Suspended sentences for Stalin’s head



Nine members of the Tryzub nationalist organization have been found guilty of destroying the monument to Joseph Stalin on communist party premises in Zaporizhya. They received suspended sentences of from one to three years.

The young men have also been ordered to pay around 110 thousand UAH [10-11 thousand EUR] to the Zaporizhya regional executive committee [obkom] of the Communist Party which is the owner of the monument. The court however rejected claims from the Communist Party for moral compensation and additional expenses in restoring the monument.

There were skirmishes outside the court between Communist Party supporters and activists from the VO Svoboda Party. Both groups chanted political slogans, while the Svoboda people also sang the national anthem.

While one of the defendants was giving an interview to a local TV channel, somebody smashed an egg on his head.  A fight broke out which was stopped by the police who also detained two people who, according to the Svoboda activists, are members of the Communist Party.

During the night on 28 December 2010 the bust of Stalin, which had been position on land owned by the Zaporizhya Regional Communist Party, was beheaded. Tryzub almost immediately took responsibility for the act. Nine members were arrested and remanded in custody, only being released on guarantees from MPs in April. Letters in defence of the young activists have been sent by former political prisoners, human rights activists and National Deputies [MPs].

The sentence speaks of “damage to property” belonging to the Communist Party. During the investigation the articles under which the activists were charged were changed several times.

The defendants themselves deny any guilt and promise to take the case higher, including to the European Court of Human Rights.

One of the accused, Edward Andyushchenko had earlier told the BBC Ukrainian Service that “the local Zaporizhya authorities stated many times that it would be best to remove the monument to Stalin but for some reason never did so. We did it. Incidentally it was not only nationalists who made attempts to damage or destroy the monument. Our action had symbolic significance, our aim was not to “damage property”. We wanted to draw people’s attention and also to show that the authorities were not doing anything”.

As reported, on 31 December the monument was destroyed by an explosive device, which also caused damage to part of the obkom’s premises. The Tryzub activists were not charged over that, although a large number of people, including Tryzub supporters were interrogated throughout the country in what the Security Service immediately classified as “terrorism”.

The bust to Stalin was placed in the courtyard of the Zaporizhya Communist Party premises in May 2010 amid considerable outrage, by no means only from splinter nationalist organizations.  Calls were made to the President to intervene, but the President’s Administration did nothing, advising only that a local referendum be held on such issues.

The communists recently unveiled a new monument in the place where the old stood, with the money for it raised from Communist Party supporters and sponsors.

From the report by the BBC Ukrainian Service

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