KYIV -- Police in Kyiv have launched a probe into protests by supporters of Serhiy Sternenko, the controversial former leader of a far-right Ukrainian paramilitary group who was sentenced to seven years in prison on robbery and illegal weapons charges last month in a high-profile abduction case.
The Kyiv police department said on March 21 that the investigations were being launched into hooliganism and the damage done to the building of the president's office by Sternenko's supporters the previous day.
According to the police statement, one of the protesters, an individual born in 1995 whose identity was not disclosed, was arrested for possessing an illegal weapon.
On March 20, hundreds of Sternenko's supporters rallied in front of President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office with torches and fire-crackers demanding the immediate release of Sternenko and several other pro-Ukrainian activists.
During the rallies, the walls of the building were painted with graffiti while firecrackers and flash grenades were thrown into the building’s windows.
The president's office estimated damages caused by the protesters to the late-19th century building at 2 million hryvnyas ($71,500).
A court in Kyiv on February 23 found Sternenko, who once led the Right Sector group in the city of Odesa, guilty of kidnapping, robbery and the possession of an illegal weapon in a case involving the abduction of a local lawmaker in 2015.
The court at the time ruled that, due to the statute of limitations, Sternenko could not be sentenced for kidnapping. It did, however, sentence him to seven years in prison on the other two charges.
Sternenko is also a suspect in another high-profile case that has been challenged by his supporters for years.
He is accused of premeditated murder and of possessing an illegal-bladed weapon in the killing of a man almost three years ago.
Sternenko claims he acted in self-defense while being attacked by two men late in the evening on May 26, 2018.
As he fought off the attackers, suffering numerous head injuries and a cut to his arm in the process, Sternenko injured one of the assailants who later died in hospital.
Investigators say that, after Sternenko defended himself using his knife, the attackers fled the scene. But Sternenko, whose life and health were no longer in danger, then reportedly chased one of them and stabbed him several times, inflicting wounds that led to the man's death, investigators say.
The attack was the third against Sternenko in three months.