‘There is no Russian nation’: Ukrainian nationalists try to derail Russian voting (VIDEO)
The Russian diplomatic missions in Ukraine have been targeted with several attacks by radical nationalists over the past few years. On Sunday, while citizens living in Russia exercised their right to vote for MPs and heads of several regions, the Russian Embassy in Kiev turned into a site of violent confrontation.
Embassy security was bolstered with an additional fence and metal shutters over the windows ahead of the election. Top Ukrainian officials and nationalist politicians condemned the election because it includes Crimea, the predominantly Russian former Ukrainian region that voted to break away from Kiev after an armed coup in 2013 imposed an anti-Russia government.
The scuffles at the embassy were championed by the nationalist Svoboda Party. One of its MPs, Igor Miroshnichenko, along with a group of supporters, came to the embassy to block its entrance.
Kiev police forced the group to stop blocking the doors, but the confrontation continued. Miroshnichenko tried to break the fence and later started harassing people approaching the embassy, according to footage taken at the scene.
“Look at yourself and look at me. I am Ukrainian and you are a nobody,” he told a man after finding out that he did not speak Ukrainian. “There is no such nation as Russia!”
At least one such exchange escalated into a fight. Footage of the incident showed one of the nationalists kicking a man in the head in front of a crowd of agitated people filming the incident with their cameras.
The Ukrainian protesters also had banners that read: “You vote – go back to Russia” and “Death to Russia.” They also carried an effigy of Russian President Vladimir Putin in prisoner clothing, hanging from improvised gallows.
Miroshnichenko is notorious for an episode in 2014, when he and his supporters broke into the office of newly-appointed national television chief Aleksandr Panteleymonov. The intruders insulted and beat the man and forced him to sign a letter of resignation.
According to the Russian Central Election Commission, only 20 people managed to cast their ballots at the embassy in Kiev in three hours after it opened.
“The situation is not easy,” Russian diplomat Andrey Nesterenko told TASS news agency. “As far as we know, the Ukrainian authorities are providing extra security for the polling station located at the embassy."
Elsewhere in Ukraine, radicals from the ultranationalist Right Sector also tried to block the entrance to the Russian Consulate General in the city of Odessa, and also tried to pick a fight with police. As a result, from two to four nationalists were detained, according to various media reports. The detained radicals were then released and continued to protest in front of the consulate building.
Earlier on Saturday morning, Ukrainian nationalists from the group called Sich, a former armed wing of the Svoboda Party, attacked the Russian Embassy, launching fireworks at the building. They pledged to derail the voting on Sunday.
Киев. Посольство России— Армен Гаспарян (@A_Gasparyan) September 18, 2016
Туда бы 50 околофутбольщиков из ЦСКА и "Спартака"... pic.twitter.com/6fRV1a6g4Y
The Ukrainian authorities dismissed the incident as a “minor act of hooliganism” and said no special security measures would be taken on Sunday. The strong police presence around the embassy indicates that they may have changed their minds.