MUKACHEVO, Ukraine, July 13 (UPI) -- Two deaths and at least seven people were wounded after a gun battle broke out between Right Sector, a paramilitary group and the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) in Mukachevo, Ukraine near the borders with Poland and Slovakia on Saturday.
Video reportedly surfaced of Right Sector members firing at police officers from a belt-fed machine gun mounted on a pickup truck.
The cause of the gunfire and circumstances that led to the battle are unclear and disputed by the two sides.
SBU said that the Right Sector were involved in cigarette smuggling, which caused a fight with rivals for control of the business, but the paramilitary group said corrupt policemen merely ambushed the town for unclear reasons. The Ukrainian authorities have since set up roadblocks, The New York Times reported, and military equipment has been sent in.
The Right Sector said it may deploy its soldiers "if necessary" into Kiev as a response. "In the conflict zone, we have two battalions, but we have 18 or 19 reserve battalions spread across Ukraine. They are training, they are getting prepared to be sent to the front," Artem Skoropadsky, the group's spokesman, said at a press conference in Kiev. "But if we need do, we can deploy the reserve battalions anywhere we want," reported Russia Today Monday.
The New York Times reported that the fighting began outside a gym and swimming pool complex where the parliamentary group had arrived in four jeeps for a meeting with Mikhail Lano, a member of Parliament. As police officers arrived on the scene, gunfire broke out. A police car was later burned on the road. As of Sunday night, Ukrainian government officials were still negotiating with Right Sector for the gunmen to surrender.
Right Sector formed from the formerly marginal right wing groups during the street protests in Kiev in late 2013 and 2014, which led to the overthrow of Kremlin-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. The party believes the idea of a nation is more broad than the concept of people as ethnos, according to its web site. The group soon organized into a well-armed paramilitary group, and potent political force. Two members won seats in parliament in elections last October. They have refused to incorporate formally into the army.
Pro-Kremlin inhabitants have described Right Sector as "fascist," according to news reports.