Ukraine Live Day 560: Rally In Kiev Turns Deadly After Rada Votes On Decentralisation

August 31, 2015
Members of the Svoboda and Radical Party protest outside the Rada today. Photo: Oliver Carroll

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Ihor Humenyuk, Svoboda Member And Front-Line Volunteer Fighter, Arrested For Grenade Attack

Hromadske TV reports that the Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, has identified the man who threw a grenade outside the Rada today, killing one National Guardsman and wounding numerous others, has been identified as Ihor Humenyuk, a member of the Carpathian Sich volunteer unit:

Translation: Avakov: Ihor Volodymyrovich Humenyuk has been arrested. He has identified himself as a member of Svoboda and a fighter in Sich – on leave.

Obozrevatel reports in more detail on Humenyuk, noting both that he has served in the Donbass for more than eight months, notably in the war-torn front-line settlements of Peski and Avdeyevka, outside Donetsk. 

According to Obozrevatel, Humenyuk, 24, is better known by the pseudonym Igor Dubenko, a name he has appeared under in interviews conducted on the front line.

Vasiliy Kruzhak, one of Humenyuk’s comrades from the Carpathian Sich assault company, which is now part of the 93’rd Independent Mechanised Brigade, told the news site that his comrade was:

“Calm, cheerful, always smiling, jocular – I do not remember him having been active in discussing political issues or calling for a third Maidan.

He was the last person I thought of when I heard that they had arrested a fighter from Sich – I am astonished that this person could turn up outside the Verkhovna Rada with a grenade.”

Humenyuk has been a member of Svoboda since joining it’s youth wing – ‘Sokol.’ Earlier this month, Sokol and Svoboda members threw firecrackers into a venue hosting an LGBT festival in Odessa

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry has uploaded a video of Humenyuk after his arrest, as law enforcement officers search his rucksack, in which they find a grenade, the safety pin to another, and a knife.

— Pierre Vaux
Ukrainian Interior Minister Avakov Accuses Svoboda Party leader Tyahnybok for Today’s Violence; 125 Wounded, 1 Killed

According to a statement on its web site,
the Ukrainian Ministry of Health reported that out of 44 people brought
to the hospital after today’s violent demonstration, 21 had shrapnel
wounds evidently from the grenade which exploded in the crowd.

Others wounded had lacerations, fractures, bruises or concussions.

was no conformation from the Ministry of gunshot wounds as has been
incorrectly reported in some news accounts, and the report specific “21
with shrapnel wounds.”)

Later news reports indicate 125 persons were wounded and it is not clear how many of these have been hospitalized.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov posted an angry “J’Accuse” on his Facebook an
hour ago saying that he blamed Oleg Tyahnybok, leader of the
ultra-right Svoboda party and a former Verkhovna Rada member for the

Avakov said the young National Guardsman who was killed
had been mobilized from Kherson and died on the operating table of
wounds from a grenade thrown by a member of the Svoboda
party who was on leave from fighting in the ATO [Anti-Terrorist Operation] with the Sich Battalion.

brought to the Verkhovna Rada not protesters, Tyahnybok brought
gangsters who killed and crippled our soldiers!,” he wrote.

aid in addition to the one soldier killed, 12 other Ukrainian soldiers
were undergoing surgery, one was in a coma and doctors did not provide
prognoses for five more.

“This is a political act of protest?!” he asked.

said among the uniformed men injured today were fighters from the
National Guard, the Interior Ministry’s divisions including the
Protective Service (which guards the president and administration) and
the spetsnaz (special purpose) forces as well as Kiev precinct police.

Also injured was Vasily Paskal, deputy minister of the interior.

Said Avakov (translation by The Interpreter):

the approximate 20 injured were soldiers and officers who had passed
through the anti-terrorist operation, were awarded with state medals and
received early promotions of their ranks — these are real combat
people. And we must keep them here, near the Verkhovna Rada, in order to
protect Kiev residents from somebody’s political ambitions? I won’t
accept such politics! I don’t accept such a form of political struggle!”

saw the [police] operations video, I saw the photographs in which Mr.
Tyahnybok  was was next to his supporters, together with those who were
killing our guys.

One other policeman is in critical condition and may not survive, Levgen Shevchenko, head of the Donbass Battalion said on his Facebook page.

sitting here at Hospital No. 17 in Kiev. There are so many wounded
soldiers of the National Guard that there isn’t enough blood from
approved donors on the registry and all of it is so wild that my brain
refuses to perceive what I see. The doctor in the ER is telling someone
over the telephone: “His chances of surviving do not exceed 10% but we
are fighting for even that 10%…” Direct blood transfusions are being
made — a number of the guys are in critical condition. I saw so much of
this blood at the front that I thought I would never be surprised at
anything again, but here, in my native Kiev far from the front it seems
like a nightmare…”

As we noted earlier, the
police did not seem to be well protected given the severity of the riot.
Videos show that after the crowd was already roiling, police were
handing out bullet-proof bests to their colleagues on the spot.

Journalists from Channel 5, 1+1 and a French correspondent were also injured in the riot.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Videos Show What Happened Before And After Grenade Attack In Kiev

As we have been reporting, a grenade was thrown at riot police in Kiev who were in front of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament. The rally was held by Svoboda party, a far-right political group which is vocally opposed to the Russian invasion in Ukraine and any capitulation to the Russian-backed fighters. One national guard riot policeman was killed. A total of 119 people, mostly police it seems, were injured. The suspect, a soldier in Svoboda’s Sich volunteer unit, is in custody.

This video, shot by Hromadske TV, shows scenes from the rally both before and after the grenade was thrown. Some of the men in the crowd wear military uniforms, while others appear to be civilians. At first only a handful appear to have masks to disguise their identity.

The video also illustrates that many of the police who were injured received their wounds before the grenade went off while they were being attacked by the crowd. Though the moment of the grenade exploding is not captured in this video, though videos we have posted earlier (below) show the grenade exploding.

It’s also clear that the riot police were not in place initially. While the Yanukovych government was famous for its violent crackdowns on protesters, some may now be asking whether the Ukrainian police presence was robust enough at the start of the rally, as police in regular uniform are seen being rescued by the riot police, and some men in the videos posted today appear to not have their armor on when they initially respond to the violence.

This video, taken after the explosion, shows injured police who are treated and evacuated to a hospital. What is striking is that most of the men are loaded into police cars, not ambulances:

James Miller
Man Who Threw Grenade In Front of Rada Reportedly A Volunteer Soldier On Break From War In Donbass
The man who threw a grenade into the crowd near the Rada today, killing one riot police officer and wounding dozens, has been arrested:

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Arsen Avakov, says that the man, identified as Igor Vladimirovich Gumenyuk, was a member of the Svoboda party, fighting with a volunteer unit called Sich, was on leave from the ATO (anti-terror operation, the name of the Ukrainian military operation in the Donbass region of southeastern Ukraine). The Interpreter  translates:

The detained man Igor Vladimirovich Gumenyuk used an RGO type grenade [RGO means “defensive hand grenade” in Russian – The Interpreter]…He had one grenade on him when he was detained, the other he threw, and admitted this, and he had a receipt for the grenade. He called himself a “Svaboda member” and a fighter from the Sich battalion who was on leave from August 3 to September 3.

According to Olha Bohomolets, an adviser to President Poroshenko, 119 people were injured in the clashes, in addition to the riot officer who was killed.

Avakov added that 100 police are injured, 10 of them seriously.

Earlier we also carried reports that two journalists were among the injured.

RFE/RL adds that the far-right Svoboda party is blaming the Ukrainian government for today’s clashes:

“It was the government, together with the pro-Russian Opposition Bloc, that provoked Ukrainians to protest, putting constitutional amendments that solidify the special status of Donbas and [represent an act of] capitulation to the Kremlin on the agenda and voting for them,” the party wrote in a statement.

It also claimed that law enforcement were first to use force against the protesters, prompting a number of clashes.

“Law enforcement failed to take appropriate measures to neutralize the provocateurs,” says the statement. “Obviously, the usage of an explosive device that an unknown threw at the police was a pre-planned provocation against Ukrainian patriots.”

Meanwhile, another video has surfaced which shows the moment the grenade goes off. As you can see from the video, a series of loud bangs (possibly tear gas canisters) can be heard, before a much louder explosion goes off — the grenade which killed the riot officer. The video is extremely graphic after the 1:20 mark.

We believe that the man who appears to have a head wound at the end of the video may be the riot police officer who was killed, but this has not been confirmed.

James Miller, Catherine A. Fitzpatrick

Aerial View Shows Smoke Rising After Riot Police Hit By Grenade In Kiev

This video shows today’s violence from the point of view of a drone. The video starts not long after the explosion of the grenade which killed at least one National Guard riot policeman and injured many others.

The video shows a relatively small crowd, perhaps several hundred people, many of whom carry flags of the Svoboda party, like this one:


The crowds did not disperse after the grenade went off, though it does appear that some people can be seen moving toward the rear and potentially leaving. The video also shows a prompt response from more riot police who quickly appear to reinforce the defense of the parliament.

James Miller

Bill That Sparked Today’s Deadly Rallies Passed; Constitution To Be Changed

Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, passed a bill today that will designate greater regional autonomy for the embattled areas of eastern Ukraine. Though the granting of “special status” to the Donbass was part of the Minsk ceasefire agreements (the agreements which have not ended the fighting in the east) some Ukrainian politicians see the bill as a negotiation at gun point. Still, the bill passed with 265 of the 320 lawmakers supporting the amendments to the constitution.

Ukraine Today reports:

The draft document outlines changes to how local communities will be granted the ownership of land, property, public facilities, natural resources and more. In addition, the president can temporarily suspend the powers of local authorities if there is a threat to national sovereignty.

Opinions are split over decentralization in occupied territories of eastern Ukraine. Critics say that Russian-led militants will be able to influence the country’s situation and will be legalized.

In turn, the bill advocates that no special status would be granted to pro-Russian terrorists, only a specific procedure for ‘local self-government in parts of Donetsk and Lugansk regions’ would be introduced.

Some time after the bills passed the protest outside the Rada became violent. As of now the reports are consistent — 1 Ukrainian National Guard member is dead, and dozens of people, including at least two journalists, have been wounded.

James Miller

Grenades, Firearms Used Against Riot Police Outside Rada

Grenades (plural, apparently) and firearms have both been used in Kiev today at a rally outside the Verkhovna Rada today. This Kyiv Post summary was posted just 30 minutes ago:

One National Guard serviceman was killed and several policemen badly wounded on Aug. 31 when an explosive device was thrown at them from among a crowd of far-right Svoboda Party and Right Sector organization protesters outside parliament.

Anton Gerashchenko, a lawmaker and adviser to the Interior Ministry, wrote on his Facebook page that 25-year-old Igor Derbin, a National Guard serviceman who had just started his service last spring, died in hospital from a wound to his heart incurred during the attack.

“Apart from grenades, the provocateurs were using firearms, shooting secretly,” Gerashchenko wrote.

Ukrainian television channel 112 Ukraina reported four officers had been seriously injured in the attack, while dozens of others received lighter injuries.

The video linked to from our previous update appears to show a grenade being fired at the police out so some kind of short-range grenade launcher. This video shows the moment of the grenade impact.

Svoboda, far-right party which participated in this rally, appears to be denying their involvement in the violence:

However, many are saying that the man who is responsible for the grenade was a member of Svoboda, or at least was in Svoboda’s crowd.

Right Sector, another far-right group, appears to be expressing outrage at the incident. RFE/RL adds a statement from Right Sector’s Facebook page:

The far right Right Sector organization has called for an urgent meeting of its members in Mariyinskyy Park in the center of Kyiv. “Close to the Verkhovna Rada patriots’ blood was spilt. Inform all the allies you know!” reads their message on Facebook.

Our team adds that they are calling for a rally near the Valutin statue. The statement appears to read like one of solidarity for the National Guard soldiers.

James Miller
One National Guard Soldier Killed, Others Wounded in Clashes in Kiev

A rally today in Kiev (see below) in protest against changes to the constitution has turned violent, and reportedly even deadly. RFE/RL has this summary which is a little more than an hour old:

Ukraine’s National Guard says four of its servicemen suffered “life threatening injuries” from what one lawmaker described as a grenade blast during clashes between police and protesters outside the parliament on August 31.

Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said more than 90 security officers were injured during the clashes, including one officer who lost both of his feet as a result of the blast.

Kyiv’s Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said “some” members of the National Guard were killed, but he did not specify how many — and there was no immediate confirmation of his statement from law enforcement authorities.

A BBC correspondent described hearing three stun grenades followed by a louder explosion.

Video footage showed more than a dozen Ukrainian riot troops limping after the explosion, and at least one plainclothes officer falling to the ground and being dragged away.

The question, of course, is who is responsible for this. Already there are suggestions that Svoboda, the ultranationalist group, was responsible.
According to Hromadske, two journalists were injured in the blast, including TSN cameraman Dima Bolshakov who was seriously injured in the leg.
James Miller, Pierre Vaux
Rada Meets To Debate Controversial Decentralisation Bill

The Ukrainian parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, is meeting today to debate a bill on the decentralisation of the state, submitted by President Poroshenko.

The bill has attracted criticism from many in Ukraine, with the more nationalist parties picketing the Rada today.  

Meanwhile the bill will be backed by not only two groups within the governing coalition – Bloc Petro Poroshenko and the Popular Front – but also the Opposition Bloc, formed out of the remnants of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

Interfax-Ukraine reported today that two other parties within the governing coalition are either undecided or against the bill.

The Batkivschyna faction of Yulia Tymoshenko has yet to make a decision.

“The Batkivschyna faction is convening a meeting, and a decision will be made there,” faction member Serhiy Sobolev told the agency…

The Samopomich faction had disagreements. The deputies decided on Sunday they would not vote for the constitutional amendments, and Vice-Speaker Oksana Syroyid said on Monday morning that the faction would not vote.

The Euromaidan community wrote on Facebook quoting faction member Viktoria Ptashnyk that some Samopomich deputies would back the constitutional amendments despite what the faction had decided in general.

On Saturday, President Poroshenko told a meeting of territorial representatives in Kiev that it was the Kremlin, above all, who were opposed to the decentralisation bill:

“Who is first who opposes our amendments to the Constitution? Putin. Russia. It wants that we agree how we can carry out decentralization with it. I beg your pardon, I would not permit that the Constitution is written outside [the country].

“If Russia does not like amendments, this means that we’re moving the right way.”

— Pierre Vaux
On Eve Of Ceasefire, Fighting Has Reduced Dramatically

With a ceasefire, agreed on Saturday between the members of the ‘Normandy Quartet‘ (Presidents Poroshenko, Putin, Hollande and Chancellor Merkel), due to come into effect tomorrow, fighting in the Donbass has dropped off over the last two days.

Yesterday, the Ukrainian military reported only 19 attacks over the past 24 hours, all conducted with either small arms or grenade launchers. 

Today, the ATO Press Centre says that there were 16 attacks on September 30.

UNIAN translates:

“From 6:00 18:00 Kyiv three cases of ceasefire violations were recorded along the demarcation line on Artyomovsk direction. Around 14:30 and 17:00 Kyiv time, the illegal armed groups randomly fired from small arms fired on the outpost of the government forces near Lozovoye. At 16:25 Kyiv time the militants hit from a grenade launcher on the Ukrainian troops near the same village,” the ATO press center reported on Faceboook.

In addition, the militants opened fire several times between their positions on Artemivsk direction on territories temporarily beyond government control. At 13:09 Kyiv time, the Ukrainian monitors recorded a militants engaging heavy machine gun near the village of Logvinovo in the direction of Kalinovka. Around 15:00 unknown individuals opened fire on the village of Novoaleksandrovka from small arms.

Later on Sunday, at about 20:00 enemy fired small arms on our strongholds near the village of Leninskoye and Kirovo. At 22:00, the militants opened fire from heavy machine gun on the ATO forces in Luganskoye,” said the statement of the ATO press center.

Mercenaries also fired rocket-propelled grenades at 22:00 Kyiv time on the Ukrainian units in the area of ​​Butovka mine and the village of Peski.

In general, 30 August, 16 ceasefire violations were recorded.

After midnight, on August 31, militants used small arms against government forces near Krymskoye.

“At about 01:00 and 03:00 Kyiv time militants used propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and small arms against the ATO forces near Marinka,” said the press center.

Notably, Yaroslav Chepurnoy, press officer for the Ukrainian military headquarters in Mariupol, told this morning that not a single attack had been recorded in the sector, which has seen some of the most intense fighting this month, over the last 24 hours.

The last recorded attack in the area was a five-minute burst of machine gun and grenade launcher fire on Ukrainian naval infantry in Shirokino on Sunday.

There were, however, several casualties on the Ukrainian side over the weekend.

Ruslan Tkachuk, a press officer for the Ukrainian military operation in the Lugansk region, reports that on Saturday, August 29, a Ukrainian soldier, born in 1991, received a gunshot wound to the head from a sniper whilst manning a checkpoint near Schastye. They have been taken to hospital in the town.

That same day, a group of four Interior Ministry personnel were wounded after their car was fired on by Russian-backed fighters near Zolotoye. All received head and chest wounds.

— Pierre Vaux