Report on the Donetsk Events: Police have not proven their innocence

On Tuesday the temporary working group of the MIA Public Council presented a report on the events which culminated in the death of protester Gennady Konoplyov. Mr Konoplyov, a retired miner from the Donetsk region, had been on hunger strike in solidarity with former Chernobyl clean-up workers protesting cuts in pensions and benefits. He died on Sunday evening, 27 November during the forced dismantling of their protest tents by police officers and men from the Emergencies Ministry.

The working group was in Donetsk on 30 November and spoke with police officers and witnesses from the Chernobyl clean-up workers’ camp.  They did not contact either the Emergencies Ministry officers or the ambulance team since they did not have the authority to do so.  The role of these others, they say, should be examined by public councils attached to the relevant ministries.

Their report was prepared by 2 December and contains various recommendations including that the MIA leadership should create a working group made up of representatives of the MIA and its Public Council, as well as members of the public.


Background to the events on 27 November


On 8 November 2011, former Chernobyl clean-up workers brought documents to the Donetsk Regional Prosecutor’s Office regarding failure to enforce court rulings ordering that their pensions be paid in full.  They began their protest hunger strike on 14 November in the hall of the Donetsk Regional Pension Fund but vacated the hall following an apparent concession from the Head of the Donetsk Regional Pension Fund.  The protesters, and the head of the Regional MIA, say that on the same day they asked the Emergencies Ministry for a large tent, electricity and a gas burner.  These were provided.


Both the Chernobyl clean-up workers and representatives of the MIA say that on 22 November officers from the Emergencies Ministry Fire Service arrived at one of the protesters’ tents, though not the large one which had been provided by the Ministry. They drew up an official act regarding two gas canisters, which were immediately taken beyond the tent camp. No other inflammable items were found.


On 22 November the Donetsk MIA sent a letter to the Mayor, O. Lukyanenko, in which they stated that “according to information received on the Internet the next explosion will be in Donetsk”.  The letter asks the Mayor “to resolve the issue through the courts of a ban on the said and other mass events in Donetsk pending an improvement in the operational situation in the city”.

The relevant application was made to the court with the letter from Police Colonel Syednyev attached.


At around 2 in the morning on 23 November the Donetsk District Administrative Court allowed the application and imposed a ban on the Chernobyl clean-up workers’ picket and other mass events on the square outside the Donetsk Regional Pension Fund. 

Since Mykola Goncharov who was representing the protesters (the respondent in the court application) could not be present for health reasons, he applied to have the court hearing postponed but this was rejected.


On the evening of 24 November a bailiff read the protesters at the tent camp the court ban. The men refused to sign the relevant act (Mykola Goncharov not being present). The bailiffs informed them that their protest was illegal and left.


On 27 November, having received information from the city branch of the Emergencies Ministry that they planned to take back their tent, generator and gas burner, Police Colonel Syednyev arrived at the tent camp at around 19.00.  Police officers had been on duty there each day.


The report states that the tent was dismantled by representatives of the Emergencies Ministry in plain clothes.

Syednyev states that there were 10 police officers in the tent camp, and one officer in the Pension Fund building which was closed from outside.


Syednyev asserts that a representative of the Emergencies Ministry outside the tent told the protesters that his Ministry would dismantle the tent.  The protesters say that there was no notification.


The protesters say that the men in plain clothes piled the tent into a car, model Kamaz, without number plates.

After the dismantling of the tent, one of the people on hunger strike, Gennady Konoplyov was taken, showing no sign of life, to an ambulance on duty at the protest.


The former Chernobyl clean-up workers having learned that Mr Konoplyov was dead, blocked the ambulance. The police took a few minutes to unblock the ambulance’s path.


The working group concluded::

The protest by the former Chernobyl clean-up workers was peaceful.

There were no grounds for the police application for a ban on all peaceful assembly in Donetsk.

The dismantling of the tent was not to enforcement the court ban on peaceful assembly.

The police did not properly notify the protesters of the planned dismantling of the tent.

Whether or not the Kamaz had number plates is unknown and needs further investigation.

Whether or not Police Colonel Syednyev had the right to carry out his direct official duties on 27 November at around 19.00 at the protest site is unknown and requires additional investigation.


The overall conclusion is that the Donetsk Regional and Donetsk Police did not provide sufficient and convincing evidence that the death of Gennady Konoplyov was not as the result of actions by officers of the MIA and Emergencies Ministry during the dismantling of the Chernobyl clean-up workers’s protest tent on 27 November.


No evidence was provided to substantiate claims from Syednyev that the protesters had made threats against the police.

The grounds for the request to ban all peaceful assembly “pending an improvement in the operational situation in the city” gave insufficient detail or arguments. The letter gives no logical connection between reports on the Internet about a planned terrorist attack and the need for a court ban on peaceful assembly in Donetsk, including the protest by former Chernobyl clean-up workers.

Syednyev did not have the right to ask the Mayor to get a court ban on peaceful assembly in Donetsk.


Neither the Emergencies Ministry nor the MIA have the authority to forcibly implement a court ruling.


Both the protesters and Syednyev confirm that the bailiffs were not at the site of the tent camp at any time on 27 November.

Given the absence of court bailiffs, one can state with certainty that the dismantling of the tent was not in enforcement of the court ban.


Any statements made by members of the authorities that the Emergencies Ministry and MIA were enforcing the court order are incorrect and in breach of Ukrainian legislation.


The protesters say that they were not informed that the tent was to be dismantled.


Syednyev asserts that they were informed directly at the place by a member of the Emergencies Ministry. There is no mention of any warning having been given through a loudspeaker.


The police did not properly inform the protesters of the dismantling.


The Working Group

  1. asks the Donetsk Regional Traffic Police to provide information as to whether there were number plates on the Kamaz into which the tent was loaded.
  2. asks the Donetsk Regional Police Department to provide information as to whether there was an order issued for Police Colonel Syednyev to be in charge of the police during the dismantling of the protesters’ tent on 27 November;
  3. recommends that the MIA create a temporary working group with the participation of members of the MIA, the Public Council attached to the MIA, including members of the present working group, and members of the public, to fully investigate the events on 27 November;
  4. calls on the MIA and its departments in the Donetsk region to provide adequate and convincing evidence that the death of Gennady Konoplyov was not as the result of actions by members of the MIA during the dismantling of the tent at the protest by former Chernobyl clean-up workers on 27 November 2011.

The report is signed by the Chair of the Working Group, Volodymyr Chemerys

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