Ukrainian Interior Minister Says No Mass Defection Of Police Under Russian Occupation

An “absolute majority” of Ukrainian police officers who were working in the parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that are now under occupation by Russian forces have moved to Kyiv-controlled territory, the country’s interior minister said.

In an exclusive interview with Current Time published on July 13, Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy said Ukraine had been able to avoid a repeat of events of 2014, when many police officers joined Moscow-backed separatist groups.

“The biggest danger for us…was a repetition of what happened eight years ago,” said Monastyrskiy, who was in the Czech capital, Prague, for a meeting of European Union interior ministers. “At that time, the police just abandoned their posts and whole regional units went over to the side of the enemy. Moreover, they surrendered personal data, showed how to find activists, and joined the ranks of the pseudo-police. A repeat of this scenario was unacceptable.”

Monastyrskiy added that “not a single database” controlled by the Interior Ministry had fallen into Russian hands.

“I consider this a major achievement,” he told Current Time, a Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA. “We are talking about the databases of the Migration Service where there are paper and electronic forms of many citizens of Ukraine. This is very sensitive information, and we managed to transfer all of it to western Ukraine.”

He added that the government had been able to evacuate the families of many police officers from Mariupol, the Black Sea port that was the scene of brutal fighting before falling to Russian forces in May, and other combat areas.

The interior minister also said Ukraine had been able to forestall Russian-inspired efforts to use criminal groups to destabilize Ukrainian prisons.

“Russian criminal circles were working to try to rattle our prisons and use this to destabilize the situation in many cities,” he said. “Several individuals were moved to other facilities in order to prevent any provocations in the prisons.”