Donetsk National University choice of new Rector elicits more than academic passions

The election of any new head of a university can elicit strong emotions, especially if the candidate you favour does not win. An assault on Tetyana Lev, the successful candidate’s wife, goes beyond what is reasonable. Nor is this the only event around the election of a new Rector for the Donetsk National University which warrants attention.


The dismissal in August by the Minister of Education, Dmytro Tabachnyk, of the former Rector, Volodymyr Shevchenko, was in itself controversial, but we will concentrate only on the election of his successor which took place on 10 December 2010. 


The first nuance was the presence on 10 December of the Deputy Minister of Education, Yevhen Sulyma.  The favoured choice of the Ministry’s leaders was not in question, with this clearly being the Acting Rector Petro Yehorov.  During the meeting with the university staff, the Deputy Minister of Education made direct allegations about the wife of candidate Yury Lysenko, Tetyana Lev who had  in recent years been both a Vice-Rector of the University and the Chief Accountant.  She was dismissed from both posts by the new Ministry’s leadership.  Tetyana Lev told reporters that in the 30 years that she devoted to the University there had been various checks by controlling bodies which had never found any serious infringements in her activities. “There were no complaints about my work. And suddenly, without looking me in the eye, not calling me into their office, an order appears demoting me to the lowest position”.


The court reinstated Tetyana Lev as Vice-Rector, although the Ministry is in no hurry to enforce this.


According to Radio Svoboda, lecturers believes that threats of such checks may have prompted the former Rector V. Shevchenko to decide against standing for election.


The Deputy Minister of Education also stressed to the university staff that although they voted for their preferred candidate, the last word was with the Ministry.


The vote outcome however prevented this from being the case.  According to the law, we hasten to add. The candidate widely seen as the Ministry’s protégé, Petro Yehorov gained 29.67% of the votes.  This was one vote off the 30 percent which would have allowed the Ministry, as per the Law on Higher Education, to impose their preferred candidate even if another had received more votes. Yury Lysenko gained 48% of the votes and should now be confirmed by the Ministry of Education as Rector of the Donetsk National University.  Act one is not over since the Ministry is dragging its heels, however in principle this is a formality. 

Unfortunately the events of Act two suggest a dangerous change in genre.  Last week law enforcement officers carried out three searches of the DNU accountancy section, the last through the night from Thursday to Friday 17 December. According to Donetsk human rights activist, Maria Oliynyk, the search warrant was presented by Dmytro Dyachenko who said that he was a Prosecutor’s Office Investigator, but showed a police captain’s ID. 


After journalists arrived around 8.30 p.m. those carrying out the search barricaded themselves into the block. Vice-Rector Pravdivtsev, who was in constant contact with the Acting Rector and unsuccessful candidate, Petro Yehorov, ordered that all three exits be locked, meaning that Maria Oliynyk, together with Tetyana Lev’s representative, Yevheniya Ratnikova, were trapped in the Language and Literature Faculty for three hours.


The Donetsk Prosecutor’s Office refused to give any explanation on Thursday, announcing only on Friday afternoon that a criminal investigation had been initiated over expropriation of funds from the Donetsk University. According to their statement, reported by OstroV, the criminal investigation was launched on 9 December on the basis of a statement from the current management of Donetsk National University over expropriation on a particularly large scale and official fraud by staff of the university.


The Prosecutor’s Press Service says that none of the candidates for Rector had any relation to the financial matters of the university and asks that the matter not be connected with the elections.

One candidate’s wife, however, was directly involved, so requests to not connect the events seem somewhat unrealistic.  Nor is it entirely clear what is meant by the management of the university since the management, a day before the elections, certainly included one candidate.


The two men who beat up Tetyana Lev at around 9 p.m. on Friday evening outside her home, made the connection abundantly clear, shouting  “That’s what you get for your husband, bitch”.  In the Kalinin Hospital she was diagnosed as having concussion and bruises.


Mr Lysenko told the press that the attack has been reported to the police. Asked what he plans to do, he said “We will turn to the press, to the public so that they protect us. And probably find our own funds so as to hire a guard. What is happening is terrible!”


The events described above have received considerable coverage in the media.  While it is not, of course, for journalists or members of the public to comment on criminal investigations, the sequence of events and Friday’s physical attack on the wife of Donetsk University’s new Rector clearly requires response and close public scrutiny.


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