One more point of view of a Kharkivite
All of the facts below are crucial to understand what has been happening these days in Kharkiv. The information is either based on my personal experience, or has been obtained from the witnesses and direct participants of the events.
There are three higher educational institutions in Kharkiv teaching staff for the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They are: the Yaroslav Mudry National Law University of Ukraine, with its faculty of training for internal affairs bodies, the University of Internal Affairs, and the Higher Institute of Inner Forces. Because of the exterritorial principle violation, a large proportion of the graduates either lives, or stay in Kharkiv permanently to work. With the teaching staff, students and trainees in mind, the density of the Ministry of Internal Affairs workers is exceptionally high, which is why Kharkiv has been dubbed “the city of cops”.
The situation described has entailed a total lack of judicial responsibility (noblesse oblige!) which in turn gave rise to a giant rate of corruption. No student of the National Law University is able to pass an exam without bribing the administration regardless of the fact that most of the students either come from VIP families, or have been placed in the institution by the Internal Affairs Ministry itself. The corruption has led to collaboration between the police and the mafia. Currently, the Ministry of Internal Affairs in collaboration with the corrupt Customs and Frontier Offices, curate and supervise the following shadow businesses: drug trafficking across the border with Russia, the drug-dealing network, Russia-manufactured cigarettes smuggling, production and distribution of homemade and fake vodka, underground gambling, disguising itself as on-line gambling games in internet-cafes, as well as covering up unregistered private business located in the outskirts of the city.
A significant part of Ukraine’s Security Service officers’ work time is devoted to running private businesses, which are often (but not always) fully legal. This surely solves the retirement problem for the civil servants. In particular, the awe-inspiring “Misto” (“City”) nightclub whose grandeur could even be respected by a Moscow citizen, has been jointly run and protected by the Department for Combatting Organized Crime (DCOC) since the 90-ies.The above fact was “confidentially” shared with me by an officer in the course of out friendly talk over a business lunch in the club one day, as I was talking him into helping me to solve a personal problem.
The former governor of the Kharkiv Region, who is running for presidency (!) at the moment, Mikhail Dobkin, started his career in illegal business. The mayor of Kharkiv, Gennadiy Kernes, a wheel-dealer in the 90-ies, still often uses criminal methods of forcing the disobedient into submission. The facts I’m providing are not an accusation of a particular crime – rather, they are to give the reader a better impression of the mindset and mentality of those in authorities of the Kharkiv of today. That said, those facts have nothing to do with the managerial qualities of the above persons. Personally, I am definitely going to vote for Kernes in the next mayor’s elections since he built roads, recreation zones, cathedrals, museums and markets to European standards, to say nothing about the stadium, the airport, and the biggest Christmas tree in Europe. Come and visit the city – we are no longer ashamed of it! However much he might have stolen, other mayors have stolen all or nearly all.
The “Oplot” (“defense”) Sports Fighters Club was set up by Eugeny Zhilin, a former DCOC officer who had been fired due to some unsolved criminal case, the investigation closed. The club specializes in cage-fighting. The “Oplot” initiated and organized cage-fighting championships as early as in the former USSR! The championships have been held ever since ( I watched the latest one at the beginning of the year). Some Special Forces officers from Russian Federation and former USSR republics have been active participants of the championships, the “Oplot” fighters constantly ranking very high.
The club itself is only the tip of the iceberg, whose “underwater” part is running accompanying legal businesses as well as fulfilling the criminal orders by the regional authorities and the Ministry of Home Affairs officers (sic!), such as raiding successful, businesses, ruining the “disobedient” ones, racketing and the like. “Oplot” fighters were equipped and sent to Kyiv to fight with the Maidan protesters by Mikhail Dobkin. The guys were mauling the protesters and those sympathetic with them, as well as occasional passers-by, and burning the Auto-Maidan participants’ cars. In my opinion, “Oplot” is Ukraine’s most effective bandit organization since very few can oppose the professional fighters. A criminal prosecution was started against Zhilin after the victory of Maidan, his offices were searched, documents evacuated and he fled – but the fighters remained.
The last time I saw Zhilin was at the separatist conference of the South-Eastern Regions and the near-border Russian regions’ authorities held on February, 22nd. Later the same night “Oplot” unexpectedly played a “positive” part in driving away the Maidan people who were going to demolish the Lenin Monument on the Svobody square. After the fight, the Maidan leaders hid inside the Regional State Administration building which they had been occupying for a week until the notorious bloody raid the following Saturday took place. It must be noted, however, that “Oplot” did not take part in the bloodbath, which was organized by Russians. I was a “lucky” eye-witness of the events as I happened to be walking around the square with my little daughter. I saw the Russian tri-colored banner risen by a guy from Moscow above the Kharkiv Regional State Administration. I saw the fireworks celebrating the “victory”. I saw the wounded and mauled people – and an enormous number of cops and Inner Affairs Forces trainees just standing there and watching. When everything was finished, the cops simply entered the building as if they had “liberated” it.
There are in fact three political forces in Kharkiv at the moment.
• The Maidan people, patriots standing up for the Ukrainian national ideas and the undivided, unitary Ukraine.
• Kharkivites – simple people who are against the import of revolution and extremism, but they love their city and are bury doing their work, running their businesses and who dislike extremist guys drawing swastikas, trampling flower-beds, waving red-and-black flags, burning tires, smashing shop windows and interfering with the peaceful flow of life of the busy city.
• Pro-Russian separatists – Federal Bureau of Security representatives preparing the minds of the people to the Crimean scenario as well as some inhabitants of smaller surrounding towns who are not yet aware that a half-liter of vodka in Russia will cost them 240 rubles and will not be available after 10 p.m., and who do not yet know that a Russian cop may not be called a Cop or you will end up in detention with some of your teeth missing. And of the fact that Traffic Police is Absolute Power in Russia, as well as of the existence of at least 7 parties of the kind of the Right Sector, whose ideology is Russian national chauvinism in a variety of shades. Some pensioners belong to this category, too, believing that when they become part of Russia they will receive Russian pensions.
At the peak of their revolutionary uplift, the Maidan people did some mischief in Kharkiv between March 22nd and 30rd. Yet, after having been “educated” by Kharkivites, became quite decent citizens, reading lectures on the history and culture of Ukraine, enlightening people on the prominent figures of Kharkiv region. Although Bandera and Shukhevich are not the heroes of the people of Eastern Ukraine, I still see nothing wrong with promoting Ukrainian national idea among the citizens of Ukraine as long as there is no extremism.
The Kharkiv people emerged on February, 22nd – all at once and informally. Dobkin and Kernes prompted the black-and-orange ribbons as signs of distinction. Yet, there were NO Russian flags. On February, 23rd I joined their ranks next to the Lenin Monument : I got registered and went to the garage to collect my casket and the titan pry bar, as well as checked my gas gun: don’t you joke with Kharkiv people! All the more so as the demoralized cops of the Western Ukraine had just given away the weapons and machines to the Right Sector – no wonder we were concerned. Some mobilization variants were already being discussed. Mind you – there are more weapons here than people! Yet, it all soon calmed down. The Lenin monument survived. The weapons were given away to the Inner Forces (well – there might be some left still…) But a new problem came up.
Russian banners first appeared on February, 25th at the Kharkiv Citizens’ meeting protesting against the Maidan people occupying the Region Duma. Approaching the persons holding the flags, II politely enquired them about the reasons why they were there to which they replied that they were Kharkivites standing for the Russian as the regional language and against Bandera chauvinism. Although I did not really believe them as it all looked quite suspicious (like, for example, the expensive carbon flagpoles they were holding) – I still decided not to look for trouble. The “Kharkiv” people were peaceful, as the meeting consisted mainly of middle-aged men, while the Maidan people were mostly youngsters. We understood that it would have taken us 20 minutes to stop any violence – why shed blood, anyway?
Meanwhile, the number of Russian flags was growing. That ended up in the bloodbath of March the 30th, a guy from Moscow on the roof of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration (what the hell was he doing there?) and the buses with Russian number plates all around the city. Yet, the situation would not follow the Crimean scenario. The citizens of Kharkiv are NOT the citizens of Russia. This city is already on the friendliest terms with Belgorod possible – Russians come to Kharkiv to see doctors, have rest, service their cars and buy clothes at the huge Barabashov Market, while Kharkivites commute to Belgorod to buy gas and run businesses. We find the border, however, important and useful! Unfortunately, our wishes do not coinside with the wishes of Mr Putin at this point.
What happened on Sunday, April 6th? Everything was going in its usual ‘Sunday way’. During the week everybody is busy at work whereas on Saturdays and Sundays people can be quite easily encouraged to come to the square! As usual, there were the Ukrainians, holding yellow-blue flags ( which was OK, since they were in their home city Kharkiv, Ukraine), and their opponents – separatists (I qualified their meeting as such because the flags they were waving, were both Russian and black-yellow-white ones , the flags of the Russian Empire).
The situation was not getting tense and the people were not asking for trouble. Then, the separatists started a fight with Ukrainian patriots. I didn’t attend that manifestation, thinking that it wasn’t worth my attention. But I was wrong: in Donetsk and Luhansk the events got wild, encouraging pro-Russian separatists in Kharkiv to attack.
Watching the evening news, I was surprised to learn that the pro-Russian meeting had seized the building of Regional Council! It was about 10p.m. At 4 in the morning I took a taxi to see what was going on there. TV presenters claimed about 2000 protesters to have been on the square. This was hard to believe, as at night there were no more than a thousand or even fewer, just a few dozen on the porch and probably about a hundred remaining inside. The access to the building was absolutely free with policemen and protesters standing side by side – no fighting spirit, just exhaustion after a hard day. Later someone told me that the number of policemen was approximately the same as the number of the attackers and that they were acting for a show rather than trying to stop the separatists from getting inside the building. I can’t prove it as I was not an eye-witness of the event. However, there WAS a siege and there was NO defense. There was coffee, cigarettes and a barricade made of tires and some broken furniture in front of the entrance. I saw that with my own eyes.
In the morning I met a senior officer of the counter-intelligence of the Security Council of Ukraine and asked: what do you think of our chances if the Russians use «hurricanes” and tanks, and is it really likely to happen? After all, the picture for the TV had already been made so the Russians have something to show the whole world and are now entitled to “give a helping hand to their Russian brothers from Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk standing on their knees” . He started to describe all possible scenarios, but anyway, all of them meant that they would definitely do it! He was saying it as if he was discussing a training operation, without showing any emotions. I asked him: what about you? And he told me —what about me? We are soldiers, we will do what we are told. (He runs his own business and I doubt that he will rush to fight with FSB (Federal Security Service) people) And then this schmuck in Luhansk, wearing a mask on his head, asked the President of Russia for help, claiming to be the Luhansk Guard! You’ve probably seen it all.
At 6 p.m, right after work I went to the square to have a look at the “Ukrainians” —peaceful atmosphere, anthem singing, chanting “Suitcase- Station-Russia!” to those who are in the Council. The traffic in front of the building is blocked. Policemen are standing in a line about 30 meters wide, separating the opposing ideologies from one another. Some bastards from the Russian side throw a few explosives, one of which goes off just a meter away from me. I was saved by my phone headset. I could have even been contused! Meanwhile, the opposite side keeps shouting, «Russia! Russia! ” as well as playing the song called ‘ the Russians are coming through the darkness of the pagan ages ‘. Ukrainian Maydan people don’t have any weapons, except for the national flag and wreaths on the heads of the Ukrainian girls! I swear! Having changed my clothes, I go to the pro-Russian camp. All the people are wearing St. George ribbons in a variety of fashions such as bandages and hair decorations. And just as I come, on the other side of the street ( at intersection of Ivanova and Sumskaia streets) I see a squad of gunmen in camouflage uniforms and tracksuits getting ready. Weapons (in descending order of popularity): shovel handles, cut into 3 pieces with loops made of adhesive tape to prevent them from slipping out of hands; pieces of rebar wrapped in white or colored tape ; steel vacuum cleaner tubes and several baseball bats. There were some traumatic guns as well. All of them were wearing masks with slits for eyes, bulletproof vests with the logo “UVB” in the middle (which is the logo of the Agency of Internal Security forces), knee- and elbow pads. There are about 100 fighters together with the platoon commanders, who are “OPLOT” fighters. You can immediately recognize them due to their typical body-build! A police captain takes out another shovel handle and gives it to one of the fighters showing how to fix it in his hand with the help of adhesive tape.
And then they begin to assault the crowd of Ukrainians. Luckily, the latter notice the danger just in time. Someone must have alerted them as they start running away an instant before the assault begins. The bloodbath fails, the militants seize the deserted square and with proudly raised heads go through the pro-Russian crowd which was chanting “Well done! Well Done!” The police are totally calm.
Then I felt as if I’d got high. I made my way to the entrance of the building, where I was able to have a look inside. Through an open door in the foyer I saw fighters wearing uniform and helmets, and the man who had been holding a Russian flag on the square on 25th February. I immediately recognized him as well as many others, all the faces were just the same! According to the Crimean scenario they were to gather the deputies of Regional Council so that the legitimate regional authorities could make a fateful decision on the region’s sovereignty and the formation of Kharkiv republic, which then would ask Putin for military assistance. “Hurricanes” and tanks would have followed. But MPs are not idiots, so even not all the Communists turned up. Therefore they elected new regional deputies. That is, some 1000 people, under the leadership of the Russian Federal Security Service, decided the fate of the city and its region with the population of over 3.5 million people! For two hours I was a citizen of Kharkiv People’s Republic! I was so proud! The date for the referendum was going to be approved the following day. But – what about the monarchical flag? I asked this foolish question and received a reply: Putin is a monarch! As for the lack of a pedigree, it’s not a problem; we’re living in the 21st century! What matters is the absolute power!
At dawn, National Special Forces, brought by Avakov, the minister of the Internal Affairs, started the blitz counter-attack of the Regional Council. It took only 18 minutes. In his interview Avakov failed to clearly comment on the behavior of Kharkiv military men, although the word “sabotage” seems to have been pronounced. He just probably can’t believe in such a mass betrayal! No one could. I would not have believed it myself had I not seen it in with my own eyes! As I was watching, I could hardly believe that was real, but somehow managed to convince myself to trust my own eyes.
I’ll take the liberty to comment on what happened: the whole affair is no way about politics. The whole thing is merely about covering up the vast regional network of shadow business by police! Nobody needed a new reform-minded Government which could destroy the entire mafia. Therefore, they considered the Crimean scenario to be the most logical way to avoid their upcoming disaster. All resources’ available were used: assisting the violent protesters and a complete sabotage of their law enforcement duties. As a result, peaceful citizens got severely beaten up, civil property damaged.
I am absolutely sure that the Crimean scenario in Kharkiv failed. However, I should admit that there are quite enough pro-Russian-minded people among the residents of Kharkiv, although it’s more about ‘kitchen talks’ not real actions as people are busy with their businesses and jobs. None of them will come to the square to defend their points of view! Mainly, they are those who have been brainwashed by the Russian TV.
My parents live in Poltava, where “The Right sector” and “Freedom” parties have always had a big influence: they have their headquarters there. My mother is Russian and speaks Russian everywhere. So does my sister. My elder son is studying in a Russian class whereas the younger child attends a Ukrainian one, so that they can share their knowledge. The Russians have been totally brainwashed by the Russian media, and you have to be very intelligent to be able to filter off the lies to find some information you can rely on. These needs to be done, however, since wrong conclusions will lead to wrong actions and the consequences might be catastrophic for everyone.
The taxi driver who drove me to the square at night said that he was a Russian, but if Putin’s troops invade, he will grab a Kalashnikov and join the partisans. What right do they have to come here with guns and tanks? We have seen enough in Ossetia, Sukhumi and Transnistria.
The system administrator of one of the legal corporations in Kharkiv, an old friend of mine, quite a well-balanced person , told me that if he had to take a gun , he’d do it only to give away his life at high cost ! He realizes that Russia has considerable technological superiority in armament, but he is not going to live like in Crimea!
Another friend of mine, Chairman of the Board of Directors one of the top commercial banks, a man who is definitely not poor, told me the same things as the taxi driver. He said that this version of the Crimea was not going to work.”The Russians had better understand it, especially their boss.”
It is not all smooth in Donetsk and Luhansk. But the main thing is that everything that is happening there is a performance, and its director is the Federal Security Service. The question only is whether or not the people will believe this performance.
This Saturday, April, 12th, the same little girl and I, after classes in the Palace of Pioneers, went to the Zoo. For those who have never visited Kharkiv, should be informed that that the Freedom square, (former Dzerzhinsky) ,is located right near the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, State University, the Zoo and Shevchenko Park.
In fact, Kharkivites are quite peaceful. We do not normally come out to the square carrying cold steel arms. It can be done only by specially trained, organized and (at least in some part) paid people. Let’s imagine I were a politically active citizen. I arranged with my friends to go to a meeting to wave flags in order to agitate those who are staying at home. In that case, I am a peaceful protester. But if I took a baseball bat and put on some protective equipment (body armor, knee pads, elbow pads, helmet) and a face mask so that I could fulfill the order to beat peaceful demonstrators and those who simply happened to be nearby (since who can tell whether you are a demonstrator or just having a walk in the park), then who would I be?
The International Marathon took place on 12th April. Its finishing line was on the Freedom Square. The event was followed by a concert. Despite the loads of police units and cadets all around, the atmosphere was quite festive. As we were having a walk, people were gathering in two different places: those who support Russia flocked around the Lenin monument while the others, supporting Maydan and Ukraine, encircled the monument to Shevchenko. Maydan people were holding Ukrainian flags whereas separatists were waving three-coloured Russian banners and the flags of the South-Eastern Republic. Saturday evenings in Kharkiv seem to have been enchanted: every Saturday is exactly the same!
However, Saturdays always end well, without any significant events. Everything happens on Sundays. The demonstration of the separatists reached its boiling point and they took out what they’d brought and rushed to beat the Maydan people. The meeting near the Shevchenko monument had been already over (it was not for the first time. Apparently, someone alerts the people over the phone about when the separatists intend to maul them). But this time, the separatists decided to go all the way. They chased people like hares, caught up with them in the underground and mauled them/ Women with St. George ribbons on their sleeves (the same that were screaming “well done!” on Monday night) were kicking people lying on the ground. At least 50 demonstrators were badly injured. I only saw footage on the Internet but many I know proved that fact.
After that the crowd went to the Regional Council in order to seize it. Then they moved on to the prison where 66 people, accused of seizing the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, were kept. It was bad luck as they had been already moved to Poltava! The seizure failed …
When I was going to work on Monday, the streets had been already cleaned, the Council was working. Only injured people in hospitals reminded of the events of the previous day.
Now I can confidently answer my own rhetorical question: who are these people with St. George ribbons on the sleeves? They are certainly criminals but not peaceful protesters! The police have been sabotaging. Among those who were chasing people I noticed an overweight man, wearing the jacket which is similar to the uniform worn by traffic police inspectors. Well, why not to earn some extra money and have fun?
Kharkivites had worn St George Ribbons, but since February 25th, the more tri-coloured banners appeared on the Square, the more different the meaning attached to them became.
During the manifestations on 22nd-23rd February, completely different people with completely different faces were standing on Dzerzhinsky Square! They (as well as me) were ready to defend what was ours: the monument, the city, and order. But no one could even imagine attacking others, just so, because of hatred, at the same time chanting: “Russia! Russia! ”
In 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 respectively (I started keeping the track in 2010 since I started attending military parades on 9th May, ) on the eve of Victory day Kharkivites used to put St. George ribbons on their clothes and cars . Now my 14-year- old son tells me that he’ll never wear it again! These bastards on the square, who dare to express the opinions of the remaining 3.5 million inhabitants of Kharkiv and its environs, are an ulcer on the body of the Kharkiv region; they have simply disgraced the symbol of victory, even in the eyes of children!
Do you still have any questions about who needs Russia in Kharkiv?, which is a purely Ukrainian city, home to Kvitka-Osnovyanenko (a district of the city named after him is called “Osnova”) and Grigory Skovoroda (Skovorodynivka), where the monument to the legendary Cossak Kharko, the city’s founder, stands near Dzerzhinsky (Svobody) square, at the beginning of Lenin Avenue? And – will I go too far if I remind you that Belgorod region, which is now Russia, used to be part of Sloboda Ukraine?
While writing the article, I was watching our national TV Channel 5, broadcasting the events in Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Donetsk. It’s a complete repetition of the Crimean events! Cops, like in Kharkiv, surrender to the Russian secret service agents calling themselves militia units and even not trying to hide their faces or military ranks. I pray to God that our Government will finally dispatch the troops. If we linger, we will lose Ukraine!
I got a call from the military enlistment office on Monday. If I am given a gun, I will be ready to shoot. Does reading this makes you feel horrified? But what else am I to do?
Source: FB, http://vestnikcivitas.ru/pbls/3354