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05.01.2011 | Yevhen Zakharov

Undermining the Tax Code Protesters’ Maidan?

   

In my opinion, the Tax Code Protesters’ Maidan [the protest on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square – translator] was the most important event in Ukraine in 2010. For the first time since the Orange Revolution tens of thousands of people, outraged by the government’s actions, came out onto the main square of the capital to stand up for their freedom, rights and interests. They were supported in most regions of Ukraine. And the people won, the most offensive norms of the draft Tax Code were revoked, the simplified taxation system for small business owners remains for now in force.

Yet, is this state lasting? Where are the guarantees that the government will not hastily pass laws directed against the interests of ordinary Ukrainians for the benefit of oligarch clans? For example, taking away a certain part of the times of activities eligible for the simplified system? And gathering up potential organizers so that they don’t protest. Such thoughts arise when you look at the actions of the law enforcement bodies with regard to November’s Maidan Protest.

It had only just begun when on 23 November a criminal investigation was initiated over group infringement of public order (Article 293 of the Criminal Code). “Within the framework of the investigation into this criminal case, investigative activities are underway, including establishing the identify of people who took part in these events in order to receive the relevant testimony from them. Today indeed two participants of these events were brought to the investigation unit of the Kyiv Police with whom the necessary investigative activities were undertaken. They were questioned as witnesses in the case and released, the Public Liaison Department of the Central Kyiv Police Department informed on 16 December.

On 25 December Oleksandr Mandych and Ihor Harkavenko were detained and charged with committing the crime under Article 193 § 2 of the Criminal Code “deliberate destruction or damage to others’ property which caused large-scale damage”.  As the Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda reported, the detained are accused of damaging the marble tiles on the square when driving 132 metal stakes in to hold up tents.  On 28 December Harkavenko was remanded in custody and he is in the SIZO [remand unit].  Mandych was made to sign an undertaking not to abscond, however the Prosecutor is rumoured to be planning to appeal against this decision and demand that he is remanded in custody. In the same report in Ukrainska Pravda and other sources there is talk of the detention of two other protesters – O. Zaplatkin and V. Hruzinov, however the police deny their involvement in this case.

Oleksandr Mandych told a “Svidomo” journalist that the investigator had threatened that all Maidan protesters who had been in the tent camp would be summoned, and “all would end up inside”. On 29 December the investigators actively summoned witnesses for questioning and an additional assessment was made by the Ministry of Justice as to the cost of the damage to the slab determined by the Kyiv Administration at 212 thousand UAH. Interesting that the damage from the 2007 tent camp during the political confrontation was estimated by the same Kyiv City Administration at around 3 million UAH. And where is the person responsible for those damages? A rhetorical question.

One notices that the police are detaining those who appeared on Maidan by chance and were neither organizers or active participants, yet all those who were called in the last days of 2010 and detained or remanded in custody have a criminal record. None of the small business owners active in the protest were able to identify the detained. It is clear that neither Mandych nor Harkavenko could have put up the tents and damaged the slabs on the square. Why was it specifically them who were detained?

You get the impression that they either want to show ordinary citizens that the protesters were exclusively former criminals, or to receive testimony from people who are completely dependent on the law enforcement bodies, using them to persecute real activists.

On the same day, 29 December, according to Ukrainska Pravda, the police tried to detain one of the organizers of the business owners protest, Serhiy Melnychenko, who before that had been in hospital following neurosurgery, and was discharged on 28 December, and also searched for two of his colleagues, Petro Mykhailenko and Oleksandr Misyura. Both of the latter were Maidan coordinators, and Mykhailenko submitted the application regarding the protest action on 16 November.

It would seem that the authorities are planning to prosecute Maidan activists and are trying to scare people off, forcing them to shun protests. They are for the nth time shooting themselves in the foot, and seem incapable of grasping that methods of force against ones own people are doomed to crashing defeat.

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