Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Interview with MP Viktor Shishkin


Here is a fragment of the interview with MP Viktor Shishkin for the radio ‘Liberty’.

Igor Stoliarov: You, as well as MPs Eduard Gurvits and Yuri Karmazin, are personae non gratae for the authorities-obedient press. In this connection, I am sure that our listeners will be interested in your work in the Parliament.

Viktor Shishkin: The main task of any MP is creating laws. And we do it -time. This concerns not only compiling our branch-wise laws, such as the Law ‘On court system’ or the Criminal-Procedural Code. This is an immense system of interconnected laws covering also the activities of militia and prosecutor’s offices.

I also participate in compiling laws of other kinds. For example, our voters from Odessa sent us some suggestions concerning the Law ‘On land’. And I introduced them to the group of similar questions for discussing. Our contribution to the residence code is also not small.

Other obligations of MPs are connected with the controlling functions of the Parliament. This is the control over the executive power organs and other state institutions.

More than once I gave interviews on this topic for the press and TV. Unfortunately, these interviews were not made public. It was these interviews, where I spoke that our control functions were substantially constrained by some decisions of the Constitutional Court. For example, we are completely prohibited to intrude to court activities. Now we are unable to react to the complaints connected with court activities.

The next decision of the Constitutional Court concerned the activities of prosecutor’s offices. There our rights became also very restricted. The constraint retains to the prosecutor’s office, which is a part of the executive power, whereas in civilized countries the protection is controllable by the Parliament. That is why I, in spite of the prohibition, now and then send to prosecutors the complaints of Odessa inhabitants with my own comments and notes.

I was especially offended by the third decision of the Constitutional Court taken last year. It followed the notorious referendum ‘after people’s initiative’ and cancelled many rights of us, which concern our reaction to the actions of local authorities. I reckon that an MP from Odessa, especially elected according to the majority system, must react to the activities of Sergey Grinevetskiy or Ruslan Bodelian (the present and former mayors of Odessa. – Translator’s note). After the mentioned decisions of the Constitutional Court the scope of my control reactions is rather limited.

The letters, which I sent to the Odessa authorities, more often are not answered or answered formally.

I. S.: The election to the Parliament and to the mayor’s office are coming. That is why I want to know your viewpoint as to the life in Odessa.

V. Sh.: To put it in as nutshell, bright life in Odessa has terminated. I believe that under mayor Gurvits the life was more vivid. In spite of the fact that Gurvits had a tendency to violate laws, about which I used to write, the life, as a whole, developed and progressed.

I know about many misuses and violations connected with land, beaches and their distribution in Odessa. Many voters turned to me. But it is impossible to suppress the misuses under the existing system of power...

The local authorities, having come across a felony, usually refer to the general chaos in the state. The local authorities must try to increase the number of jobs in Odessa. They must also control that the Ukrainian laws should be obeyed in the city. I get a lot of complaint about the activities of law-enforcing bodies, organs of health protection, etc.

I. S.: Another urgent question is THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH. After the appearance on the screen of you and MP Yuri Karmazin the popular TV feature ‘OKO’ was closed.

V. Sh.: Nowadays the freedom of speech in Odessa reflects the general level of the freedom of speech in Ukraine. It seems that in Odessa the freedom of speech is the most painful problem for the authorities.

I understand the behavior of the President and his local yes-men – Grinevetskiy and Bodelian – that concerns sealing mouths to the oppositional MPs.

Let us have a look: four MPs were elected in Odessa in the majority boroughs. Two of them are openly oppositional to Leonid Kuchma. I have never concealed my opinions and took an active part in erecting, guarding and protecting the tent camp in the framework of the action ‘Ukraine without Kuchma’. I took part in all manifestations and meetings during the campaign. My colleague Yu. Karmasin acted likewise.

The third deputy, E. Gurvits, also belongs to the anti-President opposition, although he has lately become less active.

It is obvious that under such circumstances the President and camarilla do everything they can to make us shut up.

When we tried to express our opinions about the ‘cassette scandal’, Georgiy Gongadze’s case, activities of ministries and agencies, the remaining independent TV-channel ‘OKO’ was closed. In fact, now we have no opportunities to use mass media to bring our opinions to the people.

The authorities so their best to prohibit not only our opinions – they even prohibit to publish analytic comments and articles about the activities of the opposition.

I believe that nowadays the situation with free expression in mass media is much worse than in 1988-1990, when communist were in power. In that time I had an opportunity to convey my opinion to my voters.

Now the people is held in the informational obscurity.

I. S.: What is your opinion about the criminal situation in Odessa?

V. Sh.:Unfortunately, the criminal situation is difficult to analyze. I recollect how this question was discussed when Gurvits governed the city. Then any, even insignificant, event was made a sensation.

I believe that today the situation is much worse, but it is hush-hushed. Economic and political clashes occurring in Odessa do not get enough attention of mass media. We do not know the actual state of things.

I. S.: Independent mass media in Odessa, as well as the Internet sources, now write much about the connection of Ruslan Bodelian with Aleksandr Zhukov, the president of the holding ‘SINTEZ’. Do you know anything about this affair?

V. Sh.: yes, I know about this affair just from the Internet. I read about this on the site ‘Federal investigation agency’. The description gives, in my opinion, many details. The relations of certain persons, such as Angert, Zhukov, Bodelian, Andrey Derkach and President Kuchma, are described properly.

What must be one’s attitude to this publication?

Let us begin with facts, although all facts are well known by now. But we know that Zhukov was actually arrested by the Interpol in Italy, as well as his accomplices. These are not newsmen’s fantasies, these are bare facts.

Now about their activities connected with arms. Experts in Italy distinctly determined the arms-trade channel, which went through Odessa port. And this is also a well-proven fact.

Did the persons mentioned on the site ‘Federal investigation agency’ from a clique? I believe that the information is truthful. I shall explain my position. We must take into account that independent journalists owing to the Internet never made a mistake.

What was the reason of killing Georgiy Gongadze? In fact, for his similar publications in the newspaper ‘Ukrainska pravda’. Almost all that was published there was later confirmed.

Nowadays those, who work in the Internet mass media, check the data they spread. They never publish unchecked facts. The times, when journalists chased after ‘hot’ facts, paying no attention to their veracity, have already passed. Journalists now have already mastered the idea that one must pay for the wrong information.

I. S.: Last, but not least. Volodymir Zhurakovskiy, the head of the city militia, said at a briefing for journalists that the law-enforcing organs have not enough grounds for checking the chain of organizations subordinated to A. Zhukov.

V. Sh.:I no nothing about this remark. But if it was really made, then it was done to justify the absence of any attempts of checking.

Let us recollect the Criminal-Procedural Code in the part concerning the reasons for starting a criminal case and for starting a check. Every information, which hints that a crime was committed, must be checked. The chief militiaman’s remark confirms either his personal interest in the absence of the check or his low professionalism.

I want to remind one more fact. I mean opening several criminal cases in Belgium against MP Oleksandr Volkov, the head of the fraction ‘Vidrodjennia regioniv’. Volkov rejected all accusations. Then why he does not want to go to any country of the European Community, where he will be immediately arrested?

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