Neo-Nazi Paramilitary Groups Drive Coup in Ukraine, Overriding EU-Imposed Agreement

In a webcast Friday, Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine leader Natalia Vitrenko warned that the agreement signed that day between President Victor Yanukovych and Parliamentary opposition leaders would not bring a full stop to the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine, but “only a comma.” Indeed, within hours of the agreement the radicals now running the Euromaidan encampment in Kiev’s Independence Square had denounced it and demanded the immediate ouster of Yanukovych. On Saturday, the Supreme Rada (Parliament) followed those directions.

The Rada passed laws to impeach Yanukovych and hold Presidential elections not at the end of the year, as stated in Friday’s agreement, but on May 25. It voted for the immediate release of ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison; by evening, she was giving a speech from the Maidan stage. Internal Affairs Ministry forces had withdrawn from Kiev, leaving the streets under the control of the Maidan militias. Yanukovych flew to the eastern city of Kharkov, while his Kiev estate, Mezhyhirya, was opened to journalists who spent the day sifting through papers and tweeting their findings about the President’s lifestyle and political operations.

Parliament appointed Arsen Avakov, a member of the Batkivshchyna Party, as Minister of Internal Affairs. Avakov promptly said that he plans to incorporate the neo-Nazi, Banderist Right Sector movement and the Maidan Self-Defense units into the ministry.

Another ally of Batkivshchyna and Tymoshenko, former Internal Affairs Minister Yuri Lutsenko, profusely thanked Right Sector and its leader Dmytro Yarosh from the Maidan stage Saturday night. But Right Sector itself continues to escalate. When newly chosen Speaker of the Supreme Rada Alexander Turchynov, of Batkivshchyna, announced Saturday that the Maidan had achieved its goals and people could go home, Right Sector issued a rebuttal, saying that it would not leave Independence Square. The leader of Common Cause (known by its Ukrainian initials as “SS”), Alexander Danilyuk, posted that “the Maidan will decide for itself, when to disperse.” He called for a “total reset,” rehabilitation of political prisoners, and a ban on the Party of Regions and the Communist Party of Ukraine. “And that’s just the beginning,” said Danilyuk. Yarosh is on record as saying that war with Russia is inevitable.

From Kharkov, Yanukovych described the events in the capital as a coup and insisted he would not step down. “Everything that is happening today is, to a greater degree, vandalism and bandits, and a coup d’etat,” Yanukovych said in a televised statement. He called the Rada’s laws of Friday and Saturday “illegal,” vowing not to sign them, and compared the situation to the rise of Nazis in the 1930s. Yanukovych reported that his car had been shot at, but said, “I have no fear. I am overwhelmed by grief for our country. I feel responsibility.” Later he was reported to have flown to Donetsk, but there was no confirmation of an attempt to leave Ukraine. At the Maidan, Tymoshenko shouted that Yanukovych should be brought there for the administration of mob justice.

A conference in Kharkov yesterday drew governors, regional officials and legislators from eastern and southern Ukraine, with observers from Russia. They called for regional authorities to ensure Constitutional order, especially taking measures to protect arms depots. The meeting adopted a statement that, “The recent decisions of the national Parliament were taken under conditions of terror, threats of violence and death.” They called for the formation of regional defense militias. Russian observers, including the foreign affairs committee heads of the State Duma and the Federation Council, praised the meeting’s decisions as positive. By evening, however, Interfax-Ukraine reported that the governor and mayor of Kharkov, organizers of the conference, had left the meeting by car and crossed the border into Russia.

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