Over the last few days the Revolution gained unexpected support from the Ukrainian football fans that publicly denounced the actions of the authorities and declared they will assist Maidan in its fight for freedom.
On Tuesday, January 21, 2014, the radicals of Dynamo football club fans known as ‘Dynamo Ultras’ announced that they had formed self-defense groups aimed at protecting Maidan activists in Kyiv from criminal actions of government-hired thugs known as ‘titushki’.
‘Titushki’, a collective title of pseudo-protesters hired by the authorities to provoke coercion, received its title from Vitali Titushko, a sportsman with no interest in politics but intense itch for paid violence.
‘We call all capable men to protect the activists from gangs the government hired. Take into your cars and get co-ordinated before the authorities disconnected internet and mobile cells. Get armed with sticks and shields, put your bullet-proof vest on so that you will be able to fight the criminals and keep your body covered. Every car should keep medicines,” – instructs the social network page of the group. ‘Dynamo Ultras’ also called for solidarity among the football fans of Ukraine and exclusion of mercenary groups. “Put it clear to all our mates across Ukraine that ‘titushki’ are used as food for powder against Maidan activists. Kyiv citizens and guest activists will protect their life and their cause no matter what,” – the official VKontakte [Russian FB] page of the Ultras says. Previously, the ‘Dynamo Ultras’ football team had expressed their intention to protect the city of Kyiv from paid thugs.
The same day Dnipro football fans from Dnipropetrivsk supported the initiative announcing they will arrive in Kyiv to join the self-defense groups. Today, January 25, 2014, Dnipro Ultras prevented fully-loaded ‘titushki’ buses from departing to Kyiv.
January 23, 2013 Zaria Ultras, a football fan group, conducted a member gathering in Avanhard stadium in Luhansk, resoling that no member of the club shall go to Kyiv as a ‘titushka’. Their online statement in VKontakte says the following: “Those who will go to Kyiv to “earn” had better not come home to Luhansk afterwards!!! If you happen to come across any information about people that propose earning money in this manner, please notify the admins!!! The reaction will be without delay!!! Remember about your honour!!!”.
January 23, 2014 at night Donetsk fans of the Shahtar football club gathered in the city center to protect local Maidan activists from the likely attacks by the hired criminals. The official page of Donetsk Ultras in VKontakte social network stressed that they ‘addressed the lawlessness publicly’: “We came to support our people in the fight for its rights. We want justice and the better future. We are against the regime [of Yanukovich],” – says the statement. Donetsk football fans also noted that most football fan groups rise against the criminal activities of the state, not for the opposition or the current authorities. ‘Donbas, wake up!’ is their new motto.
January 23, 2014 on its social network profile the Metalist of Kharkiv football fan group addressed their townsfolks as follows: “Kharkiv citizens, do not believe in propaganda, Kyiv barricades are run by the lefties and righties, by the Western and the Eastern Ukrainians. Do not even think of earning as a ‘political prostitute’ in Kyiv or taking part in a paid rally. In the first case you will be cannon fodder, and in the second – an unscrupulous moral monster. Stop begging for your monthly $200, fight for your future!’
Later, on January 24, 2014, the football fans of Kharkiv allegedly gathered to show respect for the local Maidan gathering and organize its defense against provocations and hired criminals: “The decision has been unanimously supported by fans both from the South and the North. EVERYBODY SHOULD BE THERE! If everybody will come, then no mercenary bum will even twitch at the protesters”. Football fans with the reputation of hooligans stressed no weapons are allowed to the meeting places and that they ‘have enough life experience to deal with any problems with bare hands. Unity is power!’ – they resumed and addressed all conscious citizens of the city to support the Kharkiv Euromaidan and ‘to show the world that Kharkiv is not the town of corrupted zombies but the town of European values and traditions. It does not matter which is your political camp, your musical preferences or subculture self-identification, tomorrow we have to stand together in our pursuit of the bright tomorrow!’ – the group announces.
On January 23, 2014 Metalurg football fans in Zaporizhzhya stepped in to fight the offences of the current Ukrainian government, the official page states. It follows: “Brothers! We have to keep our honor and dignity. Those who disregard the principals of football-fan community cannot be called a man. This is why we address each and every football fan not to work for the dirty government and not to be one of the ‘titushki’. Long Live Ukraine!”
The same day official statements of Tavria Ultras in Simferopol followed stressing football fans do not support Maidan but cannot tolerate deaths and tortures of Ukrainians. They condemned violation of constitutional rights by the officials mentioning ‘Gang rule and lawlessness established by the police covering powerful criminals from the rest of country citizens which they consider lower-level people’. Tavrians underlined moral virtues which have to be preserved and recalled victorious battle spirit of Ukraine Kazaks known to the whole world.
January 24, 2014 Vorskla Ultras from Poltava declared their solidarity with Maidan revolutionists in Kyiv in the fight for free Ukraine. The football fans accuse the government of bringing the country to such a poor state when basic rights are violated and called people to support the protests. “Only by changes can reach a brighter future. Kyiv, Poltava is with you!”
The same day Facebook updates of Chernomorets Ultras from Odesa notified that mass football fans are joining Maidan movement. During the night of January 25, 2014 over 60 ‘hooligans’ were seen in self-defense groups protecting the local Euromaidan in Odessa.
On the same day the Sevastopol Ultras had also spoken out, calling the club participants to assemble January 26, 2014 at 14:00 for a “social gathering in support of the rallies in Kyiv and all of Ukraine”: “After it we will have an auto rally, so whoever has a car, come on them. The gathering is peaceful! Without radicalism, just to express our opinion, but it would be great to have a lot of people. So if you really support the idea, come. Express your opinion. No discussions here, but whoever feels that it matters will come. Political banners are not allowed! Only the state flags. Think for yourself! … It is you who will live in this country, so stop thinking that somebody will do it for you!”
Noticeably, all Ultras organizations mentioned their rejection of political process and stressed that they are pro mass protest of all society levels against the executive power which crossed the line. Football fans of Ukraine, often called Hooligans by the press, is an entire subculture with its own definition of solidarity, honor and dignity. Most Maidan activists believed football fans to be the electorate of the opposite barricade side, pro-Russian Party of Regions, due to common social backgrounds with ‘titushki’. However, today the Ultras openly declared their rejection of corruption and unjust laws of the Yanukovich parliament. Now they realized they cannot step aside, football fans are involved with the revolution movement.
Aggressive actions of the authorities towards the activists, in particular towards football Ultras supporting Maidan, caused reaction of hooligans across Europe. Thus, British ultras and Polish Lech club supporters condemned the cruelty of Ukrainian government and criticized the attempts of pro-government rally participants to picket Polish consulate in Kharkiv.
Translated by anonymous translator