Ukraine arrests alleged riot plotters

Country’s interior minister says 5,000 people were supposed to take part

The Ukrainian authorities have detained a group of people apparently preparing to stage mass unrest in a number of cities, with the alleged goal to destabilize the country, it was revealed on Monday.

Speaking to a group of gathered journalists, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denis Monastyrsky and police head Igor Klimenko announced that they had thwarted a plot to gather 5,000 people in protest. A third of them, it is alleged, were “titushki,” the term used for mercenaries who pose as street hooligans and start violence during peaceful demonstrations.

At a hastily called briefing, Monastyrsky and Klimenko alleged that the supposed protest would have “spilled blood” on the streets of Ukrainian cities, with the Interior Minister alleging that the riots were aimed at “destabilizing the situation in the country.”

According to the officials, the gatherings were set to begin with a simple rally. Soon after, the “titushki” would rile up the crowd by starting clashes with police. It is alleged that the initial demonstrations were first planned for Kiev, before they taking place in other areas, like Suny, Chernigov, Poltava, and Cherkasy.

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FILE PHOTO. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. © AFP / STEFANIE LOOS
Ukraine asks West to tone down ‘panic’

According to Klimenko, the group members received more than 1 million hryvnias ($35,000) for organizing the campaign. Police found 200 firecrackers and 200 smoke bombs, among other equipment, he claimed. The protest was due to take place on Monday, at around 11am, with similar demonstrations planned in upcoming days.

Two of those arrested, the alleged organizer and his accomplice, are now in detention and face up to eight years in prison. Both had experience in law enforcement agencies, and they are being investigated for connections to Russia, the officials claimed.

The accusations come as tensions remain high in Ukraine, as Moscow stands accused of placing 100,000 troops on the frontier, with some alleging it is planning an attack. This claim has repeatedly been denied by the Kremlin, and it has also been played down by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Last week Zelensky called on the West to tone down its rhetoric of violence, stating that Ukraine is “not seeing any greater escalation” than before.

“From media coverage, it looks like we are at war already, that troops are already on the road, that there’s mobilization, people going somewhere. It’s not the case. We don’t need this panic,” he concluded.

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