Ukrainian politicians are known to get into a brawl every now and then. But usually they’re fighting each other, not their constituents. Over the past few weeks, however, frustrations with the country’s desperate situation—the utter lack of reforms, the massive concessions to pro-Russia rebels in the east, the tanking economy, the dwindling gas supply—have driven Ukrainian activists in multiple cities to come to blows with elected representatives, most of whom have strong ties to the ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
On September 16, parliament member Vitaliy Zhuravsky was attacked and thrown into a dumpster after the government approved a law granting up to three years of self-rule to rebel-held territories in the east.
On September 25, the same thing happened to parliament member Viktor Pylypyshyn as he was trying to register as a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections. A mob attacked Pylypyshyn, who, like Zhuravsky, voted in favor of draconian anti-protest laws last January. Pylypyshyn was doused in red paint and thrown in the trash, but still managed to register his candidacy with the Central Election Commission later that evening, Kyiv Post’s Katya Gorchinskaya reports.
The next day, yet another politician, Alexander Danilchuk, was carried out of a government building in the western Rivne region and promptly thrown in the trash.
On Tuesday, a group of activists styling themselves as a “lustration committee” attacked Roman Fedik, the public prosecutor of Dnipropetrovsk, after he refused to resign from his post. The same day in Odessa, Nestor Shufrych, a member of former President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions known to be "the biggest bully in the Rada," was beat up outside the regional government building.
The Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector took responsibility for the attacks against Pylypshyn and Shufrych. “These are just the warning actions. We are just warning them—Pylypyshyn, Shufrych and other bastards that they should not be candidates. If they don’t listen to us we will do it another way,” a spokesman for the group told the Kyiv Post. Virtually all of the politicians targeted in the attacks have close ties to Yanukovych, who was ousted in February, and many of them voted in favor of repressive "dictatorship laws" last January. Last week, Parliament Speaker (and former acting president) Oleksandr Turchynov signed a lustration bill designed to oust corrupt, holdover politicians from the Yanukovych era, but the practicalities of enacting the legislation mean that many are likely to retain their posts.
It’s possible that just under half of the new parliament could be made up of “recycled lawmakers of [the] Party of Regions” or those with close ties to Yanukovych, Oleg Sukhov reports. “The people are angry as little is changing, reforms are not being implemented, and corruption is not being fought,” says Ukraine scholar Taras Kuzio. “The anger unleashed by the Euromaidan remains, but elites are not implementing the changes that would reduce tension.” But these attacks do little to inspire confidence in a successful parliamentary election on October 26 and the reforms that are expected to follow.
Revolutionary times call for revolutionary measures, sure. But in Ukraine, these so-called “people’s lustration” efforts could quickly unravel everything that the Maidan revolution accomplished. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov issued a plea for an end to this variety of political activism: “Another couple of Shufrichs [with] smashed faces and lynched Pylypyshyns, and Europe will turn its back on the revolution we've won. I am afraid that America will, too.” Much to the delight of RT, the leader of Ukraine's Radical Party, Oleh Lyashko, responded by suggesting that perhaps it's time for Avakov, too, to be thrown into a dumpster.