What You Need To Know:
✓ There was a shootout near the Western Ukrainian city of Mukachevo between Right Sector members and security forces loyal to a local MP allegedly involved in contraband smuggling.
✓ It is not clear whether Right Sector are ‘Robin Hood’ vigilantes cracking down on smuggling or part of the smuggling operation themselves
✓ “I think the political destabilization is one of the threats in the situation"
✓ “Right Sector is not now some united power, it’s not a battalion, it’s more like a brand… like McDonald’s…. but with weapons.”
Petro Poroshenko Bloc deputy Mustafa Nayyem was in Mukachevo, Ukraine on the day a shootout occurred between members of the Right Sector chapter and local police/security of Mykhaylo Lanyo, an MP of the Ukrainian Parliament. The conflict was reportedly related to contraband smuggling across the Hungarian and Romanian borders. The dispute reportedly started at a local bar when Right Sector members went to meet with men associated with Lanyo. The talks broke down and video shows Right Sector men firing off their weapons before they retreated to their base in the nearby village of Lavky.
Nayyem explained that the Ukrainian government is now trying to resolve the conflict through political means. “I think the political destabilization is one of the threats in the situation, if they try to solve this problem in a not peaceful way,” said Nayyem. He added that Right Sector has weapons outside of the war zone in Ukraine, and they claim that they do have the right to bear such arms in the peaceful territory of Ukraine.
He noted that there are many Right Sector sympathizers in western Ukraine and a convoy of 35 cars coming from Lviv to Mukachevo was stopped by SBU (Ukraine secret service) agents. Speaking about the potential for a country wide response, Nayyem added, “Right Sector is not now some united power, it’s not a battalion, it’s more like a brand… like McDonald’s…. but with weapons.” He explained that in any region of Ukraine there are people who can declare themselves as Right Sector, but there is only one actual battalion fighting on the front lines.
Hromadske mentioned that the core issue revolved around the smuggling of contraband across the border that brings high profits by avoiding import taxes and that Right Sector are presenting themselves as “Robin Hood types” exacting vigilante justice. Nayyem explained that the border territories in the region are mainly controlled and influenced by Lanyo, so there has been some long term conflict around the area in question. He adds that the smuggling of contraband would not have been a profitable business without the assistance of local authorities.
On the Right Sector’s role, Nayyem stated that they " were not able to organize their own smuggling traffic so they were trying to control others. It was a game they have been playing for several months. One day, one businessman refused to pay, and that’s what started this conflict.”
Hromadske International's Nataliya Gumenyuk and Ian Bateson spoke with Mustafa Nayyem via Skype on July 12, 2015.