Kharkiv/Prague - “For almost two months, we have been terrorized by small groups of separatists. Most of them have been sort of deployed here from Russia, we know this because of their accent, moreover they do not know Kharkiv,” said Natalia Butyrska, a resident of the southeastern Ukrainian city, in an interview with Czech internet newspaper Aktualne.cz.
The interview took place at the time of the declaration of the People's Republic of Kharkiv by pro-Russian activists and only a few hours before the Kiev government's “anti-terrorist operation” that led to the arrest of more than 70 separatists in Ukraine's second largest city.
“They meet in small groups and try to destabilize the situation here. They attack bigger but mostly peaceful groups called 'Euromaidanists'. With Ukrainian or EU flags, we demonstrate for the unity of our country. The problem is that these 'separatists' are in a very good physical shape and aggressive. That's why it is hard to defend against them, even though they are a minority. We and our friends are not trained for street fighting.”
On Sunday 6 April, these groups attacked pro-Ukrainian protestors in downtown Kharkiv and police did not try to stop them. They intervened only on a few occasions, in order to save people from being beaten to death, said Butyrska. “In the evening, these separatists took control of the headquarters of the local administration in ten minutes, and once again, police just watched,” she said.
“We routinely see convoys of buses of Russian transport companies. Who do you think they are carrying? The same people who attack us at the demonstrations. In this sense, the Ukrainian border is absolutely porous.”
Butyrska also said that the separatists attack Ukrainian journalists, while Russian reporters are allowed to move freely. “The separatists are very loud and very brutal.”
“If Ukraine's central government just watches and does not firmly respond to the efforts to disintegrate Ukraine, the Kharkiv Oblast will become Russian. And it will take place very quickly. In spite of at least 75 percent of people (in Kharkiv) being against it.”
“Kiev was terrorized by 'titushki' and here in Kharkov it is no different. I am even convinced that they are the same people with the same leaders. And in Luhansk it is similar. They even broke into an arms warehouse there,” said Butyrska. “Titushki” is the nickname for suspected pro-Yanukovich thugs and police provocateurs in Kiev during the Euromaidan protests.
At the beginning of 2014, as much as 30,000 people attended protests against the Yanukovich regime in Kharkiv, but now only thousands go to the demonstrations, said Butyrska. “People are scared now.”
“We know one thing for sure – we do not want to live under Russia, under its occupation... My friends and I are no 'Cold warriors', but if Europe does not impose much harder economic sanctions on Russia, it will not stop Russian President Putin from marching into Ukraine.”
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