Slain Judge used for cynical anti-Maidan propaganda
It is hardly surprising that even media outside Ukraine have linked the murder of a Ukrainian judge with the anti-government EuroMaidan protests given the headline on the Interior Ministry official site. This reads: Slain judge in Kremenchuk imposed preventive measures on activists who seized the city council.
The police report says that the investigators are considering various versions including a link with his professional activities and immediately states that “the deceased had recently chosen a preventive measure against several participants in the protests. They took part in the seizure of the city council building in January this year”. The criminal proceedings are under Article 379 of the Criminal Code, that being an attempt on the life of a judge linked with his or her exercising of justice.
Selective justice in Ukraine begins with selective classification of crimes. The conclusion that the case is linked with the judge’s work, and clear attempt to push the link with EuroMaidan contrasts with any number of cases where the police have refused to see a link that could not have been more evident. The most notorious example is the initial classification of the savage attack on journalist Tetyana Chornovol as “hooliganism” and conclusion after their ‘investigation’ that the attack was an exaggerated form of ‘road rage’.
Here the reader is encouraged to believe that some activists placed under house arrest, or their fellow protesters felt so aggrieved that they took a hunting rifle and shot the judge dead.
A local journalist and human rights activist, Mykola Feldman writes that there is at least one other prominent case in which the dead judge, 34-year-old Oleksandr Lobodenko, was involved. This involved an ongoing conflict over a city TV tower built with state funding but used solely by the owners of the private television company “Visit” – the Melnyk family.
On Dec 26, 2013 the judge had begun proceedings into a suit against Visit and the Melnyks brought by the municipal Kremenchuk TV and Radio Company. The latter was seeking compensation for what it asserts was the inability to use its contractual right to the TV tower because this has been effectively privatized by the Melnyks. Judge Lobodenko did not simply begin examining the law suit; he also froze the Melnyks’ property and the television tower.
Feldman writes that “in Kremenchuk it’s specifically the dispute over the television tower that’s believed to be crucial in the battle between the city mayor Oleh Babaev and the Melnyk family over the property rights to Visit’s entire system of cable television.”
The above should under no circumstances be read as accusing anybody of the judge’s murder. This clearly needs to be thoroughly and objectively investigated. It must, however, be of concern that the police have seen fit to report a terrible crime in a manner which points the finger at EuroMaidan protesters.
It may be lucky that the Kremenchuk activists facing criminal charges are under house arrest and cannot credibly be accused of the murder.
As reported, this is not the case in Kherson where there are grounds for fearing a political motive to the charges of killing a police man and wounding two others laid against two young students.
The rather loose connection one of the students, Andriy Nalyvaiko had with radical organizations has been wildly exaggerated in pro-government media and on the Internet. The image of aggressive fighter being foisted on the public is totally at odds with the assessment from Nalyvaiko’s fellow students and lecturers.
During the first 5 days two lawyers refused to defend Nalyvaiko, citing ‘family circumstances”. It seems likely that they, like the witnesses who fully confirm the two suspects’ story, have come under pressure. Nalyvaiko now has a lawyer provided by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.
There are also a number of other cases where activists have been attacked by titushki or hired thugs, and then found themselves arrested rather than their assailants.
Ukraine’s judicial system has received a battering over the last 3 and a half years, and it is no accident that serious steps to stamp out selective justice were one of the key requirements for the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. The problem has only escalated and in situations much less clear-cut than where the president’s main political rival or other politicians are on trial, the media and all those following events should take particular care to not be duped.