The Ukrainian parliament is witnessing a second day of picketing, as hundreds of Right Sector activists pressure MPs to sack the interior minister. Earlier other protesters tried to force their way into Kiev’s Rada to stop a vote on austerity measures.
Just a month after street protests forced President Viktor Yanukovich from the country, Ukrainian capital faces a new wave of anti-government demonstrations.
The worst action against the authorities is staged by the Right Sector, an umbrella organization of radical activists, who played the key part in the February bloody stand-off. At least a thousand of the activists are standing guard around the Verkhovna Rada building on Friday demanding that the MPs vote on sacking the freshly-appointed interior minister.
The protesters accuse Arsen Avakov of ordering what they call a political assassination of one of their leaders, Aleksandr Muzychko. The notorious Right Sector brute, who made media waves in Ukraine thanks to videos of him bullying officials and threatening to hang Avakov, was gunned down in a police raid aimed at arresting him.
Right Sector vowed revenge for their comrade’s death and for a second day are attempting to pressure Ukrainian lawmakers into sacking Avakov. A draft bill to that effect has been filed with the parliament on Friday by an independent MP, a move which may have stopped a planned siege of the building by the radicals.
The legislators do not appear to be happy with the protest rally at their doorstep. Speaker Aleksandr Turchinov, who was also appointed acting president of Ukraine, branded the Right Sector’s actions a provocation.
“The Ukrainian parliament is the foundation of the legitimate Ukrainian power. Without this foundation there would be no power at all,” he said.
“There is an attempt to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, it its center, in its heart, in Kiev,” Turchinov added, further alleging that the Right Sector activist may be agent provocateurs hired by Russia. He didn’t explain how exactly Moscow, which put Right Sector leader on the international wanted list, can give orders to the fiercely nationalistic organization.
Amid the confrontation an unconfirmed report claimed that the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies are debating whether they should issue sanctions against Right Sector or completely outlaw it.
The idea is reportedly supported by the chair of the Ukrainian national security service Andrey Parubiy, who also happens to have strong links with the main competitor of the Right Sector among radical activists, the Maidan Self-Defense. Members of the alternative organization are being recruited en mass into the freshly created Ukrainian National Guard, while Right Sector activists are reportedly reluctant to join in.
The confrontation between the government and the Right Sector received an unexpected twist on Thursday, when an alleged phone conversation between two officers of the Sokol (Falcon) special service unit was leaked on YouTube. The people were discussing a special operation similar to the one with Muzychko being prepared against Yarosh on the order of Ukrainian Security Service head Valentin Nalivaychenko. The authenticity of the tape remains under question.
Meanwhile less-radical Ukrainians find their own reasons to restart street protest. On Thursday a group of several dozen people tried to force their way into the parliament just as MPs were preparing to vote on a package of austerity measures suggested by the government. The protesters demanded that the package was dropped and for greater transparency of the government work.
The protest may have worked, since MPs didn’t pass the anti-crisis package in the first vote and had to vote again.