KIEV, Oct. 2 - Police detained a group of people suspected of committing a series of xenophobic attacks across Ukraine in recent months, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said Monday.
The group, apparently linked to Moscow-friendly former Ukrainian politicians that are currently hiding in Russia, was on the way to blow up a Hungarian monument in TransCarpathian region.
The relations between Ukraine and Hungary have recently strained over a controversial Ukrainian language law with Budapest vowing to block Kyiv’s further integration into the European Union.
“The attack against the Hungarian monument on the Veretsky Pass in the Transcarpathian region was supposed to pour oil into a fire,” Avakov said in a Facebook post.
“The National Police criminal investigators detained the group at the border,” Avakov said. “A specially prepared explosive device with an attached gas cylinder for detonation and a RGD-5 grenade was seized.”
The preliminary investigation found the arrested men were members of a criminal group that is suspected of preparing and performing five blasts and four other provocative acts since November 2016, aimed at "inciting xenophobia, religious intolerance and international conflicts" across Ukraine.
In particular, the group was behind the explosion in central Kiev during the Independence Day celebrations on Aug. 24, 2017, which injured three people, Avakov said.
According to the minister, the group has also organized a blast near a pilgrimage site for Hasidic Jews in the city of Uman in central Ukraine last month, which hurt two Israeli nationals.
In addition, the police accused the detained people of attacks on the Polish consulate in western Lutsk city and the U.S. embassy in Kiev in March and June this year respectively.
The Interior Minister has not disclosed the number of detainees, but later in the day his aide Anton Geraschenko said that three people were arrested.
The detainees face life prison sentence if the court confirms their involvement in the attacks.
“The detained and their leaders are part of a group of influence led by former Regions Party lawmakers from the Cherkasy region - Volodymyr Oliynyk and Sergey Tulub,” Avakov said.
“The investigation documented a chain of contacts between the suspected criminals with these [former lawmakers] who are currently hiding on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Avakov said. (nr/ez)