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Night Attack on Defenders of Gorky Park in Kharkiv

Despite clear indications from the Environment Ministry that the tree-felling is illegal, in the early hours of this morning, thugs were brought in to assault activists defending the trees. The last trees were cut down, their defenders driven away with force while the police did nothing to protect those under attack, and even detained some of them

At around 4 a.m. approximately 50 men dressed in black fell upon the defenders of Gorky Park’s trees. There were 15 tents with more than 100 people.

The police were there and watched in silence, not taking any measures. They later detained around 10 people, with the detentions being arbitrary. Among the tree defenders was a Deputy of the Regional Council, Ihor Poddubny, who had a deputy badge – he was shoved, abused and showered with foul language. The workmen, together with the men in black, walked straight at people with their saws turned on. The people did not move away from the trees but were pulled away with force. The remaining trees during the following two hours were cut down.

The former Governor of the Kharkiv region and now Deputy of the Regional Council, Arsen Avakov, arrived at the “Green Fort” camp . One of those detained left with him, the police watching in silence and not interfering. Two of those detained were taken to the Dzerzhynsky District Police Station, while as of 7 a.m. the others were still in the park.

The tree defenders have taken down their tents – the last of the trees have been cut down and there is quite simply nothing more to defend.  Those who spent the night holding vigil at the Park set off for Freedom Square and the building of the Regional State Administration and Regional Council to register their protest.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group is providing legal aid to all those detained or injured and is preparing a civil claim against the unlawful actions of the city authorities.

A widespread public campaign is needed against this lawlessness.

As of 8.20 a few dozen park defenders were sitting near the entrance to the building of the Regional State Administration and Regional Council  awaiting a meeting with Regional Council Deputy, Arsen Avakov. There were a number of police officers surrounding them, including the Head of the Kharkiv Police Oleksandr Barranyk. They asserted that this was an unauthorized gathering, unlawful and that they had every right to detain its participants. They did not do so only because Mr Avakov issued a written statement that this was a meeting with voters who would then disperse.

As of 8.20 there were unconfirmed reports that those who had been detained and taken to the Dzherzhynsky District Police Station were not being allowed to see lawyers.

All of this has happened the day after confirmation from the Ministry for Environmental Protection that the tree felling is illegal. The claims of the Acting Mayor of Kharkiv Kernes and Region’s Governor Dobkin that the road through the Park is in the General Plan of the City were also shown to be false.


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