Police exercises: for Euro 2012 or for crushing protest?
Ukrainian police are intensively training for working during mass events, including stopping street riots. The Berkut Special Forces are undergoing such training on a weekly basis. The Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] say that this is all preparation for the Euro 2012 Football Championship which will only last one month. However from unofficial sources it is clear that they are preparing to disperse mass actions in other cities. Human rights activists and members of the opposition say that in such manner the enforcement agencies are preparing to counter protests against the present regime.
The Head of the Kyiv MIA Press Service, V. Polishchuk says that the Kyiv police in general, and special units in particular, are perhaps the best prepared in Europe for action in conditions of mass street actions. He says their skills were developed over the last 10 years since the protests with “Rise up, Ukraine!” and “Ukraine without Kuchma”.
According to an MIA Spokesperson, S. Burlakov, they work on how to deal with disturbances caused by football fans, with the training taking place according to an annual plan. He says that the training in cities hosting Euro 2012 has become even more intensive.
Ordinary police officers in the regions acknowledge that additional training exercises are taking place. Radio Svoboda learned of them, for example, from officers in Uzhhorod which is nowhere near where the football matches will be taking place. Such exercises are carried out publicly in the Luhansk region. Internal Forces officers train to counter mobs with batons and shields.
The MIA people Radio Svoboda spoke with deny that such training is preparation for quelling protests against the current regime. They say that they are preparing to deal with football fans breaking windows, setting fire to cars etc.
According to the Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Yevhen Zakharov it is hard to predict whether the police who are training to use force at mass actions will use it more often in real situations. He points out, however, that the MIA are already today violating the right of Ukrainians to mass gatherings.
“In Kharkiv they banned an opposition rally, people were simply not allowed on the Square. I spoke with participants of the rally on Khreshchatyk during Tymoshenko’s arrest. They received injuries from Berkut, they were pushed, pressed against a barrier and that cannot be called anything but unwarranted use of force”.
He doubts that the police are preparing for Euro 2012. Hennady Moskal, National Deputy from Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence, agrees and sees the training as preparation fro dispersing possible rallies against the regime.
From a report at: http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/24294138.html