(Special investigative report by UV, read the original interview in Ukrainian here)
The Euro 2012 soccer (football) championship has resulted in renewed interest in Ukraine. Visiting fans are raving about Ukraine’s friendly people. But the fans’ foreign football jerseys and foreign languages shield them from the horrors that still exist in this “post-Soviet space”. They are perforce deaf to the voice of colonial oppression. Some are vaguely aware of the more photogenic political prisoners in Ukraine, but few appreciate the full breadth and depth of colonial political repression that has characterized the Yanukovych regime.
Ukrainian Vancouver is reporting directly from Ukraine this summer. Our reporter has sent an in-depth report on a case of political prosecution that has not yet had the media attention that it deserves. The incident in question is generally known as the beheading of the Stalin statue.
Statues of Joseph Stalin have the same status in Ukraine as statues of Adolph Hitler have in Germany. In fact, representations of either Stalin or Hitler in public places are illegal. Despite this, on May 5, 2010, in the city of Zaporizhia the local branch of the Communist Party of Ukraine (political allies of the ruling Party of Regions) erected a statue of the bloody despot in full public view on their property in front of their offices. Despite protests and appeals from Ukrainians, the statue of Stalin remained in place.
On December 28, 2010, in a daring daytime act, a group of activists of the patriotic organization Tryzub (Trident, the coat-of-arms of Ukraine) sawed the tyrant’s head off and recorded their deed on film . They left the head at the site lest they be accused of stealing scrap metal. They then returned to their homes in various parts of Ukraine to celebrate New Year’s and Christmas (by the Julian calendar).
These 9 men, who did exactly what Ukraine’s police were required to do but did not, were hunted down and arrested, handcuffed, and hooded. Seven were shipped on a chartered flight under escort of Special Forces back to Zaporizhia. In the finest KGB tradition all were beaten while in custody in an attempt to make them crack and sign ridiculous confessions. One of these victims, Roman Khmara, told our reporter that while in custody he was given nothing to eat for 12 days. Roman survived through the goodwill of other inmates who shared their rations with him. Another victim developed tuberculosis due to the conditions in prison and has yet to recover his health. A tenth victim, Stepan Bychek, a pensioner with diabetes, suffered a heart attack while in custody. Specialized medical care was denied him under the pretense that such action required a court order. Stepan was amnestied after serving 8 months and released in 2011 but died shortly after.
In the Zaporizhian jail the guards demanded that inmates speak Russian. They explained that Ukrainians need to be thankful for Stalin because otherwise they would not have known civilization. They left no doubt as to who was still in charge in an ostensibly independent Ukraine. Offices of the interrogators featured portraits of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka (the predecessor of the KGB). Roman reports that among these interrogators there were Stalinist true believers, but others were simply scum that willingly followed orders.
Sentenced to terms from 2 to 3 years plus probation periods from 1 to 3 years, most had their sentences commuted to house arrest after spending 4 to 8 months in penitentiaries. The heights of absurdity were reached when Edward Andriushchenko was sentenced to two years merely for having shown the members of Tryzub on what street the statue of Stalin was located, some six months prior to the beheading. The beheaders of Stalin had their appeal heard June 14, 2012. The court confirmed the illegality of erecting a statue of Stalin but upheld the charge of property damage assessing it at an inflated 106,000Hr.
(At night on New Years Eve, Jan. 1, 2011 unknown persons blew up the damaged statue using explosives. The perpetrators of this explosion have not been found. Tryzub suspects a CPU or government provocation. The perpetrators showed a high level of expertise with explosives. The statue was replaced Nov. 7, 2011.)
The judicial system in Ukraine has also attempted to incriminate Vasy’l Abramiw in a 2009 incident where the doors to a Party of Regions office were set on fire. This charge is being heard in a court in Halych on July 5th.
When asked whether he would leave Ukraine, Roman answered that he would not. He would not run. “This is our land,” he said, “Soon it will be all the filthy parasites that will be fleeing.”
The nine beheaders of Stalin are:
Roman Khmara (3 years plus 3 years probation)
Oleksiy Zanuda, Vasyl’ Abramiv, Yuriy Ponomarenko, (3 years plus 2 years probation)
Vitaliy Vyshniuk, Pylyp Taran, (3 years plus 1 year probation)
Anatoliy Onufriychuk, Vasyl’ Labaichuk, Edward Andriushchenko (2 years plus 1 year probation)