The Ukrainian parliamentary vote to disarm paramilitaries paves the way for the authorities to act against self-defence groups that sprang up during the wave of protests against the previous government.
The resolution, approved unanimously, orders the Ukrainian security service (SBU), and the interior ministry to seize weapons from the likes of the nationalist Pravy Sektor – the Right Sector.
Such groups contributed to toppling former President Yanukovych, but they are now described by Moscow and others as “dangerous armed paramilitaries threatening public order”.
There is also a growing concern among people in Kyiv, even Maidan supporters, about the armed groups’ activities.
Right Sector’s members beg to differ: ‘‘Weapons? Look at me, I have no weapons. This is a peaceful situation. But if somebody threatens me with a gun, I will have no choice to take a weapon too,’‘ said one militant, sporting a shaved head and military fatigues.
‘‘It would be more constructive if the government and parliament enacted a new bill or a new law to legalise the weapons in people’s hands. But this is not the time to hand over weapons, due to the war with Russia. In peace time we should do it, but in wartime that’s inappropriate,” said another Right Sector member, Artem Skoropadskyi.
Pravy Sektor has been demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov – from the Batkishchina party of Yulia Tymoshenko – since last week when one of its prominent figures, Alexander Musychko, died from gunshot wounds during a police chase in western Ukraine.
On Monday night, Pravy Sektor was held responsible for a shooting near Maidan in which three people were wounded. Afterwards armed police officers surrounded the Pravy Sektor`s headquarters at the Hotel Dnipro in Kyiv city centre. A search reportedly uncovered weapons.
Amid otherwise peaceful Maidan protests, Right Sector was the first group to use violent tactics against Yanukovych’s riot police.
Its continued activity risks embarrassing Ukraine’s new leadership as it seeks to promote an orderly climate ahead of May’s presidential election.