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Kharkiv police investigate brutal attack on students

Article by: Volovymyr Noskov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

Four students from Jordan and two Ukrainians are in the hospital with serious injuries. Blood stains, damaged cars,  and a growing international scandal are the result  of a huge attack that took place at the international dormitory center in Kharkiv on Thursday night, June 11.

Late Thursday evening, June 11, several dozen men armed with knives and dressed in black clothing and balaclavas attacked international students at several dormitories in Kharkiv where students from various nations who have come to study in Ukraine are housed. Kharkiv police are not ruling out the possibility that the attack had been deliberately planned in order to destabilize the city, where the atmosphere is already tense due to the activities of pro-Russian saboteurs.

During the mass attack four students from Jordan were severely injured. All are in intensive care in the Kharkiv city emergency hospital, where doctors are fighting to save their lives. Three have undergone surgeries and two are in critical condition. “There are obvious head and brain injuries, both external and internal , as well as brain contusions and multiple stab wounds,” Deputy Mayor Svitlana Horbunova-Ruban explained.

Two Ukrainian students, who were taken by ambulance from the Otakara Yarosha street, where the attack took place, are also in the hospital. Their conditions is less serious, and on Friday, June 12, they underwent tomography scans, X-rays and laboratory tests. In general, nine individuals had been brought to the emergency hospital. Three of them have now been sent home and are being treated as outpatients.

Thugs attacked indiscriminately

Student dormitories serving several universities are located on Otakara Yarosha and Klochkivska streets, close to the center of Kharkiv. It was here that students were relaxing Thursday night on benches and in cafes near the dormitories. The attack of the balaclava-clad youths carrying bats, knives, and other weapons was sudden. The police say this was a group of some thirty young men of athletic build who simply ran down the Otakar Yarosha street and attacked everyone they encountered.

Witnesses report that the men attacked their victims from behind, beat them with bats, and stabbed people and their dogs. Cries of women could be heard in the nearest buildings.

The attackers slashed the tires and broke windows of the car belonging to Ali Alesasveh, a student from Jordan. “They suddenly started beating us. We were able to escape, but one of our friends did not have enough time to run into the dormitory and remained on the street. They began to beat him and stabbed him in the back with a knife,” Alesasveh told Radio Svoboda.

According to Alesasveh, the attackers split into two groups. One group fought with students near the dormitory on the Otakar Yarosha street. The other group ran to the women’s dormitory on the Klochkivska street, where there is a café popular with the foreigners.

According to eyewitnesses, the attackers did not shout any slogans but in the end shouted “we’re leaving!” and fled.

Later police reported that they were able to detain five people suspected of the crime. All suspects are under 22 and are residents of Kharkiv

“Blood samples and clothing fragments have been removed from the scene. Weapons used to injure the victims have been seized. Five people have been identified and  detained. Investigators are working with them to determine the reasons for the attack,” said Colonel Andriy Kryshchenko, the Kharkiv head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA).

The students are demanding that the attacker be punished

According to Jordanian native Aburub Husam, a student at the Karazin Kharkiv National University and a resident at one of the dormitories,  it is very important to determine who ordered the attack on the international student center.

“They began by stabbing only the foreigners. One Ukrainian who looked like a foreigner because of his black hair was also stabbed,” Husam  says. His friend Ali Alesasveh adds that the terrible news about the events near the Kharkiv dormitories will spread throughout the many countries whose young people come to study in Kharkiv.

“I think it is essential to find these attackers. You know why? For example, I have a brother who wants to come to study in Ukraine next year. How many of us are here? Not that many. We’re paying US $2400 a year for our studies. This money comes here, to Ukraine. And I think it would be bad if somebody decided not to study in Ukraine,” the Jordanian student said.

At present the Kharkiv police commissioner sees no reason to link the attack on the foreign students to ethnic or national persecution. According to the MIA press service, it is possible that such a massive massacre could have been organized to destabilize the situation in Kharkiv, which is near the front. The police are conducting the investigation under three articles: hooliganism, robbery and attempted murder.

The attack could undermine the prestige of Kharkiv’s educational services.

Kharkiv is one of the largest international student centers in Ukraine. Out of 200,000 students, 20,000 are from Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Jordan and other countries.

According to Mykhajlo Iziumskyi,  the director of The Ukrainian Council of International Education, a private company that recruits young people who want to study  in Ukrainian universities, the war in the Donbas is having a serious impact on the attractiveness of Ukrainian educational services for foreigners, since they are afraid to go to eastern Ukraine. Each provocation only raises new concerns about choosing Ukrainian universities, and applicants can simply decide to go to neighboring countries.

“Around 35% of all foreign students studying in Ukraine are students of higher educational institutions in Kharkiv. Therefore, if this city were not comfortable, safe, and friendly they would not come here. How do the students decide where to go? They try to go where they have friends, acquaintances, and relatives. First of all, they pay attention to the presence of friends, more so than to other factors. Of course this attack aggravates the situation of Ukrainian higher education on the international market. But I don’t think it will be that significant. I hope not!” Iziumskyi said.

Representatives at the international educational centers of the Kharkiv Universities claim that the city will remain tolerant and safe for guests from different countries. The regional MIA has promised to take the international student residences under their protection. Police patrols will monitor the area near the student dormitories even more closely.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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