News / Europe

Arrests of Ultranationalists Fuel Jitters in Ukraine

Demonstrators march during a pro Russia rally in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 11, 2014
Demonstrators march during a pro Russia rally in Donetsk, Ukraine, March 11, 2014
The arrest in Kyiv this week of an ethnic Russian pan-nationalist accused of recruiting dozens of paid recruits to storm the Ukrainian parliament is fuelling allegations here that Russia is preparing so-called “provocations” designed to destabilize Ukraine.
 
The country’s new leaders have accused the Kremlin for weeks of instigating and encouraging pro-Russian political unrest along the eastern border.  They say Kremlin-encouraged provocateurs have been stirring up opposition to the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych and fomenting protests by groups of ethnic Russians campaigning to follow Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia absorbed after last month’s disputed referendum.
 
The clandestine “active measures” are reminiscent of Russian intelligence activity in the Republic of Georgia following that country’s 2005 Rose Revolution, they claim, and could be a prelude of a Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry recently met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov to discuss ways to defuse tensions over Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula, a move following the ouster of Ukraine’s pro-Russia president Yanukovych.  Kerry raised “strong concerns” with Mr. Lavrov about the presence of Russian troops on the Ukraine border, arguing they were inducing a climate of fear and intimidation.
 
Lavrov insisted Russia isn’t planning to invade or divide Ukraine and said he wants a diplomatic solution to the standoff over Crimea. And Moscow says it has withdrawn a battalion of its troops from the border, although NATO officials say they have seen no evidence of that withdrawal so far.
 
Ukrainian jitters
 
But while the diplomats negotiate, Ukrainian officials remain jittery and the plot they maintain they have uncovered to storm the country’s parliament is adding to the nervousness.
 
Officials with Ukraine’s intelligence service, the SBU, say Oleg Bakhtiyarov, head of the pan-nationalist Eurasian Youth Union of Russia, was planning to force his way into the country’s parliament and the Cabinet building. “Bahtiyarov promised participants of the assault a cash reward up to $500 each,” according to an SBU statement released to the media.
 
Intelligence officials allege Bakhtiyarov, who was arrested on March 31, had stockpiled Molotov cocktails and was aiming to mount the assault in a bid to disrupt presidential election scheduled for May 25.
 
Also on March 31 Ukrainian authorities arrested an intelligence officer from Transnistria, a pro-Russian region that broke away with Moscow’s help from Moldova in 1992, on charges of smuggling arms into Ukraine, according to the SBU.
 
Last week, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Secretary Andriy Parubiy told a press conference in Kyiv that between 500 and 700 suspected Russian provocateurs are being blocked daily from entering Ukraine.
 
Parubiy said Kiev authorities had “arrested separatist leaders in the east” and he accused Moscow of “attempts to provoke street demonstrations in the eastern Ukrainian towns of Donestk and Kharkiv” ahead of a possible Russian intervention. But Western officials have privately criticized Parubiy for exaggerating the estimates of the number of Russian troops currently on the border. He says 100,000 while US and European officials have talked in terms of about 30,000 to 45,000.
 
“His figure is high,” a Kyiv-based European defense official told VOA. 
 
Crackdown on Extremists
 
The Eurasian Youth Union led by Bakhtiyarov is a Russian political organization and affiliated with the pan-nationalist Eurasia Party. Both have been proscribed in Ukraine as extremist organizations and members in the past have been convicted charges of vandalism and fighting. The Eurasia Party leader Aleksandr Dugin, whose writings Russian President Vladimir Putin has quoted from, advocates the creation of a Eurasian Empire centered on Russia.
 
Russian officials deny the Kremlin is involved in fomenting unrest in Ukraine.
But a former senior adviser to President Putin argues clandestine Russian agencies, including the intelligence service the FSB, are already fomenting trouble in order to provoke political violence allowing Moscow to intervene and to argue it is doing so to protect ethnic Russians. Andrei Illarionov claims Moscow is using similar techniques employed ahead of the 2008 invasion of Georgia’s South Ossetia region.
 
“The aim is to provoke civil conflict in Ukraine,” he says.
 
Former Ukrainian defense minister Yevhen Marchuk also maintains Russia is seeking to sow discord in Ukraine, and points to the alleged Bakhtiyarov plot as evidence, arguing Moscow wants to “undermine the presidential election and not by the Russian armed forces, but by Ukrainians.”
 
Ukraine’s interim leaders are actively seeking to reduce post-Yanukovych internal conflicts and today (April 1) members of the Ukrainian ultranationalist group Right Sector were persuaded to disarm and leave their hotel headquarters in Kyiv after police surrounded the building. The police action came a day after a Right Sector activist opened fire in central Kyiv injuring three people.
 
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has mounted a string of arrests against the Right Sector after ultranationalist activists said they intended to take revenge for the slaying of one of their leaders by Ukrainian police. The police say they shot him when he resisted arrest.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More