Interview of independent journalist Oleg Eltsov


Recently independent journalist Oleg Eltsov has started a new project: the Internet site ‘Criminal Ukraine’. The series of article about the Derkaches clan, the eldest of whom has lately headed the USS, became the most explosive material placed on the site. Briefly, the essence of these articles is that Leonid Derkach is connected with the notorious businessman Semen Mogilevich, was engrossed in external political intrigues behind Kuchma’s back and even considered ways to exchange the President for a more flexible one. As a result, the USS got interested in the site.

On 25 June 2001 a criminal case was started about divulging the information ‘presenting state secrets and divulged by a person, whom this information was entrusted or became known in the connection with his service duties, but at the without features of the high treason’. This information was published on Eltsov’s site. For the time being the journalist is a witness in this case. Article 67 of the Criminal Code, according to which the case was opened, envisages the incarceration for the term from 2 to 5 years. Next day Eltsov was summoned for an interrogation to the USS investigation department. After the interrogation the investigating officer ordered to have search the journalist’s flat. On 27 June the journalist was summoned for another interrogation. There they made him to give an obligation not to spread information about the case.

In the small hours of the morning of 28 June we managed to communicate with Oleg, who just returned after a subsequent interrogation.

Corr.: Oleg, what has happened?

Oleg Eltsov:
It seems that an unprecedented event has happened: a case is open about a publication in the Internet. Here I must comment that the site is not registered as a mass medium. Our purpose is to help the law-enforcing organs to open criminal cases basing on the materials of the site. The bright example is the article about the Derkaches. Alas, this has not happened yet. My colleagues turned to the General Prosecutor’s office with the request whether the facts mentioned are checked, but got no answer. Instead of this the case was opened according to the article ‘divulging information presenting state secrets’. In my opinion, this is a rather interesting precedent. In any case this article does not cover me. It is rather amusing to observe the clumsy actions of the investigators: they just do not know what to do in such cases, what to confiscate and from where. The investigator does not understand the phrase: ‘I placed the information from different computers’. This means that the concept of the place of crime becomes rather amorphous. Our operatives have appeared quite unprepared for work with computer operations.

Corr..: Who conducted the search?

O. E.: A USS officer – state secrets are their domain. The search warrant was issued by the deputy General Prosecutor.

Corr:: Has a criminal case been started?

O. E.: Yes, I am a witness. It is good. As such I have no right to use advocate services. It is bad.

Corr.: How do you explain all this fuss?

O. E.: It is difficult to answer now, by I have an impression that they are searching for the originals and some additional documents, which I never had and about which I informed them at once. There are no grounds yet to tell that the case was ordered. Although I feel some suspicions.

Corr.: Have you ever dealt with law-enforcing organs in such a capacity?

O. E.: I never was a witness. Usually I suffered from libel claims, which were checked before the investigation by prosecutor’s office. I did not loose a single libel case and their total number was about five. I was never accused in divulging state secrets, although during the searchers from the USS were puzzled by finding in my archives many documents from the USS and militia, many concealed data about our oligarchs, politicians, etc.

In principle, I am pleased with this scandal. It is another opportunity to remind our gallant law-enforcers, that they should pay more attention to mass media.


The information is obtained from the Center of extreme journalism

’PL’ commentary:The press reaction to this event is very strange. As to the USS reaction, it should be expected. The information published on the Eltsov’s site is secret, so the criminal case about divulging the state secrets was started legally. In such a case the journalist may figure in the case only as a witness and must not be responsible for the offence. As far as we know, it is the third similar case of divulging secret information through mass media in independent Ukraine; in two previous cases the journalists did not suffer. The goal of the investigation is to find the leak of secret information and punishment the guilty, whom the state secrets were entrusted. It is difficult to believe that Eltsov, who was writing many years about security services, did not understand what he was doing, when he published on his site the document classified as secret. This publication is, more probably, a part of the well-planned campaign, which is carried out by one power clan against the other, and the publication of secret materials serves rather for to fan the fire. This purpose has been successfully achieved. I think that this story will have a serious continuation. Alas, our mass media long before became inter-clan media, journalists play the role as mouthpieces.

Of course, the information published by Eltsov is very grave and requires a careful checking. The journalist, who published the documents, took chances. Yet, in my opinion, we must not hurry to declare that the Derkaches are criminals. Taking account of the criminal character of Ukrainian business, which was artificially created and is carefully supported, it is easy to present the activities of any businessman (especially the richest of them, oligarchs) as a chain of crimes. It abnormal, when the order ‘Tally-ho!’ is given concerning a businessman and he is destroyed. Why he and not somebody else? All of them are equally guilty before the law. All these fuss is determined, after all, by the fight for power, for the opportunities to control money flows, for the opportunities to get privileges for one’s own business. It is quite understandable that under such conditions various security services procure compromising materials against each other and about firms patronized by different services. The closed manner of work of the Ukrainian power just promotes and supports these processes.

What can change this system? Any political force tending to grab power will have to elucidate the ‘dark spots’ of out economic, which is impossible without the victory of the doctrine of open and moral policy. Until it happens, all the speeches about the struggle with corruption will be lip service.

Eugene Zakharov

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