Hundreds of Afghanistan veterans turned out this week to protect Ukrainian democracy protesters in Kiev.
Ukraine is bracing for mass rallies after the government and opposition failed to reach an agreement.
For three weeks, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian protesters have been flooding the streets of Kiev, occupying government buildings and taking over the city’s Independence Square.
KYIV — In a grimy canvas tent in the nerve center of the protest encampment against Ukraine’s president, Oleg Mikhyuk barks orders like the commander of an army.
In the last 24 hours, hundreds of former soldiers have filed into the tent to enlist their services with Mikhyuk, 48, who sits in jeans and a green shirt festooned with medals from his time as a paratrooper in the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan.
Mikhyuk’s brigade — which he says numbers thousands of Afghan war veterans — is one of four security divisions designated to defend the opposition encampment tooth-and-nail if the authorities attempt to break up what protesters say is a peaceful demonstration.
“We are peacekeepers here, foremost, but just because we are keeping the peace does not mean that if they beat us, we’re going to stand around silently,” Mikhyuk says.
“We know how to defend ourselves and how to strike back. They sensed this the other night on the barricades. They took away the barricades, but they couldn’t force the people out.”
Mikhyuk was among the mass of protesters who repelled hundreds of riot police in the early hours of December 11, when they tried to bring an end to the “Euromaidan” demonstrations against President Viktor Yanukovych for scuttling a landmark deal with the EU.
Sen. John McCain is curently in the Ukraine supporting the opposition.
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) December 14, 2013