Vox quotes Transatlantic Relations Program Nonresident Senior Fellow Adrian Karatnycky on the alliances between political parties and armed paramilitaries in eastern Ukraine:

There’s been a tradition in eastern Ukraine of political parties allying with armed paramilitaries in eastern Ukraine for some time, according to Adrian Karatnycky, a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. The city of Kharkiv, for instance, had been a “tough place for politics, where politics and violence crossed,” for many years before the current crisis began, he said. Both pro-Russian and pro-European politicians relied on violent thugs to act as their political enforcers.

On the pro-Russian side, groups called Oplot supported former president Victor Yanukovych, who was known as close with Moscow, and would attack opposition supporters at rallies and demonstrations. To counter that, Karatnycky said, pro-European politicians “made common cause” with far-right Ukrainian groups who were willing to act as their political muscle. Their longstanding relationship, he said, “is of basically using them to secure physical protection for their demonstrations.”

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