Money is the real power – poultry oligarch puts down his enemies

UKRAINE/2015

Imagine, one day, an unexpected group of people comes to your workplace and beats you up with iron bars. While this may seem unimaginable, for Vasyl Tkachenko, this is a painfully true story, where unassailable men had power over the life and death of others. "I do not know how this would have ended if my colleague did not come to the office on time," he describes the conditions where fierce activism is both necessary and lethal.

 

Myronivsky Hliboprodukt (MHP) is an enormous conglomerate focusing on poultry production owned by Yuri Kosiuk, a man with close links to many Ukranian politicians, including President Petro Poroshenko. Since the activities of MHP very rarely consider the life conditions of locals, loud and direct protests have taken place in the Vinnytsia, Chekasy, and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

Defiance of "the less powerful" ones

In Yasnozirya, a village of 3,700 in the Cherkasy area, the community refused the first MHP's construction in 2003. Nevertheless, during the spring of 2015, the people of Yasnozirya rose due to a retiree, Vasyl Tkachenko. They were actually forced to flee, and then controlled the field for the next eight months.

We haven't won so far because MHP is still trying to buy the land from
the local people.
I'm sure people won't give up. ”

Yasnozirya elected 67-year-old Vasyl Tkachenko to be mayor in October 2015. Following his pledge, Tkachenko continued fighting Kosiuk's juggernaut, and drove away over hundreds of MHP's panels. In December of 2015, he supported the protests in the neighboring village of Moshny, where people also set up the roadblock to stop MHP's construction.

Two unknown men

Several days after, on December 21, the unexpected visitors in dark sports jackets came to Tkachenko's office at the village council. The first man sat down at the table in front of the mayor while the other one tore off the phone cable. Tkachenko was thrown off the chair and punched in the head with brass knuckles. His colleague heard noises and rushed into the office, which startled the attackers and they ran away promptly. Tkachenko ended up with a concussion and a broken nose, which caused him to spend more than a month in a hospital.

The investigation was initiated, and a license plate of the attackers' car was detected via the CCTV footage. It turned out that one of the men was a member of the Ukrainian boxing federation and a member of the national Olympic team. Nevertheless, the incident has been declared as only hooliganism and Tkachenko was not given any reimbursement for medical expenses. Allegedly, it is still not clear if the beating was somehow connected to his job. The mayor himself is convinced the brutal assault was supposed to be a pay off for his opinion against the MHP.

"I'm sure this was an order, no hooliganism."

Whatever their intention, the violence did not work. People thought I'd become afraid and wouldn't come back to work. So, when I came back to my office after a month in the hospital, they were surprised and appreciative,” Vasyl Tkachenko explained, following his return to the place he was assaulted and battered.

Next destination: Europe

The conclusion of this story does not seem to be anywhere close. The investigation has been canceled several times and the court process still proceeds to this day. The MHP has naturally never admitted any involvement in the case. Instead, the company, which has been accused of soil exploitation, breaking ecological limits, causing environmental pollution and civil rights violations, has expanded to the Netherlands and plans to spread to many countries of the European Union.

If you think this is an exceptional incident, think again. The same two men attacked Volodymyr Sukhopara, and the civil society activist from Chetvertynivka, similar to Andriy Skakodub from Ladyzhyn. Both have organized protests against the MHP.


Further reading

ENG  Lost in transition: 25 Years of European Bank for Reconstruction and Development  (CEE Bankwatch Network)

ENG  Home to roost. One community's struggle against agribusiness in Ukraine  (Kateryna Onoprienko on Stories.bankwatch.org)

UKR  21/12/2015  Unknown attackers seriously injured mayor of Yasnozirya in a broad daylight  (M oshny.ck.ua)

UKR  21/12/2015  Unknown attackers seriously injured the mayor of Yasnozirya in a broad daylight  (Viktor Melnik on Cherkasy24.info)

UKR  23/12/2015  The chairman of the village council spoke about the attack  (Zmi.cki.ua)

UKR  31/12/2015  Kyiv activist evidence of how mobilized fighters were released from Nasha Ryab  (Procherk.info)

UKR  24/12/2015  In Cherkasy the chairman of the village council who opposed the construction of Nasha Ryaba brigades was  beaten (Antikor.com.ua)

UKR  29/11/2016  In Cherkasy started the court with the culprits of the attack on the  mayor of Yasnozirya (Dzvin.news)

UKR  02/02/2017  Court of the village chairman of Yasnozirya Tkachenko deliberately delayed  (Narodna rada Cherkaskovo rajonu)

UKR  04/05/2017  The court with sportsmen who attacked the mayor of Yasnozirya turned into a farce  (Mikola Babich on Ukrnaczachist.ck.ua)