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

UKRAINE/2015

One day unexpected a group of punchers comes to your workplace and beats you up with iron bars. In the world of law something hardly imaginable. But for Vasyl Tkachenko a painfully true story of the unassailable men with the power over the life and death of others. “I don’t know how this could have ended if my colleague hadn’t come to the office on time,” he describes the conditions when a 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 the president Petro Poroshenko. Since the activities of MHP very rarely considerate to the life conditions of the locals, loud and direct protests have taken place in Vinnytsia, Chekasy and Dnipropetrovsk region.

Defiance of “the less powerful” ones

In Yasnozirya, a village of 3,700 in Cherkasy oblast, the community refused the first MHP’s construction already in 2003. Nevertheless, during the spring of 2015 the company commenced the construction of new poultry brigades even though the village council voted against the construction again year before. The people of Yasnozirya rose in revolt led by a retiree Vasyl Tkachenko. They actually forced the machinery to flee and then controlled the field on for next eight months.

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

Due to this success and his promise to keep the MHP away from their land the people of Yasnozirya elected 67-year-old Vasyl Tkachenko a mayor in October 2015. Following his pledge Tkachenko continued fighting Kosiuk’s juggernaut, drove away over eight hundreds of MHP’s panels and in December 2015 he supported the protests in the neighbouring village Moshny where local people also set up a roadblock to stop MHP’s construction.

Two unknown men

Several days after, on December 21st a strange and unexpected visitors in dark sports jackets came into Tkachenko’s office at the village council. The first man sat down by the table in front of the mayor while the other one tore off the phone cable. In the next moment they threw Tkachenko off the chair and started beating him up with a brass knuckles in the head. His colleague heard the noise and rushed into the office which startled the attackers and they run away promptly. Tkachenko ended up with brain concussion and a broken nose which caused him to spend more than a month in a hospital.

The investigation was initiated and via the CCTV footage the licence plate of the attackers’ car was detected. It turned out that one of the punchers was a member of Ukrainian boxing federation and even member of the national olympic team. Nevertheless, the incident has so far been investigated as only a hooliganism and Tkachenko wasn’t even given a health benefit. Allegedly, it is still not clear whether 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 opinionated initiative against the MHP.

“I’m sure this was an order, no hooliganism.”

Whatever was the punchers intention, the violence didn’t work. “People thought I’d become afraid and won’t come back to work. So, when I came back to my office after a month in the hospital, they were surprised and appreciated it,” Vasyl Tkachenko explained his return to the place where he got assaulted and battered.

Next destination: Europe

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

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


Further reading

ENG Lost in transition: 25 Years of the 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 the mayor of Yasnozirya in a broad daylight (Moshny.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 The Kyiv activist provided evidence of how the mobilized fighters were released from Nasha Rjaba (Procherk.info)

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

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

UKR 02/02/2017 Court over the abuser 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)