Clashes between radicals, police mar rally on ‘Dignity & Freedom Day’ in Kiev (VIDEO)
A rally being held on Kiev’s central Independence Square, widely known as Maidan, to mark the third anniversary of anti-government protests that led to the coup in 2014, ended in scuffles between radicals and police.
Between 400 and 1,000 people gathered on Maidan to join the rally dubbed ‘Veche’ or ‘public assembly’ on ‘Dignity and Freedom Day’ – a holiday marking the beginning of events in Kiev in 2013 that resulted in over a hundred deaths, and the ousting of the government.
Members of radical nationalist movements Right Sector and White Hammer were among the protesters. Some demonstrators tried to take tires to the square and set them on fire but police intervened preventing them from doing so.
Clashes broke out between police officers and a group of masked youth after a call to “defend democratic values” because police were allegedly trying to break up “a peaceful rally.”
According to Interfax, the protesters managed to take the tires away from police and set them alight at the square. Later, Ukrainian media reported that the leader of the far-right Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), Nikolay Kokhanovsky, urged his followers to take tires to Maidan.
The protesters who clashed with police, had reportedly been members of the OUN and another ultranationalist group, Right Sector. Later, Kokhanovsky called on protesters to go to the office of the head of All-Ukrainian Social Movement "Ukrainian Choice", Viktor Medvedchuk.
About 500 radicals left the square and marched to a place, where they believed Medvedchuk’s office was situated. They smashed its windows and threw a burning flare inside but failed to set the office alight. They were also burning flares and smoke pellets outside of the office.
Later, the radicals also smashed windows of a nearby bank office prompting police intervention.
"Ukrainian Choice" is an NGO advocating the establishment of ‘direct democracy’ in Ukraine through holding referendums on various issues. It also calls for extensive public control over the state officials.
The NGO is also labeled “pro-Russian” by some Ukrainian groups, including radicals.Police cordoned off Madian and nearby streets but there were no reports about clashes resulting in any injuries or arrests.
According to Ukraine's Novoe Vremya news media outlet, some 18,000 police officers are now patrolling streets in central Kiev.
On Monday, a number of demonstrations were held in the Ukrainian capital. Among them was an ultranationalists' march involving members of the Azov Battalion, which includes volunteer militia active in the eastern Ukraine conflict. It has been accused of violence and numerous human rights abuses.