|This page (or section) is a work in progress by its author(s) and should not be considered final.|
|Part of Vakari Reintegration Tensions|
|Location||Khrystalpol, Northwest Irnac, Durakia|
|Date||November 16-19, 2021|
|Deaths||16 "raiders", 3 security officers|
The Khrystalpol Incident, also referred to as the K-17 Raid or the K-17 Massacre occurred around the restricted area around the K-17 Air Force facility, near the town of Khrystalpol, in which a group of Armed Security acted against orders and fired upon a crowd of self-purported "raiders" in retaliation for the assault of Security Officer Leon Kaliev.
The raid took place in the town of Khrystalpol, a mining town formerly part of the People's Martovist Republic of Vakaria, Vakarastan, south of Nov Martovgrad that later hosted a sizable Vakari airbase. This military presence made the town an important target during the conflict. Khrystalpol Airbase was bombed repeatedly in the early stages of the war, and on one occasion an errant missile strike landed in the town centre, destroying a civic centre-turned refugee shelter and killing 73 civilians in what became known as the "Green Fury", due to accusations from the town that the missile was an intentional strike by Tretrid.
During the Nov Martovgrad Offensive, Khrystalpol was occupied after heavy fighting, with civilian militia defending the town until being forced to surrender on the 3rd of August. Along with the rest of Vakaristan, the town was eventually annexed into Durakia as a part of the Northwestern Irnac subdivision. Though the town was rebuilt under the Vakari Reconstruction Program, it remained a center for unrest and Martovist sentiment after the occupation due to the death toll suffered during the conflict.
The Khrystalpol Sleeping Sickness
Beginning in January 2021, instances of a phenomenon known as "Khrystalpol Sleeping Sickness" began to occur in the town. Victims reported suffering from severe hallucinations and nausea before falling asleep for days at a time. Some individuals claimed to have been impacted on multiple occasions. Animals were similarly affected, and also sometimes showed signs of unusual aggression.
Reports by the Government of Vakaria uncovered in 2022 suggested that cases of "Sleeping Sickness" had been reported as early as 2013, but had been effectively silenced or misattributed by the Department of Truth (DoT). However, the relative openness of Durakan society along with a noted increase in cases initially created the impression in both local and global media that the phenomenon was both entirely new and rapidly expanding, with over a hundred residents falling ill over the course of 2021.
Researchers from the Health Department of Durakia issued a report in December 2021 indicating that the sickness could be attributed to gas leaks from the old and unmaintained Vakari mines, which had been previously overlooked by occupying authorities, a sentiment echoed by independent sources in the Durakan medical community. In the months leading up to the Incident however, a widely popular theory began to circulate among the local population which suggested that the sickness was the result of a secret Durakan weapons project that was supposedly under development at Khrystalpol Airbase, now renamed K-17 by the Air Force of Durakia - the Miner's Revolutionary Air Corps - and used to test experimental communications gear in cooperation with Rekelta as part of the newly established Kretsburg Airbase Reassignment Program which had created the K- classification of former Vakari airbases.
Though largely unsubstantiated, this theory quickly garnered support due to lingering resentment towards the Durakan authorities and the belief that the government was deliberately sacrificing the health of former Vakari, in what some conspiracy theorists called a "genocide from expedience". The K-17 Conspiracy was further aided by the town having recently gained internet access earlier that year. Durakan authorities reported sights of Khrystalpol residents crowding around the publicly available computers at the local library to discuss and research the crisis. The primary discussion site was in fact an Internet Relay Chat channel called #MartovLives, which was purportedly run by and for former Vakari nationals learning to navigate the world wide web. #MartovLives apparently became a hub for the K-17 Conspiracy Theory, and also the centre point of a movement urging residents to "Storm K-17" in order to find and shut down the source of the illness themselves.
Later investigations of #MartovLives failed to determine the real life identities of any of its moderators, and reviews of chat logs suggested that the personal information they had provided to users consisted of false and non-existent identities. Durakan security services would ultimately conclude that the moderators were likely not ordinary Vakari citizens both due to this duplicity and the fact that their apparent proficiency in hiding their trail was inconsistent with the wider Vakari population's inexperience with online technology. It was also notable that no link or correspondence between #MartovLives and the Vakari Exile Government in Ansdorf could be found, despite the suspicions of Durakan authorities.
Throughout October and early November, occupying authorities in Khrystalpol reported an increasingly agitated state of affairs in the town, as answers surrounding the Sleeping Sickness remained unavailable or unsatisfactory and conspiracy theories took root. Discussion on #MartovLives was also observed to take an increasingly aggressive tone during this period. Local community leaders announced that they would hold rallies outside K-17 starting on the 16th of November. Though initially wary, Durakan authorities elected to allow the demonstrations to go forward so long as they remained peaceful. Subsequent hearings confirmed that both civilian and military authorities had operated under the belief that disrupting the rallies would trigger further unrest in both Khrystalpol and other occupied Vakari territories, with several Social Democrat politicians reiterating the Government's attachment to the Freedom of Assembly, with one Union Representative remarking,
—Larin Teilev, November 9. 2022
Unbeknownst to the occupation authority at the time, a small group of five former Vakari militia members had developed a more violent strategy to storm the base in line with sentiments being expressed on the chat channel, referring to themselves as the Vorosijm (Vakarian: 'Вогонсїм') meaning Fire Seven, originating from the Vakari phrase "It takes about six shots to assuredly kill a man, you had better fire seven else he might well surprise you."
In the week prior to the Incident, Vorosijm secured a small cache of firearms concealed by the former Vakari military for use by stay-behind insurgents in the event of an invasion. While the occupying coalition had successfully located most of these caches after significant effort, some had gone undetected. In the case of the Khrystalpol militia, firearms and supplies had been hidden in a local cemetery. Government hearings after the Incident revealed that Durakan investigators had raised suspicions of caches hidden in the graveyard, but no further searches had been pursued for fear of further riling up the population and spoiling the more positive sentiments that had come about in some regions.
On November 16, townsfolk from Khystalpol began to gather at K-17's gates as planned. Only several dozen individuals arrived, much to the dismay of the organizers. The crowd peaked at around a hundred people when a local food stand set up nearby. Durakan forces from both within and without the base monitored the event, but the relative docility of the crowd meant that by the end of the day the security alert had been ended. The Vakari militia cell similarly made no effort to enact their plan, and their one survivor later reported that they had been initially dissuaded due to the small turnout.
The initial protestors had camped overnight in front of the base as planned, and intended to return to Khrystalpol by noon on November 17. The atmosphere at the camp was reportedly genial, as the group had played music and shared drinks with Durakan law enforcement the prior evening, and spent much of the next morning cleaning up the protest site.
In Khrystalpol itself, however, the sleeping sickness suddenly took a turn for the worse, as twelve simultaneous cases were reported that morning. This was likely a result of atmospheric conditions interacting with the gas leaks from the mines. The sudden spike in cases caused panic throughout the morning, though the situation remained unclear to the authorities as much of the local law enforcement had been redeployed around K-17. It was not until 11 am that a caravan of around a thousand people was witnessed leaving the town and heading towards the base. Many in the crowd would later report that they had been attempting to flee the town out of fear of the epidemic, only to be caught up in the wider mob that was now publicly calling for the storming of K-17.
Confrontations began almost immediately at the gates of K-17. Durakan security personnel had been caught off guard at the speed of the escalation, and the previous day's attendees had effectively lost all control over the situation. Multiple gunshots were heard, and Durakan officers later testified that they had been fired upon by the Vorosijm fighters from within the crowd, though it remains unknown as to which members of the group began the violence. Whatever the case, the exchange of fire killed one Durakan military policeman who had been standing guard at the gate, and sent the crowd into a panic. The mob surged forward.
Perimeter security at K-17 was later deemed deficient due to an overreliance on existing Vakari-built structures, which were poorly made and laid out. The weight of the frenzied crowd was such that multiple sections of the fence simply collapsed, and no further obstacles were present to prevent the mob from bursting into the outer sections of the base and potentially overwhelming the facility. Sporadic gunfire continued to target Durakan personnel and drove the crowd onwards. Amidst the confusion, members of the Durakan armed security at the main gates began to return fire with live rounds despite standing orders to utilize only less-than-lethal means. Gunfire from both sides greatly exacerbated the stampede and resulted in two more Durakan security guards being trampled to death while a dozen rioters were either fatally shot or simply crushed. Though no public statements were made by K-17s commander, testimony from Rekelta employees working at the base indicated that Durakan officers had believed that they were witnessing a full scale armed uprising, which created a state of desperation.
Due to the reports of multiple perimeter breaches, Durakan personnel were forced to withdraw to K-17s central compound, which consisted of its barracks, command centers, Rekelta testing sites, and armory. By this point, news of the situation at K-17 had reached the highest levels of the occupation authorities, and armed airborne units began to helicopter in to secure the base and the experimental technology inside it.
The situation at K-17 had, remarkably, calmed down by the time these reinforcements arrived. After the initial panic faded, many of the rioters had either fled or were found simply wandering aimlessly. Some had taken to smashing or looting the handful of aircraft on the tarmac, and a group of Durakan mechanics was reportedly forced to seek shelter in the control tower with other staff. Vorosijm fighters were likely among those who entered the base, as shots were repeatedly fired into the central compound, though fortunately nobody was hit. Durakan security also repeatedly fired upon or forced back groups of rioters who approached the portions of the base still under their control. The overall situation at K-17 was difficult to determine however, as the Vakari military had never installed security cameras or other surveillance equipment.
The arrival of Durakan airborne units proved sufficient to secure K-17 over the remainder of the day. Hundreds of Vakari were detained and some one hundred-and-fifty had been injured due to the intense violence of that morning. The Vorosijm had fled back out into the countryside after their inability to breach the stronger perimeter around the central compound. A massive manhunt ensued around the base starting that evening, but yielded no results until the following day.
Widespread efforts to secure the area continued into the following day, with Durakan military and law enforcement personnel called in from around the occupation zone to deploy into the town and surrounding countryside. The sheer number of detained Vakari was sufficient to overwhelm local detention facilities and required the establishment of an ad hoc camp outside K-17 for processing. The highest priority for Durakan efforts remained the apprehension of the Vorosijm however, particularly as the authorities remained uncertain as to the actual size and capabilities of the group. Lingering fears that the Khrystalpol Incident was the beginning of a larger Vakari uprising led to a general alert across the occupied country. Proposals were put forth by Durakan commanders for harsher measures such as the nationwide reimposition of curfews, travel restrictions, and bans on gatherings, but these were ultimately not enacted outside of the Khrystalpol area.
On the evening of November 18, Durakan search teams received an anonymous tipoff that a group of armed men had taken over the administrative annex of the Khrystalpol Ironworks, an abandoned pre-war industrial complex several miles from the town. Law enforcement personnel had already been en route to examine the site, but were now ordered not to approach the complex. A military special operations group was dispatched instead to deal with the militiamen. While few details surrounding the subsequent firefight have been made public, the Durakan military later reported that all five Vorosijm members had been killed in the shootout with no casualties among Durakan servicemembers.
Security around Khrystalpol remained high following the clash at the Ironworks. On November 19, the occupying authorities announced that K-17 was once again secure, but would continue to host an enlarged military presence. Despite fears of wider violence either in the town or across the country, the situation remained largely stable. Durakan authorities announced that they would begin releasing some detainees over the course of the coming week, while those charged with more serious offenses were to be moved to more permanent facilities to await trial.
Durakan agents monitoring the #MartovLives channel observed a marked increase in calls for action by the chatroom's moderators. These calls were echoed by other members in the channel, but evidence suggested that these accounts likely belonged to the same moderators they were responding to. In one example, several users claimed to be Khrystalpol residents organizing a rally in honor of the Vorosijm, something that was almost certainly false given that the only available computers in Khrystalpol's library had been seized as part of the ongoing investigation. More broadly, the channel responded with either apathy or disdain towards calls for further action, as many were instead mourning the loss of life or fearing further violence, while the most radical members from Khrystalpol were either dead or unable to access the chatroom. Activity in the channel declined over the following days, and the moderation team was not seen online again after November 26. The identities and precise origin of the chatroom's owners remains a source of ongoing investigation, and though the moderators were at varying times recorded as claiming affiliation with the Vakari government in exile or miscellaneous Vakari resistance or citizen's groups, none of these organizations have claimed any connection to the infamous chatroom and many of the identities provided were later determined to be wholly fictitious.
#MartovLives was run on Melkhii, a popular Älemsi-based IRC client which also maintained the servers used by the channel. Several days after the incident, Melkhii released a statement saying that it "Unequivocally condemns utilizing our services to promote acts of violence, and will cooperate to the extent required by the laws of the Negdel and the Amrakh Autonomy."
#MartovLives has been accused of engaging in "Stochastic terrorism" and a "Complete disregard for Vakari and Durakan lives" by the authorities. The channel has since wholly ceased to exist.
The decisions made by various Durakan personnel and officials in the leadup to and during the Incident have been heavily scrutinized. Sources of particular controversy include the decision to fire live rounds against the crowd, as well as failures in security that allowed the situation to escalate so unexpectedly. These hearings have persisted alongside the ongoing trials of many rioters.
K-17 remained an important site for the Revolutionary Air Corps, even though Rekelta opted to move its program to more secure locations. In 2022, funding was allocated to rebuild and secure the base to Durakan specifications.
Khrystalpol remained a source for discontent against the occupation, even though no significant violence occurred following the Incident. The resolution of the Sleeping Sickness mystery proved instrumental in easing tensions, but a mixture of economic dilapidation, spilled blood, and lingering conspiracy theories have left it consistently polling as one of the most discontented parts of Vakarastan.