Neo-Nazi C14 vigilantes appear to work with Kyiv police in latest ‘purge’ of Roma
Members of the neo-Nazi C14 movement, together with the ‘Kyiv Municipal Watch’ civic organization which is led by C14 activist Serhiy Bondar, have carried out another raid, driving Roma citizens out of the area around the Southern Railway Station in Kyiv. The raid does not appear to have been accompanied by shocking images of violence like some five others this year, but that is the only positive difference. What is much more disturbing is that the action appears to have been with the cooperation of the police, and was essentially given glowing coverage on a national television news broadcast.
Bondar posted a video on his Facebook page on 24 October, together with a caption reading (in his words): “A purge of gypsies at the capital’s railway station”. He later began backtracking, claiming that they had not driven anybody away that they had simply posted videos “with gypsies who rob people” – as their “ethnic trade” - and that the police, to their amazement, had done it themselves.
It is worth noting that the above language, and worse, are used extensively by Bondar and other C14 activists. This is just one of the reasons for concern at indications that these far-right vigilantes appear to be working closely with the police. That is certainly the impression given by the TSN.ua news broadcast on 24 October, which Bondar proudly posted on his FB page. It is small wonder that he was pleased since the presenter of the feature virtually parrots parts of the C14 video, with only two Roma people driven out shown in a negative light. There is one telling detail, namely that the television program is carefully not to ethnically label the people driven out, with the feature entitled: ‘Police and civic activists tried to clean the capital’s station of thieves’. It does, however, show the activists wearing camouflage gear and chevrons clearly showing the C14 symbol, and little effort would be required to find out how C14 presents its vigilante activities, and why this organization has gained notoriety over recent months.
There may well be a problem with thieves at Kyiv stations, and there is little sense in closing ones eyes to the fact that some of the Roma who come to Kyiv and live temporarily near the stations are involved in criminal activities. Thieves should undoubtedly be stopped, but that is the task of the police, not of C14 vigilantes with racist views, a shocking track record and openly declared willingness to cause trouble to people’s ‘enemies’ for money.
There have been a minimum of five attacks on Roma camps since April this year; with the last leaving one young man dead and a woman and child injured. All of the attacks - at Lysa Hora in Kyiv on 21-22 April; Rudne on 9 May; the Ternopil Oblast on 22 May; at Holosiyiv Park in Kyiv on 7 June and near Lviv on 24 June - seem to have been carried out by activists involved in far-right groups. One C14 activist, Serhiy Mazur, was recently placed under house arrest over charges relating to the attack on a Roma settlement on Lysa Hora in Kyiv.
As reported, there was effectively a pogrom on April 21-22, with families driven out and their makeshift homes burned. All of this was described in detail, albeit with euphemisms, by Mazur on his Facebook page.
The Kyiv police continued to downplay this raid by vigilantes with neo-Nazi leanings right up until 25 April when the Internet publication LB.ua posted a video showing whole families running in terror from young men, many in masks, hurling stones and spraying gas canisters in the direction where families with some very small children were trying to take shelter. One Roma man can be seen on the video trying to use a thin branch in defence, but then realizing he is outnumbered and also fleeing. That evening the Kyiv police finally announced that a criminal investigation had been initiated. Human rights activists are reportedly working to ensure that the police keep their promise and change the classification of the crime from ‘hooliganism’ to that of a hate crime under Article 161 of the Criminal Code.
It was noticeable, and worrying, that in his report on 19 April, Mazur asserted that the C14 activists had first appeared, with an ultimatum to get out by the following day, together with representatives of the Holosiyiv administration.
C14 members object to being called ‘neo-Nazi’, however researchers following far-right groups, like Anna Hrytsenko, Anton Shekhovtsov and Vyacheslav Likhachev are clear that the group fits this description because of their hate crimes and the neo-Nazi symbols they use.
This has raised concern over the reported cooperation between C14 activists and the Holosyiv District Administration, as well as in connection with the grants they recently received from the Ministry for Youth and Sport. While claiming to be nationalists’ defending Ukraine against ‘separatists’, ‘titushki’ or paid thugs, corrupt courts, etc, the C14 activists’ view of who is ‘separatist’ is highly specific and open to doubt, and their effective offer to act as titushki themselves for their ‘donors’ a matter of immense concern. The activists have a long record of intolerance towards people whose race, religious or political views, or sexual orientation are not to their liking, with all of this making any cooperation with municipal authorities or the police unacceptable.