Militia pogrom in a Cherkassy printing-shop
These events occurred neither in Chili, nor in Honduras, nor in any other banana republic. All described below happened in the country, which moves along the road paved with good intentions, allegedly to Europe. At the very moment when the President of this country declared in a voice of thunder: „Democracy is developing step by step in the country, it is evident“, brave militiamen attacked a Cherkassy printing-shop and destroyed the run of the newspaper „Svoboda“ („Freedom“). That was a final touch, the apotheosis of the operation, if to use noble terms. The beginning of the operations was even more shocking. In general, all that happened in Cherkassy in several last days, can be described neither in the terms of law, not in the terms of the common sense. It happened just a week before the election.
On Saturday, about 11 p.m. a truck with the consecutive run of the newspaper „Freedom“ moved from the Cherkassy printing shop „Respublika“ to Kyiv. On a highway, near the village of Pischanoe of the Zolotonosha district the driver of the truck was blinded with the headlights of a car standing at the roadside. The militia blue flashlight shone on the car roof and a stranger in a luminescent vest of road police made a gesture with his button ordering the truck to stop. „I stopped and reached to the glove compartment for documents“, told driver Vadim Yurchenko later: „At this moment somebody jerked the door open and pulled me out. Then they pushed me into a jeep that came up and ordered to be calm. The jeep turned and sped about 400 meters from the place of the boarding. Two men set in the jeep. In 40 minutes they got through the portable radio the command: „All clear. Throw him out“.“
They threw Vadim Yurchenko to the ditch, and the jeep, according to his words, started toward Kyiv. „I went to my truck“, the driver continued: „Having come to the bridge over the Supoy river, I petrified: packs of newspapers drifted downstream. The truck was standing near the waterfront. The ignition was on. I pulled the keys from the ignition lock, and the inner voice prompted me: stop, you must not drive“.
In the morning a peg hammered into ground was found near the truck. This trick is widely used by special troops for mining vehicles. An explosive (e. g., grenade) is attached to the chassis, and the pin is fastened with a length of wire to the peg. It is easy to guess what would happen, if the truck started. And the version will be convincing: the truck exploded near the river and the newspaper fell into the water.
Thank God, this did not happen. The driver hitchhiked to the Zolotonosha road police post and told them about the event. It was half past four in the small hours of the morning… by the arrival of the Zolotonosha militia the truck was mine-freed. The newspapers „Freedom“ were drifting downstream.
At this very time the unprecedented operation was developing in Cherkassy. On Sunday morning the prosecutors office of the Sosnovskiy district of Cherkassy started the blitzkrieg criminal case. You are mistaking, if you think that it concerned the attack at Vadim Yurchenko and the destruction of the run of „Freedom“. The case was titled as follows: „On the fact of misuse of power by the administration of the printing shop „Respublika“ connected with distributing the confidential information about a state official without the consent of the latter“. Do not you want to know, who was this official? His face decorated almost every page of this issue of „Freedom“, his surname – Potebenko. The General Prosecutor. Several pages was separated for the deputies request written by G. Omelchenko and A. Ermak, where they describe in details the mechanism of taking bribes by General Prosecutor Potebenko from Aleksandr Volkov. One more page contains the list of Mr. Volkovs accounts in foreign banks, names of the firms and organizations, through which he laundered his millions. The page also contained the meticulous analysis why Mr. Potebenko refused to obey the decisions of foreign courts about starting criminal case against the oligarch and how the latter shared the money with the General Prosecutor.
„For dessert“ (on the last page) the newspaper wrote about the „apartment jugglers“ – Mr. Potebenko and his colleagues-prosecutors. It is obvious that such information about the „honest prosecutor“ and communist had to be destroyed it any price.
Fortunately, the operation of exploding the truck failed. Several hours later Oleg Liashko, the editor-in-chief of „Freedom“, arrived in Cherkassy. Together with Stanislav Zhurilo, the manager of the printing shop „Respublika“, he decided to print again 107 thousand copies of the destroyed issue. Yet, the opponents did not sleep. By the moment of the start of printing the building of the printing shop was besieged by militiamen. By the demand of the prosecutors office judge Dmitrenko (on Sunday!) issued the warrant for searching the printing shop. On which grounds? On the ground of the newly opened case on „spreading confidential information about a state official without the consent of the latter“! Reasonable people were, mildly speaking, shocked. Is it right is journalists must ask a consent of Potebenko to print even not a authors material about him, but an official documents – a request from MPs? And about which „spreading“ may one speak if the newspaper spread drifting downstream, and not a single copy was read by public? And the conclusion is: even before the newspaper was thrown into the river, the prosecutors office already had some copies. Who except robbers could pass the newspapers to the prosecutors office? This is an open secret. It is obvious that the attack at the driver and all the consequent events are links of the same chain.
2 p.m., Sunday. Stanislav Zhurilo, the manager of the printing shop „Respublika“, editor-in-chief of the oblast newspaper „Vechirni Cherkassy“ and the head of the oblast headquarters if the political bloc „Our Ukraine“, comments these events: „Some people from the prosecutors office came to us and told that judge Dmitrenko considered the materials of the criminal case (?!) and took the decision to search the printing shop. We just print newspapers regardless of the content. I, as a newspaper editor, always fought with censorship and I will never allow myself to censor others. As to the accusation that we spread the information damaging honor and dignity of citizens, it, firstly, must be proven by a court, and, secondly, no information was distributed yet. Then what are the reasons to open a criminal case? Besides, the new Criminal Code does not contain such article at all. We are shocked by these arbitrary actions!“
Oleg Liashko, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper „Freedom“, came to the Cherkassy printing shop hoping to print again the new run of the newspaper. When, some time later, the shop was crowded by prosecutor officers and militiamen headed by Yu. Oleynik, the editor was infuriated. „We published in our newspaper the MPs request reading that Potebenko, in their opinion, took a bribe from Volkov, the former assistant of the President of Ukraine. This is an official MPs request. According to laws, nobody must be brought to responsibility for publishing documents of state organs and officials. In this case, MPs, the authors of the request, are the officials of the superior organ of state power of Ukraine – the Supreme Rada. The deputies somehow got the documents connected with the bankruptcy of the bank „Ukraine“. Volkov then headed the fund „Social protection“, his account was in the bank „Ukraine“. The provisional commission of the Supreme Rada found two very interesting payment orders. With these orders Volkov and his fund transferred to the General Prosecutors office 600 thousand UAH. It happened exactly at the time when the General Prosecutors office received the commission of the prosecutors office of Belgium to start the investigation concerning Volkov. In Brussels they arrested more than 40 million USD on Volkovs accounts and distrained upon his property. Instead of fulfillment of the commission of the Belgian prosecutors office, Potebenko took money from Volkov. I, as a lawyer and a newspaper editor, can assess this only as a bribe. As to the todays events – the document presented by Kucherenko, the prosecutor of the Sosnovskiy district of Cherkassy (he came to the printing shop personally. – Authors nope), about confiscating the run of the newspaper is absolutely illegal. I am sure that it was an order of Potebenko. If, at the start I believed that all was dine by gangsters in militia uniform, now I am sure that all the events are links of the same chain. We will not obey the illegal decision. There is an article in our Constitution, which envisages the responsibility no only for issuing, but also for obeying illegal orders. I will defend the Constitution as long as I could…“
But the forces of the editor and the not numerous personnel of the printing shop were obviously insufficient to prevent the real assault of the shop building by about a hundred of militiamen and prosecutor officers. It happened on Sunday evening. Beforehand, at daylight, militia cars appeared near the building. Militiamen sitting inside openly watched everybody coming to and going from the printing shop. S. Zhurilo even had his photo taken near one of these besiegers. At a few minutes after six something improbable started. Perhaps all forces of militia, special troop „Berkut“ and… road police were gathered near the printing shop building. Yuri Oleynik, the deputy head of militia directorate of the Cherkassy oblast, commented the situation as follows: „the goal of the militia was to protect the public order during the search conducted by the prosecutor officers in the printing shop“. A nice formulation! Not less than ten militia cars blocked the entrance to the printing shop. After this about a score militiamen rushed to the building through the entrance checkpoint. Any resistance was futile, and Oleg Liashko, who is at the same time a candidate to the Supreme Rada in the Pecherskiy electoral district of Kyiv, tried to burst through the encirclement. The prosecutor officers declared that they had the order to detain Liashko, although they had not the slightest grounds for this. After a lasting exchange of harsh words, they let Liashko go. The officers headed by prosecutor Kucherenko began the through search of the printing shop. All the already printed run of „Freedom“, as well as the printing plates, were confiscated and loaded to the cars without license numbers. The question about the place of destination of the confiscated property the answer followed that the load would be allegedly taken to a militia precinct, this was written in the confiscation protocol. Yet, in the actual fact, the newspaper run was unloaded in the oblast prosecutors office.
Journalists of the edition „Antenna“, who were present at that time in the printing shop, phoned to Cherkassy mayor Vladimir Oleynik. The mayor came up to the place of the assault, when the militiamen loaded the last truck with the confiscated newspapers. V. Oleynik said that what was happening was an outrageous abuse of morals and laws, but he was unable to stop the robbery.
On Monday morning all the commanding officers of militia and prosecution gathered in the office of governor Lukyanets. Several hours after the sitting the prosecutors office made a search in the editorial board of the newspaper „Vechirni Cherkassy“. That time again militiamen got a search warrant as if by magic.
The building of the printing shop is still surrounded by militia. Several civil cars packed with militiamen stand near the entrance. From a trustworthy source we got the information that, according to the order received, militia and prosecutors office would do their best to prevent printing any newspaper writing about the „militia pogrom“. Since this printing shop is the only one in Cherkassy, the strategic task of militia is rather simple.
Olga Shvets, Valeriy Vorotnik
26 March 2002