Many police officers protecting the seat of the Kiev-appointed governor in Kharkov’s Freedom Square have their hearts set on the pro-Russian protesters. Image: U. Heyden
On Friday, two activists of the movement "Kharkov guardians" shot by right-wing radicals. Despite the fear of terrorist acts participated in Kharkov 3.000 people participate in referendum on federalization of Ukraine
The eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkov and Donetsk become new centers of violent clashes. In Donetsk on Sunday demonstrated 10.000 people with "Russia, Russia"-shouting in the city center. Protesters stormed the prosecutor’s office and the office of oligarch Sergei Taruta, who was appointed by Kiev as the new governor.
In Kharkov on Sunday, despite the ban, 3.000 people held a referendum on Liberty Square. On prepared bulletins it was possible to vote on the right to use the Russian language and on an autonomous status of the Kharkov region within the framework of a federally structured Ukraine.
The majority of the demonstrators in Kharkov are clearly leftist. Not all Kharkov citizens are in favor of Crimea’s unification with Russia. Many citizens in the city want Ukraine to remain as a state, but to have good relations not with the West but with Russia. Only a small part of the demonstrators is "grobrussian", voted reactionary.
Rally of the leftist organization Borotba in front of the Lenin monument. "Kharkov – our city – our fortress". Picture: U. Heyden
The mayor of Kharkov, Gennady Kernes, who has so far made pro-Russian demands, tried to diade the demonstrators from the referendum at a rally of the left-wing organization Borotba on Saturday. But his speech was "Shame, shame"-by shouts. "Be balanced. Do not escalate", the mayor shouted to the angry crowd from the back of a truck. But the protesters did not want to listen to the mayor, who under the prere of investigations by the prosecutor’s office abandoned his pro-Russian course.
Because he could not make himself heard, the mayor, with the help of police officers, made his way through the angry crowd, which had "Berkut, Berkut!" shouted, and sped away in his black jeep. The special police unit ordered by the new government in Kiev is still revered by many people in Kharkov. At the fub of Lenin’s monument in Kharkov there are still flowers in memory of the Berkut policemen killed during the clashes in Kiev.
Flowers for killed Berkut policemen in front of Lenin monument. Picture: U. Heyden
Outrage over murder of government opponents
Another reason for the demonstrators’ uprising was that on Friday night two young opponents of the Kiev government were shot dead by members of Right Sector and five others – including a policeman – were injured by gunshots. Artyom Shudov and Alexey Sharov were fatally hit by bullets.
How had it come to the murders? First, members of Right Sector had provoked young people guarding the Lenin Monument from a VW bus with trangas grenades and gunfire. On Friday night, 200 people tried to attack the office of the Right Sector organization in Rymarski Street, No. 18, where the provocateurs had entrenched themselves. In total, 40 right-wingers had entrenched themselves in the Buro. They shot from the windows of the office with pistols and automatic weapons. Individual government opponents shot back with gas pistols.
The right-wingers had taken a policeman and two security guards hostage for their own protection. They also threw Molotov cocktails at the demonstrators from one of the roofs.
At a solidarity demonstration with Mayor Kernes on Thursday, not a single Russian flag was visible. Kernes had previously pursued a pro-Russian course, but has become cautious since the Prosecutor General in Kiev started investigating him over an old criminal case. Picture: U. Heyden
Mayor negotiated with Right Sector to lay down arms
On Saturday night, after negotiations with Mayor Kernes, who appeared in person in the office of the Right Sector in Rymarski Street, the right-wingers laid down their arms. A special unit of the Ministry of Interior arrested 29 right-wingers and drove them in buses to police stations. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry is investigating the incident.
About ten right-wingers managed to escape, according to media reports, among them allegedly Andrei Beletzki, leader of the "Right Sector East". The fact that Beletzki was not arrested may have been a concession that led to the ceasefire, Russian-language media speculate.
Kharkov government generals now fear that the 29 arrested Right Sector members will be taken to Kiev, released there, and the murders of the two anti-fascists will go unpunished. The concern is not unjustified, because after the upheaval in Kiev, numerous violent right-wing criminals, some of whom have been in Ukrainian prisons for a long time, have been released.
For the right-wingers the confrontation with the antifascists ended comparatively mildly. A group "Misanthropic Division – dead for Wotan", which posted photos of the bombardment of leftist government opponents – even as the bullets were flying – on the network vkontakte.ru reported on Friday that 240 people had been released from prison.000 clicks and spoke of a rough propaganda success.
Fund raising for the resistance in the Southeast. Picture: U Heyden
New governor shifts responsibility "Prussian forces"
What did Right Sector want to achieve with its provocation in front of the Lenin monument, which started everything on Friday? Apparently, the right-wingers are concerned with creating a climate of fear in Kharkov so that fewer citizens will participate in crude rallies. The calculation coincides with the interests of the new power in Kiev.
The "Right Sector" naturally presents the matter in a different way. In one in the network vkontakte.According to a statement published in the Russian press, by storming the office of the Right Sector, the demonstrators wanted to provoke the invasion of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Russian demonstrators in Kharkov "Southeast together". Image: U. Heyden
The new governor of Kharkov, millionaire Igor Baluta, appointed by Kiev, argues along the same lines. He explained that the storming of the office of the Ukrainian organization Prosvita, which is also home to Right Sector, was a "Well-planned provocation of pro-Russian activists". In a Facebook entry, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov spoke of a "Shifting between radicals" and called on the people to stand together.
The left-wing organization Borotba reported that the police, who protect the seat of the newly installed governor day and night with a large contingent of well-equipped law enforcement officers, did not arrive until after the first-aid vehicles in Rymarski Street. According to Borotba, the Interior Minister is partly to blame for the deaths in Kharkov. According to information from the Left Organization, some of the organizations united in the Right Sector are financially supported by the Interior Ministry. The Ministry of the Interior has so far surprisingly failed to delete the footage of Right Sector members wielding firearms, which dates back to February.
Poster in front of the Lenin monument in Kharkov. "Against oligarchs and fascists". Image: U. Heyden
There has also been one death in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. On Friday night, during clashes between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian nationalists in Donetsk, a local activist of the right-wing extremist party Svoboda was killed by a knife thrust.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement on Saturday. According to the statement, peaceful citizens of Ukraine had turned to Russia for help. "The petitions are called", it says in the declaration.
Ulrich Heyden currently reporting from Kharkov.