East Ukraine Won’t Be Lost Without a Fight

Apr 14, 2014 at 9:36 AM ET

Ultra-nationalist activists in Ukraine are preparing to mobilize eastward in response to outbreaks of violence and storming of government buildings by pro-Russian groups. Pravy Sektor (Right Sector)—part political party, part paramilitary militia—announced the organized action yesterday over its profile on the VKontakte social network. The post followed an online video in which the group’s leader, Dmytro Yarosh, ordered a “full mobilization for all structures of the Pravy Sektor.” The group is asking supporters for armor and financial donations, vowing to “send guys east.”

The post, entitled “Urgent Help,” was published yesterday to the party’s VKontakte profile, which has 420,000 followers. It called on extreme right-wing activists to donate whatever body armor, helmets and other protective gear they have available. A meeting point in Kiev and a bank account number for donations were provided. “We are sending guys eastwards!” it exclaims. The post is signed by an assistant to Igor Mazur, one of the movement’s key leaders during the anti-government demos. It also claims that similar actions are being taken in other cities around Ukraine.

Pravy Sektor members were responsible for some of the most violent clashes with police and security forces during the Maidan square demonstrations this winter. It is considered one of the most organized groups within the opposition forces, and Yarosh—who plans to run for president—claimed in an interview that the organization has assembled a huge arsenal of weapons. It has also relied on technology to support its actions, even launching an app to help coordinate logistic efforts.

The situation in eastern Ukraine has deteriorated rapidly over the last 24 hours. At least one person was killed on Sunday when a firefight broke out between pro-Russian forces and Ukrainian security forces in the city of Slovyansk. Masked and armed gunmen, loyal to Russia, have taken over several government buildings and city centers in the Donetzk region, deep in the predominantly pro-Russian area of Ukraine.

Elsewhere in the east, a VK profile page for the Pravy Sektor branch in Odessa also seems to indicate a planned action. The local group announced a time and place for meeting to mobilize its local members. Hundreds of users shared both posts.

In his online video, Yarosh calls on the current Kiev government to “stop interfering” with the party’s actions. “In time of war, governments should not be criticized; that is right. But it is also important to remember that in time of war, traitors are executed,” he says, according to a translation on the EuroMaidanPR YouTube channel. He calls on citizens to organize self-defense units, together with Pravy Sektor representatives.

Following his announcement, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced on his personal Facebook page that the government is also launching “civilian protection” units. In the post, Avakov says the groups will be supplied with weapons, gear and commanders, and will comprise of at least 12,000 men. The first group, he says, is already being established in the Luhansk region, close to the border with Russia.

Within an hour, thousands of Ukrainians shared the post. Avakov’s promise is similar to that of Yarosh: The loss of Crimea, which took place without a fight, will not be repeated in eastern Ukraine.