KYIV. June 3 (Interfax-Ukraine) – Illia Novikov, a lawyer for former Ukrainian President and European Solidarity Party leader Petro Poroshenko, has said criminal proceedings on the illegal movement of paintings were opened on the basis of a report in a Ukrainian publication last year, and that a search of the museum was allegedly carried out to prevent the destruction of pieces of art.
On Wednesday, at a press conference hosted by the Interfax-Ukraine News Agency, Novikov said that the defense team had become aware of the grounds for opening a criminal proceeding about the allegedly illegal transfer of artistic property.
"Documents were received from the court, from which it became clear where the case about 43 paintings came from and how the decision was made to break down the doors of the Honchar Museum. The case was formed in late February ... based on last year's publication on the website of the ezine Gordon. The current acting head of the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) at the time, Mr. Sokolov, wrote to Iryna Venediktova, then SBI Director, that the article was grounds enough to believe a crime had been committed," the lawyer said.
Novikov said that on the day SBI agents arrived at the [Honchar] Museum, "SBI wrote an official memo to itself that ...the paintings are planned to be destroyed."
"In order to prevent this, the SBI raided the museum. Even Pechersky District Court of Kyiv found these actions illegal," Novikov said.
Novikov noted that the information for the SBI's investigation of the criminal proceeding was taken from Wikipedia.
"This is both funny and sad," he said.