Society

NGO: Ukrainian Authorities to Investigate Attacks on Activists

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Vitaliy Shabunin, the Head of the “Anti-Corruption Action Center,” declared his house had been set on fire by unknown individuals.

On his Facebook page, the activist noted that a neighbour heard an explosion, after which the fire caught the house entrance. The fire almost completely destroyed the roof and part of the ceiling. No one was injured by the fire.

Shabunin is convinced that it was deliberate arson as the gas service checked the gas meter and all connections two weeks ago.

On this fact, the police of Kyiv region opened a criminal case under the article on intentional destruction or damage to property.

The head of the EU Mission to Ukraine reacted to the incident on Twitter:

Very disturbed by the news that the house of the anti-corruption activist Vitaliy Shabunin burned down. I call on the authorities to investigate this case and, if a deliberate act, to bring the perpetrators to justice. Civil activists must feel safe to carry on their mission.

— Matti Maasikas (@MattiMaasikas) 23 July 2020

A number of public organisations reacted to this event, affirming that the arson was another attempt to intimidate Vitaliy Shabunin personally and all anti-corruption activists, in general.

“Some media outlets that systematically disregard journalistic standards and social networks have been running a dirty discrediting campaign against the “Anti-Corruption Action Center” and Vitaliy Shabunin during recent years, aimed at destroying trust in anti-corruption activists. All this happens amid the constant unpunished attacks on the other anti-corruption activists in Ukraine, which are not properly investigated by law enforcement agencies,” the statement declared.

The text also notes that “Ukraine remains a dangerous country for the work of civil society activists and human rights defenders, and its active citizens, who try to promote reforms and fight the corruption, are often forced to pay for this with safety, health and even their lives, as it has happened with Kateryna Gandziuk.”

Representatives of the organisations appealed to the National Police and the Prosecutor’s Office to conduct an effective, timely, complete and independent investigation of the attack on Vitaliy Shabunin’s house, to identify not only the attack direct perpetrators but also its initiators. And also, to conduct an efficient investigation of the attacks on other anti-corruption activists in Ukraine.

The statement also called on President Volodymyr Zelensky to “publicly condemn the attacks on Vitaliy Shabunin and the other anti-corruption activists in Ukraine, as well as the discrediting campaigns and anti-Western rhetoric against those advocating for the reform and corruption overcoming.”

Representatives of the organisations demand that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine dismiss Interior Minister Arsen Avakov “as a person with personal responsibility for police reform sabotage and systematic impunity in investigating the attacks on civil society activists in Ukraine over the past six years.”

Bohdan Marusyak

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