An Interview by Mustafa Nayyem and Oksana Kovalenko (Translated from Ukrainian by William Risch)
Dmytro Yarosh, leader of Right Sector, has been the least well-known figure over the past two months. Just two weeks ago, only a narrow circle of people involved with organizing the Euromaidan even knew about the very existence of the Sector and Yarosh. Today, it’s impossible not to describe events in Kyiv without mentioning Right Sector.
On January 19, after events on Hrushevskyi Street started, world media exploded with fiery scenes of young guys with Molotov cocktails and masks over their faces. Right Sector’s actions tore the term “peaceful protest” to pieces, but at the same time, Right Sector forced the regime to listen to the Maidan and repeal the January 16 laws.
The headquarters of this still informal group is on the fifth floor of the Trade Unions’ Building. Photography is forbidden in the hallway, numerous matresses are spread on the floor, next to which, besides wood and metal sticks, lay textbooks – most of Right Sector’s members are young guys of university age.
We met Dmytro Yarosh in one of the floor’s offices – two by three meters – where Right Sector press conferences usually take place. Here, too, is the fully-equipped office for the sector’s leader. Three guys with walkie-talkies, dressed in camouflage, with masks over their heads, man the office’s “reception room.”
THEY CALL ME A HAWK IN TRIDENT
What is your personal story, and what have you done with your life?
I am leader of the all-Ukrainian organization, Stepan Bandera Trident. I have been involved in public life for the past 25 years. I’m from Dniprodzerzhyns’k, in the Dnipropetrovs’k Oblast’ (Region). I raised the first blue-and-yellow flag in April 1989 in Dniprodzerzhyns’k.
I was one of the founders of the People’s Movement of Ukraine (Rukh). I was a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union; in 1989 I received recommendations (to join it) from Levko Luk’ianenko and Stepan Khmara in Moscow, on the Arbat, where we picketed then for the renewal of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s activities. Since 1994, as a founder of the Stepan Bandera Trident, I have had various positions in it: first as leader of Trident’s city structure, then as leader of its oblast’ structure, then its regional one, and so on.
I was commander of the organization from 1996 to 1999, then I was chief inspector of Trident, then I became commander of the organization again, then I passed on my duties as chief commander to my successor, Andriy Stempits’kyi. I’ve actually spent a lifetime in this. I have been trained as an instructor of Ukrainian language and literature, and in 2001, I finished the Drohobych Pedagogical University in the Philological Faculty.
How did Right Sector emerge?
There was a big protest in Kyiv on November 24-25 because of the decision to cancel the Eurointegration program. In general, Trident is not an active supporter of any integration processes, but we announced that we would create Right Sector as a platform for coordinating the actions of various revolutionary-oriented groups, because to a considerable degree, from the very beginning, we were perfectly aware that we couldn’t live in the system of state structures that has existed up to now.
Right Sector fully emerged after the events of November 30, when we went out to protest on Mykhailivs’kyi Square.
It was there that we started training and getting our defenses ready. Then we were at the Maidan all the time, and we entered the Maidan’s self-defense force. Other organizations that entered Right Sector were Trident, UNA-UNSO (Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian National Self Defense), and Carpathian Sich from the Subcarpathians.
Have you conducted training before?
Yes, for 20 years. We already have a lot of generations who have been changed by it. My kids were small at one time, and now my daughter is 20 years old, and she’s spent her whole life in Trident.
Trident is an organization with narrow operations, like an order of knights. We have three specific tasks: propagandizing the ideology of Ukrainian nationalism as interpreted by Stepan Bandera; raising up Ukrainian youth in a spirit of patriotism; and national defense activity, that is, defending the honor and dignity of the Ukrainian nation in all forms by all methods and means available.
In general, Ukrainian nationalism and Banderites are not narrow-minded plebs with sadistic tendencies; these are intellectuals, people who write, who publish, who are involved not just in using force. Trident is an organization that produces certain ideas.
We are not a political party. In Trident, we’re even forbidden from taking state jobs.
Serhiy Kvit, President of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy, is among Trident’s well-known members. He’s my good friend and comrade. At one time, he was a sotnyk in our organization. There’s also Petro Ivanyshyn, a doctor of philology, head of an academic department at the Drohobych Pedagogical University, who was also a sotnyk.
Where exactly do these training sessions take place?
At camps throughout Ukraine: Dnipropetrovs’k, Dniprodzerzhyns’k, Kryvyi Rih, Pavlohrad, Nikopol’ and so on. Guys get together, and they have their plan of activities for a month, for half a year, for a year. They go through training and lessons. They conduct various events aimed at the de-communization and decolonization of Ukraine.
I think you’ve heard about events from 2011, when our mobile group blew up the head of Stalin’s bust in Zaporizhzhia; that was a rather notorious thing.
We never made PR out of it. We simply do what is for our nation’s good, for our state’s good. Those of us who can do it close down drug dealerships and help law-enforcement organs (if you can call them that, because it seems to me that the police are the most active drug dealers).
Was what happened on January 19 on Hrushevs’kyi Street something planned in advance?
No, of course not. We were always on the front lines those two months. The dictatorship laws that were passed January 16 were the stimulous for these events. We couldn’t live under state rules like those. On January 19, Automaidan activists drove up, and they wanted to go to the Supreme Rada and picket it. Right Sector came up there in organized fashion when hundreds of people were already there.
We tried to talk with the police and get them to agree to let us through. They responded rather aggressively. And what happened next, you know – we committed active deeds, and our guys defended the people. And I think that what happened was very good, because if it hadn’t been for those events on the nineteenth, I don’t think the regime would have made concessions and negotiate with the opposition.
How many of your people are at the Maidan?
Around 1,500 people, along with a mobilization reserve from Kyiv. But right now, affiliates are emerging all over Ukraine. They are organizing on their own, they call themselves Right Sector, and we are working to coordinate their activities as much as possible.
How many people in general can you mobilize across the country?
I think that for now, we can already mobilize 4,000 – 5,000 people.
How do you finance your organization?
I am not involved in that issue, but it’s all financed by people. We even opened up bank cards, but they were blocked right away. And after January 19 – there’s just been a flood of help. We need everything, because we’ve been here for two months already. People bring packs of money. We keep a complete account, everything is transparent, and guys buy equipment with the money.
Tell us about your organization’s structure.
The structure will be completely finalized after these events. Right now, Right Sector is a completely orderly organization; it’s not at all an extremist one, or a radical one; in general, I don’t like the word “radical.” Right now there is a unit on the Maidan, there are units in the oblasts, and there are spontaneous groups that have emerged. We invite leaders, we talk with them, we look to see if these are decent people, and then we make decisions about them. Right now we have started coordinating our actions with those of Afghan War veterans, too. They haven’t officially entered Right Sector, but we now coordinate our activities with them completely, because I don’t bring guys together just like that.
How do you make decisions?
There are strategic decisions, there are emergency ones, and there are tactical ones. People themselves make them at all levels. Regarding strategic matters, we discuss this or that problem with a leadership group of up to 12 people, including me, and we make a decision. And all the commanders decide all the other things. For example, we have Iranian – he makes a decision in his group whether or not to send people to the barricades.
Iranian? Is he from Iran?
No, that’s just his pseudonym. All the guys have pseudonyms for obvious reasons, because we live in such a state system. For example, since 1994, I have had the code name Hawk (Iastrub) in Trident. And we have one Pylypach and one Letun. Everyone chooses his own name, just like in the Cossack Sich.
AFTER JANUARY 19, NOT A SINGLE OPPOSITION LEADER CAME UP TO SEE OUR GUYS
Do you coordinate your activities with opposition forces?
First of all, we have relations with Andriy Parubiy as Maidan commander and de-facto leader of Self Defense (Samooborona), which we formally belong to as the 23rd hundredth (sotnia), though we have over 1,500 people.
But if you talk about the entire opposition, for the most part, we have no relations with them at all. They don’t recognize our existence. It seems to me that this is a big mistake of the opposition, that they don’t consider the forces of the Afghan veterans, Right Sector, or even Self Defense.
It seems to me that even Andriy Parubiy doesn’t have such an easy time coordinating actions with the trio of opposition leaders. Because I see some of the remarks that they make there. Andriy says one thing, while the leaders say something slightly different.
For example, I’m surprised that after January 19, opposition leaders didn’t come upstairs and thank the guys. Approach people, talk with them. These are live people, and they’re good, too.
Yesterday, a television crew came by, and the cameraman said, “I was surprised. One guy was reading a textbook on materials’ resistance, while the other was fluent in English and was speaking with some foreigner. You have such great guys!”
Well, it’s true. They’re the flower of the nation. These are people who right now are sacrificing their lives and their freedom for the sake of the Fatherland. This is something else, but politicians close their eyes to it.
Though there was Vitaliy Klychko – I met with him twice, and we had absolutely normal conversations. However, the opposition often fulfills part of our demands, because they are perfectly aware of our presence, and they see that Right Sector is a certain factor to be reckoned with on the Maidan.
But didn’t you try to contact them for the sake of coordinating activities?
We had no direct contacts. I had the impression from the very start of the peaceful Maidan that they operated very much on impulse, not on a system of actions thought through. They didn’t even set up a unified headquarters. From the very beginning, we called for unity at the Maidan so that there would be no divisions between politicians, Civic Sector, and Right Sector. In all interviews I’ve had, I’ve stressed that the uprising must be unified, and that I don’t want to provoke responses from the opposition.
But everything has its limits. When the country faced a real threat of war, great distrust of opposition leaders surfaced on the Maidan. They just talked for two months. Even though they had been given a mandate – “Take it, decide things!” – they couldn’t do anything. On January 19, we went on the offensive, and they started doing something. Well, we’ll keep putting pressure on them.
As far as we understand, the Freedom (Svoboda) Party is closest to you in ideological views…
Yes. We have a lot of common positions when it comes to ideological questions, but there are big differences. For instance, I don’t understand certain racist things they share, I absolutely don’t accept them. A Belarusian died for Ukraine, and an Armenian from Dnipropetrovs’k died for Ukraine. They are much greater comrades of mine than any, sorry, Communist cattle like Symonenko, who play for Russia but are ethnic Ukrainians.
Stepan Bandera once advocated three ways of dealing with non-Ukrainians. It’s very simple. You deal with them as comrades – and this is for those who fight with you for Ukraine, regardless of their nationality. You deal with them in a tolerant way – for those who live on the land and do not oppose our struggle; thus, we treat them normally, Ukraine has a place for all. The third way of dealing with them is in a hostile way – and this is for those who oppose the Ukrainian people’s national liberation struggle. And this is in any state; any people takes exactly these positions.
Social nationalism is very complicated for me, because it is my belief that nationalism does not require anything extra; it is enough. Oleh (Tiahnybok – Ukrains’ka Pravda), too, has lately tried to go the way of traditional nationalism. Thank God. Although there isn’t much of a point talking about ideological discussions during a revolution. Finally, our guys stand at the barricades just like guys from Svoboda. This unites us.
People from the regime say that during negotiations, opposition leaders claimed that people were ready to leave administrative buildings if those arrested and prosecuted were released. Is this true?
I think the regime lied. I think that the opposition didn’t say any such thing. Before the amnesty law was voted on, we made clear our position, and it was like the same thing the opposition had said. That is, if the regime made a compromise and passed the law for a so-called amnesty drafted by the opposition, then Right Sector was ready to withdraw its fighters from Hrushevs’kyi Street and unblock the street. This would be a reasonable compromise.
This doesn’t cancel out our political demands. We must change the country at another level. The Maidan is only a Sich (a Cossack military and administrative center – WR), a training ground, but it’s not about constant fighting.
Your opponents would reply that you were the first ones to open fire and go on an all-out offensive…
No, no, no! Excuse me, Berkut special forces beat children on the Maidan on November 30, 2013. For two months, people stood at the Maidan and took no action. Then came the regime’s usual provocation – passing the laws of January 16. They started beating activists, kidnapping people. Look what they’ve done with the Automaidan.
They were the very ones who provoked this situation, and people went on the attack, because people couldn’t take it anymore. How much longer could you stand there and dance on the Maidan? We’re not sheep, Ukrainians must have some pride, and they showed that Ukrainians do have pride.
What do you think, why did Right Sector have to show up for this, why didn’t the opposition do it?
Because Right Sector is the Maidan’s most revolutionary structure. Let me emphasize: revolutionary, and not radical. Revolution is reason, a plan, action. When the people are in an uproar, you can’t avoid using this situation for the people’s own benefit. The opposition, unfortunately, is incapable of doing this, maybe because their seats in parliament are very soft and they can’t take decisive steps. We can take such a step.
Have you spoken with the opposition about this?
I’m telling you, we have no contact with them. I’ll stress it again – I am for unifying the opposition movement, the one involved in protests and in the general uprising. Thus, any explanation I give will wind up being used against me. They’ll start yelling that I’m a provocateur. If you want my honest opinion, I don’t care what they say about me. Our difference is that I’m not interested in political ratings.
Right now, representatives of opposition parties are taking part in negotiations with the regime. What do you think, can these people take responsibility for the Maidan’s actions and give some guarantees on its behalf?
That’s the problem; the Maidan doesn’t control the negotiations process. The levels of trust opposition leaders had at the beginning and now are completely different.
We demand that not only opposition leaders be in the negotiations, but also representatives from the Maidan. At least as observers. Then you can offer some guarantees and at least articulate here, to people on the Maidan, that we have this agreement reached between the regime and the opposition, and it should be carried out.
Because otherwise, there’s the impression that they agree on one thing, and then they change something among themselves, and then the result turns out to be completely different.
Our goal now is to force the opposition to go back to negotiations with specific demands and achieve a certain compromise. But this absolutely must happen with Maidan representatives.
Those Afghan veterans or Andriy Parubiy as self-defense commander can be in the negotiating group. If they invite me, I’ll go. We see nothing awful in this. We can argue our position and compel both the regime and the opposition to make an agreement, so that there will be no bloodshed, and so that the state will take different actions. I’m ready to go negotiate for this.
Let’s make this simpler. Imagine that you are in negotiations, and Viktor Yanukovych is sitting across from you. What arguments would you use to convince him to change his actions?
I would seek a compromise. I would put pressure on him, though I know he wouldn’t like that very much. I’m not sure that Yanukovych is getting reliable information. It seems to me that he has some inadequate understanding of the situation. For example, I think he doesn’t understand that 80% of the people right now do not trust the regime. I think that his advisors are giving him slightly different figures and are showing him different scenarios from the real ones.
First, I’d start out by saying that he can’t fight his own people. No one yet has defeated his own people. I would explain that those things that law enforcement are doing is a real war against Ukrainians. Second, and this is very important – I would try to explain to him that those thousands of self-defense forces that have already been formed will not give Berkut or riot police an easy time clearing the Maidan and pass through it in parade fashion.
They don’t understand that the Maidan is a phenomenon with its own army, with its own medical services, with its own structures, and that it’s already a certain state. And they won’t be able to take it over without shedding a lot of blood.
It’s already impossible to drive it away with clubs. They’ll have to use weapons, real ones, not like the ones they use on Hrushevs’kyi Street. And they’ll really get it from us, that I can guarantee Viktor Yanukovych.
All right, but what do you want? So you tell Viktor Fedorovych (Yanukvoych) that the situation is like this. What next?
A precondition for any negotiations must be the freeing of all those arrested. These people aren’t terrorists and they aren’t extremists. I think you even know some of those people. They are absolutely normal, decent people who got fed up. People should be freed. Any talk about normalizing the situation can only happen after this.
Second, the regime should stop using force. In the regions, above all. Stop kidnapping activists. This is terror against one’s own people.
They must immediately start investigating crimes that have taken place on the streets. Berkut special forces couldn’t have been shooting without the knowledge of the Minister of Internal Affairs. It’s a military structure; there has to be discipline there, a clear sense of subordination. If they were provocations, then we need to find out who was doing the shooting. Give people information, don’t be silent, don’t close your eyes to what has been going on.
Yanukovych indeed has fulfilled several of our demands regarding the government’s resignation and the repeal of the laws of January 16. But changing an existing office to another that has the prefix “v.o.” (“acting” – translator) doesn’t solve any problems.
We need to form a compromise government that could be made up of people who are not leaders of political parties, but professionals. Moreover, all those odious figures – all the Zakharchenkos, the Tabachnyks, and other politicians like them – should be replaced. This is the first step they would need to make, and it would remove the tensions immediately.
Who do you see heading the Cabinet of Ministers?
I can’t say, because I’m not an expert at forming governments. Politicians should talk about that.
But when you don’t have your own proposals, you take away all responsibility from yourself and remove yourself from political developments.
For 25 years, I’ve avoided public politics. That’s not a problem for me. Although now, we are looking into the possibility that, if there will be peace, Right Sector will grow into a political organization. All the guys have said this. For God’s sake! We can always get involved in politics. For me, they’re the flower of the nation, and they can’t be cannon fodder people use and then forget. But it’s still too early to talk about anything specific. Right Sector today can’t be narrowed down to some political matters.
But that’s exactly what it looks like right now – you’re being used: you’re standing at the barricades, while they offer government posts to Arseniy Iatseniuk and Vitaliy Klychko.
The fact is that the life of the state and the life of our people aren’t limited to a sole Cabinet of Ministers. Let them take those positions. If they invite us to help, we will. We’ll take over law enforcement, and we’ll bring order in the state. But I doubt that we’ll get even just one office.
WE WILL HAVE OUR OWN CANDIDATE IN THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
What will you propose to Viktor Yanukovych if the revolution is victorious?
It depends on him. Some time ago, we gave him 24 hours to leave the country, and no one would touch him. Today, if he made a smart decision, we could even grant him safety in his own state. Just so there would be no war, so there would be no bloodshed. Let him stay in Mezhyhir’ia, take care of his ostriches, and no one would bother him there. But that has to be his decision.
Do you see yourself in some office?
Right now, no. I have a really good office right now – I’m leader of Trident. It’s easier for me to speak in front of members in formation, not onstage.
But that’s not an office that can change the country. What would you do in a time of peace?
If you want peace, get ready for war. We started Right Sector, and Right Sector has changed the country a little. During peace, I would continue being involved in Trident. Like I’d been doing for the last twenty years.
You understand, Trident is not a structure that has an unequivocal goal of setting up some armed conflict. No. Any kind of normal state must have state paramilitary structures that prepare youth for service in the army, which gives it a chance to mobilize a certain personnel reserve for defending the people’s interest in times of foreign or domestic peril. It’s a normal thing in most civilized countries of the world. Trident will always be relevant. Even if we have the best president and the best government.
Do you have any information regarding who’s kidnapping people?
Unfortunately, we don’t. We are trying to dig this information up, but we’ve had no luck so far. We ask the regime to activate law enforcement, its Security Service (Security Service of Ukraine, or SBU – WR), so that all investigation teams are employed in this search. Finally, [the SBU] is not as compromised in all these events as the MVS (Ministry of Internal Affairs) is. But there’s been nothing so far.
So you sincerely trust regime structures to investigate this issue?
I’m not certain that the regime is guilty of these crimes. I don’t rule out foreign special services being responsible for this. For example, the FSB (Federal Security Service). Russia always makes use of instability in Ukraine. As soon as there is instability in Ukraine, they come over here and deal with certain issues they have. Putin has said more than once that Ukraine is not a state. And I am more than convinced that up to the present, there have been plans for splitting Ukraine up into two or three, or five, or six zones of influence.
But Right Sector and its activities have been called a destabilizing factor.
It seems to me that it’s the opposite – over the last few months Right Sector has shown that it is a stabilizing factor. If it hadn’t been for Right Sector, there wouldn’t have been any negotiations, radical moods would have increased, and they would have exploded in regions as partisan warfare. Why doesn’t anyone think about that?
As for now, the situation anyway is under control, and it it is now at some negotiating stage. If they don’t reach an agreement, the risk of partisan warfare in Ukraine will sharply increase. We know Ukrainians have a very glorious tradition of waging partisan warfare. They’ve fought for decades. Only will this be useful for the state?
But aren’t you afraid that a partisan war could grow into a civil war?
There can be no civil war. When 80% of the people do not support the regime, it will be a struggle between society, the people, and the regime. And these two things make great differences between a civil war and what we are talking about. This will be a national liberation war. But we’d rather not have one. We have a state, we have a foundation for developing nation building and state building.
But a lot of people in eastern Ukraine sincerely believe that Banderites and nationalists are gathered here, and they are really convinced that they must fight this. What should we do with these people?
According to the information I have, this is a very small percentage of people. I myself am from the Dnipropetrovs’k Oblast’, and I completely understand the situation. These are mostly people working for hire. You saw the events near the Dnipropetrovs’k Oblast’ Administration building. There, local (Party of) Regions deputy Stupak for a year and a half got scumbags together and formed fight clubs and guard structures that, together with the police, out of “conviction” defend the Oblast’ Administration.
Did you see at least one normal citizen among those defenders of the administration building who went out there voluntarily? Or in the Crimea itself, they’ve set up units of hatted Cossacks, chauvinists, who form Black Hundreds and defend the regime. But where are the masses of people? Besides that, Crimean Tatars are completely on the side of the Euromaidan. So none of this is simple.
If you’d speak with people in the East, they’d say the same thing about the Maidan: that there is a very small percentage of sincere supporters, and that the majority are hired nationalists. Both you and they have very similar rhetoric, which in the end is very unlikely to produce a compromise.
Let’s consider some examples. The Party of Regions tried to set up an Anti-Maidan by bringing in people from all over Ukraine. Who actually has been standing there? It’s either really asocial elements or state employees and recipients of state aid who simply were forced to come. I spoke with a whole bunch of such people, and when I yelled out, “Get out, crook!” (Zeka het’!), they waved and laughed. It’s a myth that there’s some social support for Yanukovych and his regime.
The soccer ultras all over Ukraine, the ones who supported the Maidan, are clear examples of this. These are people with real ideas, from Luhans’k Zoria, Simferopil’ Tavriia, Zaporizhzhia Metalurh, Dnipropetrovs’k Dnipro, Kharkiv Metalist, and so on. How many times did Dopa and Hepa (Mykhailo Dobkin, governor of the Kharkiv Oblast’, and Hennadiy Kernes, mayor of Kharkiv – WR) try to gather those hired thugs and send them here to Kyiv, and they haven’t been able to do it. What support can you talk about? This idea about a split in the country is a big lie. There is no split. Yanukovych, bless his heart, united the country.
All the time there’s been this call made at the Maidan to the three opposition leaders to make a decision on a single candidate. Do you support this call?
It doesn’t seem that relevant because you more often hear calls to make decisions with Maidan leaders. The leaders of the resistance which is going on. The importance of presidential elections for people has gone down to second or third place.
During presidential elections – early or regularly scheduled ones – what will be your strategy: will you support someone, or will you run on your own?
We don’t rule out Right Sector nominating its own candidate for elections. But it’s still too early to talk about this.
So you sincerely believe that a candidate from Right Sector has a chance at winning across the country?
If you took at reality, there is always a chance for it. Right Sector became an all-Ukrainian phenomenon in a few weeks. It’s Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovs’k, Donets’k, the Crimea. On the other hand, presidential elections can bring quite a bit of attention to our ideas of revolutionary changes for the state.
Aren’t you afraid that your electoral campaign could divide up the opposition’s electorate and lead to you being blamed for causing a split?
Listen, let this process finish, and then we’ll see what’s going on and how things are going. Fairy tales about fragmenting one’s forces, which they tell each other, is some kind of child’s play. They all know that they’re running as three separate candidates, thus breaking up forces from the very beginning.
Either you sit down and make a real agreement and fulfill what you’d agreed to do, or each should play his own game. For us, at this stage, it’s not that important to take part in presidential elections. We need peace.
The fact is that there are people who talk a lot and do little, while there are people who act and demonstrate with their sweat and blood that they can change things, that they can act, that they can achieve a result.
Right Sector is a platform for guys who have demonstrated their ability to change something, to sacrifice the gifts they have received to achieve something higher. Politicians in recent years have not demonstrated this. I don’t see them having demonstrated this kind of sacrifice, the desire and the ability to sacrifice.
So who for you is the leader of the resistance?
There is no one for now. I made an announcement that I was ready to bear responsibility for all those things that happened. This doesn’t mean that I have some presidential ambitions. I simply see that there needs to be complete coordination and control over the situation. Let politicians settle those issues for themselves. If one of them is ready to do it, then let him do it, and we will sincerely support him. But I don’t see anyone doing this.
RIGHT SECTOR DOESN’T FIGHT WITH FAMILIES
Are you aware of the fact that if you are defeated, or even if there is a compromise between the regime and the opposition, a jail cell might be waiting for you?
Yes, of course. I’ve been ready for it for the past 25 years. What can you do? That’s life. I go there but for the grace of God. What will be, will be. If there will be a criminal case, then there will be a criminal case. I am ready to fight for Ukraine. Let them try to put me in jail. Finally, we’ve yet to see who will imprison whom.
Have you been given a police summons?
No. I live here, what do I need a summons for? They don’t deliver them to the Maidan, and guys don’t let cops enter the fifth floor.
But something could happen before you’re even arrested. You could face the fate of Ihor Lutsenko or Dmytro Bulatov…
I know in whose name I’m waging this struggle. Of course, I don’t want that, I’m a living human being, and I have the instinct of self-preservation. But guys are protecting me, they go around with me, and they wear armored flak jackets.
Do you go outside the Maidan in general?
I’m rarely outside it. I won’t tell you where I go.
What is happening with your family right now?
I last saw my family for Christmas. They’re in Ukraine, but I’ve temporarily changed their residence. The fact is that all information about our addresses has been posted on the Internet, and about our families, so there is a certain danger.
But there’s also the very same information on the Internet about Berkut forces, for instance. Can you give guarantees to all law enforcement and regime officials that nothing threatens their families?
I can guarantee that Right Sector in no way will touch any child, or any family, of any law enforcement personnel, from any structure. Right Sector doesn’t fight women and children. We are not beasts from Berkut who beat up journalists and medical personnel. So you don’t have to worry – no one will be taking any actions like those. I can vouch for Right Sector.
But you still set an ultimatum… you have this demand for the Fourth (of February): either you release everyone, or there will be… Can you say what this is about? Why exactly the Fourth?
The Fourth of February is the next session of parliament. We demand that the Supreme Rada produce a document announcing the unconditional and complete freeing and rehabilitation of people arrested. And this is no amnesty, because there were no crimes committed.
We also demand the regime end any use of force – this would be kidnappings, burning cars, and so on. I think that they will listen to us. I am 90 percent certain that they will listen to us.
Otherwise, we are on the edge of a bloody conflict. I don’t rule out that people who are standing on the Maidan will conduct a very serious mobilization and go to the government offices district. And they will take it – and I am more than convinced of this – though it will be with blood, with great losses. Because we’ve been left with a pathological situation. Then all of them will be taken out: both the regime guards and Yanukovych. That’s why it’s better for them to reach an agreement with us.
Do you understand that even what you just said now can be used against you?
Yes, of course. It’s a revolution. There are two sides of the barricades – it’s a basic fact. Right now everything is being used either against us or against them.
Do you select in some way people who come to you? Do they go through some selection process?
Without a doubt. We are signing up volunteers all the time, especially during some active campaigns. Regarding criteria, you need to talk directly to the commanders. They work with people. I know exactly that they don’t take in people who are under age. Because they run in packs at age 15-16.
Do you issue people weapons (that is, ones that are not firearms)?
They show up on their own with either some baseball bats or with some sticks. We don’t equip them with them. As for the money that we get from people, we use that to buy all kinds of little shields, helmets, shields, a very big arsenal of all that stuff. They get all the necessary equipment, and then they have lessons with them.
If a person is in poor physical health, then he or she gets other work – in the kitchen, in the medical station, and so on. Our girls are great, simply great; they’ve done so much good already. They even took away the wounded during fighting, and they help us here all the time.
Regarding firearms, you called on people to bring them to the Maidan. Why have you done that?
When the MVS issued an order allowing use of firearms against people, I called on people who had legally registered firearms to join us, to create a group for supporting us with firearms in case they came to the Maidan and started shooting. I think that you can only return fire, because there are no other alternatives. But that’s only if they open fire first.
Has this unit been created?
That’s a secret, sorry.
Who has all the information that is now at Right Sector? There is a person who knows everything.
No one knows everything. The political leadership has the information.
How do you coordinate your actions? It’s not a secret that all telephone conversations are listened in on, how do you do it?
Regarding messengers and go-betweens, all the guys have walkie-talkies, but they also monitor them, and we know that. I get the impression that they have listening devices installed in all the buildings around us. Operational vehicles are in place and so on. By the way, I don’t regard guys sitting in them as enemies or something like that. They’re doing their job, and they have to do it.
Moreover, I am more than convinced that in law enforcement structures, attitudes toward the regime, the opposition, and the Maidan are very, very ambiguous. Some of them hate us, but that’s a small percentage. Others are sympathetic toward us, because we also have been conducting certain negotiations with law enforcement personnel. Guys come to us and talk. The regime is falling apart. You just need to put enough pressure on it so that they take those political steps.
There are two barricades on Hrushevs’kyi Street. Do you talk at all with Berkut forces? Do you bring them warm tea or coffee? I know that there used to be such initiatives.
I don’t know if we bring them right now. Earlier, when they blocked us in at the Maidan itself, we gave them food. I was against this, not because these cops, these guys, are not friends. They’re also Ukrainians, they simply are on the other side of the barricades. They serve the enemy. But it’s not worth doing. The more they are driven crazy by not getting enough food and so on, the less chances there are that they will go on the offensive and on the attack, and begin beating people like they’ve done several times. Thus, out of purely pragmatic reasons, I don’t think that we should bring them sandwiches or coffee.