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14 Mar, 2014 07:44

​Maidan 'veterans' walk free after storming Kiev bank

​Maidan 'veterans' walk free after storming Kiev bank

A group of men who identified themselves as the 'Warriors of Narnia', one of Kiev’s ‘self-defense’ squads, have been released from custody after convincing authorities that their armed assault on a bank was merely a measure to "protect" it.

The armed men who raided a bank in Kiev on Wednesday night were set free as there were “no grounds” to detain them, the press service of the Interior Ministry announced.

The men reportedly identified themselves as active participants in last month’s bloody unrest in the center of Kiev. They claim to be allies of the right wing extremists who were the driving force of the coup that deposed President Victor Yanukovich.

“The identities of all 38 people were established. They are citizens of Ukraine. There are no grounds for their detention. The weapons that they voluntarily laid down will be sent for examination. We are questioning the bank’s guards now and studying the footage of surveillance cameras. Thus, we will ascertain who was at the bank at night and what they did,” police source told ITAR-TASS.

The group was identified as the 'Warriors of Narnia' cell, infamous on the front-line battles with security forces during the Maidan clashes in February. 'Narnia' units became notorious for provoking and storming Berkut cordons during the seizure of the city administration. It is not clear what the relationship between the group and the kingdom of Narnia from the C. S. Lewis children's book series is.

Kiev, January 25, 2014.(Reuters / David Mdzinarishvili)

Police found the group's testimony convincing enough when one of them stated that the gang had stormed the bank to protect it, while another said he was just “passing by and accidentally entered the financial institution.”

At the time of the arrest, Ukraine's Internal Ministry announced that 38 armed men had raided a Ukrainian Business Bank office in Moskovskaya Street.

“At night, young people in camouflage and masks, armed with clubs and knives, broke into the bank office,” said the statement, widely cited by local media.

Initially unaware of what exactly was happening, local media and witnesses at the scene reported the developments as they unfolded.

Many witnesses mentioned that plywood sheets were used to nail shut the entrance to the bank, with those inside running around “searching for something.” UNIAN news service reported sources saying that 'Narnia' were trying to break into the vault, while the security guards barricaded themselves on the third floor and called the police.

Three units of the state security service reportedly arrived at the scene, including special forces units. Since such incidents are usually tackled by now-disbanded Berkut police force, law enforcers spent quite some time deciding who should be in charge of the operation.

During the standoff, all security guards were eventually released by the armed gang without any preconditions. One of the bank's security personnel told local news channels that prior to their release, a man in a ski mask approached him and said they were not going to rob the bank, but were just “guarding it.”

The negotiation led to the surrender of all members of the armed gang. According to state security service, some 20 PM pistols, one hunting carbine Saiga, three Kalashnikovs, as well as knives and batons have been seized at the time of their detention by Titan and Sokol special units.

Kiev, February 2, 2014.(RIA Novosti / Andrey Stenin)

Maidan self-defence and the Right Sector are denying their involvement in the accident. The so-called Commandant of Maidan self-defense Andrey Paruby said that his affiliate were not engaged in the attack on the bank. “Our people are not engaged in looting!” said Paruby.

It remains unclear as to how exactly the group was to use their arsenal to protect the bank. There is still doubt as to whether the financial institution is still under threat.