Kharkiv court defends Shevelyov memorial against Kharkiv authorities


The Kharkiv Administrative Court of Appeal has prohibited the Kharkiv City Council and its Mayor Gennady Kernes from dismantling a memorial plaque to the renowned Ukrainian Slavist Yury Shevelyov. 

The court ruling in response to an application from lawyer Rostyslav Nebelsky comes over a year after the controversial decision taken by the City Council and the scandalous act of vandalism that followed within minutes. 

As reported, on Sep 25, 2013, around half an hour after the Council voted to remove the plaque and Kernes announced that he had signed the relevant instruction for it to be taken down, three ‘unidentified individuals’ appeared with hammers and axes and, in broad daylight, proceeded to smash the plaque.

Kernes later claimed to have had nothing to do with the destruction of the plaque, an assertion treated with scepticism by the Shevelyov Memorial Committee, the Ukrainian PEN Committee and many others.

The worst suspicions were only strengthened a month later when the police claimed to have found no infringement in the destruction of the plaque.  A letter from the head of the Dzherzhynsky Police Station stated that a check had failed to uncover deliberate damage to the memorial plaque.  The damage and the act of destruction had been photographed and took place at around 13.00 on one of the central streets in Kharkiv.  The police, however, while confirming that Kernes’ decision had been implemented, claimed that they were unable to establish who had carried out the dismantling of the plaque or to find witnesses. 

The Kharkiv City Council’s decision in September 2013 revoked a decision from 2011 to mount the plaque on the building at 17 Sumska St.  The plaque had been erected at the beginning of September but aroused objections from the local Antifascist Committee which claimed, without providing any evidence, that Shevelyov had collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940s.  Myroslav Marynovych, head of Ukrainian PEN Society, deputy dean of the Ukrainian Catholic University and former Soviet political prisoner reacted with anger and disgust to both the vandalism and the allegations against the former Professor of Harvard and Columbia University; foreign member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; President of the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in the USA and holder of many other positions and awards. #

Rostyslav Nebelsky explained to Radio Svoboda that the court ruling means that efforts now to reinstate the memorial plaque and ensure its safety do not need to be agreed with the Kharkiv authorities, and must simply comply with the permit received back in 2011.

He believes that the ruling provides new arguments for criminal proceedings over the destruction of the memorial plaque which the police claimed to have not seen.  Apparently a criminal case was finally initiated but was persistently stalled.

Halya Coynash

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