Supports and opponents of Ukraine`s membership in NATO brawled and hurled tomatoes at each other in Symferopol on Thursday.
The brawl took place after pro-NATO activists, members of the Ukrainian People’s Party, the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists, People’s Movement of Ukraine, and Prosvita gathered in a central city square to carry out a picket in support of Ukraine’s membership in NATO.
A crowd of NATO opponents, members of the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Russian Community of Crimea, and “Soyuz” party, having got to know about the action, also came to the central square of Symferopol.
The activists numbering between 150 to 200 collectively attacked each other first with words, the pro-NATO side shouting "NATO yes!" and the anti-NATO side shouting "NATO - Is war against Slavs!"
According to DPA, a police chain of more than 100 officers failed to keep the two groups apart, resulting in isolated fistfights between the two groups.
The NATO opponents later threw tomatoes, eggs, and fruit juice packages at the pro-NATO marchers, and then burned a NATO flag. No arrests or injuries were reported.
Oleh Fomushkin, a pro-NATO activist and member of the nationalist Ukraine People`s Party, accused the provincial leadership of allowing the violence to take place by fielding too few police, and by allowing the anti-NATO activists to demonstrate at the same time and location as the pro-NATO marchers.
"This provocation was organized and carried out by the Symferopol city authorities," Fomushkin said. "We wanted to give Crimeans information about NATO, but apparently, the Symferopol authorities didn`t want that."
Leonid Grach, a leading Crimean anti-NATO politician, said the counter-demonstration reflected the true will of Crimea`s residents.
"We are simply showing that on this Crimean soil the owner is the Crimean nation," he said. "Crimea and Ukraine will not be in NATO."