Charge of “hooliganism” against Chornobyl protest leader
Volodymyr Derkach was one of the leaders of the protest by Donetsk Chornobyl clean-up workers in 2011. The protest involved a hunger strike outside the Donetsk Regional Pension Fund and was therefore widely reported and obstructed in various ways by the authorities.
After the protest, attempts were made to initiate criminal proceedings against Derkach and other activists. This was for supposed forging of the documents which confirmed their right to Chornobyl clean-up worker status. These failed with the courts finding the criminal investigations unlawful.
In 2012 Volodymyr Derkach decided to run for election as a United Opposition candidate in a Donetsk single-mandate electoral district. He got a phone call from strangers offering help at the elections. After a couple of worrying incidents, one apparently being a visitation by police in the night during which they covered the eyehole in the door so that Derkach couldn’t see them, Derkach contacted a lawyer. They went together the next day to the police station to find out the purpose of the police visitation. They were told that during the evening before not far from Derkach’s home there’d been an assault for hooligan motives. The police had supposed decided “to question a decent person maybe he’d seen something suspicious.” He wrote a statement saying that he hadn’t seen anything.
That should have been the end of the matter, however during the election campaign, leaflets were pasted up on buildings, fences and in apartment block entrances claiming that Derkach was a hooligan and into debauched behaviour. Similar statements also appeared in the local media.
The elections ended with only members of the ruling party being elected from Donetsk. Then the troubles began. He was informed on 21 December that he was suspected of having carried out an attack on Mr X.
No official charges have been laid, yet Derkach and his lawyer say that this is likely in the next few days. The lawyer says that the original statement and testimony of his client have disappeared from the file. Both Derkach and his lawyer are adamant that the case has been trumped up and is politically motivated. They believe it to be evidence of persecution of civic activists and political opponents.
Derkach’s statement to this effect has been passed to the Kharkiv Human Rights Group.