Editor of a newspaper uncovering lawlessness of officials disappears
In Kharkiv the search is continuing for journalist Vasyl Klimentyev, Chief Editor of the newspaper “New Style”, who disappeared on 11 August. The police say that they are working on various versions, including that linked with his work. On 15 August the Dzherzhynsky District CID initiated a criminal investigation under Article 115 of the Criminal Code (murder). Vasyl Klimentyev’s colleagues believe it possible that he was abducted due to critical articles in the newspaper, which specializes in journalist investigations.
Petro Matvienko, Deputy Chief Editor relates: “For more than five years now the city newspaper “New Style” has been telling its readers about abuse of official position by representatives of the enforcement bodies and high-ranking officials, about human rights abuses.”
Members of the staff founded a civic organization “Independent Agency of Journalist Investigations” which calls for reports on cases where citizens’ constitutional rights are violated and of officials’ lawlessness. They give the contact details for the editorial office.
Vasyl Klimentyev tackled difficult topics, writing, for example, critical articles about the Deputy Prosecutor of the Kharkiv region, Serhiy Khachaturian, about the activities of the Head of the Kharkiv Regional Tax Administration, Stanislav Denisyuk.
According to Petro Matvienko, on 9 August he and Vasyl Klimentyev went to photograph Denisyuk’s estate, as well as those of three other figures in articles for the next issue, among them a former officer of the SBU [Security Service].
On 11 August in the morning, colleagues discussed the next issue, then during the day Matvienko was unable to reach Vasyl Klimentyev by telephone. In the evening he heard from his mobile:
“The subscriber is out of reach”
His colleagues notified the police the next day. The last thing that is known to the police about Vasyl Klimentyev is that at the metro station “Sportivna” he got into a BMW with an unidentified man.
Petro Matvienko says that his colleague was careful in his work, and was, after all, 67 already. He says that if Vasyl Klimentyev went anyway, he always took a pistol with rubber bullets, and that he was probably tricked into getting into the car.
The murder inquiry was launched after two days. Radio Svoboda tried to find out from the Kharkiv regional police why a homicide case has been launched, since the journalist is still missing. There have been suggestions that the police know something. The Police Press Centre avoid answering questions about the case, and have been given the basic facts and told that the versions being investigated are either domestic reasons for him leaving himself, or disappearance related to his professional activities.
Petro Matvienko cannot exclude the possibility that this is linked with his colleague’s work. Recently he once again wrote about bent police or prosecutor officers. The article “Explosive mixture” could, he believes, have been the reason for Vasyl Klimentyev’s disappearance.
The difficult relations between Vasyl Klimentyev and those he wrote about is demonstrated also by the editorial statement to the owners of leading television channels: Inter, TRC Ukraina, NTN. The statement, published on the newspaper’s site, suggest that the main players in frequent publications are preparing a documentary to discredit the Chief Editor. This film, it says, has apparently been ordered by the Chief Tax Officer of the Kharkiv region, Stanislav Denisyuk and the Deputy Regional Prosecutor Serhiy Khachaturyan. The TV channel owners, as well as Denisyuk and Khachaturyan have made no comment on the accusation.