- Far-right factions accuse HVLV, Closer and ∄ of selling drugs—a claim the club community vehemently rejects.
Far-right groups in Ukraine's capital city are planning a march in the nightlife district of Podil that many fear could escalate into a raid on clubs.
On the Telegram channel Catharsis, which describes itself as a "Union Of Cultural Conservatives," a post emerged this week calling for a "crusade" against Podil venues HVLV, Closer and ∄ (also known as K-41). The "crusade," originally planned for Friday, November 5th, has since been postponed to Saturday the 6th.
Describing these underground venues as "brothels," the post said these places "have been selling drugs for years without hiding," according to an English translation. "We want the dens to cease to exist and Podil to become a clean, European zone, without drugs and the danger they pose," the statement continued. "There will be many of us, there will be surprises," it concluded.
In a separate Telegram post, a local activist (who doesn't want to be named) warned that Saturday's rally could attract around 50 to 100 people who will "probably try to block the entrance to establishments, damage property and beat casual visitors and passers-by," according to an English translation. The post advised clubbers to be careful on the streets, move in groups and refrain from using drugs in Podil.
Several players in Kyiv's dance music scene, including the accused entities, reject the claims in the Catharsis post, describing the channel as "neo-Nazi." It's "known for distributing racist, sexist and homophobic material," the activist’s post said. Catharsis currently has around 23,700 followers.
Speaking to Resident Advisor, HVLV co-owner Andy Yankovskyi said conservatives are using morals to manipulate public opinion on nightlife, adding that Saturday's crusade may turn into a physical attack on clubs. HVLV has ramped up security, urging locals to refrain from walking alone and wearing bright clothes on on Saturday.
"This is obvious slander, as the people who spread this information and announce these raids are pursuing certain goals of their own," Yankovskyi explained via email. "They want to intimidate those who stand up for their rights and fight for freedom of movement in the city, for security in the area and against police brutality ... If people can come and break down our gate, destroy our property or threaten physical violence against our guests and employees with 30 cops watching and doing nothing about it, that breaks the basics of our civil society and bends the law in favour of one group at the expense of others' rights and freedoms."
Alisa Mullen from Closer, meanwhile, dismissed the chances of a raid.
"No one is afraid, they don't have any chance to get into the clubs, this is completely illegal so no one will let them in," she told RA, adding that Podil spaces are expected to remain open on Saturday with extra security in place. Mullen is DJing at HVLV on Friday night and she hopes that "more people will come by to support and show how much we don't care."
Right-wing extremists, who are believed to have the support of local police, have long been a serious threat to Kyiv's club community. In May, officers detained and beat local musician Dmitry Bugaychuk in Podil for drug posession. Ravers later held a protest in response to the violence, calling for a stop to illegal searches of people and unjustified use of excessive force.
The Catharsis post used Bugaychuk's case as justification for Saturday's Podil crusade. Commenting on the matter, HVLV's Yankovskyi said Bugaychuk's personal situation is being used to discredit underground nightlife overall.
These kinds of incidents have been a perpetual issue around Ukraine, Closer's Mullen noted. "Now, there's just much better communication to spread this kind of provocation faster." In 2017, Kiev club Jugendhub was raided by armed police and military officials, resulting in multiple beatings, arrests and alleged theft of valuable equipment.
The radical right are known for their attacks on subcultures, according to the local activist mentioned earlier. "The development of cultural clusters and the condemnation of discrimination by young people runs counter to the far-right agenda," their Telegram post. "As a result, the Nazis repeatedly attacked people of subcultural appearance, LGBTQ, and members of national minorities in Podil."
Additional reporting from Margareeta Evi
Update, November 5th: The far-right "crusade" has been postponed by one day to Saturday, November 6th. The piece has been updated to reflect this change.
Update, November 8th: An activist named in the original piece has since asked for their name to be removed. This has been updated.