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Commander of Ukraine’s volunteer battalion confirms identity of man who threw grenade

September 01, 2015, 6:46 UTC+3 KIEV
According to the commander, the volunteer fighter was on vacation
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© AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

KIEV, September 1. /TASS/.The man detained on suspicion of throwing a hand grenade at a police cordon during Monday’s demonstration of ultra-nationalists opposite the Verkhovna Rada is a member of the Sich volunteer battalion which assists the patrol service of the Interior Ministry, the battalion commander, Alexander Pisarenko, told a local television channel.

"He is indeed from the Sich battalion," the commander said. "He’s on vacation."

The detained man joined the battalion at the time of its formation. When reporters asked Pisarenko how the fighter on vacation obtained a combat hand grenade, he answered: "That’s something I don’t know."

"We don’t have weapons and don’t even have an arms room where they could be stored," he claimed, Along with it, the channel showed footage shot on the battalion’s base in Mezhigorye, the former countryside residence of President Viktor Yanukovych that clearly featured hand grenades and fuses for them photographed ostensibly on the battalion’s premises.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said earlier the detained man was Igor Gumenyuk, 27.

"The detainee used a defensive hand grenade," he said. "He identified himself as a Svobodovets (a member of the Svoboda party - TASS) and a fighter of the Sich volunteer battalion."

Svoboda members rushed to declare that the use of an explosive, which killed a paramilitary of Ukraine’s ‘national guard’, was a provocation against ‘the patriots of Ukraine’ that had been planned in advance.

On Monday, more than 3,000 opponents of changes in the Ukrainian Constitution from different parts of the country picketed the building of the Supreme Rada where the deputies were holding a vote on the constitutional amendments.

In the course of the picket, a supporter of radical nationalism threw a combat grenade at the policemen sealing off the building.

The constitutional amendments the radicals protested against imply a moderate decentralization, which means that more powers - in the first place, the financial ones - will be delegated to the agencies of local self-government. Also, it presupposes a special status for ‘separate areas’ in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, meaning the territories of the self-proclaimed unrecognized Donetsk and Luhansk republics.

Top officials including President Petro Poroshenko have made it clear on many occasions that ‘decentralization’ is not at all synonymous with ‘federalization’ of the country and the latter is firmly ruled out under any circumstances.

A constitutional reform envisioning broader powers of different regions and affirming the special status for the Donbass republics is a crucial element of the February 2015 Minsk accords on settling the armed civil conflict in eastern Ukraine.

A number of top Ukrainian radicals have voiced strong objections to the Minsk accords.

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