Ukraine Liveblog Day 104: Klitschko Receives Cool Reception on Maidan

June 1, 2014
Vostok Battalion Fighters with Igla MANPADS. Photo: Yusuf Sayman

Here is a brief summary of today’s events. We will be back tomorrow with full coverage.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview and analysis of this developing story see our latest podcast.

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An interactive map of the situation:

View Ukraine: April, 2014 in a larger map

Earlier today, Vitaly Klitschko, recently elected as the mayor of Kiev in the May 25 elections, addressed crowds on the Maidan in Kiev.

He insisted that he had not, and would not demand the dispersal of the Maidan protests. Ukrainska Pravda reports that he also announced that there would be a Maidan representative in the Kiev City State Administration, and that Institutskaya Street (scene of fierce clashes during the protests) would be renamed as the Street of the Heavenly Hundred (a popular term for those killed during the Maidan protests).

However the crowd on the square did not appear to respond warmly to his statements, only applauding him when he said that he wanted fresh parliamentary elections, noting that most of the incumbent Rada had voted for the repressive laws against dissent from January 16 this year.

Klitschko said that “the dictator is gone, we must unite for the sake of reform”.

This morning, The New York Times reported that they had been told by Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE’s special mission to Ukraine, that the organisation was in talks with separatist groups in south-eastern Ukraine. Speaking of the four detained OSCE observers, who were captured by separatist fighters on May 26, Bociurkiw said:

“We’re quite confident that they’re in good shape, they haven’t been harmed.”

The New York Times noted:

Asked why he was confident the staff were unharmed, Bociurkiw said: “We’re working through a number of channels and there’s positive signals from those that they’re OK.”

Earlier today, in Torez, an RPG was fired at the local SBU building. No casualties were reported by Novosti Donbassa. This video shows the damage afterwards:

Meanwhile there was further evidence around in the media that there are fighters from outside Ukraine in the Donbass. Komsomolskaya Pravda a Russian tabloid, uploaded the following video report from the Donetsk region today. In it, fighters from the separatist Vostok Battalion are seen preparing for battle, repairing equipment and firing an anti-aircraft gun. One of the fighters interviewed, Yuri, says that he has come from South Ossetia, a breakaway territory from Georgia occupied by Russia in the 2008 war. Other fighters interviewed include Aleksandr Khodakovsky, who describes himself as the commander of the Vostok Battalion.

Reuters also reported on this same subject and group of people today. Khodakovsky is described as a defector from the Ukrainian State Security Service. Another man that they interview says that he is from Russian North Ossetia.

Interestingly, Khodakovsky claims that all of the Chechen fighters, who had been filmed admitting their nationality during a rally on May 25, have now gone home.

“There are no Chechens now. There were. They left yesterday (on Thursday) with their injured and killed. There was only one casualty among the Chechens,” Khodakovsky said. “They were volunteers, not Kadyrovtsy.”

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov has consistently denied the presence of Chechen fighters. However Caucasian Knot has reported on large numbers of bodies of Chechen fighters killed in Ukraine being returned to the Caucasus.

Photojournalist Yusuf Sayman posted these photos earlier today, showing Vostok Battalion fighters in training. In the first, fighters are carrying 9K38 Igla surface-to-air missiles. These weapons pose a major threat, exemplified by the downing of a Ukrainian military helicopter on Thursday, killing 12, including General Volodymyr Kulchitsky.