Tax protesters not satisfied with government promises of concessions
The protest by small business owners on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] in Kyiv is continuing, with a rally on 25 November gathering at least 15 thousand. Besides the President’s veto of the Tax Code, the protesters are demanding the dissolution of parliament, dismissal of the Prime Minister and several government figures. The President’s representatives met with the protesters however the latter were not satisfied by the results and have decided not to leave Maidan [i.e. Independence Square].
During Wednesday night there were only around 200 demonstrators in the tent camp set up, but by 10 a.m. around 15 thousand demonstrators, according to independent estimates, had gathered.
As well as the demands previously presented (veto of the Tax Code and setting early parliamentary elections), the demonstrators added new demands, in particular, the dismissal of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Anatoly Mohylyov.
The reason for this was the numerous attempts to detain coaches with people heading to the protests from all regions of the country. Several dozen coaches had been prevented from setting off the day before, for example, from the Odessa region. Another reason was the criminal investigation initiated against the coordinators of the protests over the blocking of roads.
The Press Secretary of the Kyiv Police, V. Polishchuk told Radio Svoboda that the criminal investigation involved individuals, some of whom were not connected with the protest. He said that the investigators are presently questioning everybody who may have seen that, including drivers. When asked if there had been attempts to put pressure on witnesses, he said he was not aware of them.
This time the small business owners, mainly vendors at markets, were joined by middle-level businesspeople, for example, in the agrarian sector. For example, a farmer from Kirovohrad is protesting both against the Tax Code and against the artificial limits on grain imports.
“A single tax capable of eradicating corruption, simple, understandable and transparent. We’ve suggested this to the President and government many times: if a farmer has 100 hectares, let him pay 10 thousand UAH and record that on the computer. And you can look, who’s owing money, who’s not. But they need a tax inspector to come about 5 times a month, even in the night! As well as that they restrict the possibility of import, and the domestic prices are reduced. Decisions on that are taken by three people, therefore it’s absolutely clear who makes a profit out of that”, the farmer explained.
He is convinced that farmers do not have the right to stand aside, after all they are the main representatives in rural areas of middle-level business which in Ukraine has common problems and needs.
Dialogue begins, but the main demand is not met
During the day around 3 thousand protesters set off for Bankova St (the President’s Administration). Given that a criminal investigation has been initiated over the blocking of roads, they walked along the pavement. There were no serious scuffles with the law enforcement bodies, although dozens of coaches with Special Force “Berkut” officers were stationed along the way. The President’s Administration agreed to speak with eight representatives from small business owners and to hear their demands. The two sides assessed the results of the talks very differently.
The First Deputy Head of the President’s Administration, Iryna Akhimova stated that the Tax Code was still in parliament and that the President would not see it before Saturday. She promised that the Administration’s experts would study it and present the President with their conclusions. She said that there were already some elements of concern to the President.
She asserted that the authorities had finally come to an understanding with representatives of small business and that a joint body would be created with representatives of both sides which at a roundtable would resolve all problem areas.
The business people have a different assessment of what was agreed. One of those present at the meeting, Oksana Prodan considers that their main demand was not met.
“They listened to us, but did not take the decision we need. We will stand on Maidan, our City of Freedom, until the decision is taken”, she promised.
According to police estimates, there were around 4 thousand demonstrators at 6 p.m., some of whom plan to stay on the Square around the clock.