The Donetsk authorities see Ukrainian education only behind bars [1]

The unjust sentence passed by the Kramatorsky City Court in the case involving the Head of the First Ukrainian Lyceum in the Donetsk region, Mykola Konbrytsky is seen by all those involved as being revenge against the “orange” authorities by the “white and blue” victors. The only head of an educational institution who refused to head a branch of the Party of the Regions in his lyceum, and during the Orange Revolution openly spoke out against teachers being seconded at the state’s expense to be observers on behalf of the Party of the Regions is now in prison.  The prosecutor’s office was represented in court by the son of the Mayor of Kramatorsk (a protégé of the Party of the Regions) Kostyukov.

Last year the Director of the Ukrainian lyceum was rash enough to criticize a teacher and member of the Party of the Regions, saying that it was educationally unacceptable to label children who stood up while the Ukrainian national anthem was being played and stood with their hand on their heart  “orange rats”. The teacher was furious and took the Head to court, openly threatening in the teachers’ staffroom “to splatter that nationalist on the wall”.  She lost the court case.”  The some “heavy artillery” got involved – various checks (sometimes up to three a day).  Unidentified individuals rang the lyceum and claimed that the building had been mined, there were attempts made to turn the teachers against the Head.  None of it worked.  However they still got him.

So what was the reason for the court case?  Five years ago, Mykola Konobrytsky invented the position of cloakroom assistant in order to pay for repairs to the school which the state had not provided money for over the previous 7 years. Incidentally this was a way used by many school heads which people were tacitly aware of.  This means that such cases could in theory be brought against the heads of all Kramatorg schools. The Court for some reason did not take into account the fact that documentation could be provided for every kopeck of the sum involved and that during the investigation Konobrytsky returned the money to the Lyceum budget from his own pocket.

The man was sentenced to three years deprivation of liberty and a three-year ban on engaging in business activities..

During the review of the case the prosecutor and judge did not even attempt to conceal political involvement in the trial. One of those present in the courtroom, gave a succinct commentary: “Like 1937” [the bloodiest year of the Terror and show trials – translator].  Protests against the unjust sentence were lodged by the parents’ committee of the lyceum, by some of the teachers, by a number of civic organizations and parties with democratic orientation. Residents of the city have been holding a picket outside the executive committee and city court and collecting petitions in support of the democratic Head of the Lyceum.

Serhiy Letenko  “Ukrainian moloda” [“Young Ukraine”] 20 June 2006)


Head of a Ukrainian Lyceum receives a three-year sentence

In May this year the Kramatorsky City Court passed sentence on the Head of the First Ukrainian Lyceum, 55-year-old Mykola Konobrytsky.  He was convicted under Article 191 § 4 of the Criminal Code (acquiring possessions through abuse of official position) and Article 366 § 2 (fraud at work leading to serious consequences).  The sentence: 3 years deprivation of liberty read out to a crowded courtroom was greeted with shock and dismay by Mykola Konobrytsky’s colleagues.

According to his lawyer, Nadiya Nadiyenko, Mr Konobrytsky’s fault lay only in a breach of financial discipline, however any money involved was not spent on himself. Ms Nadiyenko explained that the city authorities had allocated very little money for the lyceum, and that even the low-quality material needed for repairs to the building had been expensive.  Some money had been raised by parents, who confirmed in the court that every kopeck had been accounted for, and that it had all been spent on repairs to buildings and general offices and had never been stipulated for specific classes.  

No funding had been allocated for medicines, cleaning materials, stationery, costumes for the theatre studio, or for subscribing to periodical journals. In order to find the means to pay for such things, two jobs as cloakroom attendants had been officially registered, with the wages for the positions being used for such domestic needs. Mykola Konobrytsky was accused of having over a period from 1 December 2000 to 25 April 2003 obtained items to the sum of 4,436.88 UH (around 900 USD) by committing fraud in his official capacity and abusing his position.

During both the investigation and the trial, the Head of the Lyceum denied the part of the charge which claimed that the money had been used for his own benefit. He acknowledged his guilt only in having registered two jobs, but stressed that only the school had benefited from the money.

According to his lawyer, such an infringement is punished much less severely – by a fine of up to 50 times the average wage before tax, or by limitation of liberty for up to 3 years. Instead the court had sentenced Mykola Konobrytsky to 3 years deprivation of liberty, and the economic administrator to two and a half years.

The hearing of Mykola Konobrytsky’s appeal has recently been postponed and is now due to take place on 11 August.

[1]   In order to avoid repetition and to draw attention to the key features of this highly disturbing case, the articles below have been abridged.  Mykola Konobrytsky’s case was discussed in some detail in Iryna Kalynets’ article at:   (translator’s note )

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