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24.01.2007

Investigation of the Kharkiv disturbances stalls

   

The Head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration and member of the “Nasha Ukraina” Council Arsen Avakov is calling a meeting of the Coordination Council on fighting crime and corruption to discuss prominent cases which have “cast a shameful shadow over Kharkiv’s reputation recently”.

Mr Avakov’s statement on the actions of the Kharkiv city leadership calls the situation intolerable.

“We have seen a mass brawl in the presence of the City Mayor and the Secretary of the City Council, the explosion on one of Kharkiv’s central streets and the detention of a member of the SBU [Security Service] carrying out his work. How much longer will we see on our television screens “the ordinary life of the city” as it has become under the new city leadership?”

The Coordination Council on fighting crime and corruption is due to meet today, 24 January, and its members will decide how they can “join forces to ensure that Kharkiv finally stops being the centre of the majority of criminal news stories in the country”.

The statement particularly focuses on the role of the city’s leaders in the crowd beating up of security guards of a private business by well-organized youths on 16 December 2006.

According to the Press Secretary of the Head of the SBU, Marina Ostapenko, the SBU is continuing its investigation and to identify the organizers and participants of the mass disturbances in Kharkiv and considers the situation in the city to be “extremely serious”.

She mentioned that the SBU had questioned 150 witnesses, identified 70 people who had taken part in the disturbances and had 11 volumes of documentation.

Marina Ostapenko said that the investigation would continue and “the SBU department for the Kharkiv region will do all possible to ensure that all those who organized or encouraged the disturbances are identified and answer before the law regardless of any considerations”.

The previous day, the SBU had expressed protest at the actions of the security guards of the Secretary of the City Council Gennady Kernes who had detained an SBU officer and accused him of carrying out unlawful surveillance of the state official.

The position of the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office

At the same time, the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor Vasyl Synchuk reported that the investigation into the mass disturbance on 16 December launched by the SBU had been terminated due to the “lack of a crime” since the law enforcement officers were unable to prove that the disturbances had been organized.

Vasyl Synchuk reported to journalists in Kharkiv that he was dissatisfied with how the police were investigating the case.

“When you observed these events on the television, you could draw the conclusion that the public officials of the City Council were the chief organizers of the beating. However the presumption of innocence must operate and it has to be proven that this actually was the case, and the law enforcement agencies have not done this.”

The position of the city authorities

Previously the Kharkiv leaders claimed that on 16 December, under the banners of the “Green Party”, the fencing around a park zone on Klochkivska Street had been removed.

According to the version of the city authorities, there were plans to build another supermarket “Target” behind the temporary fencing and local residents, enraged by the unsanctioned occupation of a park zone had gathered for a protest rally.

The Mayor Mykhailo Dobkin and the Secretary of the City Council Gennady Kernes apparently supported the residents’ demands, and after this action the authorities organized a subotnik [voluntary work day] to create order on the territory.

The Kharkiv Mayor is to initiate a call to the Cabinet of Ministers and the Secretariat of the President to consider whether Arsen Avakov should remain Head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration.

Mr Dobkin announced this to journalists when commenting on the statement from Mr Avakov that “Nasha Ukraina” representatives in the Kharkiv City Council would be calling for the resignation of the Secretary of the City Council Gennady Kernes

Oleksandr Hryb, BBC

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