The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine has begun work on a bill to increase fines for insulting police officers. This was announced by Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko, adding that this issue was raised after clashes outside the court, where the case of activist Serhiy Sternenko is being considered.
“For example, spitting at a police officer costs from 136 to 255 hryvnias. Is this normal? No, not normal. After the events in court in the case of Sternenko, I was given a task to draft a bill. It will increase the fine for insults to police officers, which we hear constantly,” Gerashchenko said.
He also said that it is planned to introduce additional responsibility for the use of gas sprays during the protests.
“That is, ordinary people can have sprays as a means of self-defense. But when tear gas is used against police or other protesters under the video, it is no longer a peaceful protest,” the deputy minister explained.
It is planned to add the use of a gas sprays as an aggravating circumstance to the article of the Criminal Code on hooliganism on a par with brass knuckles or bats. Therefore, it will be possible to get a prison term for it.
A little history
It is unknown at this time what the legislative initiatives will look like in the end, but there are fears that Ukrainian law enforcement may return in one form or another to the old idea of incumbent Interior Minister Arsen Avakov on the presumption of policing.
The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs suggested back in 2016: “The imperative of the presumption of the rightness of a police officer should become a social norm! First, obey the police – then appeal… Is this a restriction of civil liberties? No! This rule of security – through the procedure of order only for a very short time postpones the rights of a citizen to appeal the actions of a police officer”.
Then this statement caused a great resonance in society. Politicians, activists, and public figures unanimously declared that with such a legislative norm, Ukraine would become a police state, where law enforcement officers, under the guise of the law, would commit arbitrariness.
In the end, the Ministry of the Interior abandoned the rule on the presumption of a police officer’s rightness.
Criticism of law enforcement
In general, the protests outside the court during the trial of Sternenko exposed an important problem. There are indeed radical groups in Ukrainian society, and law enforcement cannot or does not want to effectively combat the illegal actions of radicals.
For example, on June 17, an action of supporters and members of the “Shariy Party” (its founder, blogger Anatoliy Shariy) took place near the President’s Office in Kyiv. Right-wing radicals have criticized the move, saying both Shariy and his followers are Kremlin propagandists and are pushing pro-Russian ideas in Ukraine, thus undermining all the democratic achievements of recent years.
After the action in different parts of Kyiv, there were several clashes between representatives of both groups. In particular, Shariy’s supporters beat several right-wing radicals at one of the metro stations. After that, the blogger’s followers stated that they had “conquered the street” and targeted “radicals and Nazis”.
The response from the “right camp” was immediate. Several organizations at once, in particular, the National Squads and the National Corps, announced the mobilization of their men and the hunt for “Shariivtsi” throughout Ukraine.
A new wave of violence
The consequences of this confrontation were not long in coming. Attacks on Shariy party activists were recorded in Zhytomyr, Vinnytsia, Zaporizhia, Mariupol, Dnipro, etc. In Kharkiv, party coordinator Mykyta Rozhenko was beaten by unknown individuals so that he was taken to the intensive care unit.
Representatives of the National Corps are recording open video appeals with threats against all pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.
The head of the National Corps, Andriy Biletsky, addressed Anatoliy Shariy personally, emphasizing that “there are no owners on the street”.
The leader of the right-wing radicals assured that he and his people would stop the activities of the Shariy party and pro-Russian projects “here and now”, and would not allow them to stage street provocations.
Meanwhile, Vadym Rabinovych, co-chairman of the Opposition Platform For Life political party, called on Ukrainian law enforcement to bring order to the country.
“If you do not do this, we ourselves will organize self-defense wives and protect our lives, because we will understand: we should not count on the protection of the government,” the politician said.
Where is the solution?
So it turns out that today in Ukraine there is a stalemate: on the one hand, law enforcement officers do not stop the activities of pro-Russian forces, which behave more and more brazenly, openly voice the Kremlin’s ideas (about language, faith, peace in Donbas, criticize cooperation with the West). On the other hand, pro-Ukrainian forces perceive this as a capitulation and are ready to defend their ideas even by illegal methods, arguing that it is better to shed blood now than to suffer the whole state, as was the case in 2014 in Crimea and Donbas.
Obviously, the announced expansion of laws protecting police officers is not the way out. Solutions on a completely different level are clearly needed here.
And in this situation, the President of Ukraine should definitely act as an arbitrator, who would be able to stop the negative processes until the situation goes too far. However, the reaction of the head of state is currently absent.