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Tree-felling and detention of those defending the trees in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park

Yevhen Zakharov

On Friday, 28 May, at around 7 a.m. around 50 young men of athletic build with badges saying “municipal security” and police officers appeared at the tree-felling area in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park. The young men arm in arm formed a chain and began pushing out those defending the trees. The latter also joined up and formed a circle and tried to hold their ground. Those who tried the hardest were detained one by one by the police. In all 9 young people were detained, including a Kharkiv Human Rights Group representative. They were taken to the Dzherzhynsky District Police Station and charged with administrative offences under Article 185 of the Code of Administrative Offences (refusing to obey a police officer carrying out his official duties). Yet nobody showed resistance to the police, and it is also unclear what “municipal security” is.  The young men involved, when asked who they were, answered that they were “municipal security” but said that they had no authorizing document or ID. The police, asked who these municipal security people were said that they didn’t know. A little later the police also detained three other defenders of the trees. The court hearing continued for over two hours, but was adjourned without a decision being reached. It is to resume on Monday..

The decision to allocate land (almost 10 hectares) “for the building of a vehicle road”, a hotel complex and things connected with this was taken by the Kharkiv City Council back on 27 February 2008. It was then possible to save the trees. Now on 19 May, ignoring the views of the public, the Kharkiv City Executive passed a decision to destroy these trees, and the felling began on 20 May. It transpired that of the entire package of documents needed for tree-felling, those carrying out the work had only this decision from the Kharkiv City Executive.

The destruction of this greenery is unlawful. The Kharkiv city authorities have ignored the requirements of the Law on Planning and Construction Work which stipulates in detail procedure for agreeing plans for construction with the public via public hearings (Articles 30.2.-30.7).

It is not known whether the mandatory State expert assessment of the project was carried out.

Attempts by Kharkiv residents to protect the trees have been met with overt violence from the police, the tree-fellers and these unidentified “municipal security” men. In all of this officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have failed to intervene and have calmly watched as young people, protesting against unlawful actions, are beaten.

The city authorities are thus carrying out unlawful activities with impunity and the collusion of the police and total lack of response from the Prosecutor’s Office. This is accompanied by violence against active citizens.

(slightly abridged)


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