Far-right leader complains of maltreatment by police

Andriy Shkil , the leader of the far-right Ukrainian National Assembly, who was arrested after the anti-presidential protest on 9 March, has claimed maltreatment by the police. Shkil complained that he, his party colleagues and unaffiliated people were groundlessly arrested and tortured. Shkil suggested that clashes with the police near the presidential palace could be masterminded by the power. Shkil denied any wrongdoing and described the people arrested after the clashes as political prisoners. The following is excerpt from the interview with Shkil by Andriy Sek, published by the Ukrainian newspaper Ukrayina Moloda on 22 March.

The leader of UNA-UNSD [Ukrainian National Assembly - Ukrainian National Self-Defence], Andriy Shkil , was released a week ago. He was detained on 9 March, when he was returning to his office at Dimitrov Street 6, accompanied by his party colleagues.

[passage omitted: Shkil is just another party leader, arrested in Ukraine over the past decade]

UNA-UNSD practically doesn't exist any more as a party. It is paralyzed. Almost all members of the party's central committee and its regional leaders have been arrested. The investigation is continuing also in the Regions. But this party, banal as it may sound, hopes for an honest and unbiased trial. Shkil views the recent events as just another test for UNA.

[Sek] Mr Shkil , last week it was rumoured that you were hiding from the investigation. It was impossible to find you after you had been released. Does it mean that you were really hiding?

[ Shkil ] This was due to my physical condition. I did not hide. I told several journalists after the events of 9 March that I could not meet them. This was perhaps interpreted to the effect that I was hiding from the law enforcement agencies. I simply needed a quiet atmosphere to recover, I wanted to be alone for some time.

[Sek] To recover from what?

[ Shkil ] I was beaten by the police. This has been already my second concussion. My spinal cord also was damaged and there are numerous bruises. I fainted several times while I was beaten -After the meeting of the (?National Salvation) Forum (Andriy Shkil left his colleagues for a couple of minutes to give this interview to Ukrayina Moloda - author), I shall again go to bed. It is hard to say now when I will recover. Currently, I can not work actively. The police worked very well on me. I need some rest.

[Sek] How were you detained? Did you see your Identikit picture?

[ Shkil ] No (smiles). I was arrested by Col Savchenko. Everything was normal during my detention on 9 [March], except that he trampled my mobile phone, muttering profanities. There were witnesses. Perhaps this was just a joke. But sooner or later we shall return to this episode in court.

[Sek] Several of your party colleagues were transferred to the SSU [Security Service of Ukraine] remand centre after several days under the administrative arrest. Do you believe that you may also be summoned "back" any time soon, despite you have already spent your three days in prison?

[ Shkil ] I do not rule this out. This is a question to the investigators. I don't think that I am guilty of anything. We did not organize the clash [with the police on 9 March].

[Sek] What is your opinion about that situation? In other words, what is your vision of that day's event?

[ Shkil ] In the morning, the people who came to the Kobzar [Taras Shevchenko, a 19th century poet] monument several times tried to lay flowers. But there was a multiple police cordon. This was an exceptionally cynical manifestation of force and disrespect for the people. Nobody approached the people to clarify the situation. They barred people's deputies, university lecturers, esteemed professors. It is widely known what happened to the people's deputy Valentyna Semenyuk [reported concussion]. Several people were arrested. Then there was a rally and a march along central streets. When we approached Bankova [Street, the presidential residence], no single police representative warned us through a megaphone that we would be punished according to this or that article [of the Criminal Code] if we did not keep quiet or transcended a certain borderline. Yes, there is such a notion that legal ignorance is no excuse, but I had an impression that the police deliberately electrified the people already near the Shevchenko monument. It was planned.

I was not in the first line of the column, when the clashes began. I did not see either the developments or who started them. I can refer only to the video. But I did not see any of the demonstrators running with stones from the back to the "front line". It would be impossible to carry the big stones, which were thrown at the police, hidden in your bosom. And as to Bankova Street and the adjacent areas, they get cleaned every day. This requires a comprehensive investigation. [Ukrainian Internal Affairs Minister Yuriy] Kravchenko's dismissal would be an adequate reaction to those events. The police had no grounds to do what they did later, such as the arrests at Dimitrov Street 6 (UNA's office - author) and the railway station. It is not worth speaking about Identikit pictures.

The video would be analysed, the faces identified and the people punished for swearing in public only after that.

I hope for an honest trial. But those, who were detained on 9 March, should be released. Nobody of them will hide. They should be set free, because a further stay in the remand centre would endanger their lives. There is no appropriate medical treatment. I was there and I saw it myself. Mykola Lyakhovych reported a penetrating wound with internal hemorrhage. According to the provisional diagnosis, his lungs were penetrated by his own ribs. Ruslan Zaychenko has cardiac insufficiency -

[Sek] How many of the UNA members, who were "reported missing" after 9 March, have you actually lost? Do you know their whereabouts?

[ Shkil ] About 19 people are in the SSU remand centre. They are not only from UNA-UNSD. There is no information about 16 more people. We don't know if they were arrested then. These people are missing. Those figures are changing every day. The people, who were sentenced to 15 days in prison, are expected to be released soon, but it is not ruled out that they may be transferred to the SSU remand centre. The procedure is the following: when the term of the administrative arrest is over, the SSU is asked whether to release or transfer them to the SSU remand centre. This is done, I would say, quietly, and this does not provoke public outcry.

[Sek] Last week, the opposition representatives claimed that they knew the names of those who provoked the clashes near the presidential office. They would be publicized soon. When will this happen?

[ Shkil ] The names are actually known. They should be publicized. But, first, their role is to be proved. Second, their connections should be checked to find out if they were all "the same" or they were pushed, and who exactly pushed them. Third, this should not be a mere allegation. The investigation should take this into account. If not the investigation, then the court.

Not only we, but also other people, who were accused of organizing the clashes by the state propaganda, are interested in this. The National Salvation Forum [NSF] is deliberating on this issue.

[Sek] Incidentally, has the NSF changed its attitude to you as leader of the "blood-thirsty" UNA-UNSD?

[ Shkil ] I don't feel this. Today they set us up, and tomorrow they will set up others. Members of the Forum, of the movement For Truth and participants in the Ukrainian Without Kuchma protest all understand that our strength is in our unity. If there is no unified position, a clear perception of legitimacy of our demands, then we will not be colleagues and co-thinkers. There are political prisoners in Ukraine, who are kept at the SSU remand centre in DVRZ (a district in Kiev - author). As I have already said, there are not only UNA members among them, but also representatives of other parties and non-affiliated people.

[Sek] After the events of 9 March, there have been anonymous calls from, allegedly, members of your party, for "Ukraine without Kuchma, UNA-UNSD without Shkil ." You were accused of betrayal. It was claimed that you gave UNA-UNSD members away at a difficult moment. Who is behind those allegations?

[ Shkil ] Brave people don't act like that. They are taking advantage of my physical condition to blacken me. I do not pay attention to those anonymous letters. A serious person would not conceal his name.

[Sek] What are the opposition's plans? You have decided not to set up any more tents. Aren't you going to give up also the demonstrations after the clashes near the presidential palace?

[ Shkil ] No (laughs). The next event is scheduled for 24 March. This will be a march along Kiev's main streets. We have not given up. Our goal is to do everything so that the protests have clear tasks and be constructive. There will be no negotiations with the power, until the political prisoners have been released. Article 71 of the Criminal Code can not be applied at all to the events in Bankova Street on 9 March. Also, the criminal investigation should be ended. It is up to the court to dot all the 'i's. A dialogue with the power will be possible only after the preventive measure [detention] has been substituted [with a milder one].

[Sek] Party leaders are not often arrested or imprisoned in Ukraine. Can you tell me what happened after you were detained?

[ Shkil ] I was interrogated for about five hours. This had been preceded by the famous corridor of police truncheons. I don't remember well, what the interrogation was about, because I felt almost sick, I felt faint. I said everything I knew. I had nothing to hide. Over three days, we were given food only once. I was in a cell with nine men.

There was room only for four people in the cell. You must know that good nutrition is essential for the people with posttraumatic syndrome. So I have to "catch up" now, to recuperate. My cell-mates were all criminal suspects. They were helping me, bringing the water for me, because I could not get up. In three hours after the beating, the ambulance was called for me. The doctor said that it was no sense sewing up my head, because it was already too late. The wound would skin over and there would be a bruise.

When the doctor said that I should be hospitalized, the guards replied, "Come on, he is the main culprit here and he will sit to the end". But there were different attitudes among the guards too. Some of them sympathized - Mykola Lyakhovych, the head of the UNA-UNSD apparatus, was beaten three times. He
fainted three times and they were just pouring water at him. The other day, he underwent a surgery and was transferred to the SSU remand centre. Some of those who have been released are now in the hospital. Often they were not even requested to confess, they were just beaten methodically and silently. But somebody has to answer for this!

[Sek] Have all these facts been confirmed by doctors?

[ Shkil ] But the police would claim that they had attacked the police cordon in Bankova Street, they will find their own witnesses - Some of the facts have been confirmed by documents. A legal group has been set up to appeal against the police actions. The National Salvation Forum is going to legally defend those who were beaten and those who are kept at the SSU remand centre, because we believe that those people are political prisoners.

BBC Monitoring

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