Ukraine Nationalist Leader Faces Terrorism Charges
Published: March 5, 2014 (Issue # 1800)
MOSCOW — Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case on terrorism-related charges against the leader of a Ukrainian nationalist group widely seen as the driving force behind the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin on Monday said Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the ultranationalist group Right Sector (Pravy Sektor), was wanted for “public appeals to commit acts of terrorism” on Russian soil and acts of extremism, charges that carry up to seven and five years in prison, respectively.
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Investigators say Yarosh posted a statement on the group’s VKontakte page urging the Islamist insurgent leader Doku Umarov — often referred to as Russia’s equivalent of Bin Laden — to join Ukraine in fighting the Kremlin. The Right Sector has denied the charges, however, saying that people hired by the Kremlin had hacked the group’s official VKontakte page and written a fake appeal to Umarov that was falsely attributed to Yarosh.
The Right Sector was widely seen as the driving force behind the protests in Kiev that led to a violent uprising against the government and heightened tensions with Russia. The group gained prominence when the protests became more radical in January and February, after the mainstream opposition and Svoboda, a more moderate nationalist party, began to lose their appeal.
Yarosh rose in popularity for his role in the protests and was appointed a deputy chairman of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council last month.
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It is for this reason that the group believes Yarosh has been accused of colluding with a terrorist — to villainize him and eliminate any influence he may have had among Ukrainians.
In the VKontakte message that prompted criminal charges by Russian investigators, the author said that many Ukrainians had participated in the same “liberation war” being waged by Chechens and other North Caucasus peoples. Members of UNA-UNSO, one of the groups constituting the Right Sector, reportedly fought against Russians in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and first Chechen War in the 1990s.
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