“The Mayor of Kharkiv and the Secretary of the City Council, abetted by the police, provoke mass disturbances and beatings”
On 16 December around 13.00 near 197 Klochkivska Street the unprecedented seizure took place of a disputed site allocated for construction.
Young people under the flag of the Kharkiv youth organization of the Party of the Regions, as well as the Green Party headed by Andriy Antonov, gathered by the fence around the site.
Their arrival, then later movement and actions were controlled by leaders of the young “regionals”, the youthful deputies Volodymyr Myroshnykov and Maxim Museyev, the “seasoned” deputy of the City Council, “regional” Ihor Telyatnikov and others. The leaders of most of the district councils were present, as well as officials from the City Council legal department. A part in the incident was also played by a group of Afghanistan veterans, led by Viktor Kovalenko.
Watching the mass disturbance, although in no way impeding it, were high-ranking police officers: Ihor Cherkashin (Head of the public order police for the Kharkiv region), Yevhen Zherebtsov (first deputy to the head of the department of public security), Andriy Starodubtsev (director of the Department for liaison with law enforcement agencies, defence and mobilization work and civic defence of the City Council). There were also officers from a special “Berkut” unit and around 10-12 ordinary police officers.
After the arrival of Mayor Mikhail Dobkin and Gennady Kernes, a crowd gathered around the building at no. 197, which included many residents of the micro-district. At the improvised rally, Dobkin and Kernes explained their appearance as being “at the request of ordinary Kharkiv people” and talked about how the “price of those trees (on the site) is the fate of people”. After the Mayors address with its typical promises of all kinds of good things and listing of all achievements, a crane appeared from behind the building to knock down the fence.
The crowd, egged on by provocateurs from those who had appeared and by the calls from Kernes and Dobkin hurtled to the fence. A few sections were removed by the crane, and young people began pulling down the railing. Scuffles began and calls to start an attack were heard from the crowd. The Berkut officers restrained the first wave. However Gennady Kernes accused the police of going against the people, summoned Ihor Cherkashin and demanded that the law enforcement officers not interfere. He stated that they were “holding a peaceful rally”. After this, Cherkashin called on the officers to stand in formation and moved them away from the area of the incident. The police were also ordered by Zherebtsov not to intervene. The activists “in support of local residents”, itching for a fight, burst onto the territory of the fenced off site and began beating up guards there. Around 20 young guards were injured, as well as around 10 chance passers by and local residents. They fell on the guards in groups, kicking until, having fallen to the ground with their arms around their heads, they stopped moving or lost consciousness. Representatives of the law enforcement agencies were at the epicentre of the events but did not intervene.
As a result, four of the victims are presently in the accident and emergency hospital. Another 10 were taken to the hospital or made their own way there with injuries to the face and bruises from beatings.
The “peaceful rally” ended with a subbotnik [work by “volunteers”] demonstratively pulling out the trees. Mikhail Dobkin personally took part. This was at the very place where up till then one of the victims was lying in blood. It did indeed turn out as the Secretary of the City Council had said: “the price of those trees (on the site) is the fate of people”. We would add that the price might have been human life.
Complaints have already been lodged with the police about the organizing of mass disturbances, the damage to property and inflicting of bodily injuries. The main accusations are against the top leaders of the city as the initiators of the fracas. Video footage of the event will be sent to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Verkhovna Rada profile committee and the Prosecutor General.
The site near 197 Klochkivska Street was allocated for construction (with a shopping and amusement centre planned) through a decision passed by deputies from the previous Council. The site was fenced off and guarded. The builders had already carried out a lot of pre-construction work and prepared planning documents, reached agreement with contractors and with investors, as well as a number of jobs on the social program, including replacing ring mains.
At a session of the new City Council in May this year, despite the rulings of three district courts in Kharkiv and Kyiv, prohibiting even the review of this issue, the deputies revoked the decision of their predecessors. All of this was at the initiative of the Mayor and the Secretary of the City Council who saw fit to “not notice” the court rulings, violating of course the law. After taking this decision, the authorities announced that the disputed territory was being returned to the residents of the adjacent buildings. This preliminary statement provoked a mood of revenge among the residents of the building nearby.
There were suits in the courts against the decision with rulings not yet handed down meaning that the decision by the present Council may be declared unlawful.
The Deputy Head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration V. Tretetsky is calling for an urgent session of the coordination council on fighting corruption and organized crime.
He stated this during yesterdays meeting of the regional administration on analyzing the use of budgetary funding. He explained the need for such a step as being linked to recent events in Kharkiv connected with mass assault and unprecedented pressure on law enforcement agencies by officials from the Kharkiv City Council.
“The events in which people were beaten up on 10 December in the Ukrainian Cultural Centre “Yunist” and on 16 December at 197 Klockivska St demonstrate that an organized criminal group is at work in Kharkiv carrying out political orders given by the leadership of the Kharkiv City Council”, Mr Tretetsky stated. He believes that the executive authorities must not pretend that this is mere hooliganism, and that they dont know who the organizers of such criminal acts and campaigns to discredit the law enforcement agencies are.
In Mr Tretetskys opinion, the coordination council on fighting corruption and organized crime needs to urgently consider the issue of whether constitutional rights and liberties are being observed in the Kharkiv region, the situation as regards the fight against corruption in the authorities, and to prepare a comprehensive range of measures to ensure the normal work of law enforcement agencies. He adds that it cannot be excluded that the coordination council will turn to the Council of National Security and Defence of Ukraine asking for an assessment of the situation in Kharkiv as a result of these events.
Viktor Kozoriz, Press Service of the Kharkiv Regional Branch of the UNP [Ukrainian Peoples Party]