The Ukrainian Week talks to one of the athletes, who earn their living at rallies and in raider attacks, about May 18 and how the fighters end up in politics
UW: How do the clients find and hire athletes to take part in rallies?
Nobody looks for anyone. All athletes know one another – we meet at competitions and are constantly in touch. We know others, even if not personally. When clients hire us, nobody really knows where they are going until right before the actual event. We’re told how many people they need, and how much money we’ll be paid. On May 18, they paid us USD 50 to work until 2 p.m.
UW: Who are your usual clients?
We have one person in charge of all rallies, and he calls one of us.
UW: You worked for a pro-government candidate in constituency 223 (one of the five disputed constituencies in the October 2012 parliamentary election – Ed.)?
I worked with people there who hired us to create sort of a crowd. These people were members of the Party of Regions. But none of us signed up for serious fights – our job was to divert attention during possible vote rigging.
UW: The police cover up for you. How do you negotiate this?
The MPs who hire us negotiate with the police. Yes, they do cover for us.
UW: What caused the May 18 clash with Svoboda activists? Who gave the order?
That was a spontaneous fight. Nobody was really going to fight, we hadn’t been warned of this! This wasn’t our first time at rallies, and we’d never had such unexpected situations before. We could sometimes do a little pushing and shoving with our opponents to make a show for the client. But this was unexpected and real. We had been mending the stage at this so-called anti-fascist rally until 2 p.m., making sure that nobody got to the artists performing on stage or threw bottles at them… Then we were told to go to the Intercontinental Hotel to get our pay. Svoboda activists were there. A clash started. I don’t know who started it, or why. I was in the middle of the crowd. We didn’t expect it. Half of our guys turned to run away, no-one intended to join the clash – we had no idea what was going on. I think the Regions (Party of Regions – Ed.) set us up really badly.
UW: Can you comment on Vadym Titushko’s interview, in which he said that he worked for the opposition?
I think his interview was arranged by the organizers, the clients from the Party of Regions. They will bail him out in the end – I guess they’ve already promised him this. He’ll get a suspended sentence – although he may be in jail for a while, until the media buzz abates.
UW: Some claim that you took part in the raider attack of the home of teacher Nina Moskalenko…
I wasn’t there, but yes, the same people are used everywhere. They do what they are told to do. But there is sort of a hierarchy. If something takes place in Kyiv – say the Regions pay to take Nina Moskalenko’s house from her – the athletes come from elsewhere, Bila Tserkva for instance. If UDAR has business interests in Bila Tserkva and has paid to take over a hotel, they hire athletes from some other town. You don’t sh..t, beg your pardon, where you live. Overall, this is a huge pyramid.