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22.12.2006

Kharkiv residents appeal to the central authorities

   

A number of recent events in Kharkiv can be considered an overt, deliberate attempt to destabilize public order in the city. It is extraordinary that this is taking place not simply with the support, but with the direct participation of the city authorities – the Mayor Mykhailo Dobkin, the Secretary of the City Council Gennady Kernes and the Head of the Kharkiv Regional Council Vasyl Salyhin.

Over the last six months these events have been as follows:

-  In July 2006 there was a procession of people calling themselves “canonical Orthodox believers” – from the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate against the arrival in Kharkiv of the Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate Filaret, as well as a picket of churches of the Kyiv Patriarchate.  The picketers flagrantly violated Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine (freedom of conscience) and the Criminal Code of Ukraine. However these unlawful actions had no legal consequences and the Mayor, Secretary of the City Council and the Head of the Kharkiv Regional Council all expressed their support;

-  On 14 November there was a confrontation in the Youth Park near the Memorial Stone to the Fighters of the UPA [Ukrainian Resistance Army]. Members of Ukrainian civic organizations who tried to lay flowers at the Memorial were confronted by young louts under banners of the Party of the Regions, the Communist Party, an organization unknown in Kharkiv “Russian Community” who abused them and prevented them from leaving their flowers;

-  In November, near student hostels at Olekiyivka night marches were organized by the so-called Ukrainian Society of Students against “domination by foreigners”, during which several black students were assaulted. One of the victims of the attack later died in hospital;

-  In November the Regional Council, with a Party of the Regions majority, at the initiative of a deputy from the Communist Party Leonid Strykhka, passed a resolution to suggest to the deputies of the City Council that they remove the Memorial Stone to the Fighters of the UPA which was erected with the contributions of members of the public and with permission from the City Council;

-  The Mayor Mykhailo Dobkin in a live broadcast not only supported the Regional Council’s initiative, but also called the UPA fighters “not fully crushed”, which aroused outraged among Kharkiv people who know and honour Ukraine’s history, the history of the struggle for its independence;

-  Since the new authorities took office in Kharkiv there have been constant pickets by small businesspeople and members of opposition political parties which the city authorities have poured abuse on in the mass media and attempted to get banned by the courts;

- The Mayor Mykhailo Dobkin, together with the Secretary of the City Council Gennady Kernes, have taken a direct part in crowd actions on sites allocated for the construction of a shopping centre “Target”, provoking run-ins between members of the public;

-  Throughout October and November representatives of the City Council have disrupted meetings to organize initiative groups aimed at running a city referendum, this being in flagrant violation of the right to peaceful assembly;

-  The most recent event was on 20 December when during the night, with the use of heavy equipment, the Memorial Stone the UPA fighters was dismantled.  It is to the credit of the Kharkiv police that on the very same day a criminal investigation over the act of hooliganism, and we hope that the investigation will be carried through to the end.

We call on the central authorities to intervene without delay in the situation here in Kharkiv which is escalating by the day, threatening not only public order in the city, but also the normal life of its residents.

One has the impression that the city authorities are in this way simply trying to divert public attention from more pressing issues, especially the increase in tariffs for housing and communal services and the extremely low quality of such services, the rise in inflation, the lack of reform in the health service and in education.

In our view, inter-denominational and inter-ethnic conflict is deliberately being fuelled which, given the worsening social situation of members of the public could lead to serious disturbances in the city.

Indifference and lack of intervention by the central authorities in the situation here in Kharkiv, encouragement of the federalist actions of the city authorities not only jeopardizes stability in Ukraine, but threatens the integral unity of the country, and is a crime against the constitutional system.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

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