After several unpleasant incidents in Mykolayiv and Odessa, Oleg Tsariov, a member of parliament with the former ruling Party of Regions and a candidate in the May 25 presidential election, found a friendlier greeting in the far eastern provincial capital of Luhansk.
Unlike fellow party member and the official Party of Region’s presidential candidate Mykhailo Dobkin, Tsariov was allowed inside the building of the pro-Russian separatist seized local Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building, held since April 6 by armed insurgents.
The pro-Russian politician and one of most active opponents of the EuroMaidan Revolution that toppled his leader, Viktor Yanukovych, as president on Feb. 22, Tsariov has been called “Russian fascist” and beaten in Mykolayiv on April 9. He was blocked by EuroMaidan activists in his hotel room in Odessa the next day. But in Luhansk, he was welcomed with handshakes and only one angry woman shouted at him “Why are you so late, Tsariov?”
“All the country, the entire world is looking at you as people, who came to defend their rights,” Tsariov told the participants of tent camp that grew up over the week for protection and supply of armed people, who are keeping control over the SBU and are accused by officials of terrorism and separatism.
But Tsariov had a hard task as he was trying to persuade people vote for him at the presidential elections on May 25. The crowd is against these elections and insist on a referendum that would allow federalization of Ukraine.
“I’m going for elections,” Tsariov said.
“No elections!” the crowd answered, shouting “Shame!”
Tsariov, who earlier was in Donetsk, where the pro-Russian activists were keeping control over local state administration and also captured on April 12 the police headquarters, vowed he wanted to lead the separatist movement.
“The easiest way is to establish organization of your movement that would allow defeating the current authorities by autumn,” Tsariov said. This idea was also met with disapproving whistling and shouts “Referendum!”
Earlier in the day, speaking to the local pro-Russian activists, Tsariov said he spent a sleepless night, fearing the authorities in Kyiv would attack the seized government buildings in Luhansk and Donetsk, where the regional government headquarters and Interior Ministry are now controlled by armed pro-Russian insurgents.
“There was an order to do that,” he said.
But people instead were demanding that he disrupt the presidential elections on May 25. Ukrainian officials say that disruption of election on May 25, which would legitimize the political authorities in Ukraine, is a part of Kremlin plan. The pro-Russian activists say they don’t recognize the current authorities in Kyiv who came to power after being ousted by the EuroMaidan Revolution, so they plan to ignore the elections in the end of May.
“Can you guarantee that the elections won’t happen,” one of the activists asked Tsariov. “I’m almost sure of that, but I can’t guarantee anything,” he replied.
The other activists asked if Tsariov supported the return to power of Yanukovych, who is now hiding in Russia being accused of ordering mass murder in Ukraine of more than 100 EuroMaidan Revolution activists. Tsariov said he supported this idea “even if he (Yanukovych) doesn’t want it himself.”
But when seeing the Kyiv Post after the talks with electorate, Tsariov was a bit annoyed, saying that some things he said weren’t for the press.
Asked to comment the events in Sloviansk, a city on Donetsk Oblast, where armed pro-Russians in military uniforms seized the police station and district SBU headquarters on April 12, Tsariov decided once more to shift the blame on Kyiv authorities.
“Let’s imprison all of the current authorities as they came to power using the same methods,” he said.
Editor’s Note: This article has been produced for Kyivpost with support from the project www.mymedia.org.ua, financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and implemented by a joint venture between NIRAS and BBC Media Action.The content in this article may not necessarily reflect the views of the Danish government, NIRAS and BBC Action Media.