22.02.2007 | Oleksandr Stepanenko

Not just cars turned upside down


“One of the individuals used his phone to call a third person with a car which they shoved me into, After that they took me to a forest plantation near the village of Shevchenkivski Hai. They took me out, and on the way the police threatened me with violence. They forced me to dig a pit using my bare hands which they said would be used for the ninth (maybe somebody like me). After 5-7 minutes, the driver, who’d spoken to somebody on the phone told me to stop, wash my hands in the puddle and come with them to the police station. All three took me to the city police station and led me pass the duty officer to Vasyl Ivanovych (I don’t know his surname). On the second floor one of them said to Vasyl Ivanovych that they would catch all of them …”

From a statement given by a 15-year-old student of the Centre for Vocational Training Volodymyr K.

News of the “Ternopil street revolution” at the end of last year appeared on pretty well all national television channels, print and Internet publications.

In the evening of 20 December on Zlukha Street there was a car accident. A new “Audi” at high speed went through a pedestrian crossing hitting two young girls, students at the Ternopil Centre for Vocational Training No. 1, O. Solonyna and I. Mykhailyshyn. The arrogant reaction by the culprit , the driver S.V. Boiko aroused outrage in those who witnessed the event. An ambulance arrived and took the girls to hospital, but the people didn’t move away. Then, either the driver showed some kind of official document, or somebody simply assumed that he was a law enforcement or tax officer, and so “they’ll protect their own”. This was in fact the main reason for the surge of outrage. Passions were not subdued by the arrival of a police patrol car, rather the opposite. Within several minutes at the scene of the accident there was an angry thousand-strong crowd.  The police and driver who soon tried to leave got away with just a fright, but their cars were less lucky, both being turned upside down. The police car was turned over by the enraged protesters and was therefore badly damaged.

On that same day uniformed and plain clothed officers began looking for those who sparked off the disturbances and who damaged both official and private property. At a press conference on the incident, the head of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [DMIA], Vasyl Pisny, stated emphatically that those guilty of causing the disturbances and damaging the cars would be found and punished, and would have to pay for the damages to the police.

With excessively simple logic they began grabbing students from the Centre for Vocational Training. The idea being that since the girls studied there, it was their college mates who had caused the damage. In fact it should be noted that the photos shown in the local press for several days running established that the cars had been overturned by well-built men, and certainly not 14 or 15-year-old teenagers.

On 20 December the police detained eight students from the Centre for Vocational Training supposedly for having started the riot, however they were released after questioning. On the next day near the Centre’s hostel, another 5 lads were detained. The fact that these boys had been in the police station and had been questioned without relatives or teachers being present was later confirmed by one of the Centre’s teachers, Viktor Saliy. He said that the lads had been held for a long time and taken around different offices. They had been terrified. A few days after this incident, the Director of the Centre told journalists from Ternopil publications that the police were arrogantly infringing children’s rights and questioning underage students from the Centre.

Volodymyr K, the 15-year-old student from the Centre mentioned above was detained in the morning of 21 December by two plain-clothed individuals who forced him into their car. One of Volodymyr’s friends, Petro N. immediately used his mobile and rang the police. He was told to stay where he was, and the police, having arrived, took him to the city police station.

Meanwhile the “plain-clothed strangers” took Volodymyr K to the forest where they intimidated him, demanding that he confess to having taken part in the street disturbances, and even forced him to dig a grave. They then took him to the city police station where he gave his statement to the first deputy head of the Ternopil police station Vasyl Buryk.

No information was provided during the first weeks after the street incident as to who these mysterious people in plain clothes were who had tormented a young lad in the forest near Shevchenkivski Hai.  The head of the public liaison centre of the region’s DMIA, Serhiy Shvornykov, stated to journalists that the police were checking information about the incident on 20 December, and that a criminal investigation had not yet been initiated.  When asked about Volodymyr K’s abduction and his having been taken to a forest, he replied: “that was not done by police officers, but by some individuals in civilian clothes whose identity has not been established.”  The question was left unanswered why these “unidentified individuals” had taken him to the police station.  Incidentally, knowing how strict the pass system is for getting into the police station (the duty officer finds out who you are, telephones the office where you want to go), it is difficult to imagine how “individuals in civilian clothes whose identity has not been established” could get in there.

The next day Volodymyr K. made a statement to the head of the city police station, and on 26 December to a deputy of the Ternopil Regional Council B. Rokochy. His statement says: “Of course I was present together with a thousand other people, but I was a long way away and couldn’t have been anywhere near the place when they overturned the cars.  Although they can accuse me of that.  I’m 15 years old.  I’ve been brought up without my mother who died for 6 years.  Please look at my application and protect me from a possible charge (of a crime) that I didn’t commit. I’m scared the investigation won’t be objective, and I’m scared of physical violence and psychological pressure which they’re already putting on me”.

The Ternopil prosecutor’s office during the last days of last year was not in a hurry to shed light on the circumstances of this highly publicized cases.  Only on 2 January did the press secretary of the regional prosecutor’s office Lesya Dolishna provide information that a criminal investigation had been launched into interference in the work of police officers in order to obstruct them in carrying out their official duties. However nothing was mentioned of any criminal investigation into the actions of the identified detective inquiry officers and their unidentified partners. Therefore, on 4 January 2007, on behalf of the correspondents’ branch of the bulletin “Prava ludyny”, I sent a formal request for information to the Prosecutor for the Ternopil Region, Y.V. Holubo.

I received a reply in the last few days. The Prosecutor has established that  the investigation unit of the DMIA for the region had taken the decision on 2 February 2007 with regard to the accident itself to not launch a criminal investigation against S.V. Boiko due his actions not having elements of a crime in accordance with Article 286 of the Criminal Code. From this one can understand that in the opinion of the investigation unit, at least the driver  S.V. Boiko  did not hit the girls on a pedestrian crossing.

“Furthermore, in the course of checking the appeal made by a student of Ternopil Centre for Vocational Training No. 1, Volodymyr K. regarding the unlawful actions of unidentified individuals and officers of the Ternopil City Police Station, his allegations were not found to be justified. Therefore on 28 December 2006 it was decided not to launch a criminal investigation against S.V. Boiko and V.V. Didushyn on the basis of 6.2 of the Criminal Procedure Code given the lack of elements of the crime set out in Article 146 of the Criminal Code, as well as against officers of the Ternopil City Police Station of the Ternopil Regional DMIA on the basis of 6.2 of the CPC given the lack of elements of the crime set out in Article 365 of the Criminal Code

And from the content of this paragraph, you must agree it’s difficult to understand who the said S.V. Boiko and V.V. Didushyn – police officers, those same “unidentified individuals” or simply relatives of a man who speeds around the city in a cool “Audi”/

The fact that the “allegations were not found to be justified” was an entirely predictable finale, both in content and in form. It is difficult to hope that a fifteen year old student of a vocational school, and an orphan to boot, could oppose the unlawful pressure on him and prove the guilty of those who wronged him. That the prosecutor’s office in such cases takes the unfailing position of non-interference was also fairly predictable.

But would anyone venture to predict whether those students who were so treated by “investigation officers” in uniform and leather jackets will join a crowd on the rampage during the next “street revolution” triggered off by any more or less deserving event?

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