Ukrainian neo-Nazi C14 vigilantes drive out Roma families, burn their camp
A prominent activist from the far-right C14 organization has boasted on his Facebook page about an operation which resulted in Roma families fleeing their camp on Lysa Hora in Kyiv. Despite the fairly unveiled hints in Serhiy Mazur’s two Facebook posts, as well as clear signs that the Roma fled without taking children’s clothing, etc., the police appear to see no need to take action and merely state that they have received no complaints. It is also alarming how many Ukrainian media (such as TSN, Channel 5) have simply reported this ‘raid’ effectively in Mazur’s words, without considering what threats must have been used to ‘persuade’ around 15 families to leave their makeshift homes in such haste.
If Mazur is telling the truth, then the measures to remove the Roma families who had reportedly come to Kyiv from Transcarpathia in search of work were the result of collaboration between C14 members of the so-called ‘Municipal Guard’ [«Муніципальна варта»] and the Holosiyiv District Administration. As reported, this ‘Municipal Guard’, which is headed by Serhiy Bondar from C14, signed a memorandum of cooperation with both the Holosiyiv District Administration and the Holosiyiv National Police back in December 2017.
In his report on 19 April and elsewhere, Mazur omits two letters in order to use a term now generally felt to be offensive when referring to Roma. t.
He says that the Roma have “occupied Lysa Hora” and that there are more of them this time “and of their rubbish”.
Together with representatives of the Holosiyiv administration, he says, they “presented an ultimatum to leave the prohibited territory of the park by TOMORROW.
If they don’t carry out this demand, they will be asked in a different way to go. Within the framework of the law”.
Mention of the law here seems on a par with semi-avoidance of offensive labels, and lacks any credibility. If the local administration is entitled to issue an ultimatum, it should then approach law enforcement officials if the ultimatum is ignored.
Any ‘other’ methods hinted at in Mazur’s post are either not the business of C14 activists or are a code term for means of duress which are assuredly not lawful.
The rest of the post is simply offensive. If, which can be disputed, it falls within the boundaries of free speech, such effective incitement to enmity and prejudice against any ethnic or other group is certainly unacceptable from top representatives of an organization which is working with a public authority.
On 21 April, Mazur stated in a post that there were no longer any Roma (not the term he uses) on Lysa Hora.
“Yesterday they did not carry out the demand, and only some left the camp in the park. However after convincing lawful arguments, the others also decided to leave the prohibited territory. “ The C14 activists then “cleaned up almost all the rubbish” and burned the tents.
If the so-called “convincing arguments” had been lawful, it seems unlikely that the Roma families would have left children’s clothes and food items behind.
Journalist Yevhen Savateyev told Hromadske Radio that “it looks as through the people who were living in this camp were forced to flee and didn’t even take most-needed items”.
He says that there were around 15 makeshift shacks, each ‘housing’ one family.
According to Zola Kondur from the Chirikli Roma Foundation, there has been an issue over this camp for the last four years. She says that the people living there wanted to integrate and to cooperate with the authorities, however other residents of the district demanded that the Roma not be allowed onto minibus public transport and in shops. The pretext giving was that the residents feared being infected with tuberculosis, although Kondur points out that a medical examination did not find any tuberculosis or AIDs among the inhabitants of the camp.
She accuses the Holosiyiv District Administration of not being willing to involve the social services and does not accept that the camp, positioned deep inside the nature reserve at Lysa Hora and hard to find, was disturbing anybody.
This was not C14’s first such ‘raid’. Mazur reported on 18 April that the previous day “good people carried out a raid of the Railway Station which had been almost totally occupied by Gy..ies”. There are the usual offensive claims about “the negative demonstrations of behaviour from the Roma” that their “walk” had supposedly curtailed. Mazur also reports that they “checked for documents and tickets. A day or two and there won’t be any of them here”, and asks why such ‘patrols’ are not carried out by the police.
Mazur would doubtless be impressed by the police in Moscow who carry out such ‘checks’ all the time, based solely on ethnic profiling.
Mazur ends his post by claiming again that they are not fighting “Gy..ies”, only “the negative demonstrations of behaviour of their representatives”, and invites others to join them. He has promised other such ‘raids’ as those against the Roma on Lysa Gora.
There are compelling grounds for demanding an investigation by the law enforcement bodies into all of these ‘raids’ by C14 vigilantes. If the methods used to disperse the camp on Lysa Hora was indeed carried out together with the Holosiyiv District Administration, an investigation would seem appropriate, as well as some serious consideration as to whether such ‘cooperation’ can be legitimately continued.
C14 calls itself a ‘nationalist’ organization and denies that it is neo-Nazi. Vyacheslav Likhachev, who has been monitoring far-right movements in Ukraine for well over a decade, is unconvinced. He points out that the C14 activists who occupied the Kyiv City Administration building during Euromaidan covered it with neo-Nazi banners and graffiti.
C14 activists try to present themselves as fighting ‘separatists’, ‘titushki’ or paid thugs (who worked closely with the police under the regime of Viktor Yanukovych), as well as corrupt courts, etc.
Their rationale for determining who are ‘separatists’, or more generally who to fight, gives considerable grounds for concern.
On 19 January 2018, C14 activists prevented the traditional remembrance gathering for Sevastopol journalist Anastasia Baburova and Russian lawyer Stanislav Markelov, murdered in Moscow in 2009 by neo-Nazi Russian nationalists. The claim that those honouring the two slain anti-fascists were ‘separatists’ was preposterous, and Volodymyr Chemerys, one of the organizers of the remembrance event, asserts that they were confronted not only by C14 thugs, but by Russian and Belarusian neo-Nazis.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the events that day was the total failure of the Kyiv police to react adequately to the aggressive behaviour of those opposing the remembrance gathering.
They instead detained eight people who had come to honour Baburova and Markelov. The police involved later tried to claim that there had been no detention, and that the activists had been ‘invited’ to the police station. There was no suggestion that the ‘invitation’ could have been turned down.
The detained activists reported later that they had been ‘hunted down’ by the far-right thugs after leaving the police station. A member of the Human Rights Information Centre who spoke with them believes that the thugs could have only discovered which station the activists were being held in from the police themselves.
C14 has been involved in attacks on activists taking part in the annual Equality March (Kyiv Pride), rights activists, on an art exhibition and even protesters with strictly socio-economic demands. Their members may have been among the 50 young far-right louts who on 26 March 2018, descended on events linked to the Kyiv Docudays Film Festival, demolishing posters promoting tolerance and diversity abd trying to stop a panel discussion on far-right movements.
There are other reasons for concern over any cooperation by other local authorities or the police with C14. Back in December 2012 under the Viktor Yanukovych regime, Yevhen Karas and his C14 mates organized an attack on rights activists and others protesting against a repressive legislative bill which proposed the same ban on so-called ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ as was passed in neighbouring Russia. It was mainly the protesters who were detained by police.
C14 has been involved in various acts of violence, and there are indeed reports that they attacked members of another local group on 13 December 2017, with two people from that group ending up hospitalized with gun wounds. It seems likely that the conflict was about establishing their power over a particular area.
On 26 February 2018, C14 posted an advertisement on their Facebook page which quite openly offered their services as thugs to regular donors. This said that “C14 works for you. Help us keep afloat, and we will help you. For regular donors, we are opening a box for wishes. Which of your enemies would you like to make life difficult for? We’ll try to do that.” The organization has presumably understood that such openness rather undermines their attempts to pitch themselves as principled defenders of Ukraine, and the post is now unavailable. It can, however, be seen here, and was on the sight for several weeks. The invitation to join in C14’s ‘raids’ on Roma people at the station or in places where they are living says nothing about motives required for taking part in raids of highly-questionable legality coated in claims that incite hatred and xenophobia.