Chornobyl clean-up workers: reduction of disability status for social protest?
An apparent attempt to forcibly subject active members of the former Chornobyl clean-up workers movement to medical examination, and possibly reduce their disability status, is yet another of the worrying means used against those asserting their rights
This follows extraordinary measures by the police in detaining and questioning certain prominent Kharkiv protesters, allegedly on suspicion that they were using false documents confirming their part in the Chornobyl Disaster clean-up (more details at Chornobyl’s Ongoing Victims)
On Tuesday evening (3 January) two cars with five police officers appeared at the home of Vladimir Proskurin, a prominent activist in the Chornobyl clean-up workers’ movement. Vladimir was not home at the time. He has, however, learned that the police officers were planning to detain him and take him by force to a medical institute for a medical and social assessment of his disability status.
Vladimir Proskurin was assessed as having third group disability status in 1993, and since 1997 has been classified as in the second group. The expert assessment finding that his illness was linked with the radiation received at Chornobyl was issued in 1991, and that diagnosis has never changed. Vladimir regular undergoes treatment and examination. His second group disability status was renewed indefinitely in 2010.
We are unaware of any lawful grounds for carrying out a forced examination.
The Kharkiv police, with zeal which could find better use, are attempting to prove that the leaders of the Kharkiv Chornobyl clean-up workers movement have been using forged documents.
As reported earlier, Vladimir Proskurin and Petro Prokopenko were unlawfully detained on 16 December, on the first day of an important conference of the Chornobyl Union of Ukraine. The police brought both men in for questioning as witnesses in a criminal case without waiting for the time indicated on their summonses. In Proskurin’s case this meant he was detained for 5 hours before he was due to appear. Proskopenko was detained by police as he was entering the conference in the Kyiv region and brought back to Kharkiv by force.
We would stress that the Criminal Procedure Code is quite clear that people may be brought in for questioning by force only if they have failed to appear themselves without giving a valid reason.
Proskurin and Prokopenko were interrogated until into the evening that Friday and on Saturday, until both men became unwell and an ambulance took them to hospital.
We are talking about men whose health was seriously damaged by the vital work they carried out during the Chernobyl Disaster clean-up operation.
It should also be noted that the documents confirming the role they played at the time have been checked on a number of occasions over the past 25 years and no doubts have ever been raised before.
Details of the conference, attended by the Deputy Prime Minister, and vetted by a large number of Berkut Special Force officers, are provided in the article cited above. The only conceivable explanation for the treatment of these two men would seem to be their planned participation in that conference as delegates from the Kharkiv Chornobyl clean-up workers movement. They were planning to speak out against the line taken by those at the top of the Chornobyl Union of Ukraine, and against the re-election of Yury Andreyev as Head. They consider that the degree of collaboration with the government is a betrayal of the movement and the interests of all former Chornobyl clean-up workers.
Obstruction of delegates constitutes flagrant interference in the activities of NGOs. The conference in the Kyiv region proved more like military exercises than a conference, with Berkut officers and police out in force and demonstrating it. The Internet website Ukrainska Pravda reported that one deputy from Kremenchug, Anatoly Mokry was roughly ejected by the officers who informed him that he had been stripped of his delegate status.
Why such methods?
The two million former Chornobyl clean-up workers and their families are a major force in the electorate, capable of having a decisive impact on any elections. This is particularly so, Ludmila Klochko from KHGP explains, since over the last 25 years they have constantly been forced to fight for their rights, have formed many civic organizations and gained experience of civic activism.
The Chornobyl Union of Ukraine was created in 1991 and is the most influential NGO of former Chornobyl clean-up workers. There are, however, other organizations, and as mentioned, many former Chornobyl clean-up workers are not happy with the line presently taken by the Chornobyl Union’s leaders.
There are serious grounds for believing that the authorities are using the police to bring former Chornobyl clean-up workers who do not wish to surrender their rights in law to heel. Apparent plans to undertake a forced examination are absolutely unwarranted and must be firmly resisted.
Based on information from a report by Ludmila Klochko, lawyer and head of the KHPG Public Advice Centre