Anton Kravchenko. Photo from his private archive
Anton Kravchenko is an activist from Kryviy Rih, a city in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Before Euromaidan, he used to work as an IT engineer for a big company in Dnipro and had never been involved in activism. When the revolution started, he attended the protests in Dnipro. He was standing in a first link which divided the activists from law enforcement. First, he went to Kyiv after Serhiy Nihoyan became the first victim of the revolution. Anton went to the capital through Kryviy Rih.
“I found out that many of my classmates were going to Kyiv as rent-a-thug mobs [called “titushky” in Ukrainian]. So I knew the schedules of the buses and was looking who to pass this information onto in order to stop them.”
Back then Anton realized that his home city had no active independent media platforms which could have united people.
“Going on a train to Kyiv, I created a group on Vkontakte. It was called Kryviy Rih Against Dictatorship. In two days it gained almost 3,000 followers. There were a lot of active young people.”
Anton started to organize protests in his home city by himself. After the first ones, the security service (SBU) detained him for 24 hours. After searching his apartment they did not find anything and let him go. The activist also organized car protests called AutoMaidan in his city. At first, around 15 cars participated in it.
“We put Ukrainian flags on the cars and turned on sound signals. We heard a lot of offensive words toward us at first. With every drive there were more and more of us. The biggest one amounted to around 200 cars. During the third or fourth drive people started to greet us and shout Glory to Ukraine. That was how I saw that Kryviy Rih was not lost.”
Nowadays Anton is still involved in activism and has paid a price for it. Since 2014, five criminal cases have been brought against him to court. The activist lists them with descriptions.
“One is because of a demand that a prosecutor act according to the law. After a month, he filed a lawsuit against us saying that he was afraid for his life and that we prevented him from performing his duties.
Second, when we went to record illegal deforestation one of the poachers attacked me and tried to take away my camera. I used gas as a defence measure.
Third, a case was opened during the protest organized by the mayor Yuriy Vilkul when he called us, citizens of Kryviy Rih, Lviv raiders. Our column of AutoMaidan was attacked by a crowd, they tried to break the windows, started to push the cars. A clash with representatives of the Opposition Bloc party took place.
The fourth case related to an incident which happened during the local elections in 2015 when representatives of the Opposition Bloc disrupted a city election commission meeting. The police did not let journalists and observers enter unless they were from the Opposition Bloc. When I tried to enter the building as an observer, police attacked me.”
While this material was in progress, the fifth case was opened against Anton; we are looking into the details.
Together with other activists, Anton wrote complaints regarding the attacks and prevention of legal action; however, the courts tried to close them.
“Without interrogations and finding out the circumstances they made an indictment against me and directed it to court. The cases have been ongoing for four straight years. The materials were collected with error-filled indictments written in violation of the Criminal Code. The cases are just dragging on.”
Anton says that even so-called victims in his cases already do not have claims to him. His only trouble is the law enforcement.
“The law enforcement system does not work. Everything going on is not a local problem, but a state one. Local opponents do it because they can.”
Even though Anton recognizes that his city has changed for the better since the Maidan, as with the new climate the local authorities can no longer act in the same way.
“Even ex-representatives of the Party of Regions (the party of Viktor Yanukovych) speak Ukrainian. And even the mayor Vilkul has to acknowledge the fact of Russian aggression. Recently ex-Party of Regions members came to their first unpaid protest which was related to a gas problem in the city.”
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