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Ukrainian Nationalists Disrupt Peace Presentation On War In East

Serhiy Syvokho, an adviser to the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, is helped up after he was push to the floor by a right-wing activist in Kyiv on March 12.

Ukrainian police say 15 people were arrested on March 12 after a group of right-wing activists disrupted a presentation in Kyiv regarding a possible political settlement in the war in eastern Ukraine.

Some were members of National Corps, a nationalist group founded by Andriy Biletskiy, who established the controversial Azov volunteer battalion at the start of the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in 2014.

They are being investigated for hooliganism and face a maximum prison sentence of four years if found guilty.

The event, National Platform for Reconciliation and Unity, was led by Serhiy Syvokho, a former stand-up comedian who is an adviser to the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.

Its goal is to end the six-year war, which has killed more than 13,000 people, and bring back the parts of easternmost Donetsk and Luhansk regions that Kyiv doesn’t control back into its fold.

When Syvokho stopped speaking, Serhiy Tamarin, a war veteran and National Corps member, accused the security adviser of betraying Ukraine’s national interests and of wishing to engage in "dialogue with collaborators who invited the enemy" to eastern Ukraine.

Tamarin also accused Syvokho of describing the conflict as a civil war and criticized him for not mentioning Russia’s alleged role in it.

"We are ready to jointly develop a workable policy of reintegration for the Donbas," Syvokho said before a dozen National Corps activists pushed him from the podium.

Footage taken by RFE/RL show one activist pushing Syvokho to the floor as he was being shoved from the hall.

Syvokho later blamed the incident on those who profit from the war and said he would continue efforts aimed at a political settlement.

"Some people don't need peace," Syvokho said on Facebook. "They want war, because war is business that brings big money. They derailed our presentation, but they won't stop our steps toward peace."

National Corps later said it had reported Syvokho to the Security Service (SBU) for "treason."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ran on a campaign promise last year to end the fighting in the east and since his election in April, he has brokered two prisoner exchanges.

Russia, which invaded and occupied Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014, has rejected accusations of involvement despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

With reporting by AP
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    RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service has seen its audience grow significantly since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022 and is among the most cited media outlets in the country. Its bold, in-depth reporting from the front lines has won many accolades and awards. Its comprehensive coverage also includes award-winning reporting by the Donbas.Realities and Crimea.Realities projects and the Schemes investigative unit.