Ukraine Live Day 519: Governor Moskal Accuses Pravyi Sektor Of Kidnapping And Torture

July 21, 2015
Damage after a shell struck an apartment block in separatist-held Donetsk this morning. Photo via

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here. An archive of our liveblogs can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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For links to individual updates click on the timestamps.

For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: Evidence Review: Who Shot Down MH17?

Ukrainian Film Director On Trial In Russia for ‘Terrorism’ Charges

Ukrainian film director Sentsov went on trial today in Russia on charges of “terrorism” which his defense attorneys and colleagues say are fabrications in retaliation for his vocal protest against the annexation of Crimea, Deutsche Welle reported.

Sentsov pleaded not guilty, saying the trial was unjust.

Sentsov, 39, was arrested last May two months after the Russian occupation and charged with collaborating with the ultrarightist group Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) to carry out attacks on pro-Moscow organizations. He faces up to 20 years of imprisonment if found guilty. Said Deutsche Welle:

Sentsov, who directed the film “Gamer,” has been in jail for more than a year. His defense team describes the arrest as a kidnapping, and the case against the Crimean native as revenge for his pro-Ukrainian views.

A lawyer for the director told news agency AFP on Tuesday that he didn’t hold much hope his client would get a fair trial, saying the best-case scenario would likely be for Sentsov to be sent back to Ukraine as part of a prisoner swap deal.

“I think the result will be negative. No one will acquit anyone, no one will change any charges,” lawyer Dmitry Dinze said. “We hope that when all the procedures are done, Sentsov will be exchanged for some other people in Ukraine who are important to Russia.”

Recently, Right Sector has been in the news for a shoot-out with police in Mukhachevo in which their fighters shot dead a guard and wounded police and civilians, but in Sentsov’s case, no evidence for violence has been presented.

Ukrainska Pravda, citing Snob, reported today that Sentsov complained of torture by the FSB.  His attorney, Dmitry Dinze, did not say when and where the torture had occurred while his client was in the FSB’s custody.

The trial was partly closed as Ukrainska Pravda reported earlier.

Three pages of the charges against Sentsov and Aleksandr Kolchenko, his co-defendant, are to be shown in closed session, and the rest in open session, said his attorney.

Supporters were not allowed into the court room, including the lay public defenders usually permitted in the Ukrainian court system. Only relatives are permitted to attend, a concession achieved after attorneys petitioned the court.

Press was not allowed in the courtroom either, and reporters were only allowed to watch a live feed in a separate room.

Two other co-defendants, Gennady Afanasyev and Aleksei Chirniy, have
already been sentenced to 7 years of prison, considered a lighter
sentence after they gave testimony against Sentsov and Kolchenko.

– Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

What Happened At Today’s Right Sector Rally In Kiev, And Why Should We Care?

Today, members of Ukraine’s Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) gathered in Kiev to hold a meeting, in which the leaders of the ultranationalist movement asked for the annulment of the Minsk agreement, a referendum to voice a vote of no confidence in the current Ukrainian, and the declaration of war against Russia.

Most of those who came to today’s Right Sector rally have now left Maidan Square:

Here is a screen capture from a live feed from Maidan Square taken a while ago:

The rally was not particularly large. As we’ve been reporting, the Associated Press says only hundreds attended the rally. Though some pictures showed a packed crowd, wider shots showed a significant amount of empty space in the square.

The Russian state media, like, greatly exaggerated the size of the crowd. Here is their “breaking news” headline at the moment:


That story, which contains a picture and video of a partially-empty Maidan Square, has an estimate of the crowd which is much larger than any other journalists are reporting. The accompanying video shows mostly scenes unrelated to today’s rally:

Up to 6,000 supporters of Ukraine’s ultranationalist Right Sector movement gathered in central Kiev on Tuesday, calling on authorities to resign. The rally marks a “new stage of Ukrainian revolution,” the extremists’ leader Dmitry Yarosh announced.

The radicals marched through the center of the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday evening, gathering on Maidan (Independence Square). The rally largely consisted of people wearing camouflage clothes, waving the red and black flags of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA). They were chanting “death to enemies,” TASS reported.

At the same time, supporters of Right Sector on social media have also claimed larger numbers than most of the media.

How much support does Right Sector have? Beyond the rally in Kiev today, we can look at the election results and see that support for ultranationalist groups in Ukraine is small, in fact smaller than ever. For insight, see our analysis of this subject last October.

So why are the Russian state run propaganda outlets and the party which wants war declared on Russia both spreading the same myth?

Right Sector, Revolution, and War

To answer this one must understand Right Sector’s role in both the Euromaidan Revolution and the time that has passed since. Ultranationalists like Right Sector and Azov fervently supported the goals or Euromaidan, and while they made up a very tiny portion of the crowds in Maidan Square last February, many of their fighters prominently defended the borders of the square from the onslaught of Ukraine’s infamous (and disbanded) Berkut riot police (an organization which has now been reformed in Russian-occupied Crimea).

In the first months after the success of the Euromaidan Revolution, there was concern among the interim government that they could not entirely trust the police, military, and intelligence services.  After the annexation of Crimea, and as pro-Russian fighters began to take territory in the Donbass, ultranationalist volunteer groups like Right Sector and Azov flocked to the front lines, where they have been ever since.

The Ukrainian government has, since that time, had an uneasy relationship with these groups, seeking their help in the fight against the Russian military incursion while simultaneously not wanting to either endorse or alienate the groups. As the Ukrainian military has proven its reliability on the battlefield, the need for such volunteer groups has diminished, and the inability to get these groups to integrate with the wider military has become, in the eyes of many Ukrainians, a problem.

The Russian government, on the other hand, has loved to make a big deal about the presence of ultranationalist “Nazis” in the streets of Kiev and in the ranks of the military. As long as they ignored the open connections between the Russian government and its proxies in Ukraine with the global far right, the Kremlin has been able to use the presence of ultranationalists in Ukraine as an ideological justification for its interference in Ukraine (which it denies is a reality).

Tensions Building

In the recent battle for Shirokino, a town to the east of the coastal city of Mariupol, the Azov Regiment was on the front lines of the fight — some say despite the desires of the Ukrainian military to withdraw from the town. The Azov Regiment routinely expressed its frustration that the Ukrainian military was neither leading the charge nor appropriately supporting or recognizing the efforts of the ultranationalist volunteers, despite the fact that Azov is (at least nominally) under the control of the National Guard. 

Meanwhile, the shoot-out earlier this month in Mukachevo, Zakarpattia, have pushed tensions to the breaking point. On July 11, a group of Right Sector fighters had a disagreement with men loyal to oligarch Mikhail Lano, a former member of ousted president Viktro Yanukovych’s political party, the Party of Regions. By all reports, the Right Sector men shot some of Lano’s men, then engaged in a gunfight with Ukrainian police.

Earlier today, the new governor of Zakarpattia, Hennadiy Moskal, accused Pravyi Sektor of kidnapping and torturing. He said that 13 members are still on the run in the region’s forests.

The Associated Press photographed a group of Right Sector supporters at today’s rally wearing T-shirts of Sashko Bily, a Right Sector leader who was killed in a police raid last year. Resentment for the authorities is becoming increasingly obvious among many rank-and-file members.

Right Sector’s supporters say that their fighters — who were equipped with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades despite being over a thousand kilometers from Ukraine’s front lines — were fighting against Lano’s corrupt smuggling ring, and the police are loyal to Lano and the former government, not Ukraine, thus the gunfight. According to this narrative, the oligarchs which the Euromaidan Revolution tried to remove is incomplete — the oligarchs still rule.

Right Sector’s critics say that it is engaged in an off-the-books economy, and this was a turf war over the price of black market cigarettes. In this narrative, Right Sector is a rogue group which does not represent the wishes of the Ukrainian people but which has been allowed to operate above the rule of law.

According to many subscribing to part or all of either one of those theories, the Ukrainian government has to take this opportunity to fix problems which it has — for a variety of reasons, some legitimate and some less so — refused or been unable to fix up to this point.

Either way, the Russian government, which has been sowing instability in Ukraine since before the Euromaidan Revolution, is loving every minute of this fight.

James Miller

Only Hundreds of Participants in Right Sector Rally — AP

Hundreds of Ukrainian right-wingers rally against Kiev govt

KIEV, Ukraine – Hundreds of Ukrainian right-wingers are rallying in Kiev to protest government policies. The radical Right Sector group was one of the most militant factions in the massive protests in Ukraine's capital that prompted pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014.

View full page >

Jul 21, 2015 21:38 (GMT)

Live Video Feed From Right Sector Rally In Kiev
Here is a live video feed from the Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) rally in Kiev:

Here is a map of the square:
As you can see from this screenshot, where the camera is panned to the right (toward the northwest), the rally has not blocked traffic, nor have large amounts of people gathered on the far side of the street. The side streets are also largely clear of people, and it’s possible that many who are gathered further away from the main crowd are spectators, not necessarily Right Sector supporters:
Euromaidan PR has been live-tweeting some of the speeches given by various Right Sector leaders:

This line appears to be a reference to Right Sector itself, which has created volunteer battalions to fight in eastern Ukraine. However, those troops are supposed to report to the Interior Ministry.

As we have been reporting, Right Sector has been under fire following a shoot-out earlier this month in Mukachevo, Zakarpattia, between Right Sector members and police.

Paul Goble has written a new column on the possible significant of the tensions between Right Sector and the Ukrainian government:
James Miller
Right Sector Supporters Rally In Kiev During Conference Critical of Government

As we report below, the leaders of Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor) are gathered in Kiev for a conference in which they have called for a public referendum of no-confidence in the current government. Right Sector leader Dmitry Yarosh has also called for the annulment of the Minsk agreements and has demanded “a blockade of the occupied territories and the recognition of the ATO as a war with Russia.”

Now a protest is gathering at Kiev’s Maidan Square where supporters of Right Sector are gathering.

The crowd was initially small:

Those flags did make an appearance, though, and the crowd is growing:
James Miller
Pravyi Sektor Hold Conference In Kiev, Demand Referendum Of No-Confidence In Government

Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) is holding a meeting in Kiev today, with tensions remaining high between the group and the government following a shoot-out earlier this month in Mukachevo, Zakarpattia.

Earlier today, the new governor of Zakarpattia, Hennadiy Moskal, accused Pravyi Sektor of kidnapping and torturing. He said that 13 members are still on the run in the region’s forests.

Photos of the opening of the conference have been posted on the Pravyi Sektor Facebook page:



Pravyi Sektor leader Dmytro Yarosh stands to the right of the stage.


Journalist Kristina Berdynskykh reports:

Translation: Pravyi Sektor is withdrawing from participation in the local elections. Yarosh is not renouncing his mandate as a deputy

Translation: Pravyi Sektor’s demands: referendum of no confidence in the Rada, Cabinet of Ministers and President, annulment of the Minsk agreements and the legalisation of volunteer battalions.

A post on the Pravyi Sektor Facebook page says that, in addition to the above demands, the group is calling for the introduction of martial law. 

Translation: Yarosh: we oppose the destabilisation of the situation

Translation: Yarosh: we demand a blockade of the occupied territories and the recognition of the ATO as a war with Russia

— Pierre Vaux

A Glaring Contradiction in Russia’s Position Regarding Justice for MH17 Victims

As we’ve been reporting, yesterday, July 20, Russia introduced a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council concerning the investigation into the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. For weeks Russia has threatened to veto a United Nations Security Council resolution which would call for the creation of an international tribunal to bring the killers to justice. Now Russia’s own draft resolution seems to both block a tribunal and interfere with the independent Dutch Safety Board investigation, which is ongoing and will be released this autumn.

The Associated Press has seen the Russian proposal and summarizes it here:

The rival Russian draft resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, expresses concern that the [official Dutch] investigation isn’t ensuring “due transparency in its organization and work methods, which may have a negative impact on its outcome.”

The Russian draft states that “the establishment of the true causes of this aerial incident is critical for bringing those responsible to justice” and suggests that the International Civil Aviation Organization “could play a more active and appropriate role in this investigation.”

The Security Council met behind closed doors Monday afternoon so Russia’s Ambassador Vitaly Churkin could go through the text.

How could Russia oppose a UN tribunal while simultaneously desiring more UN oversight of the official investigation? Perhaps because, as we reported last week, unnamed sources involved in the official investigation told CNN that the Dutch Safety Board report will conclude that a Russian Buk missile, fired from territory controlled by Russian-backed fighters, were responsible for the downing of the civilian airliner.

As our comprehensive analysis of available evidence shows, the Dutch Safety Board’s conclusion is no surprise to anyone who has looked into the question of who shot down MH17:

According to ambassadors who were at the UNSC meeting yesterday, a tribunal is still a sticking point. Reuters reports:

New Zealand Ambassador Gerard van Bohemen, president of the council for July, said it was a “very positive discussion”, but noted that the key hurdle was the issue of a tribunal.

“There was strong support in the room for the establishment of a tribunal. Russia of course has a different perspective on this,” he told reporters.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said earlier that Moscow was opposed to an international tribunal because “we believe it’s not in the U.N. Charter, the U.N. Security Council is not supposed to deal with situations like that.”

When asked if Russia was against the tribunal proposal, Churkin said: “Yes.” Earlier this month he described the proposal as an attempt to organize a “grandiose, political show.”

And yet, critics of the Russian government have accused it of doing exactly that, making a political show out of the incident. The Russian government has routinely published contradictory and easily debunked theories which oscillate between saying that a Ukrainian anti-aircraft missile shot down the airliner, or that a Ukrainian jet fighter was ultimately responsible. As our report in The Daily Beast clearly shows, both theories are mutually exclusive, and neither is supported by the facts. The main theory, however, that Russian-backed fighters shot down the aircraft, has an overwhelming body of supporting evidence.

For the clearest insight into Russia’s official approach to this issue, a statement published in the Russian state propaganda outlet by Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, might be the best source. In the article, Yakovenko states that “Russia has been barred from any substantive participation in the investigation (the involvement of the Russian representative has been purely nominal and has not resulted in his opinion, and the data presented by Russia, being taken into account).”

But why should Russia be more involved than any other nation in the investigation if there is no UN tribunal and if, as Moscow claims, Russia was not involved in the shooting down of the airliner?

Yakovenko also expressed concern that United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166 was not being followed. That resolution stressed:

“the need for a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines, noting in this regard the crucial role played by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in aircraft accident and incident investigations, and welcoming the decision by ICAO to send a team to work in coordination with the Ukrainian National Bureau of Incidents and Accidents Investigation of Civil Aircraft in this investigation, following a request for assistance by Ukraine to ICAO and others,”

Russia simultaneously claims that the official Dutch Safety Board review does not meet that qualification, yet Russia has also struggled to explain why a UN tribunal would contradict this clause.

James Miller

Ukrainian Military Report 60 Attacks Yesterday, Fighting Continues Today

The Ukrainian military claims that their positions were attacked more than 60 times yesterday, with further attacks reported today.

According to the report, heavy weaponry, including 152 and 122 mm artillery, 120 mm mortars and tanks, were used.

The military claims that there have been 320 attacks over the last four days: 

Once again, Avdeyevka, north of Donetsk, was subjected to intense artillery fire. The Press Centre reports that the town’s coke and chemical plant was shelled by tanks from 18:40, and that apartment buildings were shelled at 22:10 with 152 and 122 mm artillery.

Residential areas of Avdeyevka  were also heavily shelled this weekend, and both the shelling and the aftermath was captured on video and has been analyzed by The Interpreter:

Elsewhere, Ukrainian positions near Novgorodskoye, Opytnoye, Krasnogorovka, Nevelskoye, Avdeyevka, Peski, Shirokino, Mayorsk, Marinka and Bolotennoye were targeted.

Novosti Donbassa reported, citing a source in the military, that Russian-backed forces had fired on Stanitsa Luganskaya, north-east of Lugansk, with automatic grenade launchers. 

One home burnt caught fire after being struck but the fire was extinguished. 

Fighting was reported to be particularly intense in the area around Gorlovka, both last night and today.

Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Presidential Administration on the ATO, told reporters today that a bridge near Svetlodarsk, south-east of Artyomovsk, was shelled by Russian-backed forces yesterday evening. 

Lysenko did not say whether the bridge, which carries the M-03 highway, running between Artyomovsk and Debaltsevo, over the Mironovsky reservoir, was destroyed or significantly damaged.

Both sides have reported heavy shelling in the area around Gorlovka itself. Earlier today, we reported on the wounding of two women in Ukrainian-held Mayorsk, just north of the separatist-held town.

Meanwhile the pro-separatist Donetsk News Agency (DAN) reports, citing the Gorlovka mayor’s office, that Ukrainian forces have been shelling the town from the north-west since around 3 AM today.

Novosti Donbassa cites social media reports from residents that the Ukrainian-held village of Zaytsevo, north-east of Gorlovka, was shelled between 21:19 last night and 9:15 today.

The ATO Press Centre itself claims that, as of 6 AM today, Ukrainian positions near Zaytsevo and Mayorsk, as well as Rassadky and Lozovoye, south of Svetlodarsk, had been shelled with 152 mm artillery.

Further south, Ukrainian troops near Bogdanovka, east of Volnovakha, were reportedly shelled by tanks. 

Yaroslav Chepurnoy, press officer for the Ukrainian military headquarters in Mariupol, told that the attack near Bogdanovka had taken place at around 5 AM.

Yesterday, Chepurnoy said, there had been an attack in this same area with a guided anti-tank missile. In Starognatovka, to the east, Ukrainian positions came under fire from 120 mm mortars and in Shirokino, on the coast, troops came under repeated small-arms fire.

The ATO Press Centre also reports small arms attacks both around Donetsk and in the Lugansk region today as of 6 AM.

Unverified reports on Twitter suggest the fighting has continued into the afternoon:

Translation: And again the 120 mm mortar has been used against Ukrainian Armed Forces positions in Krasnogorovka [west of Donetsk]

Translation: Avdeyevka two blasts in the field near the House of Culture, immediate reply. Still quiet.

— Pierre Vaux

Ousted President Viktor Yanukovych Removed From Interpol Wanted List

Former President Viktor Yanukovych, who left Ukraine and travelled to Russia during the height of the Euromaidan Revolution in February, 2014, is no longer listed on Interpol’s website as a wanted person.

A statement on the website of the law firm representing Yanukovych, Joseph Hage Aaronson, explains the decision:

The Interpol Red Notice (an international request made by Interpol seeking the location and arrest of “wanted persons”) concerning President Yanukovych, which was published around 12 January 2015, has ceased to be in force. Further, Interpol member countries have been blocked by Interpol from access to data concerning President Yanukovych held by Interpol.

This action by Interpol follows an application to Interpol by Joseph Hage Aaronson LLP on behalf of President Yanukovych seeking his removal from the Interpol list of “wanted persons”, including on the basis that criminal charges brought by the new regime in Ukraine against President Yanukovych were part of a pattern of political persecution of him.

Interpol has found that elements available to Interpol of Ukraine’s case against President Yanukovych, upon which the Red Notice concerning President Yanukovych was based, raised concerns which necessitated a further in depth study by Interpol of that case.

The Ukrainian government has accused the former president and his son Oleksandr, as well as other officials, with embezzlement and fraud, as millions of dollars were reportedly stolen as they fled the country.

James Miller

Military And Civilian Casualties As Shelling Continues
The Ukrainian military has announced that one soldier has been killed and another wounded over the last 24 hours of fighting in the Donbass:

In addition, reported that a Pravyi Sektor volunteer fighter had died in hospital yesterday from wounds sustained after stepping on a mine near Mariupol.

Sergei Shilov, known as Grin, was the commander of the 2nd company of the 8th battalion of the Pravyi Sektor volunteer corps. He is survived by a 12-year-old son.

In Ukrainian-held Mayorsk, north of Gorlovka, two civilian women were severely wounded during shelling by Russian-backed forces, the ATO Press Centre claims.

Meanwhile, in separatist-held Donetsk, the city administration claimed that a woman received shrapnel wounds this morning when an apartment building in the Kuybyshevsky district of the city was shelled.

The separatist-backed head of the Kuybyshevsky district, Ivan Prikhodko, published photos of the aftermath of the shelling. According to Prikhodko, one tank round passed through three apartments without exploding. He described the young woman’s injuries as light.



This video, uploaded today to a pro-separatist YouTube channel, captures the sound of artillery fire in the city at 5:50 today: 

— Pierre Vaux
Governor Moskal Accuses Right Sector Of Kidnapping And Torture In Zakarpattia

Hennadiy Moskal, the new governor of the Zakarpattia region, where tensions remain high following a shoot-out between members of Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) and the security forces of local MP Mikhail Lanio earlier this month, has accused the ultra-nationalist party and paramilitary group of kidnapping and torture.

In a statement on his official website, Moskal was quoted as saying that Pravyi Sektor’s actions in Zakarpattia equated to “banditry.”

The statement said that 13 suspects, aged between 18 and 39, are still hiding in the regions’ forests. 12 of the Pravyi Sektor members are locals from Zakarpattia and one is from Slavyansk, in the Donetsk region.

The Interpreter translates:

The brutal shooting in Mukachevo, which has become a challenge to the law enforcement system and the whole of society, is only the tip of the iceberg of the criminals’ activities,” says the head of the region, Hennadiy Moskal.

“As a matter of fact, they have, with the aim of profit, abducted and tortured people, demanding money from businessmen and taking property, while using illegal firearms, including assault rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers. This was, in fact, a racket – petty money-making. And the worst thing of all is that this has been done under the cover of patriotic slogans.

The criminals have dubbed themselves the defenders of Ukraine while they arrived with weapons to “earn” money one and a half thousand kilometres away from the front line, where there has never been any military activity. The police already have a pile of statements from victims, who had previously been afraid of making official appeals to law enforcement bodies, or did not believe that the criminals would be brought to justice.

Criminal proceedings have been opened under article 257 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code – banditry (the organisation of armed gangs with the aim of attacking businesses, institutions, organisations or individuals, as well as participation in such a gang or their attacks). The article provides for a punishment of 5 to 15 years in prison with the confiscation of property.”

— Pierre Vaux