Kyiv Post | 14Jan2011 | Olesia Oleshko
People who don't like Stalin may be going to jail
About 300 followers of Ukrainian nationalist organizations Tryzub (the
Trident) and Svoboda (Liberty), UNA-UNSO (Ukrainian Nationalist Army)
and other ultra-nationalist organizations on Jan. 14, 2011 picketed the
Interior Ministry and the President’s Administration, demanding to stop
“political prosecution of Ukraine’s patriots.”
The “prosecution” they are referring to started on New Year’s night,
when Zaporizhzhia police detained and questioned two activists of local
Svoboda branch, accusing them of destroying monument to Soviet dictator
Joseph Stalin in Zaporizhzhia.
The monument to Stalin was unveiled in May 2010, a few days before the
60th anniversary of World War II Victory Day. On Dec. 28, 2010 members
Tryzub cut off the metal Stalin’s head and posted a video on their
website. Four days later, a group of unknown people set explosives and
blew Stalin’s torso off.
Zaporizhzhia police started the investigation on the case which was
first qualified as “hooliganism” and later changed the cause to
Within the last two weeks, police captured and questioned six Svoboda
members. One of them, Yuriy Gudymenko was detained on Jan. 10, 2011 and is
still kept in custody. According to Svoboda spokesman Yuriy Syrotiuk,
Gudymenko has nothing to do with the demolition of the monument and he
has an alibi.
“The police couldn’t prove he did that so they decided to prolong the
custody for 10 days,” Syrotiuk said. “You know what was the charge? He
allegedly threw paint at the monument to another dictator Felix
Dzerzhynksy some six months ago. But, again, I give you my word, he
didn’t do that.”
Police also detained 12 members of Tryzub in western Ukraine, but some
of them have been released by now. The mobile phones of Ivano-Frankivsk
Tryzub leaders were out of service and the only person the Kyiv Post
could reach was a member of Kyiv branch who refused to tell his name
being afraid of prosecution.
“Yes, we take the responsibility for the Dec. 28 events, but why would
we blow up the remains of the monument four days later?” asks the
Tryzub activist. “My colleagues have a strong alibi for Dec. 31, so the
police detained them on fabricated charges -- illegal possession of
and arson of Party of Region’s Kyiv office [Dec. 31, 2010]”.
Members of nationalist movements who took part in the picket do not
rule out that the Dec. 31, 2010 events could have been a provocation.
say they never heard about the “December 31” organization who claimed
responsibility for the explosion in Zaporizhzhia.
The police who searched homes of “Svoboda” and “Tryzub” members,
confiscated nationalist literature like books about [Ukraine’s
insurgent army leaders] Stepan Bandera, Roman Shukhevych, books on
Ukraine’s history and even Taras Shevchenko’s “Kobzar”.
The investigation team also “visited” two journalists who, in their
opinion, might know something about the accidents.
On Jan. 10, 2011, they came to journalist and poet Maryna Bratsylo and
husband Yuriy Noga in Boryspil. “They rang the doorbell at six in the
morning and said they had a search warrant issued in Zaporizhzhia
within the investigation of the Stalin monument case”, told Bratsylo
the Kyiv Post
I have nothing to do with the Stalin monument! Well, I was born in
Zaporizhzhia, that’s it”, Bratsylo said. “And we celebrated the New
Year here, in Kyiv. Do they think that I jumped on the plane, went to
my hometown, blew up the monument and came back to continue
Bratsylo and her husband were relieved when the police told them that
they were qualified as “witnesses”, not as “suspects”. There was
nothing to witness, though.
On Jan. 12, 2011, the police searched home of another journalist and
blogger Olena Bilozerska, who in the past publicly supported
destruction of communist era monuments. Bilozerska was questioned on
the arson case.
The police confiscated Bratsylo’s and Bilozerska’s laptops, cell
phones, cameras and digital recorders “for further expertise”.
Bliozerska’s lawyer Sydir Kizin says the police exceeded its powers, as
they had no right to confiscate the journalist’s equipment.
Syrotyuk, the “Svoboda” spokesman said the arrests and searches were
politically charged. “I have two versions regarding this situation”,
Syrotyuk said. “The “best” case scenario is that the police got a
cart-blanche in investigation of the Stalin monument case, so they just
rake up everybody. The worst case scenario is the following: the new
power started a massive crack down on Ukrainian patriotic movements and
is trying to destroy them just like Stalin did some 80 years ago.”
The Communist Party of Ukraine has its own take on this situation.
Oleksandr Zubchevsky, second secretary of Zaporizhzhia branch of
Communist party of Ukraine said that the destruction of their leader’s
monument was a crime and wants the guilty ones to be punished. “I know
for sure that the monument was destroyed by Ukrainian Nazis and I don’t
care what their organization is called” told Zubchevsky the Kyiv Post.
He said that monument cost Hr 80,000 and it was built on Ukrainian
pensioners’ donations. Zubchevsky dismissed the remark that people in
civilized countries do not build monuments to dictators but demolish
them. “If not for Comrade Stalin, neither you nor I nor those Nazis who
destroyed the monument wouldn’t live now”, Zubchevsky said. “Only
Stalin managed to unite Ukraine within its current borders and liberate
Europe from the from Hitler’s yoke. There are plenty of historic facts
Communists have started collecting money for a new Stalin. So far the
most generous donations came from two pensioners from Zaporizhzhia
region -- Ivan Dehtiar and Oleksiy Popov, who gave Hr 2000 and Hr 3000
Kyiv Post staff writer Olesia Oleshko can be reached at [email protected]