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Chyhyryn mystery

Ludmila Koval

So where will the investigation into the Chyhyryn incident lead the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Secretariat?

The question arises due to the appearance of ever more curious details about the Ombudsperson’s investigation into the incident in which members of the Party of the Regions took schoolchildren from the Cherkasy region to a political rally in Kyiv.

As reported here, on 6 April various media outlets reported that on 3 April forty teenagers from Chyhyryn had, without their parents’ knowledge, gone on “an excursion” to Kyiv for payment of 40 UH each. The organizers of the said “excursion” which ended with the kids standing on Maidan [Maidan Nezalezhnosti – Independence Square] under blue and white banners were the leaders of the city branch of the Party of the Regions – Deputy of the City Council and head of the Parents’ Committee of Chyhyryn School No. 3 Halyna Kuzmenko and Deputy of the District Council Volodymyr Hrabovy. The Head of the Chyhyryn District Administration told journalists that the students had been picked up and taken by coach virtually in the night and without suitable accompaniment.

The Minister of Education, while treating the information as possible provocation, was shocked by the reports. He stressed that the Law on Education prohibits any interference by political parties in the educational process, and only legally adult students may take part in political rallies, and then only after, and not during lectures.

On 11 April the Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group appealed to the Human Rights Ombudsperson to carry out an investigation and to take the measures allowed by the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson with regard to the Chyhyryn incident.

The incident gained so much publicity that the Ombudsperson had no choice but to begin an investigation.

To begin with, as though to justify the lengthy delay, the Secretariat of the Ombudsperson called the participation of school pupils and students in street protest actions a usual occurrence, beginning in 2004.

Scarcely having begun an investigation, the low-profile institute of the Ombudsperson published on its site a statement from the Head of the Cherkasy Regional Department of the SBU [Security Service] Ivan Prokopenko that the trip had been organized only with the consent of the students’ parents. This statement totally contradicted the account by the Head of the Chyhyryn School Raisa Zakharchenko about the events of 3 and 4 April. Ms Zakharchenko asserts that on 4 April the parents did not know that their children were in Kyiv and believed them to be in class.

In order to establish whether the Chyhyryn school kids went to Kyiv or not, Nina Karpachova sent a group of her experts to the Cherkasy region. And here the most interesting part begins.

Having arrived in Chyhyryn, the Ombudsperson’s representative Hennady Kyrymyasov began demanding that the Head of the School provide a note stating that the children had not travelled to Kyiv! The Head of the Chyhyryn District Administration Petro Lytvyn stated this on 24 April during a press conference in Kyiv. It would be interesting to know whether Mr Kyrymyasov did that of his own initiative or with the knowledge of the Ombudsperson. And perhaps the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat will conclude that the Head of the Chyhyryn District Administration was not telling the truth?

At the same press conference Mr Lytvyn reported that the day before the Ombudsperson’s representative was expected, young men of a certain build had arrived at the homes of the families involved and used threats to demand that they told the representative that the kids had not been in Kyiv, but working on vegetable plots (!)

This at least shows that the said young men had not coordinate their actions with the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat though both wanted/ seemingly, to achieve one and the same end, that being to declare the Chyhyryn incident a campaign to discredit the blue and white political faction.

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