How Violent Beating of Protestors in Dnipropetrovsk was done

Local Officials Crack Down on Peaceful Protests in Dnipropetrovsk (Eastern Ukraine) on 26 January 2014

 Key points

  • The peaceful anti-government protest in front of the regional administration in Dnipropetrovsk was attacked by concerted forces of police and paid gangs of about 200 thugs;
  • The authorities used a group of 50 provocateurs to simulate storming of the regional administration, only to use it as a pretext for a bloody crack-down on peaceful protestors nearby;
  • There are clues that the criminals were hired and transported to Dnipropetrovsk by the people close to Oleksandr Vilkul, then-deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine and formerly a regional chief;
  • These clashes were observed and allegedly “supervised” by Yevgen Udod, the head of Dnipropetrovsk regional council. Possible variants of spelling his name:  Evgeniy / Ievgen / Yevhen Udod.

Political Context

Massive anti-government protests (called Euromaidan) have covered almost all the territory of Ukraine. Despite an unannounced cease-fire, the authorities keep using police force to beat up and arrest activists and ordinary protesters. Facing backlash from the West and substantial business risks, major oligarchs have tried to distance themselves from the deadly violence used by the authorities. On 25 January 2014, Rinat Akhmetov’s group System Capital Management (SCM) published a statement calling for peaceful conflict resolution in Ukraine: “it is only by peaceful action that the political crisis can be resolved. Any use of force and weapons is unacceptable”[1]. This statement was widely perceived as a positive sign that Rinat Akhmetov is not interested in continuation of violence. The events that happened the next day in Eastern Ukraine cast some doubts on this hope of Akhmetov group’s support for reconciliation, as Dnipropetrovsk regional elites close to him planned and executed brutal crack-down of peaceful anti-government protests. It is telling that a particularly violent clash with peaceful protestors occurred in Eastern Ukrainian cities: Zaporizzhia and Dnipropetrovsk, both controlled by the ruling party of Regions.

Some sources report that one of those officials responsible for escalating violence in Dnipropetrovsk is reported to seek a long-term visa to visit the European Union. I publish the following information about them in this blog and send it over to the relevant stakeholders.

Account of suppressing the protest

Where: Regional State Administration, Kirova prospect, Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine

When: from 13.00 till about 19.00, on 26 January 2014

The peaceful anti-government demonstration of about 3.000 people in Dnipropetrovsk ended in a series of bloody beatings of protestors carried out by hired armed thugs amid utter inaction of the police. This was later followed by massive arrests of peaceful protestors. As you can see in this video[2], a crowd of about 50 provocateurs tried to imitate “storming” of the administration building. This gave the police a formal pretext to push people back with shields, which soon caused tensions[3]. After these incidents, peaceful protestors (who had nothing to do with provocateurs) started to talk to Anatoliy Krupskiy, the first deputy mayor of Dnipropetrovsk. They demanded to know who those people surrounding the local administration were. However, the talks soon came to naught when the police started to push people back with shields. Even though peaceful protestors appointed a group of negotiators, one of them (Mr. Shybanov) was soon arrested on the spot.

Later, about 200 thugs (called “titushki” in Ukraine)  wielding sticks and sometimes traumatic weapons attacked peaceful protestors, running from behind the police lines and then returning when necessary. Thus, they were using the police as a shield after provoking clashes with unarmed protestors. The thugs called themselves a “people’s guard of the president” and used traumatic weapons against protestors[4], with impunity from hundreds of policemen present. According to a testimony of one such criminal, he was paid 100 hryvnas a day (less than 10 euro) for coming to Dnipropetrovsk to cause mischief.

The role of the police was not only limited to meek observance of the situation. Witnesses say that Colonel Khutornyi (more information about him[5]) was coordinating the actions of police and the gang of titushki. The latter used traumatic weapons to shoot at the football fans of FC Dnipro, who were trying to protect peaceful demonstrators[6]. Whereas 7 protestors (but not thugs) were arrested by the police on the spot, more were sooner persecuted: now the count of those detained is 37, according to the regional department of Internal Affairs[7].

Apart from the unfettered use of traumatic weapons against the protestors, violence against journalists raises concerns. While beating up protestors, the armed thugs did not spare journalists wearing clear distinctive marks (such as Press vests); one was shot in the back and two camera operators were attacked. The police, meanwhile, used water sprays to assault protestors at the minus 15 cold, in an attempt to cause damage to their health[8].

Who is responsible for the use of force?

The armed thugs did not appear from nowhere, but were stationed around the administration building at least a day before the demonstration, according to numerous accounts of witnesses. Moreover, there are reasons to believe that they had been purposefully equipped and trained inside the building. This video[9] shows that the crowd of “titushki” was hosted in the building of regional state administration, where apparently they were given sticks and traumatic weapons. These people can be identified by yellow bands on their arms, which proves that they received some sort of “immunity” from the police.

According to sources from investigative journalists and activists in Dnipropetrovsk, Mr. Oleksandr Vilkul, the former governor of Dnipropetrovsk oblast (region) and currently the deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine, is suspected of facilitating the “deployment” of the armed gangs from his home town Kryvy Rih. The actual recruitment was allegedly done by Mr. Anatoli Buryak, the manager of a local sports club connected to Oleksandr Vilkul’s father, the city’s mayor Yuri Vilkul. As mentioned  above, the colonel of the police was involved in coordinating the criminals in assaults on protestors.

The supervision of titushki’s criminal activities against the protestors was carried out by Yevgen Udod, the regional council chief and a close associate of Vilkul as a former manager at SCM, Ukraine’s biggest conglomerate owned by Rinat Akhmetov. Several participants of the peaceful rally claim that he had been noticed in one of the offices of the administration building watching (and allegedly coordinating) the clashes.

Удод Евгений Григорьевич

Photo: Evgeniy Udod.

More than two weeks after these events, the authorities failed to carry out a transparent and fair investigation into these brutal events. Moreover, protestors are still being persecuted by the police in Dnipropetrovsk.

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About Evgen Vorobiov

I am an analyst of international relations, currently working on civilian security issues. In the past 3 years, I've done research on Ukraine's regional politics, on EU-Ukraine Association process and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. I hold a Master's Degree (cum laude) in European Studies and International Politics from Maastricht University (The Netherlands). I tweet regularly at @vorobyov as a private person. In addition to native-level Ukrainian and Russian, I speak fluent English, passable German and Polish, basic Dutch and French.

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