KIEV, May 19 – One reporter was taken to hospital and another slightly injured following an attack from a group of pro-government demonstrators in Kiev on Saturday shortly after the same group clashed with opposition protesters.
The developments marked a serous escalation of tensions between opposition and pro-government parties as both marched in Kiev in a respective show of strength ahead of the March 2015 presidential election.
Olha Snitsarchuk, a reporter with Channel 5 television, and Vlad Sodel, a photographer with Kommersant newspaper, were attacked by the group, shortly after the same group had clashed with members of the opposition Svoboda party. Snitsrchuk and Sodel were filming the clash.
Snitsarchuk was later taken to hospital with a cut on her face and later discharged following treatment. The attack sparked an outcry among other reporters that had condemned unprovoked violence.
Opposition leaders blamed the ruling Regions Party for the attack and demanded a quick and unbiased investigation.
The Regions Party has tried to distance itself, saying the group had never been affiliated with the party.
“We categorically reject the allegations that the group was labeled as participants of the anti-fascist rally” sponsored by the Regions Party, Vitaliy Zhuravskiy, a senior member of the Regions Party, said.
But journalists, using pictures taken on the scene, have taken them to social networks uncover information that may be linking the group to the Regions Party.
The attackers, which were identified as martial arts fighters from Bila Tserkva, 80km south of Kiev, were apparently led by Vasyl Boyko, the leader of the Bila Tserkva branch of Young Regions, a youth wing of the Regions Party. Boyko is seen on every picture leading the group.
Other pictures taken earlier in the day at the so-called anti-fascist rally led by the Regions Party show one of the attackers, identified as Arsen Kapanskiy, with an official badge issued by the rally organizers.
Police said Sunday they opened an investigation into the attack on reporters, but no arrests had been made yet.
Any link between the group and the Regions Party would appear to show the authorities may have been behind the attack and that would trigger a major political reaction.
Mykola Tomenko, the head of the freedom of speech committee in Parliament and a member of the opposition Batkivshchyna party, said he will press for an emergency meeting of the committee to discuss the incident.
“The actions of anti-fascist rally participants, organized by the government, were in fact a modern manifestation of fascism in our country," Tomenko said. (tl/ez)