Who do protests in Kyiv get in the way of?


On 22 September police officers demanded that a protest held by people defending the bookshop Syaivo outside the Mayor’s Offices be stopped

In the centre of Kyiv on 22 September the police dispersed several meetings held by NGOs, citing the ban issued by the District Administrative Court in Kyiv on mass events in the centre on 22 and 23 September. As reported, the court explained its ruling by saying that on those days a number of measures were planned with the participation of public officials of the country, and such mass actions could “could pose obstacles to the functioning of the authorities”.  The BBC Ukrainian Service points out that President Yanukovych was in New York on 22 September; Prime Minister Azarov was in the Volyn region, and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada was leading the plenary session of parliament.

The biggest confrontation with the police was on Sofiyvska Ploshcha [St. Sophia Square] where a student forum entitled “The other side of education” took place. Among the students’ slogans was one calling for the Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk to go.  The organizers said that several people had been taken to the police station.

On Friday the civic organizations defending the interests of former veterans of the Afghanistan War and people who took part in trying to contain the accident at Chernobyl were planning to picket parliament again. It is suggested that the court ban was aimed primarily at these protests after several thousand picketers tried to storm the Verkhovna Rada on 20 September.

100 metres from the authorities

It was on that day, 20 September, that draft Regulations from the Kyiv City State Administration were made public. These ban the holding of mass actions without the public’s consent and near administrative buildings.

The document has aroused strong reaction from civic organizations who say that the restrictions proposed would lead to a total ban on any protest actions in the capital.

The leader of the youth organization Regional Initiatives Foundation, Mykhailo Lebed is unconvinced by the Mayor’s Office claim that the Regulations apply only to artistic and cultural events, not protests. “Yes, the draft states that the ban does not apply to “peaceful mass gathering”. However this term is not defined in legislation. At the same time you can only hold political and cultural mass events by going through many procedures. Today’s example of a student form: is that a peaceful gathering or a political event? We should expect also court discussions as to what is a political event, and what a gathering”.

The document also proposes a ban on events less than 100 metres from buildings housing bodies of power, as well as “study of public opinion” on the basis of which permission may be given.

The Kyiv Administration has invited discussion of the proposed Regulations up till 22 October.  The leaders of many civic organizations have already held a preliminary protest on the steps of the Kyiv Mayor’s Office. They warn that Kyiv is a politically active city and that considerably more people will turn up if the Kyiv authorities dare to pass those Regulations.

According to the leader of the NGO Preserve Old Kyiv, Ihor Lutsenko, the Kyiv State Administration are more and more becoming the centre for the stifling of freedom of peaceful assembly.

The Head of the Kyiv Administration, Oleksandr Popov denies any intention to introductions restrictions on peaceful assembly that breach democratic principles.

The student forum dispersed on St Sophia Square had its continuation outside the Kyiv Mohyla Academy where students set up several tents with the banner “We declare a nationwide student strike against Tabachnyk”.  When police turned up, the students cited the contentious draft Regulations, saying that theirs was a peaceful protest action.

From the BBC Ukrainian Service report here

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