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12 Jul, 2008 00:39

Anti-NATO protesters step up demo against war games

Anti-NATO demonstrators in southern Ukraine are refusing to surrender after their camp was violently attacked. Activists from the Progressive Socialist Party are protesting against the alliance-led military exercises to be held in Crimea and Odessa on Mon

On July 7, a group of men – some in police uniform, some not – conducted an attempt to forcefully dismantle the socialists' tent camp.

The party's leader, Natalya Vitrenko, says the attack on the camp was totally illegitimate, as the protest site was set up in full accordance with the country's laws.

“If people want to have a rally, a demonstration, or a picket the main thing is to inform the authorities,” she said. “We did it in full accordance with the constitution. Our rally is absolutely peaceful, people have no weapons. They neither throw stones nor block roads.”

Vladimir Babiy, was among those beaten up during what he described as a violent attack on a peaceful act of civil disobedience.

“They dragged me into a bus and put me in a head-lock,” he said. “It's when one of your arms is under your chin and the other one is above your head. They did not let me breathe, they beat me till I was unconscious. I came to when they splashed me with water. And I heard them saying – don't let him die here, call the medics.  They were professionals at beating. They hit me in the kidneys, but so that no traces are left.”

RT asked the interior ministry for clarification, but there was nobody to who could confirm what happened. In fact, the protesters themselves doubted that the attackers were genuine policemen.

Nevertheless, the camp was erected again, this time uniting several hundred people from all over Ukraine. They drew posters with calls to stop 'NATO intervention'.

The new camp has been set up just metres away from the entrance to the Chernomorskaya military base – the venue for an upcoming NATO war game called the ‘Sea Breeze'.

This is not the first time such tactics have been used in Ukraine. In 2006, thousands hit the streets of the Crimean town of Feodosia, blocking the streets and jeopardising a military exercise. In the fight of the people against NATO, it was the former who won – after 20 days of protests, the war games were cancelled.

This time, the protesters are calmer and say they will barricade the road only if attacks on their camp continue. They insist that it is a peaceful protest and that they simply want NATO officials to see that Ukraine's possible accession to the organisation's ranks is not welcomed in their country – at least among some people.