Kiev protesters demand resignations & early elections, mull forming ‘popular government’

People attend an anti-government rally at Independence Square in central Kiev, Ukraine, February 21, 2016. © Gleb Garanich
Protesters who gathered for a mass rally in central Kiev announced the creation of their own “popular government” and demanded the immediate ouster of the Ukrainian cabinet and president, as well as the resignation of traitors and the dissolution of the parliament.

Hundreds of people joined the protest on the Kiev’s central Maidan square on Sunday on the second anniversary of the bloody Euromaidan riots that led to an overthrow of the government in 2014 and major unrest in the country.

The number of protesters, according to TASS, amounted to about 300 people, while AP puts their numbers at about 1,000. The rally was organized by a group of nationalists called ‘Revolutionary Right Forces’ that consists of the former members of a different far-right organization, including the ultra-nationalist Right Sector movement as well as the Azov volunteer militia battalion, which sports many far-right zealots in its ranks.

The organizers of the rally announced the creation of the “popular assembly” that would be composed of the representatives of all Ukrainian regions elected “on entirely democratic basis.” They also announced the formation of their own “popular government.” They urged the Ukrainian people to join the ‘Revolutionary Right Forces’ organization and create its cells in other regions of the country.

The protesters expressed their discontent with the current policies of Ukrainian authorities, denouncing them as “traitors” and blaming them for the ongoing crisis. They also demanded the immediate ouster of Arseny Yatsenyuk’s government as well as that of the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The demonstrators also called for the resignation of all heads of Ukrainian security forces and their prosecution as well as for banning from power all those, who held political, administrative and governmental offices in the last ten years. At the same time, they demanded that early presidential and parliamentary elections be held in the nearest future.

The radicals also called for a withdrawal from the Minsk Agreements and the imposition of martial law in the eastern regions of the country, as well as in Crimea, which joined Russia following the 2014 referendum but is still deemed by the nationalists to be a part of Ukraine’s territory.

Additionally, the ‘Revolutionary Right Forces’ movement suggested introducing sanctions, restrictions or bans on all finances and other assets of Russian origin in order to compensate the losses resulting from the “Russian aggression.”

The rally ended peacefully with police reporting no major incidents or clashes with the protesters. However some activists who set up several tents and lit fires in trash bins claimed they would stay on the square untl the next morning and continue the protest until their demands are met.

Earlier on Saturday, Ukrainian radicals wrecked the offices of Russian companies Sberbank and Alfa-Bank in Kiev throwing rocks and other projectiles at the buildings and shattering their windows. The offices of the eastern Ukrainian oligarch, Renat Akhmetov, were also attacked in the capital on the same day.

Members of the volunteer battalions which participated in Kiev’s military campaign in east Ukraine, activists from the far-right Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and the radical Right Sector movement, recently branded “illegal” by Ukraine’s Judge Advocate General were among those responsible for the violence.

On Saturday evening several dozen camouflaged men claiming to be members of the ‘Revolutionary Right Forces’ movement arrived at Maidan Square (also known as Independence Square) and read out a manifesto demanding the resignation of the government and the reversal of the Minsk peace agreements.

The members of the ‘Revolutionary Right Forces’ also occupied a hotel near the Maidan square and set up improvised headquarters in its events hall. However, the hotel operated normally at the same time. On Sunday as authorities were reportedly preparing to clear the hotel, the nationalists claimed their actions were coordinated with the hotel’s administration and even paid for their ‘stay’ in the hotel before leaving it.