Friday, December 19, 2014


Ukraine

Kyiv's Most Fearless Man

Ukrainian urban climber "Mustang Wanted"
Ukrainian urban climber "Mustang Wanted"

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By Dmitry Volchek

Saying Mustang is not afraid of heights is an understatement. 

The young Ukrainian, who goes by the full pseudonym Mustang Wanted, is rapidly gaining fame as one of the world's most daring urban climbers.

Videos of his death-defying stunts have gone viral.

In one of his latest clips, viewed almost 6 million times since being posted in January, he is seen nonchalantly dangling off skyscrapers, tightrope-walking on bridges, scaling vertiginous rooftops, and doing one-arm pull-ups on a giant crane. 

True to the tradition of urban climbing, he wears no safety harness.

WATCH: Mustang Wanted In Action


"For me, it's just a pastime," he says diffidently. "Above 100 meters, there's actually not much difference."

No less unnerving is the footage he captured from the midst of the deadly clashes between Euromaidan protesters and "Berkut" riot police in Kyiv in February.

WATCH: Mustang's Footage Of Euromaidan Violence


Dozens of people were killed in the violence.

"I'm not scared on rooftops," says Mustang. "I wasn't scared on Maidan, either. But seeing people die was heartbreaking."

His footage, which aired on Ukrainian television before being screened at the Cannes film festival, offers a rare insight into the chaos and bloodshed that rocked Kyiv earlier this year. 

Despite the carnage, he says protesters, too, seemed to experience little or no fear.

"People walked without stopping, although they were being shot at from just 200 meters away and there were dozens of dead bodies on the ground," he recalls. "No one stopped, everyone just kept walking. Even soldiers are not always capable of advancing like that."

When the protests erupted in November following then-President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to shelve a landmark EU agreement, Mustang, who is based in Kyiv, stood firmly on the side of demonstrators. 

Almost seven months later, however, the lines of allegiances have grown blurred. 

"At the time it seemed there were the people on one side and Berkut on the other, good against evil," he says. "Things are completely different now."

He recently traveled to the country's troubled east, where Ukrainian forces are waging what they call an "antiterrorist operation" to root out pro-Russian separatist insurgents. 

In an ironic twist of fate, a number of Berkut police officers have joined forces with former Maidan activists to fight the insurgents.

"The majority of people there don't want to join Russia," he insists. "The rebels now control the police. Ordinary people are robbed, their cars are confiscated."

He is confident the conflict won't escalate into a full-blown war with Moscow, which is widely accused of backing the separatists after annexing Crimea from Ukraine in March. 

"The Russians have a bigger army, they have nuclear weapons," he says. "But they don't have a vision. Do you think they are really ready to take up arms for Mother Rus and kill Ukrainians who are not even threatening them?"

The crisis gripping his country has not disrupted Mustang's climbing, and he plans to continue posting his vertigo-inducing videos.

His days covering bloody street battles, however, are over. 

"I love filming," he says. "But I never want to film this again."

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