KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Right-wing activists in Ukraine on Thursday derailed a conference on the steps needed for a political settlement to the armed separatist conflict in the country’s east.
Members of the National Corps, a radical nationalist group that includes veterans of the conflict, denounced the conference in Kyiv as a betrayal of Ukraine’s interests. They surrounded a deputy chief of Ukraine’s national security council and forced him from the podium after he called for political efforts to bring the country’s rebel-controlled areas back into the fold.
The conflict in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland flared up in April 2014, weeks after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. More than 14,000 people have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists.
At the conference organized by nongovernmental organizations, the National Security and Defense Council undersecretary emphasized the need for a strategy for bringing the rebel-controlled regions known as Donbass back under the government’s control.
“We are ready to jointly develop a workable policy of reintegration for Donbass,” Serhiy Syvokho said before a dozen National Corps activists pushed him from the podium, bringing the conference to a halt.
Syvokho later blamed the incident on those in Ukraine who profit from the conflict. He vowed to continue efforts aimed at political settlement.
“Some people don’t need peace,” Syvokho said on Facebook. “They want war, because war is business that brings big money. They derailed our presentation, but they won’t stop our steps toward peace.”
National Corps member Serhiy Tamarin charged that people who describe the fighting in the east as Ukraine’s internal conflict serve Russia’s interests.
“The situation in the east isn’t an internal conflict, but part of the Russian occupation,” he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected in April 2019, has made ending the fighting in the east his top priority. Right-wing activists and some others have voiced fear he might negotiate a compromise that would betray Ukraine’s interests.
Zelenskiy has disclaimed the possibility of that happening.