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With fake blood and “On Crimea” banners: Ukraine detains group suspected of planning mass violent riots

Ukraine’s National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko (L) and Internal Affairs Minister Denys Monastyrskyi. Kyiv, 31 January 2022. Photo: National Police of Ukraine
With fake blood and “On Crimea” banners: Ukraine detains group suspected of planning mass violent riots

The National Police of Ukraine reported the detainment of a criminal group that planned to organize mass riots in Ukraine which were to start from a protest near the President’s Office on 31 January. A protest activist drenched in fake blood was to play the role of a “sacred victim” to spark further violence. The protest participants were supposed to appear to be Ukrainian nationalists. The banners and leaflets of the protesters included the words “Offensive on Crimea and occupied Donbas” and “War until victory.”

As the recent Russian troop-building has been accompanied by Russian state media spreading disinformation on a planned Ukrainian attack on Donbas, the disrupted riots may be viewed as a pretext for Russia to start new aggressive action against Ukraine.

The police first reported about the group on 30 January, but gave more details at a briefing on 31 January, saying that a number of mass riots were planned in the capital city of Kyiv, and in Sumy, Chernihiv, and Poltava oblasts. The first of such protests was reportedly scheduled for Monday, January 31. The protest action was reportedly aimed at “violent actions, the organization of mass riots to swing and destabilize the situation in the country.”

National Police chief Ihor Klymenko stated at today’s press briefing,

“The main purpose of the rally was to destabilize the situation in Ukraine and create international resonance. Two people were detained, they were declared suspects, proceedings were opened, and the suspects’ connections with the Russian special services are being investigated.”

Importantly, the protest participants were supposed to appear to be Ukrainian nationalists. The banners and leaflets of the protesters included the words “Offensive on Crimea and occupied Donbas” and “War until victory,” Klymenko said. As the recent Russian troop-building has been accompanied by Russian state media spreading disinformation on a planned Ukrainian attack on Donbas, the disrupted riots may be viewed as a pretext for Russia to start new aggressive action against Ukraine.

The police showed hidden camera footage allegedly showing a discussion on the 31 January actions among the organizers. The detainees – the suspected organizer and accomplice – are charged under Article 294 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (organizing mass violent riots). Under these charges, they may face up to eight years in prison.

Interior Minister of Ukraine Denys Monastyrskyi said during the briefing that up to 5,000 people were to be involved in the riots. They were going to resort to violence and set fire to tires. The organizers also prepared fake blood to spray it on sham activists to make it appear the result of police violence. A group of medics was to come into play and confirm the violence in order to get publicity from the central TV channels.

“One of the scenarios of aggression against Ukraine is paid violent mass actions. This can be used as an element of a hybrid war,” Monastyrskyi stated.

According to him, in 2014, Russians held the same kind of rallies with the participation of pseudo-activists who provoked violence and incited other citizens in Luhansk, Donetsk, and Crimea. These territories are currently under Russian occupation.

“Unfortunately, the phenomenon of paid rallies is quite common [in Ukraine], and this is not the first paid rally, but this rally from the very beginning was aimed at upsetting the domestic political situation and violence against law enforcement officers and other people participating in the rally,” Monastyrskyi added, stressing that this was not a planned peaceful rally.

Monastyrskyi clarified that the potential connection of the mass riots with occupied Donbas or Russia is being studied, although also suggested that some political forces in Ukraine may also be interested in unrest and destabilization.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the organizers prepared 3,500 paid “extras” for participation in the riots, each of whom was going to get 800 hryvnias ($28). Up to 1,500 extras should have acted as titushkas arranging “clashes with law enforcement,” these were going to get paid UAH 1,200 hryvnias ($42).

Police chief Ihor Klymenko told about the details:

  • The first paid protest was to take place in Kyiv today, January 31, at about 11:00 near the President’s Office (OP).
  • Fierce clashes were planned, including with law enforcement.
  • The organizers didn’t inform the police of the planned rally — it was assumed that the application would be submitted on 31 January mentioning a protest of 500 people so that the Ministry of Internal Affairs would not have time to prepare for the event.
  • In total, the group spent more than UAH 1 million ($35,000) to organize the rally, prepared 200 flares, 200 smoke flares, 2000 leaflets, 320 flags, 20 tires, 10 fire extinguishers, 12 radio stations for coordinating the actions of the crowd near the OP, fake blood. The police said they knew which bank issued this amount of cash to the group.
  • The protests were then to spread to the Sumy, Chernihiv, Poltava, and Cherkasy Oblasts (the Sumy and Chernihiv Oblasts border Russia).

According to the police chief, the even neat the President’s office should have started with the speakers’ speeches, then the titushkas were going to “warm up the situation,” then code words of the speakers should have been a sign for the beginning of clashes with the police. One of the “actors” had to be covered in fake blood to mimic an injury of the rally participant — Klymenko called it “the sacred victim technology” — which should become an impetus for further clashes.

Later in the day, Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing two sources in law enforcement, that the organizer of the provocations turned out to be the ex-police colonel Yuriy Holoban, who was suspected of collaborating with Russian-backed militants of Ukraine’s Donbas. Holuban was fired from the National Police in 2018. The Security Service of Ukraine had launched a probe into his possible collaboration with militants of the Russian puppet states of Ukraine’s east, but it brought no results.

As Russia has accumulated some 100,000 of its troops on the Ukrainian border, which the West sees as a sign of preparation for a large-scale invasion, the US State Department has earlier said that Russia had prepared plans for sabotage and internal destabilization of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, called “possible destabilization of the Ukrainian government by Russia through hybrid tactics” one of the options for Russian aggression.

And on January 22, the British Foreign Office, citing British intelligence, warned that Moscow is likely planning to bring a pro-Russian leadership led by Yevhen Murayev to power in Kyiv.

UK warns of Russian plan for coup in Ukraine. Here is what we know about its potential leader

Earlier, Ukrainian state websites were under a massive cyberattack with a Russian trace.

The article was updated with details about the organizer

Further reading:

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