The mystery over the Maidan shootings two days ago shed some light on how easy it is to get caught up in the flow of false information surrounding the crisis. We analysed the facts and theories pointing to what may have caused this unprecedented burst of fire.
I heard the shots from my room, just a hundred metres away.
An unmistakeable series of short, sharp bursts. I froze, listening to the silence of the night… Everything seemed calm. I thought back to the fireworks I’d heard earlier, probably the work of some bored revolutionary on Maidan.
Ten minutes later, I received a message which made my stomach turn: “Holy shit. There is a rumour that three people were just killed on Maidan.”
Heart beating fast, I quickly typed out the hashtag and found that twitter had exploded. Reports of a fascist led, racist attack looking for “non-slavic people”. “Four people have just been killed! Kiev is not safe!” screamed one user. “Russian terrorists!?!” exclaimed another. Confusion was rife and the twittersphere was desperate for confirmation.
The next day, we headed to Maidan to find out what had happened for ourselves. The square was untouched: the carnival atmosphere remained, and tourists continued to wander, undeterred. The only whisper of conflict we could find was a spatter of blood at the crossing of Maidan and Mykhaylivska Street.
Members of Maidan’s self-defence unit, Samooborona, lazed about on plastic chairs. We approached Arsen, who told us that around forty people in balaclavas with AK47s had run into the square, one group heading up Khreshchatyk, the other from Grinchenko Street. He added that no one had any idea who they were, nor what their intentions were.
At a press conference later that day, representatives from the self-defence force labelled the shootings as the work of provocateurs. They reiterated their intention to remain on Maidan – sending a clear message to Kyiv’s mayor, Vitaly Klitschko, who is alledgedly planning to dismantle the protestors’ tents. Klitschko has since released a statement that the centre of Kyiv is no longer safe for citizens.
Two masked members of the Azov battalion attended the conference to state that none of their members were involved in the conflict.
So what did happen that night?
At the time of writing, the details are still hazy.
The Nose has found two plausible theories of what may have occurred between 6-7 July. We’d like to make it clear that these theories are unconfirmed but are thought-provoking and may reveal a wider picture. They also reflect how a small-scale clash like this can give way to a barrage of informational warfare.
1. ‘Нападение ультраправых на Майдан’ nihilist.li – Nihilist is a left-wing publication
This website suggests that the attack was pre-planned. The involvement of far-right battalions could be beneficial for both Russian propaganda (confirming its claim that neo-nazis are rampant in Kyiv) and for the new Ukrainian government who want to get rid of the Maidan self-defence units which are uncontrolled by the state. Hence, such attacks could serve as a scarecrow within the Ukrainian media, triggering people to ask the government to clear the square.
2. Anton Shekhovstov’s facebook post – Anton is an expert on the right wing political scene in Ukraine.
On the 5 July, the Ukrainian LGBT community tried to organise a gay parade. We tried to find out if there was a way of reporting on the event but came up short when we found that reporters were banned from the event and its location was secret. The event was cancelled due to the inability of the police to adequately protect participants so instead, LGBT activists opted for a flashmob, releasing colourful balloons with messages encouraging wider tolerance.
Their concerns were justified due to the presence of far right groups. According to some activists, small groups of far right youth were waiting for them with baseball bats near Kreshchatyk underground station.
On 6 July, it was alleged that members of Social National Assembly (SNA) organised an attack on the Pomada gay club (see video) as ‘payback’ for this flashmob. The attackers were prevented from entering the club and it is rumoured that this same far right youth from SNA was at Maidan.
Thus, a group of bons (boneheads/white supremacist skinheads) went to attack a gaypride event with the possibility of finding other targets. A group of people wearing masks and ready for trouble obviously attracted the attention of the Maidan’s self-defence force. After an unsuccessful assault on the Pomada club, these bons wanted to ‘establish order’. The result was a confrontation with the self-defence force.
Today, the prosecutor general, Vitaly Yarema, announced his intentions to clear the square and establish order on Maidan…