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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Accidental justice

Five young men, who ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time, are incriminated in the storming of the presidential administration building on Sunday. They are threatened with five to eight years imprisonment
5 December, 2013 - 10:53
SUNDAY. NIGHT. BANKOVA STREET... / REUTERS photo

Mykola Lazarevsky, 23, is a student majoring in architecture and design. Yurii Bolotov is a former tour manager of the band Okean Elzy and father of two children. Oleksandr Ostashchenko, 32, is an engineer and has a little daughter. Serhii Nuzhnenko, 31, is from Kirovohrad. Valerii Harahuts is a well-known Dnipropetrovsk-based journalist and public figure, founder of the Dnipropetrovsk paper Litsa (“Faces”). These people do not know each other. But there is something that unites them. Each of them came to the Maidan on December 1, accidentally ended up on Bankova Street, at the epicenter of a fight between Berkut riot police forces and radical protesters. All five are in hospital and under arrest now. They are charged with Part 1 of Article 294 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, “Mass Disturbances.” On Tuesday a court sitting took place at the Shevchenko District court (10 Smyrnov-Lastochkin Street), in which precautionary measures were determined for the detainees. In general, according to their lawyers, first detainees were to be charged with the organization of mass disturbances. But then it was decided that they were only participants. There are videos on the Internet, where riot policemen can be clearly seen beating Ostashchenko mercilessly, and there is a video where the same is being done to Lazarevsky, while they do not offer any resistance.

“I WANTED TO TOUCH HIM, BUT HE WAS PUSHED FROM ME IMMEDIATELY AND TAKEN AWAY”

On the eve of the court hearing, we arrived to the City Clinical Emergency Hospital, where all five detainees are kept at the toxicology department. There are even no chairs in the dark dirty hallways. Relatives and friends of the injured men walk down the empty hallways, lean on peeling walls, or just sit on the floor. Some of them have been there for 24 hours without food or sleep. During this time, neither of them were allowed to see or speak with the detained relatives. It is quiet in the hallway. Two law-enforcement officers are standing near the white metal doors, which lead to the special ward, which was called “a hospital prison” by relatives. A few more officers are inside, behind the doors. Perhaps, they are afraid that severely beaten people with broken arms and bruised heads might run away. They ask who we are and why are we there. In a few minutes, another officer with a rubber baton on his belt comes up. Investigators and lawyers work behind the closed doors, they have been working for many hours in a row. Everyone in the hallway has their story about how they were looking for their husband, boyfriend, or son... How they phoned all the hospitals and police departments, all friends, how they watched dozens of videos on the Internet, hoping to see what happened to the men and where they disappeared, how they came back to Bankova Street, searched again, asked people, cried. Connection with the men was lost at 4 p.m. They could phone their families only after 10 p.m. It was not known where they were during this whole time, and what happened to them.

YANA STEPANOVA IS THE FIANCEE OF 23-YEAR-OLD MYKOLA LAZAREVSKY, WHO WAS CRUELLY BEATEN BY BERKUT ON SUNDAY IN BANKOVA STREET. THE GIRL CRIES WHEN SHE TELLS THAT HE IS ACCUSED OF ORGANIZING OF MASS RIOTS AND SHOWS THE VIDEO ON WHICH THE YOUNG MAN IS MERCILESSLY BEATEN BY THE RIOT POLICE FORCES

“Sasha called me from the hospital at 10:11 p.m. from somebody else’s phone. There was no connection with him before that. He said only a few words, because he could not talk longer. I immediately found the hospital’s number, and they confirmed that he was really there. Then he called me at 5:52 a.m. from his lawyer’s phone. Nobody told me anything before that. I was going insane. I am not allowed to see him, calling is prohibited. I wrote him a note, but they gave it back to me, because it is prohibited too,” says Maryna Ostashchenko, the wife of one of the detained men. The woman could see her husband only once, accidentally, when he was taken for medical procedures. He was handcuffed and surrounded by law-enforcement officers. She was not allowed to come closer to him. Ostashchenko has brain concussion, two broken fingers, excessive bruising, damaged chest. “I wanted to touch him, but he was pushed from me immediately and taken away,” says Maryna. Oleh Karin, Ostashchenko’s friend, also stands here. They were on Bankova Street together. However, Karin managed to escape Berkut. “We met up at the Maidan and went to the Bankova Street for a walk. There were plenty of people. We did not participate in anything, just watched. We saw an organized group of people with batons stock up on rocks: some tore it from the pavement, others ran up to carry them, and the others hurled them and urged everyone to do the same. We stood aside. Then Berkut started throwing noise grenades, explosive bags, and tear gas was used. We caught a whiff of that gas a few times, it made our eyes teary. There was a small park there, and we hid there: you could see everything from it, but the gas did not reach it, and we kept a safe distance. We were not in the danger zone, we were not on barricades. We were approximately 80 to 100 meters away from Berkut. There were plenty of provocateurs in masks, they walked in groups and urged people to attack Berkut and the police. Then the explosions started, and the crowd dispersed a bit. Then Berkut starts the storm, the crowd starts running, I see that Sasha is pushed to the side and is left in the park. He calls me up at 4:52 p.m. and tells me that he stands in the park and watches at Berkut fighters’ backs. ‘They do not touch us,’ he tells me. After that I lost connection with him. I went back to that park, but Sasha was not there anymore. I addressed Poroshenko’s assistant and said that a person went missing there, gave them all the details, they promised to help. I came up to Berkut, some colonel came to me and said, ‘We do not have civilians here at all.’ I wandered around, talked to everyone. I went to the riot police forces unit once again, asked whether they detained civilians. Then I went to the Pechersky police department, 30 Moskovska Street. They said they did not have anyone from the Maidan at all.”

The hospital registration journal says that the injured men arrived at the hospital at 8:20 p.m. Before this, they spent a couple of hours lying on the ground. “It is interesting that investigators wanted to make this time gap shorter, but the lawyers managed to record it before,” Karin adds.

“WHEN WE GOT HERE, THE DOORS WERE SHUT IN FRONT OF US AND NOBODY TOLD US A THING”

“I went to work and Kolia went to the Maidan. We agreed to meet after 4 p.m. I called him again, when I heard there was fighting on Bankova Street. He was there and told me that he was just watching. Then he said they left the place, because some serious clashes started. Last time I talked to him was at 4:25 p.m. After that, I came to the Maidan, phoned him all the time, but he did not pick up. I thought he could have lost his phone. Then I started calling all our friends, but all to no avail. At the same time, my mother called all the police departments and hospitals, but there was no information. Kolia’s brother with friends went to Bankova Street in the evening to look for him, they asked Berkut, but nobody knew a thing there. Kolia called about 10 p.m. and said he was in a hospital. We came there straight away,” says Yana Stepanova, Lazarevsky’s fiancee. “When we got here, all the doors were shut in front of us and nobody told us a thing. Then a doctor said that Kolia had brain concussion and maybe a few broken ribs, but it was not known for sure.”

“AND THEN BERKUT FIGHTERS TOOK PHOTOS WITH THEM, LIKE HUNTERS WITH ANIMALS. THEY PUT THEM STANDING ON LEGS AND POSED”

Later, lawyers came to the hospital, but they were not allowed to see the injured men, even though investigators worked there since 8:20 p.m. Even before the lawyers arrived, some people in plainclothes took a few homeless people as witnesses. “We shot a video of one of these witnesses, where he tells for five hryvnias that he has no idea, what he signed,” Karin says.

Relatives say that lawyers were let in only at four in the morning.

MARYNA OSTASHCHENKO, THE WIFE OF ONE OF THE DETAINED AND BEATEN BY THE BERKUT MEN, OLEKSANDR OSTASHCHENKO, SAYS THAT LAST TIME SHE TALKED TO HER HUSBAND WAS ON SUNDAY AND EVER SINCE SHE HAS NOT HAD ANY POSSIBILITY TO TALK TO HIM BEFORE THE TRIAL. SHE WAS NOT ALLOWED EVEN TO SEND A SHORT NOTE TO HIM

“Our lawyer was pushed away from the door. They started closing the door, but the lawyer managed to push his foot in the gap, but they kept slamming the door and squished his foot. MP from Svoboda Ihor Yankiv arrived, and he was not let in as well and was forced to wait behind the door for an hour an a half,” Stepanova says.

During all this time the relatives were watching videos on the Internet. And finally they saw the one, in which Berkut fighters were savagely beating up their dear ones. “We accidentally came across a video that showed how Sasha was beaten up, you could even see that riot police fighter’s face. Then we found another video, where you can see as Berkut is running, and Sasha is just standing there with his arms raised. He was shoved to the ground immediately. There is even a video, where a special forces fighter comes up, kicks Sasha with a boot to check if he is still alive,” Karin says.

“I saw a video, which clearly shows how Kolia was beaten up (cries). He did not move, he just lay on the ground and tried to cover the most vulnerable spots with his hands. When Berkut started attacking, everyone ran, while Kolia stumbled and fell. And that was it. He was tied up, dragged, they started beating him. They kicked him in the face... And then Berkut fighters took photos with them, like hunters with animals (cries). They raised people to the feet and posed with them. They took his wallet – you can see it in the video. If not for a journalist, who accidentally stayed there and filmed everything with a hidden camera, we would have never known that such things can happen,” Stepanova says.

The lawyers have already submitted a number of applications, because they documented a lot of violations. “We have submitted an application about keeping the injured men in custody. Because keeping in custody is the last precautionary measure. In this case, this is nonsense. We have submitted an application to investigator Roman Kozlov to organize a medical examination immediately to establish the fact of beating, an application on committing a crime of beating and stealing a cell phone and glasses,” says Ostashchenko’s lawyer Oleh Peretiatko.

Volunteering lawyer Vadym Dukhnych, who came there to help other lawyers, also talks about violations: “I saw the lawyers who tried to defend their right to be present during the investigative actions that took place, because investigators, law-enforcement officers, patrol service were behind the closed doors for three hours. Witnesses should also be mentioned. They looked like drunkards taken from the street. When we gave them five hryvnias, they explained they were forced to do it and they had no idea whatsoever what was going on there.”

Now the attention of NGOs, human rights defenders, European Maidan activists is drawn to this case. It is important that the guilty, those who severely beat the men, are punished, and the victims are not made answerable for acts they did not commit. We cannot let the scenario, according to which the activists of the Bolotnaya Square were punished in Russia, become possible in Ukraine. The Day will also follow the development of the events.

By Maria SEMENCHENKO, The Day. Photos courtesy of the author
2013-12-05 11:14:14
Take this case to the ECHR....you will win so easily.
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