Gun Battle in West Ukraine Sparks Call to Disarm Illegal Groups

President Petro Poroshenko demanded that groups of illegal fighters be disarmed after a weekend shootout in western Ukraine left at least two people dead.

Gunfire broke out Saturday in the town of Mukacheve, near the Hungarian border. Clashes occurred between law-enforcement officers, members of nationalist group Pravyi Sektor and a group of locals, police said. Pravyi Sektor, whose leader has a seat in parliament, said some of those involved were cigarette smugglers linked to a local lawmaker.

“The Interior Ministry, the state security service and other law-enforcement agencies should fulfill their duties and disarm all illegal groups,” Poroshenko said Monday after a meeting of security chiefs in the capital, Kiev. “No political force should have, nor will have, armed elements.”

The violence underscores that challenges for Ukraine’s government stretch beyond the nation’s east, where a truce hasn’t fully halted months of fighting between the army and pro-Russian insurgents. While armed militias such as Pravyi Sektor joined Ukrainian troops in that conflict, some aren’t satisfied with the country’s current direction and won’t surrender their weapons.

“This was more than an ordinary criminal incident,” Kiev-based investment bank Dragon Capital said in an e-mailed note. “It also reflects the broader problem of the central authorities’ ability to control the activities of the so-called volunteer battalions, which are in possession of plenty of weaponry due to their involvement in the military conflict in the east.”

‘Overdue Problems’

Two wounded members of Pravyi Sektor were hospitalized after giving themselves up, while 10 more are still hiding, private TV Channel 5 reported. Leader Dmytro Yarosh said on Facebook that the group is “working to stabilize the situation” together with the state security service.

The Interior Ministry accuses the militant group of opening fire first, killing a civilian, destroying police cars and using grenades. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk ordered a probe of the local customs service over the smuggling.

“Events in Mukacheve demonstrated a list of overdue problems that need immediate resolution,” Poroshenko said. “I’m talking about smuggling and corruption.”

For more, read this next: