In an attack sadly reminiscent of the destruction of Submariners Garden in Petersburg two years ago, the forces of “development,” disguised as common criminals dressed in black, make short work of protesters and trees in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park. (Gorky Park is part of the Kharkiv Forest. Go here and here to find out more about Europe’s largest urban park and what citizens and activists are doing to save it.)
Men in black move on Kharkiv tree defenders
Approximately 50 men dressed in black demolished an encampment of about 100 civic activists protesting plans to cut down trees in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park.
The attack took place on June 1 shortly before 4:00 a.m., according to the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, which said police watched the disorder instead of intervening.
Workmen turned on their chainsaws and followed the men in black into the encampment and cut down all the trees, the human rights group said.
Former Kharkiv Governor Arsen Avakov arrived at the camp, dubbed “Green Fort,” around 6:00 a.m. to support protesters, but by then there was nothing left to defend.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Group said on June 2 that it would provide legal assistance to all those detained or injured and is preparing a file civil suit against what it called “the unlawful actions of the city authorities.”
The group added a dozen or so arrested protesters were not being allowed to see lawyers.
Kharkiv natives said plans have been on the drawing board for years to build a road through the park to ease traffic on the city’s main thoroughfare Sumska Street, a 20-minute walk from Maidan Svobody.
Night Attack on Defenders of Gorky Park in Kharkiv
At around 4 a.m. approximately 50 men dressed in black fell upon the defenders of Gorky Park’s trees. There were 15 tents with more than 100 people.
The police were there and watched in silence, not taking any measures. They later detained around 10 people, with the detentions being arbitrary. Among the tree defenders was a Deputy of the Regional Council, Ihor Poddubny, who had a deputy badge – he was shoved, abused and showered with foul language. The workmen, together with the men in black, walked straight at people with their saws turned on. The people did not move away from the trees but were pulled away with force. The remaining trees during the following two hours were cut down.
The former Governor of the Kharkiv region and now Deputy of the Regional Council, Arsen Avakov, arrived at the “Green Fort” camp. One of those detained left with him, the police watching in silence and not interfering. Two of those detained were taken to the Dzerzhynsky District Police Station, while as of 7 a.m. the others were still in the park.
The tree defenders have taken down their tents – the last of the trees have been cut down and there is quite simply nothing more to defend. Those who spent the night holding vigil at the Park set off for Freedom Square and the building of the Regional State Administration and Regional Council to register their protest.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Group is providing legal aid to all those detained or injured and is preparing a civil claim against the unlawful actions of the city authorities.
A widespread public campaign is needed against this lawlessness.
As of 8.20 a few dozen park defenders were sitting near the entrance to the building of the Regional State Administration and Regional Council awaiting a meeting with Regional Council Deputy, Arsen Avakov. There were a number of police officers surrounding them, including the Head of the Kharkiv Police Oleksandr Barranyk. They asserted that this was an unauthorized gathering, unlawful and that they had every right to detain its participants. They did not do so only because Mr Avakov issued a written statement that this was a meeting with voters who would then disperse.
As of 8.20 there were unconfirmed reports that those who had been detained and taken to the Dzherzhynsky District Police Station were not being allowed to see lawyers.
All of this has happened the day after confirmation from the Ministry for Environmental Protection that the tree felling is illegal. The claims of the Acting Mayor of Kharkiv Kernes and Region’s Governor Dobkin that the road through the Park is in the General Plan of the City were also shown to be false.
More details on the illegality of the tree felling and treatment of activists by the authorities here.
Send your protest letters to:
- The feedback page of Gennady Kernes, Mayor of Kharkiv. You will have to fill in your name and e-mail address before entering your message, typing in an anti-bot code, and hitting Отправить (“Send”). You can leave all the other fields blank.
- Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich’s press office: email@example.com