Titushky (plural; Ukrainian: тітушки, Russian: титушки, Romanian: titușki; sometimes titushkos, titushkas) are mercenary agents who supported the Ukrainian police force during the administration of Viktor Yanukovych, often posing as street hooligans with the purpose of performing illegal acts. Titushky raid is a widely-used term in Ukrainian to describe street beatings, carjackings, and kidnappings by unidentified men in civilian clothes from behind the lines of political rallies. Titushky were employed by the Yanukovych government, reportedly receiving 200 hryvnia to $100 per day in payments. Some were also suspected of being illegal formations of combat troops carrying concealed pistols. They carried out intimidation and dispersal of anti-government demonstrations, and attacked participants and representative of the news media.
Titushky adopted the strategy of blending into a peaceful crowd or mob and then instigating a violent fight, which led to arrests of peaceful protesters on the grounds of mass disorder; the perpetrators were then used either as witnesses of the supposed crime, or as victims. During the Euromaidan uprising in Ukraine in 2013–2014, they became a collective term for agents provocateurs and thugs, who were hired by the Party of Regions and law enforcement agents in civilian clothing. Supporters of President Yanukovych also used the term titushky to refer to pro-opposition thugs.
The term Titushky derives from the surname of Vadym Titushko (Ukrainian: Вадим Тітушко) (also known as Vadik Rumyn (Ukrainian: Вадiк Румин), meaning Vadik "the Romanian"), a mixed martial artist from Bila Tserkva who attacked Channel Five journalists on May 18, 2013, during the Rise up, Ukraine! opposition rally. He and two other men received suspended sentences over the attack. Titushko said he was unhappy to have his name associated with thugs, and that he supported the anti-government Euromaidan protests. In his interview, Titushko asserted that he was hired to protect the opposition rally and that he tried to remove a woman from harm's way, from amid a melee.
Radio Liberty described titushky as "burly guys dressed in sports wear who act as agents provocateurs. They crack down on protesters or provoke clashes with the aim of tarnishing peaceful protests".
In January 2014, a former head of the Security Service of Ukraine, General Palivoda, stated "Titushki are actively used by the government in local standoffs with people. These are groups of provocateurs who get paid and these are mostly people without steady moral principles and very poor people who desperately need some money. They are not bandits nor prisoners nor criminals. Often they don't even know who gathered them and what they will have to do. They understand what they got involved in only after they find themselves in the middle of some action." However, Vyacheslav Veremiy, a Vesti Reporter journalist traveling to Euromaidan, was pulled out of his car by a Titushky squad and shot to death point-blank from a concealed gun, indicating more than just a happenstance action. Veremiy's killing was confirmed on Wednesday 19 February 2014 at 6.45 am.
According to What's On magazine, Titushky openly fired live ammunition on 18 February 2014, resulting in the death at least one protester at the scene near the Supreme Court building in Kyiv. On the same day, some 200 Titushky men, dressed as Maidan defence units with green helmets and shields, joined Berkut troops and beat protesters on Velyka Zhytomerska using bats and iron pipes. Titushky also blocked a polling station in Mykolaiv during the presidential election on 25 May 2014.
The word ititushky or ititushkas (pronounced ajtitushky) (Ukrainian: айтітушки) appeared in the Myslovo (Ukrainian: Мислово) dictionary of modern Ukrainian slang. A portmanteau of the words IT and titushka, it refers to a hacker or an ordinary user who acted aggressively against pro-Euromaidan blogs and websites, using DDoS attacks, aggressive comments, or trolling.
In Poland, in late 70s individuals who were working on behalf of the Polish Ministry of Public Security were often termed as Polish: Nieznani sprawcy, lit. 'Unknown perpetrators', (see Nieznani sprawcy (poland euphemism)) who were tasked with terrorizing and murdering dissidents, catholics, and keeping in check workers, often with impunity. The murder of Stanisław Pyjas, a student at the time, is a well known case of illegal sprawcy activity.
Piotr Siuda (Russian: Пётр Сиуда, 1937 - May 1990), a victim and volunteer of Novocherkassk Massacre who had investigated it in 1980s had reported that, at the time, Soviet Militia in his own city of Novocherkassk used semi-legal groups of ex-convicts to hunt down and beat up political activists and dissent. : 60 Piotr himself was killed in 90s under suspicious circumstances.
- Plainclothes law enforcement — police officers, militia members, or soldiers disguised in civilian clothes
- Undercover operation
- Shabiha (in Syria)
- Colectivo (Venezuela)
- Katarzyna Kwiatkowska (2014). "Titusski - napadają, wyciągają ludzi z aut, palą i grabią" [Titushky swarm in, drag people out of cars, burn them and rob]. WP.PL Wiadomości (in Polish) (1123). Archived from the original on 24 February 2014. Retrieved 20 February 2014.
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- Вадим Титушко: "У меня с детства ненависть к гопникам" (in Russian). July 2013. Archived from the original on 6 July 2013.
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- Frode Larsen (2 January 2014). "Ukrainian top general: There is proof of Russian intervention in Ukraine". Uriks.no. Archived from the original on 15 February 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
- News (19 February 2014). "24 Hours of Hell". What's on Kiev (№6/2014). Archived from the original on 23 April 2014. Retrieved 23 February 2014.
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- "У Миколаєві "тітушки" вчинили безлад на одній з дільниць" [In Mykolaiv "titushky" made a mess in one of the polling stations]. 5 Kanal. 25 May 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
- Ajtitushky at Ukrainian slang dictionary Myslovo
- Айтітушки: нове слово сучасної української мови, Watcher.com.ua
- "Малюта Кисасундович Цястонь". В Кризис.ру (in Russian). 2021-09-06. Retrieved 2022-07-19.
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- Siuda, Piotr. "Новочеркасская трагедия 1-3 Июня 1962 года" (PDF) (Interview).
- Сиуда, Эмма (1990). ПАМЯТИ ТОВАРИЩА (Report) (in Russian).
- Media related to Titushky at Wikimedia Commons