Scurrilous rumours used to spread fear and distrust in Eastern oblasts
Over the last week or so, rumours appear to have been deliberately circulated among miners and others in the Luhansk, Donetsk and, possibly, Kharkiv oblasts, claiming that a percentage of people’s wages will be sent to Kyiv “for the restoration of Maidan”.
OR, depending who you listen to, individuals have indeed been collecting money.
If this is the case, such attempts are absolutely illegal and have nothing to do with Maidan.
None of the reports are particularly specific and those making them are not prepared to do so publicly. According to a representative of the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat, he has been told of such collections by several police officers, but it is they who don’t want to make statements publicly. It is worth noting that in the recent disturbances in eastern oblasts, police officers have often been worryingly passive. Although there have not been the reports of positive connivance between titushki [hired thugs] and the police seen during the EuroMaidan protests, there is little active effort to prevent titushki, marginal groups, including people seemingly brought in from across the border in Russia from provoking trouble.
In Luhansk, Oleksy Svyetikov from the Committee of Voters of Ukraine says that his newspaper “Third Sector” is actively trying to counter the rumours. He quotes police in managerial positions as calling the rumours “deranged nonsense” and “lies”.
It is possible that at least in Luhansk attention to the rumours prompted the organizers of one pro-Russian demonstration to claim that it was thanks to their reports that the money was no longer being collected.
In Donetsk the rumours seem to have coincided with the efforts of neo-Nazi Pavel Gubarev to declare himself “people’s governor”, call for resistance to the Kyiv administration and for Russian military intervention.
The Luhansk oblast in particular but all eastern oblasts are poor, and such rumours must cause anxiety. They are clearly designed to also make the new administration in Kyiv and the EuroMaidan movement seem like the “enemy”.