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Ukrainian prosecutor accused of brutal attack on Roma hate crime lawyer

Halya Coynash
Andriy Mukha, the lawyer representing victims of a fatal attack on Roma residents in Vilshany (Kharkiv oblast) has himself been badly beaten up in his office by men who, he says, were led by a local prosecutor.  A criminal investigation has been launched, and though Mukha was alone at the time, the assailants did not wear masks and there appears to be CCTV video footage.

Andriy Mukha, the lawyer representing victims of a fatal attack on Roma residents in Vilshany (Kharkiv oblast) has been attacked in his office by men who he says, were led by a local prosecutor.  A criminal investigation has been launched, and although there were no witnesses to the actual attack, the assailants were not masked and there appears to be CCTV video footage.

Vadim Matyushenko,  head of the ‘Romen’ civic organization which Mukha works for, says that he was called shortly after the attackers left, and found Mukha’s face swollen from the beating.   Mukha told him that Ilhar Hasanov, an employee of the Derhachi Prosecutor’s Office and four other men burst into his office in the afternoon of 24 May and began beating and kicking him around the head and chest.  They told him to stop representing the Roma victims of the events in Vilshany on 16 May 2017 and threatened to kill him if he didn’t obey them. According to Matyushenko, they also demanded “that he forget about the fact that Derhachi District prosecutor Volodymyr Lisotsky allowed the culprit (the man believed to have fired the fatal shot) Oleksiy Lytvynov out of the Derhachi police station after his arrest on 16 May 2017 and gave him the chance to destroy vital evidence (by washing and changing his clothes). “

Mukha later explained to Radio Svoboda that the men had turned up in two cars and had begun looking around his office.  He says that they found the file regarding the killing in Vilshany and removed the complaint he had lodged over Lisotsky’s actions.  They first poured coffee over it and then tried to force him to eat the document.  It was when he couldn’t do so that they began hitting him, he explains, and also accuses Hasanov of having stolen two thousand dollars that he found in the office.

A medical examination found that Mukha had sustained a head injury, concussion and numerous bruises and abrasions. 

The police were called at around 17.00, with an investigative team, as well as prosecutor’s office investigators, arriving a few hours later.  Both Mukha and Matyushenko are angered that no arrests were made given that Mukha had been able to identify the chief assailant.

Interfax Ukraine reports the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Press Service as saying that a criminal investigation has been initiated under two articles of the criminal code – Article 187 (robbery) and 365 – exceeding official powers, and that they are considering whether the employee of the local prosecutor’s office accused of involvement should be suspended during the investigation.

The same report stresses that the Derhachi Prosecutor’s Office is not in charge of the prosecution regarding the events in Vilshany and that this was handed to the Central Police Department almost a year ago.

As reported, an attack on May 16, 2017 in the Kharkiv oblast resulted in five Roma residents of Vilshany in the Derkhachi district being injured, one fatally.  Roma witnesses accused the local authorities of having organized the attack and saw it as racially motivated. 

Vilshany has a population of around seven thousand, a small minority of whom (just over a hundred) are Roma.  Although these are permanent residents, with homes and work, they had long experienced animosity from Oleksiy Lytvynov, the former head of the Vilshany Council, who had become a member of the Regional Council, and whose son Andriy Lytvynov had taken over as head of the Vilshany Council.

Members of the Roma community said that they had been invited to the Vilshany Council by Oleksiy Lytvynov, the father of the Head of the Vilshany Council, Andriy Lytvynov.   Elders from the Roma community had come together with their sons, “as agreed, to talk” and but found themselves confrounted

15 Roma arrived in three cars and got out of their cars.  At that point, masked men in black who had arrived slightly earlier in a jeep attacked them. 

The BBC Ukrainian Service reported that a conflict had arisen between Lytvynov Junior and Ruslan Kaslytsky, the son of a senior figure in the Roma community.  It was his father 49-year-old Mykola Kaslytsky who was shot in the back and killed.

Although the other side tried to claim that the Roma had attacked them, this was not borne out by the evidence.  Only Roma residents were killed or injured, with many older men shot in the back as they tried to flee. Although most of the weapons used were pneumatic or with rubber bullets, one gun had live ammunition and it was this that killed Mykola Kaslytsky.

Three people were arrested, including Oleksiy Lytvynov, though only on suspicion of ‘hooliganism’, and the house arrest that he was placed under has long ended. Although a separate homicide investigation was initiated, nobody has been charged with the killing of Mykola Kaslytsky.  In February this year, Vadim Matyushenko told Hromadske Radio that the investigation into the events in Vilshany was only formally continuing, He asserts that since that time incriminating publications on the Internet where Lytvynov and his associates made anti-Roma comments have been removed.

Matyushenko says that the Roma residents of Vilshany are convinced that the investigations into both the killing and the so-called hooliganism were passed to the Poltava regional police so that they would quietly be forgotten.

One further investigation was initiated under Article 161 of the Criminal Code (incitement to inter-ethnic enmity) in the Derhachi region of the Kharkiv oblast, and it was in fact this investigation, which has not been passed to anybody else, as the prosecutor stated, that Andriy Mukha has been involved in.

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