Ukraine Live Day 627: Court Orders House Arrest for Ukrop Party Leader Korban

November 6, 2015
Soldiers from the 30th Separate Mechanized Brigade Artillery Division train at new positions under the Minsk accords. Screen grab from video by Defense Ministry TV, November 3, 2015.

Yesterday’s live coverage of the Ukraine conflict can be found here.

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For the latest summary of evidence surrounding the shooting down of flight MH17 see our separate article: How We Know Russia Shot Down MH17.

Ukraine Parliament Rejects LGBT Rights Anti-Discrimination Law, Jeopardizing Visa Free Travel In The EU

Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, has voted down a sexual minority anti-discrimination law. The bill only received 117 of the 226 needed votes despite the urging of Ukraine’s president to pass the measure. Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reports:

The rejected amendment is depressingly ordinary.  It prohibits discrimination on racial, political and religious grounds, as well as on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, family or financial position, participation in strikes, or because of suspected or confirmed AIDS.

MPs, it should be stressed, rejected the amendment at the first hurdle, with only 117 voting to consider the amendment when preparing the document for the second reading.   A suspiciously large number of MPs were absent, and many abstained, rather than voting against.

The battle to get this provision included has been going on for a long time.  In September 2013, members of the LGBT community addressed an open letter to the EU asking it to not back down after Valeria Lutkovska, Human Rights Ombudsperson and several MPs said that they would be asking the European Commission to waive the requirement on amendments to anti-discrimination legislation. At the time Amnesty International also expressed outrage at the suggestion that the requirement be waived.

At the time, there were also assiduous attempts by members of the then ruling Party of the Regions to introduce legislation similar to that in Russia prohibiting something termed ‘propaganda of homosexuality’.

As part of the European Association agreement, Ukraine must meet certain standards on issues like financial transparency, immigration and customs enforcement, industry safety standards, and other common provisions. By rejecting this law, Ukraine will not meet the standards required for visa-free travel to the EU. AFP reports:

President Petro Poroshenko said in a nationally televised address late Wednesday that his crisis-torn nation — it’s economy battered and the pro-Russian separatist east out of Kiev’s control — faced “an extremely important day”.

A “yes” vote would allow “Ukrainian citizens to visit EU countries without visas as early as next year,” the 50-year-old leader promised.

But the chamber — controlled by a loose pro-government coalition that has often seen members break away to join nationalist or populist groups — gave the change a resounding “no” in the first of two required readings.

Only 117 lawmakers in the 450-seat parliament supported the changes demanded by Brussels.
Such a minority reflects not only public opinion but also the slim chance the legislation has of collecting the required 226 votes in a second vote whose precise date has yet to be set.

There is serious concern among the pro-EU coalition that the European Union could delay Ukraine’s move toward the EU without more rapid progress on several front, so this is just the latest obstacle which could derail the EU integration process — an issue with significant resonance since the key stated goal of the Euromaidan protests in 2013 and 2014 was the integration of Ukraine into the EU.

Voice of America reports:

“Progress in reforms in the area of the fight against corruption remains a key priority for achieving visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainian citizens,” EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in the letter seen by Reuters.

EU visa-free travel agreements usually concern specific groups of people who are more likely to travel, such as researchers, businessmen or students.

In the document, sent to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Juncker urges quick establishment of independent anti-corruption bodies to reduce graft in the ex-Soviet state.

Ukraine should also amend labor legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and should create an agency dedicated to the recovery of confiscated assets, Juncker told Poroshenko.

At this year’s Yalta European Strategy (YES) Conference in Kiev, a key theme discussed by many of the panelists was the adoption of Western ideals on issues such as economic modernization, but also acceptance and protection of minorities, including sexual minorities. Of course, many of the panelists also recognized that Europe itself was failing to live up to some of those standards.

One notable speaker was Sir Elton John, the entertainer and gay rights campaigner who spoke about the need for tolerance at the YES conference. Sir Elton discussed the attack on a gay rights parade which was especially concerning considering the Euromaidan’s stated desire for European values:

James Miller
Batkivshchyna Party To Boycott Rada After MP Hit On Head With Bottle

The Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, says that in an incident last night Andriy Teteruk, an MP in his Popular Front party, hit Batkivshchyna MP Oleksandr Kuzhel on the head with a glass bottle in the after a Rada session.

Interfax-Ukraine reports that the Batkivshchyna party is now boycotting parliamentary meetings as long as Teteruk remains an MP:

“[As long as] that man remains Member of Parliament, we at the Batkivschyna faction do not consider it possible to participate in Verkhovna Rada meetings,” the faction said in connection with a brawl between Teteruk and Batkivschyna MP Kuzhel on Thursday evening.

Batkivschyna also demands that the Public Prosecutor General’s Office immediately table a motion in parliament to strip Teteruk of deputy immunity and arrest him. Batkivschyna also says it expects that People’s Front will withdraw Teteruk’s deputy mandate.

The party’s press office described the incident as follows:

“A shameful incident happened after the end of a plenary meeting near the Verkhovna Rada Chairman’s office in the presence of other parliamentarians. MP Serhiy Vlasenko, who witnessed the incident, said that Teteruk had made insulting statements vis-à-vis Batkivschyna faction members and rudely offended Kuzhel in person and had hit her in the head with a glass bottle.”


TSN image of Kuzhel after the incident. reports that Teteruk told journalists today that he is sorry but does not consider the incident to warrant the stripping of his parliamentary mandate.

While the Batkivshchyna MP Vadym Ivchenko said that Kuzhel had been diagnosed as suffering from a concussion by a paramedic, Teteruk claimed that an MRI scan had proved this false. He followed by saying that it was criminal to make such allegations.

Police officers are currently conducting interviews with witnesses.

Anton Gerashchenko, another MP in the Popular Front, wrote that Teteruk had told him that the incident was an accident:

“According to Andriy Teteruk… Oleksandra Kuzhel suddenly turned around and tried to hit him her bag. He was holding a half-litre bottle of water and tried to pour some water on Oleksandra Kuzhel to stop her.

However, in his words, he accidentally hit Oleksandra Kuzhel in the face with the bottle.”

A similar story was told by an unnamed source, “loyal to Teteruk, to Ukrainska Pravda

According to the source, the two had been attending a meeting in Rada Speaker Volodymyr Groysman’s office. 

The Interpreter translates:

The source told UP that, during the meeting, Batkivshchyna leader Yulia Tymoshenko and her colleagues had expressed outrage at the failure to pass a law on the reduction of charges on gas production.”

Then, according to the report, Groysman called the president and asked all those present to leave his office.

At that moment, when everyone was leaving, the argument continued, during which ensued the scuffle between Kuzhel and Teteruk. In response to an insult Teteruk allegedly called Kuzhel a “stupid old woman,” for which she started hitting him with her bag.

“Teteruk wanted to take cover in Groysman’s office, but security guards wouldn’t let him in. Then the deputy had to spray the Batkivshchyna member with water. During this process, Teteruk struck Kuzhel with the bottle.”

The two have clashed in public before, as seen in this footage from a Rada session on November 3: 

— Pierre Vaux

Ukraine Says Russian-Backed Fighters Shelled Residential Areas With Mortars

Colonel Andriy Lysenko, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, claimed this afternoon at a press briefing that Russian-backed fighters have shelled residential areas of Krasnogorovka, a suburb to the west of Donetsk.

The Interpreter translates from the report:

“Yesterday morning, for the first time in several months, the occupiers opened fire on residential areas. Two shells were fired from 82 mm mortars onto Krasnogorovka. Fortunately, no one was injured as result of this shelling.”

According to Lysenko, Russian-backed fighters used heavy machine guns, various types of grenade launchers and cannons mounted on BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles to attack Ukrainian positions around Donetsk. Snipers were also reported outside Avdeyevka.

— Pierre Vaux

With Donetsk On Brink Of Return To Full-Scale War, Separatists Accuse Ukrainian Forces Of Grad Barrage

As we have been reporting for the last week, the military situation around the city of Donetsk is deteriorating rapidly, with fighting on the northern and western outskirts and both sides trading accusations of shelling. 

Today, the Russian-backed separatists made the dramatic claim that Ukrainian forces launched a barrage of Grad rockets at the western Donetsk suburb of Staromikhailovka.

According to Eduard Basurin, the deputy commander of the armed forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), more than 60 Grad rockets fell on Staromikhailovka and the Trudovskiye neighbourhood.

On November 3, the OSCE reported finding fragments of a Grad rocket at the site of a “fresh impact” in Staromikhailovka. The report said that the missile appeared to have been fired from the northwest, which is held by Ukrainian forces.

There has been no confirmation so far, however, of the large barrage reported by Basurin, nor have we seen videos or eyewitness reports on social media.

The DNR also claimed that Ukrainian troops had shelled the Spartak and Zhabichevo neighbourhoods, as well as the Volvo Centre – a separatist-held position southeast of Peski – with 82 mm mortars. 

Either the ceasefire has broken down to the brink of full-on war already, or the separatists are making false claims to justify renewed attacks. Russian state news agencies have already relayed the separatist claims. Regardless of whether the claims are true, the outlook for the survival of any ceasefire looks bleak.

The Ukrainian Information Resistance group claimed today that Russian-backed fighters were using engineering equipment to prepare reinforced positions for armoured vehicles and mortar batteries to the north of Staromikhailovka. The group also claimed to have recorded the deployment of 4 tanks within the city of Donetsk, in violation of weapons withdrawal agreements.

This morning, the Ukrainian military reported that Russian-backed forces attacked Ukrainian positions near Donetsk 13 times between 18:00 and 6:00 today.

According to the ATO Press Centre, Russian-backed fighters used heavy machine guns to fire on Ukrainian troops near Avdeyevka and Krasnogorovka, while positions near Marinka and Peski were attacked with grenade launchers.

The last reported attack on Peski lasted from 4:48 until 5:10 this morning. 


Meanwhile Ukraine’s TSN reported that Ukrainian soldiers have noted the reappearance of separatist commander Mikhail Tolstykh, known as Givi, on radio intercepts.

Givi is the commander of the Somali Battalion, which featured prominently in the battle for Donetsk Airport. After the capture of the airport he was filmed physically abusing Ukrainian prisoners.

According to the TSN report, Givi’s reappearance on radio calls was noted as coinciding with the escalation in attacks.

Soldiers from the 81st Brigade, deployed near Vodyanoye, told TSN that they felt unable to respond adequately to attacks given the restrictive rules of engagement placed upon them by the Ukrainian high command.  

While no fighting has been reported in the Lugansk region, the regional administration there announced this morning that two Ukrainian soldiers had been wounded last night by a tripwire mine.

The soldiers, who were wounded near the town of Zolotoye, are reported to be in a severe but stable condition in hospital. 

— Pierre Vaux

Court Orders House Arrest for Ukrop Party Leader Korban

The Pechera District Court ordered Ukrop party leader Gennady Korban to be placed under house arrest for two months until December 31, 2015, reported.

Judge Larisa Tsokol said the house arrest may be extended after that date upon appeal from the prosecutor.

Korban must wear an electronic ankle bracelet during this period. Korban’s lawyer said he was satisfied with the judge’s decision, but may still appeal.

As we reported, Korban, the former deputy governor of Dnipropetrovsk and an associate of oligarch Ihor Kolomoiskyi, was arrested on charges of creating a criminal gang, embezzlement related to a fund to support Ukrainian soldiers, kidnapping, and automobile theft. Korban denies the charges, saying the funds were used to support Ukraine’s war effort.

Later the prosecutor indicated there may be a new set of charges but did not specify them.

President Petro Poroshenko said he supported the arrest of Korban and that more would be forthcoming. Mikhail Kishlyak, an aide to MP Borys Filatov, was arrested and charged with the murder of SBU officer Viktor Mandzyk, shot in Volnovakha in March of this year.

At that time, Andriy Denysenko, MP and associate of Korban and then-governor of Dnipropetrovsk Ihor Kolomoisky, admitted that his assistant Denys Hordeyev had killed Mandzyk, but claimed it was in self-defense.

Korban is the leader of  Ukrop, a nationalist party named for the derogatory nick-name that Russians have for Ukrainians (“dill-weed”). Members of the parliamentary faction with this name include Right Sector’s Dmytro Yarosh, Andriy Biletsky, Boryslav Bereza, Borys Filatov, and Volodymyr Parasiuk.

Kolomoiskyi has called the case “political,” and journalist Yury Butusov has written that the arrest of Korban was made by Vladimir  Chovganyuk, commander of the SBU’s Alfa spetsnaz division and his deputy Maj. Gen. Valeriy Shaytanov of the SBU’s anti-terrorism department, who according to Zakarpattia Region Governor Hennadiy Moskal was among those who stormed the trade union building in February 2014 during the Maidan protests.

Korban did not attract many votes in the election but Filatov, a candidate for mayor, will face a second round of the vote for mayor of Dnipropetrovsk.

— Catherine A. Fitzpatrick