Journalists covering the Tymoshenko verdict injured by riot police
On 11 October a photojournalist from the Korrespondent journal, Natalia Kravchuk was injured by a Berkut riot police officer outside the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv where the verdict was being read out against former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Ms Kravchuk explains that Tymoshenko had already been taken away and they were clearing the road. Police officers where carrying Serhiy Melnychenko, leader of the Coalitions of Participants in the Orange Revolution. 3 pr 4 Berkut men were carrying him and one was walking ahead, clearing the road., although, she says, there was only her and a few photographers. “That major was waling, I took a shot of the group and then he lashed out at the video, I felt, the video scratched my eyebrow, there was a bit of blood. The metal from the video hit my nose and eye”. She asserts that the officer just didn’t like there being photographers there.
The Head of the Police Public Liaison Department, V. Polishchuk told Telekritika that he had ascertained the identify of the Berkut officer and said that there would be a meeting between him and Ms Kravchuk, to see whether he really had hit her.
Natalia Kravchuk says that this was not the only occasion when law enforcement officers used physical force against her or people involved in the demonstration. “When the first disturbances began, when Tymoshenko’s supporters began going out onto the road, the police began pushing them back very aggressively. People fell and were trampled on by the police. They began pushing me and covering the lens. After that I ended up surrounded by Berkut officers. While I filmed them, they closed me in a circle, began shoving me, and a person who was standing behind pushed me several times. That’s although in front and on my side there were only police officers. Why he pushed me, I don’t know. Later near where the Berkut officers had their shields she tried to get up to photograph from a higher position. Somebody from behind the barricade hit her several times. The Berkut officers, she says, instead of protecting her, grabbed her by the sleeve and jacket and pushed her over cordon.
She also asserts that when the police were carrying a woman from the Femen organization, “the police simply hit out at people’s legs, swearing, we got out of the way as much as we could”.
She says that she cannot understand why the police behaved so aggressively – they met no aggression. She is convinced that they should apologize.
Natalia Kravchuk is not the only journalist who suffered at the hands of the police. Officers also obstructed and caused injuries to journalist from the newspaper Kommersant-Ukraine, Artem Skoropadsky.
He told Telekritika that police officers tried to detain him at the moment that Tymoshenko was brought out of the court. He says that he was on the opposite side of the road, on the part for cars. A Berkut officer in a helmet tried to drive him away. He showed his press card and pointed to the police and others on the car part of the road. “However he said that standing her was prohibited and began dragging me by the arm. Several other Berkut officers joined in and a captain not wearing a mask. They began pushing me between the buses in the direction of the pavement, one hit me on calf of my leg. When I raised my trouser leg, I saw blood pouring down my leg. I now have a big scratch on the leg”.
Mr Skoropadsky says he has not lodged a complaint about obstruction of his work, since he doesn’t see any sense. He wouldn’t be able to prove it, since there were no outside witnesses.
Photos: Oleksandr Chekmenyov, Artem Skoropadsky