A spike in violent attacks on minority groups has human rights advocates calling on law enforcement to do their jobs better — both in preventing attacks and in investigating them after they happen.
“We don’t feel protected,” said Yulia Kondur, head of the Chirikli Roma Women Fund, during a press conference at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center on May 16 organized by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch Ukraine.
Kondur said most Ukrainians aren’t hateful, but those who are engaged in violence receive encouragement when police and prosecutors do nothing.
The organizers count 30 incidents over the last year — such as the March 8 attack on a feminist march in western Ukraine’s Uzhgorod, where a woman was hospitalized with eye trauma, and a March 26 attack on a Roma camp at Lysa Hora, which destroyed more than a dozen homes.
The perpetrators of these incidents have almost always gone unpunished despite, in many cases, announcing their plans beforehand and boasting online afterward.
“Better police training is necessary,” said Tanya Cooper, a researcher with Human Rights Watch Ukraine, “Ukrainian police do not have a sufficient understanding of their responsibilities in these situations, and often refuse to intervene unless violence breaks out.”
Condemnation of these attacks from the highest political levels and better prevention measures are also also necessary, she said.
On May 10, a planned Kyiv rally focused on equal rights for the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender, or LGBT, community.
But the event did not take place after more than 20 radical activists arrived at the venue, threatened participants and blocked speakers from entering the venue. Pechersk District police were present but did not intervene, and one officer from reportedly used a homophobic slur. The situation was not resolved until patrol police arrived and escorted the participants home.
Calls for action
There have been allegations that police tolerate right-wing groups, such as C14 and Azov Civil Corps, because they may have links to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov.
“These allegations should be investigated at the highest level by the appropriate body,” said Denys Kryvosheiev, deputy director of Amnesty International in Eastern Europe. Two Interior Ministry officials were present at the conference.
LGBT activists tried again to hold an event at 7 p.m. on May 16 at Peremoga Space on 62 Taras Shevchenko Blvd. The organizers said police assured them of proper protection for the second event.