A large-scale event in support of activist and blogger Serhiy Sternenko, who is being held in an Odesa pre-trial detention center following conviction, was held near the Office of the President of Ukraine on Saturday night. Sternenko was found guilty of robbery and illegal possession of weapons, but Sternenko himself and his supporters consider the case a political crackdown.

The event entitled “Don’t you hear? You’ll see” was timed to the birthday of Sternenko, who turned 26 on 20 March.

Protesters demanded the release of Sternenko and other patriots, including Andriy Antonenko who was detained within the case over the murder of journalist Pavel Sheremet, dismiss Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov.

Activists threw flares and smoke grenades, detonated firecrackers and set off fireworks towards the President’s Office. Various inscriptions were made on the walls of the building, the windows of the front door were smashed, and an attempt was made to set fire to the sign “President of Ukraine.”

Law enforcement officers did not intervene in the situation. Kyiv police later opened criminal proceedings, qualifying the incident as hooliganism. One of the participants was detained for committing illegal actions during the rally.

Meanwhile, the protest organisers promise to hold next actions, which should be “felt” by the authorities, including President Zelensky and Minister of Internal Affairs Avakov.

As a reminder, on 23 February, a court found Serhiy Sternenko guilty of a robbery attack on a member of one of the district councils in Odesa region, which allegedly happened in 2015. The activist was sentenced to seven years and three months in prison, but the sentence has not come into force yet.

According to the court ruling, Sternenko is being held in custody; the verdict is being challenged in a court of appeal. The trial is expected to start in April.

Bohdan Marusyak

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