This weekend marked the precipice of a growing situation in Ukraine previously addressed by SOFREP, the mounting power and uncontrollable nature of volunteer Battalions and Ukrainian Volunteer Corps (UVC), specifically Right Sector or (Pravy Sektor). After an incident in Mukachevo, a town nuzzled near the borders of Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, where the civilian population was evacuated following unsuccessful negotiations initiated by Right Sector, approximately 70 kilometers from Ukrainian borders with the European Union (EU), an event that quickly escalated into what has already been christened an “act of terrorism” by Ukrainian authorities.  This has led the Ministry of Foreign of Affairs (MFA) to initiate a damage control campaign out of concern that this euro-zone danger-close incident could contaminant preliminary negotiations for future visa-free travel between the EU and Ukraine.

On July 12th 2015, approximately 30 well-armed members of Right Sector in uniform displaying their unit’s insignia launched an offensive against local authorities, which then spilled into the targeting of nearby business owners. Right Sector then found themselves in another standoff with Ukrainian officials, this time outside of the town of Mukachevo which has left as many as three dead and 11 wounded, nine of which are still hospitalized. In response Right Sector constructed illegal checkpoints outside of Kiev. This has led to the deployment of as many as seven unmarked armored vehicles that have fortified a Right Sector base near Skole in the Lviv region, following a Right Sector’s declaration to close their training bases in Western Ukraine. Reports are conflicting as to who owns the armored vehicles, being that of Ukrainian law enforcement or Right Sector.

A Right Sector illegal Checkpoint – Image courtesy of Ukraine Today

In response to the Mukachevo incident, Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) agents supported  by police and units of the National Guard, cordoned the area with armored vehicles supported by rotary-wing aircraft and conducted a special operation to defuse the situation in the area of Mukachevo controlled by Right Sector. The operation was not a complete success; allowing many Right Sector members to evade capture by shooting their way out of the cordon with small arms, vehicle-mounted heavy machine guns and the liberal use of grenade launchers permitting them to retreat into the nearby mountains.

The group has continued their refusal to surrender, and has threatened to engage any authorities who attempt to detain them. Although Ukrainian officials have asserted that two members have surrendered as of Sunday night, Right Sector has countered these claims as an act of aid and mercy because the surrendered members in question were in need of medical attention. The current situation has resulted in a blame tug-of-war between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Right Sector over who initiated the escalations of hostilities.

This public blame-game is rooted in a behind the scenes “turf war” between regional MP Mikhail Lanyo and Right Sector over control of local businesses. Lanyo is said to have initiated negotiations with Right Sector over the situation in response to several Right Sector raids on disputed contraband routes. Right Sector stands by its claims that it is not responsible for the escalation of force and it is the fault of local authorities whom Right Sector claims are under the authority of a corrupt government and that they were only interested in disbanding the Trans-Carpathian contraband routes. Despite the claims, it is most likely that Right Sector made a power-play for control of these smuggling routes and allowed the subsequent negotiations for a settlement of them to breakdown. In a sequence of events that is very much in line with volunteer battalion’s lurid history, they have completely overreacted and the chain of events which will unfold over the next few days will likely get far worse for Right Sector.

Internal strains between Kiev and Right Sector have been an ongoing issue for the Ukrainian government. Government officials, which hoped to appease the group following their last standoff that resulted in a comfortable government position for Right Sector’s Leader Dmytro Yarosh, has now flipped one-hundred and eighty degrees in the opposite direction. The SBU released a statement on Sunday stating, “to prevent possible bloodshed, the Security Service and Interior Ministry demand that the illegal armed group lays down [its] arms and surrender.

Although members of Rights Sector refuse to yield to any orders other that those given by Dmitry Yarosh, which has been “to continue protests for indefinite term until those guilty in the [Mukachevo] tragedy are arrested.” Right Sector has also turned up the heat with the establishment of checkpoints on the outskirts of Kiev, in a weak attempt to prevent any government reinforcements from moving on to Mukachevo. Over the weekend, Right Sector organized protests around the parliament building in downtown Kiev, in response to government demands that the group disarm. They added theatrics to their demonstration by holding a candlelight vigil in memory of the causalities of the Mukachevo incident. Kiev’s reaction has resulted in the placement of additional troops near Right Sector bases, to deter the group from consolidating and reorganizing.

Right Sector is supported by a growing number of activists demonstrating in approximately 17 cities including Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, Zaporozhye, Ternopol, Mariupol, Kherson, Kramatorsk, Poltava and other cities across Ukraine. In Kiev approximately 200 people, mostly in military regalia showed up to lend their support of Right Sector. Right Sector is presenting themselves to the world as liberators of Ukraine whom are fighting back against corruption and on the grounds of self-defense.