Group of activists sued for criticizing the state bodies in relation of Ukranian poultry oligarch activities

26. 9. 2017 - VINNYTSIA
Ecoaction members' silent protest for fair trial

Starting on Monday the trial of four eco-activists began at Vinnytsia City court. The defendants are accused of libel and false accusation by the Tulchyn Rayon state administration, Mykola Pidbolyachnyy. In a collective letter addressed to President Poroshenko the group's criticized state bodies, including the one of Pidbolyachnyy, for questionable procedures in providing permits for the planned construction of the large poultry brigade of Myronivsky Hliboproduct (MHP), and by the oligarch Yuriy Kosiuk.

On September 25, the first hearing at Vinnytsia City court took place. However, the judge, Sergiy Fedchyshen, has been abstained from the trial due to unknown reasons. A new judge, Valeriy Boyko, was assigned by automatic distribution to continue the case.

Pidbolyachnyy approached the court to defend his "honor, dignity and professional reputation," which has been allegedly harmed by the claims of the residents of Tulchyn Raion led by four activists from Kleban, Zaozerne and Tulchyn. Pidbolyachnyy demands an apology and the concerned individuals to openly refute and acknowledge their previous claims and false accusations. The collective letter of appeal to the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko states that Pidbolyachnyy "lobbies interests of the oligarch Yuriy Kosiuk," the CEO of MHP. This open letter was published by one of the local medias leading to the persecution of the involved journalist.

The MHP is one of the largest companies in the country. In 2016, the conglomerate earned $1,135 million with a total profit of $69 million. Yuriy Kosiuk, the CEO of the Myronivsky Hliboproduct conglomerate, is said to be a close companion to the high-ranking politicians and, allegedly, among the current rich Ukrainian. At the same time, the MHP was a target of accusations for environmental recklessness, even human rights violations.

Defenders gained support

"We consider this lawsuit to be an attempt to pressure the local activists who have a principal position regarding the MHP," says Tamara Kharchylava from the Center of Environmental Initiatives - Ecoaction. "1,465 people have signed the appeal,” she proclaims. The non-governmental organization, Ecoaction has made the decision to take part in this court case on the side of the activists.

"Today, the people were deprived of the right to defend themselves from ungrounded claims," ​​Kharchylava stated.

Members of the Eco-Action show in Vinnytsia city court are in support of sued activists. They've brought a banner saying, "Stop persecution of the activists," and symbolically taped it up to the point that the communities are not given the opportunity to speak aloud on socially significant topics.   

Violence linked company expanding to Europe

MHP recently announced plans to launch another branch in the EU market. Following enterprises in the Netherlands and Slovakia, this will bring further expansion to the west.

The lawsuit held with activists from Vinnytsia is one of many recent cases of environmental persecution associated with the MHP. Apart from the verbal threats and surveillance, the cases were in cooperation with Arnika, a Czech NGO, published on stop-persectuion.org. Persecution of environmental activists is an emerging phenomenon both in EU and non-EU countries. In reaction to almost 50 world countries being associated with the Aarhus Convention on environmental democracy, a firm statement for stronger protection was published by Belarus for a concrete case of oppression.

Myronivsky Hliboproduct annual report, 2016Myronivsky Hliboproduct annual report, 2016
Governments call for stronger protection for environmental activists and criticize Belarus for persecution