed contingent arises from the unwillingness of Kiev authorities to pay for Aidar's services.
“Now they have to pay our salaries, but if you disband us, no one has to pay anyone,” Melnichuk said.
“Let them show, who out of Aidar they have paid, who did they help? We will continue to fight no matter what.”
— Sunset (@_darkhours) January 30, 2015
Melnichuk also claimed in an interview with Ukraine’s 112 channel that the central military command might have “got ahold of big funds” in exchange for surrendering Schastya to the rebel forces. Melnichuk claimed that when a similar deal was offered to him – $20 million in exchange for Aidar leaving Schastya – he turned it down.
The Defense Ministry in fact claimed the opposite, saying that the volunteer force will be “strengthened” under a new brand. The “rebranding” is allegedly required to “prevent abuse of the seal and documents that were previously lost and can become an instrument of fraud...”
— Hromadske.TV (@HromadskeTV) January 30, 2015
“To perform essential tasks, Aidar battalion will be strengthened further, and its soldiers equipped with everything they need,” the statement read, adding that changes were only made to the official seal of the unit, as its number designation has changed.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has called the actions of Aidar fighters “treason.”
“Blocking the Defense Ministry of a country at war, during the active battles at the frontline – is treason,” he said.