Kyiv: Peaceful Protesters encounter Special Force Berkut Officers
Tension is rising in expectation that the tents which have been placed outside the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv since the widely condemned arrest of Yulia Tymoshenko, former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition Batkivshchyna Party on Friday will be removed during the night or on Tuesday morning. This, the Kyiv police claim, is in enforcement of the court order issued at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning banning peaceful demonstrations outside the court, on Khreshchatyk St and Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square].
In his blog on Ukrainska Pravda on Monday evening, the former Governor of the Kharkiv region, now deputy of the Kharkiv Regional Council [from BYUT], Arsen Avakov describes the disturbing events of the early evening.
He mentions that outside the Court there are protesters from all over the country, but wants to describe one particular incident from between 6 and 7 in the evening.
The deputy Head of BYUT Oleksandr Turchynov announced at the demonstration that the organizers had submitted notification of a plan to hold a march along Khreshchatyk St. National Deputies, delegations from the regions, as well as Kyiv residents, formed a column with flags and banners and set off.
Arsen Avakov says that he had never seen so many Berkut officers in their helmets and all their gear before. They poured out of all corners, and coaches and blocked Khreshchatyk, forming a chain, and stopped the National Deputies. A scuffle took place, and then the Berkut officers began pushing people back, while others were moving forward.
There was no response to the loudspeaker calls to lay off because the protest was authorized and the MIA had no right to interfere.
He says that the pressure on the crowd of people intensified, while there were barriers on both sides of Khreshchatyk. There were cries, some women began to panic, many couldn’t stay on their feet and fell. He describes a shocking scene where the Berkut officers, their faces contorted, just kept pushing. Some of the deputies managed to help people over the barrier wall at the metro entrance, others fell over it, hurting themselves, some badly.
The atmosphere reached boiling point with some of the Kharkiv Afghanistan War veterans wild with anger over the Berkut behaviour. Avakov says that now he knows how provocateurs work in a crowd – lieutenants and colonels running through the ranks of Berkut officers intoxicated by total lack of restraint and whispering to them to be even more vicious.
The first run in ended only in bloodied noses, etc.
Then the Berkut men joined arms and began pushing them off the pavement – and then, on command, hitting them. A fight ensued.
The van with Yulia Tymoshenko inside drove off with a crowd of Berkut officers running around.
By evening, he says, there were about two thousand protesters, surrounded by a greater number of helmeted Berkut officers in full gear. “PARANOIA.
Or are we gradually becoming used to it?
The law is only their people – the others on their knees. If you don’t want to, we’ll force you!
That’s what it’s about this summer. Not about Tymoshenko at all.”
8 August 2011
Abridged from the blog entry here: http://blogs.pravda.com.ua/authors/avakov/4e404342ed185/