KIEV (Reuters) - A Ukrainian presidential candidate, known for his radical pro-Russia views, was beaten early on Tuesday by a crowd that took exception to comments he made in a television interview.
Oleh Tsarev, who has backed Ukraine’s membership of the Moscow-led customs union rather than European integration, was attacked after giving an interview to Ukraine’s ICTV channel in which his critics said he appeared to back an intervention by Russian troops in Ukraine’s rebellious eastern regions.
He later denied saying this and said he was categorically against Russian forces being sent into Ukraine.
Angry crowds gathered at the studio’s offices after his interview and tempers rose after word went round that police had found weapons in his car outside. Video footage from the scene showed guns and cartridge clips.
The 44-year-old Tsarev, whose presidential bid has only the tiniest support, waited two hours at the studios before stepping out into the crowd where, despite some protection from his bodyguards, he was engulfed by a mob who threw eggs at him and then beat him.
He was hustled into a waiting ambulance but members of a far-right nationalist group Right Sector seized him and drove him first to the headquarters of the state security service and then to the prosecutor’s office.
Standing bare to the waist and with a black eye and scratches to his face, Tsarev told journalists: “I did not ask for Russian troops to be sent in. I am categorically against this. I am against a third party interfering in the affairs of Ukraine. Until we learn to listen to each other, Ukraine will stand no chance.”
The attack on Tsarev, who has often been pictured in a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Born in the USSR”, comes against a background of tension over a rash of pro-Russia separatist rebellions which have aroused Ukrainians’ fears of a Russian military intervention.
Opinion polls show Tsarev with less than 1 percent support in the May 25 election.
Writing by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Alison Williams