Statement on persecution of activist Roman Ratushnyi by law enforcement agencies
We, the civil society organisations, call on the law enforcement agencies to stop the pressure and unjustified persecution of civic activist Roman Ratushnyi in connection with the events happened in the Bankova Street in Kyiv on 20 March 2021.
On that day, rally “Can’t you hear? You will see” was held near the Office of the President of Ukraine. The action organisers and participants demanded to release activist Serhiy Sternenko and conduct the judicial reform. According to the OZON civic monitoring group estimates, 700-900 people took part in the rally. Some protesters lit hand flares, then poured paint on the walls of the President’s Office and cobblestones, and painted the walls and some windows of the building with graffiti, tried to set fire to the plaque “President of Ukraine” and the building’s door, smashed a window and threw a hand flare inside.
On the evening of 24 March 2021, after appearance on the air of the Ukraine 24 TV channel, a member of the National Police served Roman Ratushnyi with a notice of charges due to his participation in the protest outside the President’s Office. Ratushnyi is charged with committing a criminal offence under Part 4 of Article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, (hooliganism committed with the use of firearms or cold steel arms or other object, specially adapted or prearranged for infliction of bodily harm). This notice of charges is not grounded in form and in substance, as there is no evidence that Roman Ratushnyi was directly involved in those actions at the time of the damage to the President’s Office building.
Prior to that, Deputy Interior Minister Anton Herashchenko shared videos that may give the impression that Roman Ratushnyi was holding a hand flare (a pyrotechnic device that is not considered socially dangerous and is often used during peaceful assemblies). However, the video, which was released by the National Police and in which Roman Ratushnyi was allegedly identified, shows another person, as he stated.
The notice of charges indicates that during the rally Roman Ratushnyi was well informed and aware of the fact that other protesters, whose identities have not been established so far, took knives, pyrotechnics and other items with them in advance for inflicting bodily harm. Such a statement by the National Police is an unfounded assumption (since no search or superficial inspection of the protesters was carried out) and is a shift of responsibility for the actions of other unidentified persons to Roman Ratushnyi.
These case files about Roman Ratushnyi can neither confirm his personal participation in the above-mentioned events, nor prove the existence of a crime as such, so they deliberately mislead the society.
In addition, the notice of charges states that Ratushnyi himself used a pyrotechnic device allegedly prepared in advance for inflicting bodily harm and carried out actions aimed at gross violation of public order on the grounds of obvious disrespect for society, accompanied by exceptional audacity. At the same time, there is no information that someone was intentionally injured during the rally, in particular, by means of a mentioned pyrotechnic device. The absence of this motive is also obvious. On the contrary, disrespect for society is the lack of reaction of the authorities to previous peaceful protests and this rally was a response to such disregard for the demands of society.
Roman Ratushnyi participated in the Revolution of Dignity (EuroMaidan) and suffered as a result of the crackdown on the peaceful protest by the Berkut riot police officers on 30 November 2013. This year, the European Court of Human Rights upheld Ratushnyi’s suit, acknowledging that his right to peaceful protest had been violated during the crackdown. A few years later, Roman Ratushnyi headed the civic initiative “Let’s Protect Protasiv Yar” which protested against the construction of three high-rise buildings in the park area of Kyiv. On 29 August 2019, the activist received threats on Facebook from Hennadiy Korban, who is considered the beneficiary of this construction project. In addition, on 15 September, another coordinator of the initiative “Let’s Protect Protasiv Yar”, Yulia Kononenko, was attacked. On 20 September 2019, Roman Ratushnyi was threatened during a personal meeting with a representative of the developer. After that, the activist received information from various sources that he could be abducted and killed. It was established also that the house of Roman Ratushnyi was spied on. The police opened criminal proceedings under the article “threat of homicide” but no investigative actions have been carried out.
Taking into consideration the above, national and international human rights organisations (Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, ZMINA Human Rights Centre, Truth Hounds and Freedom House Ukraine) put Roman Ratushnyi on the list of civic activists who are persecuted for human rights or civic activism.
We consider the persecution of Roman Ratushnyi by law enforcement agencies unacceptable and politically motivated, given the lack of evidence of the activist’s involvement in hooliganism, damage to property and questionable circumstances indicated in the notice of charges served. In particular, given the numerous facts of pressure on him since the initiative “Let’s Protect Protasiv Yar” was launched, we assume that serving Ratushnyi with a notice of charges is a continuation of persecution by interested high-ranking officials who had a direct conflict with the activist during the campaign to protect the Protasiv Yar area in Kyiv.
We, the undersigned human rights activists and other civil society organisations demand that law enforcement agencies:
- Terminate the groundless criminal prosecution of Roman Ratushnyi in connection with the events which took place in the Bankova Street in Kyiv on 20 March 2021.
- Investigate the threats that Roman Ratushnyi received in connection with his activities to protect Protasiv Yar area from construction on 29 August 2019, 20 September 2019, and 8 October 2019, and which forced him to change his place of residence for safety reasons from the beginning of October 2019.
ZMINA Human Rights Centre
Human Rights Initiative
NGO “Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Centre”
Media Initiative for Human Rights
NGO “Centre for Development and Democracy”
NGO “Liberal Democratic League of Ukraine” / Free Hong Kong Center
Human Rights Centre ACTION
Civic Initiative “Protect Forest”
NGO “Lake Kachyne”
Open Dialogue Foundation