On the evening of August 27, a Mercedes minibus with 22 passengers who are the members of Patriots - For Life movement, was shelled on Kyiv-Kharkiv highway near Lyubotyn. According to the leader of the “Patriots” Ilya Kiva, the movement participants were attacked by representatives of the National Corps party and the Azov regiment.
According to the head of the local branch of the Opposition Platform - For Life party Andriy Lesyk, aggressive young people pierced with holes the wheels of the minibus. The driver drove the car to the nearest gas station, but Patriots - For Life could not escape from the attackers. 50 meters away from the destination, the car slid into a ditch, and the aggressors attacked the Mercedes.
Eyewitnesses have filmed how several dozen young people with bats break glass in a car with activists and try to set it on fire. Lesyk also noted that they threw noise grenades and smoke bombs at the traffic participants.
“They ran out and began to shoot at the dashboard cameras immediately. People were throwing bricks, explosives. I saw two people with Kalashnikov assault rifles. The attackers threw flares at our windows and shouted that we were corpses,” the head of Patriots - For Life regional organization Denys Bashtovy said.
Unarmed people were forced to leave the vehicle and were severely beaten. The offenders did not stop at that and tried to abduct some of the activists, and then disappeared from the scene.
The victims were taken to the Kharkiv Emergency Medical Center. Director of the center Viktor Zabashta said that one of the passengers of the bus had a traumatic brain injury, and another person had a bullet wound to the shoulder and forearm. Both of the passengers are in serious condition. Other passengers had various injuries.
Patriots - For Life bus shelled in Kharkiv region
Patriots - For Life bus shelled in Kharkiv region
“I have two gunshot wounds. Bullets were taken out of my body. Do you understand? That is it. The guys are in bad condition. One also has a gunshot wound and was severely beaten,” one of the victims told 112 Ukraine.
Footage of crippled Patriots - For Life movement members caused public outrage among Ukrainians on social networks. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky also reacted to the resonant event. He expressed outrage at what had happened and compared the situation to the 90’s. President believes that belonging to certain political forces and adherence to different ideologies should not be an excuse for crimes. According to him, the reason for what is happening lies in the impunity of the attackers.
“We have been listening to the slogan 'Law is the same for everybody' for decades. But we see what empty promises lead to! Many law enforcement agencies have focused on economic and corruption crimes, which are certainly important to fight, but we must prevent a return to the 90s with brazen showdowns on the streets," the Ukrainian leader stressed.
The public movement Patriots - For Life is connected to the Ukrainian party Opposition Platform - For Life and advocates a peaceful solution to the conflict in the south-east of the country. Azov and the National Corps, which are accused of the attack, are ultranationalist groups with questionable reputations.
In March 2019, the U.S. State Department called the National Corps a hate group. In November 2019, U.S. congressmen in a letter to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo demanded that Azov be included in the list of foreign terrorist organizations. They mentioned the alleged regiment's links to the terrorist attack in New Zealand’s Christchurch, which took the lives of fifty people.
On August 27, the National Corps denied its connection to the incident on Kharkiv highway. The party filed accusations against Ilya Kiva and called on law enforcement to detain him. However, the media found out that the car of the attackers was registered on the head of Dnipropetrovsk cell of the National Corps Ivan Kurylenko. Today, the vector of statements has changed dramatically: party leader Andriy Biletsky urged to reward the radicals who shelled the bus, without openly denying the involvement of the National Corps in the incident.
Ukrainian media occasionally write about numerous attacks on journalists, public activists, and opposition representatives by the National Corps. On June 25, radicals from the National Corps brutally beat a local activist of Party of Shariy. Two hours before the assassination attempt, the young man wrote another statement about the threats to his life by Zhorin, the Chief of Staff of the National Corps, and Nemichev, the head of the National Corps in Kharkiv. Thus, on July 1, a supporter of Party of Shariy was attacked in Vinnytsia: his ribs were broken and his internal organs were damaged. The detainee was the leader of the national teams in Vinnytsia, associated with the National Corps and Azov. Radicals also carried out dozens of attacks on the offices the Opposition Platform - For life political party.
Representatives of the Opposition Platform - For Life party demand that law enforcement officers open a criminal case under the article for terrorism for the attack on the minibus. According to them, the attempt to take people's lives cannot be qualified as hooliganism. The party leaders also require that the National Corps be finally recognized as a terrorist organization and banned from operating.
"You and I will listen in horror as the next bandits pass through the street. All this must be stopped immediately. If we want to live in a gang, we will get it, and if not, we must unite," said the co-chairman of the Opposition Platform - For life party Vadim Rabinovich.