Philadelphians don’t have any problem figuring out what happened to Freddie Gray, the 25-year old black man who died as a result of a severed spine at the neck while being transported in a police van by Baltimore Police.
Here in Philadelphia, Police have long enjoyed giving arrested men who mouth off to them during arrests what is known fondly in the department as a “nickel ride.” That’s where they put the prisoner in the back of the van, hands bound behind their backs so they cannot hold on to anything or protect themselves, and otherwise unrestrained. Then the driver of the vehicle accelerates repeatedly, whips around corners and periodically slams on the breaks, causing the helpless captive in the back to slam against various parts of the vehicle, often with his head.
Back in 2001, an investigative journalism series run by the Philadelphia Inquirer exposed the practice, which had led to numerous injuries of arrested people, and to secret payouts by the department to some of those most grievously hurt, including one man who was paralyzed from the neck down by a spinal injury similar to that suffered by Gray. He received a payment of $1.2 million, the newspaper reported.
The Inquirer exposé led calls for a halt to the criminal practice, but a 2013 article in the same publication reported that police were back at it again, with at least three serious incidents that led to a lawsuit against the department. One of those victims, 31-year-old Ryan Roberts, a burglary suspect, was delivered to the hospital with injuries all over his body, including to the back of his head. He died later. Though the cause of death was listed by the hospital as “cocaine intoxication,” the lawsuit alleges that he died of his injuries, sustained in the van ride, when he was left unrestrained in the back of the vehicle.
In the Baltimore case, a lawyer hired by Gray’s family says that though he was dragged, unresisting, into the van at the time police picked him up, and was yelling at the cops holding him, when he arrived at the hospital, he was immobile and his spine was “80-percent severed” at the neck. That’s the kind of injury that is hard to cause without a brutal amount of force — the kind of thing that could only be delivered by a deliberate twisting of the neck, or by the body being rammed against an immovable object — exactly the kind of thing that can happen in a Philadelphia Police van “nickel ride.”
Baltimore, a city with a large African American population, and a police department that has a history of abusive arrests, is reportedly on edge. The mayor and the police chief have both expressed concern about Gray’s death and an investigation is underway into what happened, with six officers involved in his detention and in the van ride currently suspended, but so far, city officials have been circumspect, saying they don’t know what happened between the time of his arrest, when he was seen shouting and later reportedly asking for help, and his delivery to the hospital, when he was no longer talking or breathing.
But they aren’t talking about the obvious reality a spine isn’t something that gets broken during a van ride, unless the victim has been left unrestrained in the back, and unless the driver is deliberately driving recklessly in an attempt to seriously hurt you.
This is just the latest example of a nationwide problem: murderous police brutality directed against the poor, and especially against blacks and latinos and other people of color.
Viewed from Philadelphia, what happened to Freddie Gray appears to be no less a murder than the gunning down of Walter Scott with five shots to the back by a North Charleston, SC police officer.
Until police start doing serious time for these crimes, and until the politicians who hire them and keep them on the street start losing their jobs, they will keep occurring.
Baltimore police said Freddie Gray, who died in their custody after being arrested, was not buckled in when he was being transported and that officers “failed to give medical attention in a timely manner multiple times.”
Speaking at a press conference Friday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts updated the media about the ongoing investigation. He acknowledged that Gray, who died about a week after suffering a severe spinal cord injury in custody, was never strapped in with a seatbelt as department policy requires.
Deputy Commissioner Kevin Davis added that Baltimore police should have administered medical attention at the site of Gray’s apprehension –presumably because he was already hurt.
April 21, 2015–The following interview with Vladislav Wojciechowski was published on April 3, 2015 on the Russian language website Free Press. It is translated to English by Greg Butterfield and published on the website of Borotba.
Vladislav Wojciechowski is the founder of the website Committee of May 2 (Committee for the Liberation of Odessa), concerning the Odessa Massacre of May 2, 2014. He is a former political prisoner and a communist in his outlook.
He gave an exclusive interview to Free Press correspondent Dmitry Ogneevu about the protests in Odessa, the events of May 2, 2014, and his arrest.
Introduction by Dmitry Ogneevu
I’ve known Vlad Wojciechowski for several years. Once upon a time, before the Maidan, which split history into “before” and “after” and destroyed the Ukrainian state, I loved coming to Odessa, meeting there with local activists of Borotba, including Vlad. At night we sat in noisy Odessa courtyards, walked around Primorsky Boulevard and discussed the prospects of political struggle. I remember on one of my last visits we strongly criticized Yanukovych and thought about how great Ukraine would be without him. That was two years ago.
Now, two years later, we are back together in the trench, placing guns on the parapet, watching the movements of “Ukropov” at the checkpoint. A ridiculous irony of fate. Vlad was one of the most active participants in the Odessa Anti-Maidan movement from the beginning, and was in the House of Trade Unions on May 2, 2014. After the terrible violence against opponents of the junta on Kulikovo Field, he was forced to flee to Crimea with other activists. He returned to Odessa at the end of the summer, was arrested and thrown into prison by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). In late December, he was exchanged for captured Ukrainian soldiers, and found himself in Novorossiya. Ukrainian officials took his papers, and now he’s unable to leave the country. However, it is not too perplexing. He seems to have found his place here — in the political department of the Ghost Brigade. We sit at the headquarters of the political department in Alchevsk and reminisce…
Free Press: How did Antimaidan begin in Odessa?
Vladislav Wojciechowski: For us, Antimaidan began in late 2013. The leader of the Odessa chapter of Borotba, Alexey Albu, was then a regional council deputy. The head of the Party of Regions faction asked his assistance in protecting the regional council — they really expected an assault then. Of course, we were no friends of the Regionals, but everyone understood that it was better for them to remain in power than the alternative …
And were there supporters of the Maidan in Odessa?
Of course, we had Maidan from the beginning. A small number of people, several hundred on average, hanging around the monument to the Duke of Richelieu, but nobody took them seriously: there were fools, what could they take over? Nobody even tried to disperse them. And Odessites plainly did not support them.
How did the local authorities treat them?
The local authorities panicked a little. During the defense of the regional council, after we had already spent three nights there, the TV reported that Yanukovych had proposed Yatsenyuk to become head of government. This was a serious wake-up call, as it showed that he had no other way to cope with them. Yatsenyuk ultimately refused, that is, he was aware that the power had already shifted 100 percent. Therefore, the local authorities were in a panic, not knowing what to do.
How did the Kulikovo Field movement develop?
It turned out that the defense of the regional council had rallied many people from various organizations, including some we sometimes protested, like “Slavic Unity.” A collective decision was reached to create a unified council to build a real people’s resistance to Maidan. All the Antimaidan forces rallied. That’s how the Kulikovo Field movement was born — because the first rally was held on the Kulikovo Field. Once there was a statue of Lenin there, before it was brought down and moved. It’s just a very large area in the center of the city. When the first rally was held there, we were about 10,000 people. It was just a rally, not yet a march. Prior to this, the largest rally that I had ever seen in Odessa was held by the Communist Party on January 24, 2009, against the Rada’s infringement of workers’ rights. About 900 people had come to that.
And here there were about 10,000, and from the podium it was announced that we’re not going anywhere and we will create a tent city. At the same time a people’s defense team was set up — young guys with bats who were supposed to protect Kulikovo Field. And on March 16 the first march was held – it brought out 20,000 to 25,000 people. Everyone thought here there would be no change of power.
There was a victorious euphoria?
Of course. Twenty-five thousand people. Odessa had never seen anything like it. I stood at the beginning of the march at a crossroads, where it turned in the direction of the regional council, filming it on video. I was shooting continuously for 40 minutes. And the march had still not ended, the tail was not visible. Moreover, 90 percent of the participants were not in any organizations. People spontaneously took to the streets to prevent what was happening in Kiev. Then it seemed, what Maidan in Odessa? There’s nothing here for them.
What happened on May 2?
The day before, on the first of May, we had a small May Day action — we held a march, which was about 4,000 people. By that time people had become tired of marches as they began to realize that they accomplished nothing. Every weekend we held marches, the first was 25,000, then 20,000, then 15,000. Everyone complained that there was nothing but talk and walking around the city. Four thousand people on the first of May — and that’s respectable. Then everyone crashed and went to rest.
On May 2, not suspecting anything, at about 2 o’clock I went with my sister to the Tavria supermarket on Deribasovskaya Street. We went (everything started then, but I still did not see anything), we bought something, and the guard started running around, yelling that everyone must leave, they are closed …
Did you know that football fans gathered there?
I knew, because just the week before when Chernomorets [Odessa soccer team] played, there were rumors that Kulikovo Field would be razed, so an urgent mobilization was called to defend the encampment. Naturally, we all ran there, but no one came. Everyone got fed up and no one took it seriously afterward. So, the guard kicked us out of the supermarket, and we saw shooting, flying stones, firecrackers … I took my sister home, went on the Internet, watched an online broadcast and was stunned, because there were never so many of these morons in the city.
You mean, it was all people from out of town?
That’s right. Because the Chernomorets fans who participated in the march “For a United Ukraine,” for the most part, when they saw how it was flying off the handle, said, “We don’t want to be part of this!” and went on to the football match. I’m not talking about the ultra-rightists, but about those who just came to the march.
I called my friend Andrei Brazhevsky. I was sure that he went there because he was always near the action. I asked him: “Andrei, what’s happening?” He said, “We got squeezed, but we’re still holding on, we have no forces here.” I said, “Come on, we will try to get to you!” We must help our comrades – you can’t throw them to the wolves. We decided to go to the Kulikovo Field, to see what was happening there. People were preparing for an attack on Kulikovo …
We arrived to a depressing spectacle. At that time there were only about 150 people. Moreover, the composition was depressing. About 40 young guys, 50 women aged 30 to 60, and 50 men aged 50-60-70 years. A sad spectacle, but, nevertheless, we took sticks in hand, made barricades — in general, prepared to defend ourselves. Of course, we all understood coming here that we will get it in the neck, but we had no moral right to leave the people. We decided to stay with them, arm them with sticks, collect stones.
We gathered up 250-300 people. There was a rumor that those who were defending themselves on Greek Street, a few hundred people, were coming back to us, and with their help we would repulse the crowd. Eventually, exactly 15 people returned from the Greek. These were the only ones who managed to get out of there without being stopped by police. They escaped the crowd, ran to Kulikovo, we met them …
So. We get a call from the city center, saying the fascists have already passed the Little Book, the book market halfway between Kulikovo and Greek. A march of one thousand. Several hundred from the Maidan, fully equipped with firearms. And half with bats and chains. We were told they were 10 minutes away, get ready! Well, we looked at the perimeter. It turned out that we had one person for every meter of barricade, well, it’s just gibberish, so we narrowed the barricades to the porch of the building.
You controlled the building then?
No one had control. It was empty. No, there were some workers from the House of Trade Unions. But on May 2, along with security, the usual guards, there were the boys from the Odessa squads. We decided to stay at the building. Naturally, we tried to send the women away. Many accuse the leaders of the Antimaidan of bringing people into the building, but that’s a lie. There are videos taken by us when Deputy Vyacheslav Markin, who died there, went to the podium with a microphone and starts yelling, uncharacteristicly for him, demanding all women leave the Kulikov Field. And there were grandmothers walking around with shields and helmets. He says, “Go away! Why do you need it?! Go away! Do not bother us! We will not run to save you.”
But some refused to retreat from the fight. In the confusion that followed, people ran into the building, because they could already see the march coming. We were part of the group left on the porch …
And were there attempts to strengthen the defenses, in terms of military science? Were there experts among you, who knew how to hold the defenses?
From the point of view of military science, it was all for nothing. There was no defense as such. Well, there were pieces of asphalt that we broke up for half an hour before their arrival, broken pallets — all spontaneous.
We had one person with military experience, a friend. When we saw him, he came up and said: “Guys, you know that it’s all over if we stay here?! You must understand this! What are you doing?” We said,” Come on, suggest something else.” And what is there to offer? There is nothing to offer. As a result, this highly intelligent military guy fled, and said to hell with it.
Some people who had shields remained on the porch and began throwing stones. A wooden shield is, of course, a good thing when you’re deflecting stones, but then they started to shoot at us …
What kind of firearms were used?
A 5.45 mm barrel was definitely used. This is either a Saiga semi-automatic hunting rifle, or a Kalashnikov assault rifle. Most likely they were hunting rifles, the only difference being that such weapons cannot fire bursts.
When our people with shields began to fall, riddled with bullets, we all went into the building, because there was no other choice. We were in the building, and they were over forty meters away. We threw stones, they stood and shot. They did not even have to come close.
When we entered the building, there was a fuss. I saw a man of about 60 standing at the window, watching. Then he just crumpled — shot in the head, I saw it, it’s clear that it was not a thrown stone, but a shot in the head that killed him. There were a lot of pictures. Don’t look through a window or at once a couple of bullets will fly, or a Molotov cocktail.
We continued to throw stones until we ran out. There were few stones – we had to shove everything in our pockets! Then he started throwing pieces of glass at them — well, at least it was something. It was a little confusing. You throw a piece of glass about twenty meters, and someone forty meters away shoots at you.
Then we ran into a wing of the building, with one exit on the side stairs. Apparently they had already infiltrated it and sprayed a lot of pepper spray. Normal police “pepper” — it was impossible to breathe, just tears. We ran from that wing. By this time, the bottom had flared up …
And you had some personal weapons, gas cylinders, blunt weapons?
I didn’t see any, though I ran through all our “defenses.” We really had nothing to fight back with. If we had had two Kalashnikovs and a hundred rounds of ammunition each, we could have at least put up some resistance — they would have just run away.
At what point did you realize it was necessary to leave the building?
There was already heavy smoke. I started running around, looking for Alexey Albu and Andrei Brazhevsky, and there’s turmoil, a lot of people running around. At one point, Deputy Markin caught me by the arm and said, “Vlad, don’t be nervous, everything will be fine!” I said, “Ok, I’m not nervous!” And I ran on. I saw Andrei Brazhevsky. But Andrei had a problem – he couldn’t see well. Although he was an athlete, his vision was very poor, he just couldn’t recognize you past three to five meters. I yelled, “Andrei!” He heard me, but couldn’t see. Looking-looking, bang, and he ran off somewhere. Then I met Alexey Albu. He said, if there is a fire, it makes no sense to run upstairs, because you can’t jump and will either burn or suffocate, so let’s stick to the first floor.
Following this logic, we gathered who we could, and hand in hand, went through one of the wings of the building, down the stairs to a second floor window, and now two to three meters below us is a playground! A lot of people still stood under that window. We simply knocked out all the glass and breathed the air. And those below were saying, “Okay, let’s go!”
Well, we thought we’d preserve the defenses, hold the line on that floor. It was a narrow space, and in a narrow space, as is well known, the number of defenders is not so significant. And so there we were, until after a while one of the ultras with a Ukrainian ribbon crashes in and says, “Oops, this is the end of you!” And beside me was an old grandfather. Maybe a former military man — he was wearing camouflage. Well, I respected this grandfather — he kept his head and immediately threw a punch at this fool. He hit him in the stomach so hard that he got up and ran away. And I was holding a large fire extinguisher. I took it in case we had to hold back the flames, it had very strong pressure. I sprayed him with the fire extinguisher, he scrambled up and fled, dramatically threw a bottle at us, but missed.
Then they decided to talk with us. They said: “Bring out the women, and then let’s deal!” We said, “Well, just let them withdraw peacefully, without problems.” They still said: “Bring out the women, we will not touch them, we are local.” We said: “Local, what area are you from?” They: “We’ll kill you all!” Just local right-wingers, right, we know them all. We had five years of conflicts, we fought constantly with them. In general, there are only 50 people in Odessa, morons. It was clear that they were not local.
Eventually, we brought the women through the second floor window. Firefighters helped by putting up a ladder. We evacuated eight women, and we had seven people left. Four were young men up to 35, the rest 45-50 years. We realized that they are ready to shower us with Molotov cocktails, yet we need to somehow get out. We already realized that this was the end – all will have to pass through their hands, there were no other options — the smoke was already very heavy, there was nothing left to breathe.
We came out and immediately it began. First the firefighter went down, he said, “Come on, guys, I’ll try to bring you!” It was clear that he did not have a chance to bring us, because up comes a bald goon with a revolver in his hand who said to him: “Freedom! Go home.” The firefighter left. Us: “Hands up!” But he was not alone, there were a bunch of morons standing around.
We reached the ground, and then another fascist runs up with a bat in one hand, and a chain in the other, swinging for me (and I was in a bright light green jacket): “This is the reptile who threw glass at us!” I was surprised the glass hit someone in their march …
And that’s all of us, 15 people in the corridor that the police made …
The police were present?
Yes, but there were only about 30 of them, okay, where to intervene? War is coming … In fact, we are grateful because they brought a lot of people out and saved them. Simply, if they had fled, the crowd would have snuffed us all. In general, they made a corridor for us to withdraw — there were fifteen policemen on one side, fifteen on the other, and among them about a hundred of these goats with bats and chains. We had just started to come out haphazardly, I did not even have time to do anything. Just trying to cover my head, when a chain hit me. Now I have a scar from the chain [shows wound]. Hit, I fell down in a heap. Then some idiot brings the Ukrainian flag and tells me, “Kiss the flag!” There I sat with a busted head. I pretended to be stunned, to not understand anything. Then he was dragged off by his own people, so as not to shame them.
Then time seemed to run a little differently, it’s hard to remember now, as I lay there in a pool of blood. In the end, it was dark, and we tried to reach the police. There is a video showing a handful of us, the gangsters walking around us, someone laughs, someone spits. An old grandfather tries to take me by the hand, hit me with a shovel. Then the police drove their van closer to us, saying, “Get up quickly, crawl, get in!” This was another test, because there I was, my head was busted, but at least I could move. But there were a few people with us who were lying unconscious, beaten to a pulp – we dragged them. Those who could went toward the police van, and got beaten on the head with sticks. We rolled away in this van, and they started to run, hitting it with sticks.
Once we got away, the police brought us to the station on Malinowski. One of the commanders of the district department came out, and said: “Guys, hold on! We are morally with you, but you see, there’s nothing we can do to help you, we have orders to arrest all of you. But I’m leaving these orders in the dark! I called an ambulance and you are leaving!”
Yes, the police were behind us. But what chance did their hundred people have to disperse 3,000 hoodlums?! The thirty or forty people that were at the House of Trade Unions, they almost didn’t intervene, they couldn’t do much. But if they hadn’t, we would not have gotten out. We would have just been beaten to death. A blow on the head with a stick by itself isn’t fatal, but 20 times in the same place, this is serious. So we went to the hospital, my head was bandaged. I was supposed to have an x-ray, but we didn’t wait, we wanted to hide at home to recover, find out what’s going on …
In your opinion, what was the cause of death of the majority of those killed in the House of Trade Unions? There’s been much speculation that the burned bodies were already dead …
I can’t answer unequivocally. Yes, there were several bodies that were burned, but there were so many armed gangsters with Wolfsangels [neo-Nazi symbol], and even members of the Azov Battalion. Sasha Gerasimov, a member of the Komsomol who spent 11 years in prison, was there. He began to choke from carbon monoxide, lost consciousness and fell. Men in black helmets with Wolfsangels pulled him up. They dragged him to the window and said, “Jump! Better jump, or we will beat you to death!” On the fifth floor! Naturally, he did not jump, he tried to resist, they began to beat him. There is even a piece of video where he crawls out as they beat and beat on him. He stayed in the hospital for three months, one leg severely burned, the other knee crushed – he is disabled now, and still walks with a cane.
But I think if not half, then at least one-third died from firearms. I’m a hundred percent sure. They could be seen, that’s the way it was …
But did any expert see the bullets …
The experts saw, but they had to blame us. They wrote on Andrei Brazhevsky’s death certificate that he died from the crash after falling from a window. But the video shows that when he fell, he just broke his leg. He was still alive and tried to get away. No, he was finished off. Some worthless fascist bashed his skull. Well, was it the crash? In the video everything is clearly visible, including those who pursued him prior to his death.
Then you had to flee from Odessa?
Yes. We left urgently on the night of May 8-9, that is, a week later. There was danger of arrest. A good friend warned comrade Alexey Albu by phone that they were preparing to arrest all the Borotba members on May 9, and that it was better for us to disappear. We left all together, the whole organization, in two cars, by taxi, then hired a minibus to Kherson, then to Crimea. I returned to Odessa on August 12 …
For what purpose?
I just wanted to, and came back. No, I knew it was dangerous. But I had nothing to hide. The SBU and police came to my home several times – they wanted to call me in for questioning as a witness to May 2. I wasn’t afraid, let them call me. I’ll come if I have to. I witnessed what happened, I didn’t kill anyone. But they did not call me for any interrogations. A month later I was arrested, exactly one month after I returned.
Of course, they knew that I was back. The phone was tapped, and naturally I did not change any of the numbers since I was not hiding from anyone. Nothing frightened me, and my mother and sister had long been accustomed to having the phone tapped. No one was hiding, I lived in a rented apartment, worked …
When I came back, I started to communicate with people from the Antimaidan — these were people who did not accept what had happened and wanted to do something. We went out at night, painted graffiti like “Junta out!” We pasted leaflets – something, anything to contribute to the struggle. Propaganda for Novorossiya, of course. Novorossiya is the only living example of confrontation with the Kiev authorities, this was not happening anywhere else. That’s where the banner was raised. And the people there took up arms and risked their lives to prevent this plague from descending upon them.
Friday, September 12, was a lovely autumn evening, the “velvet season” in Odessa, when the sea is still warm and the air is a little cool. An ordinary evening, a small group had gathered, all seemed normal. Our door was always open – we were not afraid. This was a typical Odessa courtyard, any neighbor can stop by without asking. And some people flew in. At first it was not clear who they were. Half of them were “citizens” and those who were in uniform were unmarked. No Ukrainian flags or insignia. The first thing I saw was some reptile with a brand new Kalashnikov. A good Kevlar helmet with a skull and crossbones. He ran in, shouting “All hands up!”, handcuffed us, start kicking people out. That left me, Popov and the third bad man, Palycha Shishman, who, it turned out, had cooperated with them. Comrade Popov was with us on the second of May. He is now in the Lugansk people’s militia, in the fourth brigade.
At night we were brought into the SBU, and various officers began questioning us. They already had a finished “pidozra” – in Russian, literally “suspicion.” Something like an indictment. First, they document a “suspicion,” then try to prove it in a pretrial investigation, and then refer the case to the court. Personally, I was charged with “suspicion” under Article 28-3, “Organization of a Terrorist Group.” By organization, they meant financing. That is, if you bought a drink for someone and talked to them about Novorossiya, it was already terrorism. A bottle of cognac – this is funding. The investigator said: From eight to 15 years in prison. But, he says, you have a problem there. I said, what? He said: You’re the organizer. I say, so what? He: Well, okay, not 15, but you’ll get 14 years for sure.
We spent a few days waiting for lawyers. We talked to them about the tactics of our defense, hoping for some relief in the court. But at the first trial, extended preventive measures were applied, and we realized that it’s useless. The lawyer says, the best thing to do is try to have you transferred to house arrest. The judge read it all, laughing: Article 28-3? She looks at the investigator: Are you serious? But what have they done? The investigator says: They did it! Well, the judge says she understands that we should be under house arrest. But there are no options, and … 60 days in jail! The judge said bluntly: “I have no options. If I release you, tomorrow they will come for you…”
So for four months, I ended up in jail. There, in Odessa. Once a week, I was pulled in for questioning by the SBU – not very pleasant conversations with not very nice people …
How did you come to be exchanged?
This was due to hard underground work, because it was difficult to get a hold of our lists, we had no connection to normal due process. On December 26, at eight in the evening, during the evening roll call, a senior officer came with a sheet of paper, called four names, and said: “You have fifteen minutes to get ready, a car is waiting for you, you are free, goodbye!”
We were in shock, they were going to let us go. The door opened, there were some fools in uniforms wearing masks, and one lead us somewhere. Well, we thought then it was the exchange, we had heard about it before. We were issued a ruling from the Prosecutor’s Office that the case was closed for lack of evidence. A note that says you are officially free. So I thought with this certificate I could leave prison quietly and go home to sleep. But I was taken out in handcuffs. “Alpha” soldiers put us in the trunk of a Volkswagen minivan. The Alphas took the seats, and the four of us were in the trunk. They handcuffed us together, took off and announced we were being taken to Kharkov. We already knew that. In Kharkov, they gathered 200-something men from all over Ukraine – this is kind of a transit hub. And then through Izium to Donetsk.
What happened after the exchange? How did you get into the Ghost Brigade?
In Donetsk, military intelligence took over. Everyone had to go through questioning, to find out who was really a rebel and who was just mishandled. The next day my comrades from the LC arrived and brought me to Lugansk. For the first month I lived with a man from the Hooligan Battalion, just thinking that this is freedom, cool! Then I met with Evgeni Wallenberg, who I knew from Borotba. Evgeni took me to Alchevsk and said: “Don’t you want to help me in the political department? I need people who are intelligent, ideologically savvy!” I said that I’d think about it. I thought, and now I’m here.
Why do you think the resistance in Odessa lost? Why did it succeed in the Donbass region, and not yours?
Frankly, I’m ashamed to answer, because I am ashamed for Odessa. Seventy percent of the people there still support us. Yes, they are all intimidated. But here, too, they tried to intimidate and arrest everyone. Here they began to bomb people …
In Odessa, the leaders of Antimaidan, rather than unite, were each pulling the blanket. Some used volunteers to collect money in the name of Antimaidan, and spent it on themselves. There was no cohesion. There were a thousand people, and 1,500 organizations. Fifteen hundred organizations per thousand people! And May 2 happened. If we knew what would happen, we could have gathered 20,000 people and chased all that crap out of town. But it turned out that in general no one gathered. There was an opportunity, but it was not taken advantage of.
Maybe people were not completely aware of the seriousness of the situation. This may have played a role. The mentality of Odessans is different from Donbass. Odessans are more opportunists by nature. On May 2 our enemies managed to intimidate most of the city’s population. On the one hand, shame and disgrace – fear is stupid! But on the other hand, you can understand them – stones against guns are not good odds …
How do you see the resolution of the whole situation? Do you see Odessa liberated?
I see it. I even see the liberation of Kiev …
Should Novorossiya be established within the borders of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions? Or within the boundaries of the eight regions [of southeastern Ukraine]? Or should all of Ukraine be liberated from the junta, and the country rebuilt?
As I said, in Odessa 70 percent support us. They now live under occupation. I understand that you cannot leave them that way. How could you say that in 1941-1945 …
It’s necessary, as you say, to “rebuild” on a new basis. Novorossiya is a new banner, which has risen for many people, they want to separate and build their own state. But a neighboring country, Ukraine, is suffering, and we are duty-bound to help get rid of the junta. And give people the freedom to choose the country in which they live, to choose their government. To release them from the occupation is just the beginning. Our enemy is not the soldier of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (APU), who stands in the trenches at the front, but the Kiev junta, the power of the oligarchs.
Jenin, Occupied Palestine – The room was overflowing with people who had come to witness the opening of the play The Siege. Pushing our way through the throng we managed to find some seats, squashed in the middle of a diverse and lively audience. We were sitting in the Freedom Theatre, a Palestinian community-based theatre and cultural centre located in Jenin Refugee Camp in the northern part of the West Bank. Started in 2006, the theatre’s aim is to generate cultural resistance through the field of popular culture and art as a catalyst for social change in the occupied Palestinian territories. So, after two months of rehearsals, they were finally ready to show us their eagerly anticipated new play.
Poster for the play – The Freedom Theatre
The day started off with a theatrical memorial for Juliano Mer-Khamis, one of the founders of the Theatre School who was shot and killed in 2011 by a masked gunman. We then watched Journey of a Freedom Fighter; a documentary that recounts the story of Rabea Turkman, a talented student of the theatre who turned from armed resistance to cultural resistance. He was subsequently shot by the Israeli army and died a few years later as a result of his injuries.
Inspired by the true story of a group of freedom fighters, now exiled across Europe and Gaza, The Siege tells of a moment in history that took place during the height of the second intifada in 2002. The Israeli army had surrounded Bethlehem from the air and on land with snipers, helicopters and tanks, blocking all individuals and goods from coming in or out. For 39 days, people were living under curfew and on rations, with their supply of water cut and little access to electricity. Along with hundreds of other Palestinians, monks, nuns and ten activists from the International Solidarity Movement, these five freedom fighters took refuge in the Church of the Nativity, one of the holiest sites in the world.
The play gives some insight into what it was like to be trapped inside the church, surviving on so little, with the smell of decaying dead bodies in the building, shot by Israeli snipers. It brings out the hard choice they were faced with between surrendering or resisting until the end. However, no matter what they chose, they were given no other option than to leave behind their family and homeland for ever, as all the freedom fighters – in reality 39 – were deported and have not been able to come back since.
The play exceeded all expectations! Everyone seemed amazed by what they had just witnessed. We talked with Osama, a student and a friend from the Freedom Theatre School who was brought up in Al Azzeh refugee camp, in Bethlehem. His words were lost in the power of his emotion. “I would have loved to play in that show!”, he finally managed to share. Only 12 at the time when the tanks entered his city, the show related so much to his childhood and brought back many memories of that time in his life. He recounts how the loud bang, heard at the start of the play, was a reenactment of the shot that had pierced the city’s water tank. This sound is still strongly engrained in his mind as it was the start of the long and difficult days that the inhabitants were about to face. “We are under occupation, but we are not weak. We stand up with what we can, be it our bodies, our voices or our guns!” – Osama believes in armed resistance as one of many ways to fight the occupation. And as an actor, it is important for him to represent these resisters in “another way, a good way. We die because we want to live!”
Alaa Shehada, the assistant director of the play, explained a bit about the making of The Siege. During their research period, they had gone over to Europe and interviewed 13 refugees in order to hear their stories first hand. They even managed to get an interview with one of the 26 refugees in Gaza. He explained how this story is not just about what happened during 2002, but is a microcosm of the whole Palestinian struggle. It reveals the continuous Israeli propaganda that has been going on since 1948, representing the Palestinians as terrorists through false accusations. In this particular situation, the Israeli army blamed the fighters for having attacked the church and holding the monks inside it. This has later been proven to be a lie. The truth being that the monks had allowed the fighters in and they were working together during the whole time of the siege. Ultimately, during the 67 years of Israeli occupation, even with the whole world watching, there has been no justice for the Palestinian people. 50% of Palestinians are refugees from their own country and still have not been given the right to return.
At the Freedom Theatre, Cultural Resistance is their way of defying the occupation. Ahmed Jamil Tobassi, one of the actors from the show, explained that among many other things, theatre creates a context that can support other forms of resistance. It revives stories, gives people a way of expressing themselves and ultimately frees the mind. The idea of cultural resistance is to work alongside other forms of resistance, not against. Yet “if you cannot start by deconstructing the occupation within yourself, how are you going to be able to free the country from the bigger, external occupation?” argues Jonatan Stanczak, managing director of the Theatre.
During the months of May and June, this play will be touring the United Kingdom, a country the theatre group has not yet been too. It is also as a message for the British to take responsibility for their prominent role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the ongoing occupation.
You can get more information on the dates and the play on the Freedom Theatre UK Friends website: www.thefreedomtheatreukfriends.com
Frida and Jenny.
A new report by Defense for Children International-Palestine, titled “Operation Protective Edge: A War Waged On Gaza’s Children”, has displayed documented events proving that that Israel deliberately murdered Palestinian children during its last offensive on the Gaza Strip, this past summer.
According to the report, the number of children killed in the offensive on Gaza last summer hit 535, a majority of them under the age 12. Another 3,400 children were injured – over 1,000 maimed for life. They need vital medical care which is unavailable because of Israel’s lawless siege – ongoing aggression by any standard with full US-led Western support.
Operation Protective Edge was the sixth Israeli military offensive on Gaza in the past eight years, and raised the number of children killed in assaults on Gaza to 1,097 since 2006, the Palestinian News Network informs. Between December 2008 and January 2009 Israeli forces killed at least 353 children, as well as a further 33 children in November 2012.
According to the report, Israel considers all civilians legitimate targets. However, international law defines this as a war crime.
DCIP’s report said that “2014 was a year that brought violence, fear and loss (to Gaza).” The Israeli military offensive” lasting 51 days from early July to late August killed about 530 Palestinian children. Nearly 3,400 other children were wounded – many from illegal terror weapons. Over 2,200 Palestinians died – mostly defenseless civilians.
“Investigations undertaken by (DCIP) into Palestinian child fatalities during Operation Protective Edge found overwhelming and repeated evidence of international humanitarian law violations committed by Israeli forces. These included direct attacks on children, and indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilian homes, schools, and residential neighborhoods.”
The report included stories and testimonies from witnesses of the war in Gaza, documenting targeting places that should have been provided children with shelter and safety were not immune from attacks from Israeli forces.
“Missiles fired from Israeli drones and warplanes, artillery shelling, and shrapnel scattered by explosions killed children in their homes, on the street as they fled from attacks with their families, and as they sought shelter from the bombardment in schools.”
One of many examples affected Rawya Joudeh and four of her five children. An Israeli drone attack murdered them in cold blood – “as they played together” in the family’s Jabalia refugee camp yard.
Around half the number of children Israel killed came from attacks on residential buildings. A nighttime and ground assault on the residential Gaza City Shuja’eyya neighborhood killed 27 children. It injured at least 29 others.
The report stated that Israeli occupation forces are “regularly implicated in serious, systematic and institutionalized human rights violations against Palestinian children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
The report looked back at the Israeli military offensive known as Operation Summer Rains, between June 28 and September 30, 2006, around “289 Palestinians were killed, of whom 65 per cent were children, and over 1,261 injured in the Gaza Strip, of whom 189 were children.”
Results show that Israeli military “incursions and shelling as well as direct military attacks have damaged school and health facilities.” Nearly eight years later, by simply updating the figures in these statements, the same language could be used in the Secretary-General’s next annual report to detail the situation for Palestinian children in 2015.
Evidence of Israel’s high crimes in the report was completely overwhelming. It shows repetitive unaccounted aggression against Palestinian children.
DCIP called for an immediate end to the current regime of collective punishment, targeted assassinations, and regular military offensives.
Defense for Children International Palestine is an independent, local Palestinian child rights organization based in Ramallah dedicated to defending and promoting the rights of children living in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. For over 20 years, DCIP investigated, documented and exposed grave human rights violations against children; held Israeli and Palestinian authorities accountable to universal human rights principles; and advocated at the international and national levels to advance access to justice and protection for children. They also provide direct legal aid to children in distress.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi has held talks with CIA Director John Brennan amid Cairo’s heavy-handed clampdown on opponents of the country’s military-backed government.
According to a statement released by the Egyptian government, Sisi and Brennan discussed regional issues, terrorism and “ways of enhancing bilateral relations” in their Sunday meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo.
The two sides agreed to continue “consultation and coordination on issues of mutual interest,” the statement added.
The announced visit by the CIA chief to the North African country came less than two weeks after the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced plans to sell air-to-surface missiles worth of $57 million to Egypt.
Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted in July 2013 in a military coup led by Sisi, the then army commander.
Since Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has been the scene of massive anti-government protests, with continuous clashes between security forces and the supporters of the former president, backed by the Muslim Brotherhood movement.
The new rulers in Egypt have come under pressure from human rights groups over their harsh crackdown on Brotherhood members and supporters.
The Egyptian administration’s suppression has led to the deaths of more than 1,400 people and the arrest of 22,000 others, including some 200 people who have been sentenced to death in mass trials.
However, Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, and a few of his senior officials have been acquitted of all charges leveled against them over the killing of protesters in the country’s 2011 revolution.
Man Dies Seven Days After Beating by Baltimore Police, Who Still Won’t Say Why They Arrested and Beat Him
Freddie Gray, the 27-year-old man who was whisked away last week by Baltimore police and thrown into the back of a police van, only to later show up in a coma at a hospital, died earlier today.
But Baltimore police have yet to explain why they arrested him in the first place or how he ended up with a broken back.
Had it not been for witnesses video recording several officers dragging him into the van as he screamed in pain, he may have disappeared entirely without a trace.
But today, seven days after Gray was seen conscious and coherent as he was being dragged into the van, police are saying they cannot comment until a “proper and thorough investigation is undertaken.”
In other words, they are waiting to see if any other video surfaces before they create their narrative which will no doubt accuse Gray of being “belligerent” and “combative,” a man showing superhuman strength as he fought off four brave officers, who were only looking out for his safety, and wanted nothing more than to go home to their families that night.
Never mind the fact that perhaps Gray wanted to do the same before he was confronted by police on April 12 for unknown reasons.
The Baltimore Sun reports that Gray was walking down a street when four bicycle police officers tried to detain him, prompting him to run, causing them to run after him.
At least two videos surfaced, but they begin recording after he was detained when he is already screaming in pain. It appears as if they had already broke his back because he doesn’t appear to be able to move his legs as they are dragging him into the van.
Once the doors of the van were closed, one can only imagine what took place because by the time he was transported to the hospital, he was unresponsive.
Gray is the 348th person killed by police since January 1, 2015, according to Killed by Police, an average of more than three people a day. Meanwhile, six cops have been killed by gunfire in the line of duty during that same time, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
BETHLEHEM – An Israeli military court has brought 12 charges against Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jerrar in connection to her membership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an international rights group said.
Having been detained and interrogated since Apr. 2, Jerrar was charged by the Israeli military prosecution on Wednesday, according to a report released Friday by Amnesty International.
Charges included membership of an illegal organization, participation in protests, and incitement to kidnap Israeli soldiers.
A review of the charges against her will take place on Apr. 29, the report said.
Jerrar’s defense team argued there was no basis to the incitement charge and that it was vindictive, according to Amnesty’s report.
The majority of Palestinian political organizations are considered illegal by Israel, including those that make up the PLO, and association with such parties is often used as grounds for imprisonment, according to prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
Jerrar was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 as a member of PFLP.
Jerrar was detained on Apr. 2 from her home in the Ramallah neighborhood of al-Bireh, and was afterwards held and interrogated at the Ofer detention center. She was later taken to Hasharon prison inside Israel.
An Israeli army spokeswoman told Ma’an that Jerrar had been detained for being the leader of a “terrorist organization,” and had encouraged “terror activities” in the previous few weeks.
The arrest also came after Jerrar refused a deportation order from Israeli authorities in August, demanding that she leave the Ramallah district for Jericho.
‘A symbol of resistance’
Jerrar has been targeted by Israeli authorities throughout her life, although Wednesday was the first time the lawmaker had been officially charged by Israeli military courts.
Palestinian factions have decried the arrest, with one PLO committee saying it was “an outrageous violation of her parliamentary immunity.”
Legislative Council lawmaker Jamil al-Majdalawi said: “Israel does not lose a chance to attempt to break the resistance’s will, the people’s resistance and their leadership symbols, and Khalida Jarrar is one of those symbols of resistance.”
In February, Jerrar joined the Palestinian committee in charge of conducting an International Criminal Court investigation into Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity.
She is also vice-chair of prisoners’ rights group Addameer.
Until the charges against her on Wednesday, Jerrar had been held in Israeli prisons under administrative detention.
Palestinians held in administrative detention are often held without charge or trial for months and without access to the evidence that led to their detention, even though international law stipulates this tactic only be used in exceptional circumstances.
Israeli prisons currently hold 14 members of the PLC, eight of them in administrative detention
Bil’in, Occupied Palestine – Over 300 people attended the Prisoners’ Day demonstration in Bil’in. The Israeli army fired endless amounts of teargas and shot one person in the chest with a live ammunition.
After the prayer, protesters marched towards the apartheid wall and the illegal settlement of Modi’in, situated just outside of Bil’in. A truck loaded with a sound system led the chanting crowd. Most were either waving Palestinian flags, holding up banners in support of the Palestinians imprisoned in Israeli prisons to mark Prisoners’ Day, or were holding posters of Bassem, a local who was killed six years ago by the Israeli army. As the march got closer to the wall, Israeli forces fired over 50 rounds of teargas canisters towards the protesters. The area was heavily clouded with this gas during most of the afternoon, which caused many to suffer from its inhalation. The shooting of this teargas also caused the dry grass between the olive trees to repeatedly catch fire.
During the protest, one person was shot with a rubber-coated steel bullet, while a 17 years old boy was shot in the chest with live ammunition. He was immediately taken to hospital by the ambulance. His condition is stable.
The 17th April is Prisoners’ Day in Palestine. Thousands of Palestinians are arrested arbitrarily on a daily basis by the Israeli forces, despite prohibition by international law. According to B’Tselem, “at the end of February 2015, 5,609 Palestinian security detainees and prisoners were held in Israeli prisons”. Since 1967, when Israel furthered its occupation to the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, an equivalent of approximately 20% of the total population in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and 40% of all males have been detained (CEPR). While in prison, they are subject to wide-ranging violations of their rights and dignity. Such practices may include physical and psychological torture, deprivation of family visits, denial of access to lawyers and unlawful transfer out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, among many other things. The Israeli occupying forces continue to violate the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, in particular against the Palestinian prisoners.
Today also marked the 6th anniversary of Bassem Abu Rameh’s death. Nicknamed Pheel, he was a much loved figure in the town of Bil’in. On the 17th April 2009, the Israeli army shot him with a teargas canister projectile which killed him shortly after. Aged 30, Pheel had been to all the non-violent protests, activities and creative actions against the apartheid wall in his town. Those who knew him remember him as a caring person who made everybody laugh and had the heart of a child, says Mohammad Khatib, a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements.
According to the report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs within the occupied Palestinian Territories, 442 people in the West Bank and 15 people in Gaza have been injured by the Israeli forces since the beginning of this year. On top of this, five people have been killed.
Protestors gathered outside the London office of G4S on Friday to highlight the private security firm’s role in incarcerating Palestinian prisoners on behalf of Israel.
Organizers demanded the release of several prisoners, including Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar and more than a hundred child detainees.
They also highlighted the ill treatment of prisoners, including alleged incidents of torture.
The protest in London takes place as part of an international day of action to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day, an annual expression of solidarity with Palestinians detained by Israel.
Palestinian Prisoners Day began as a mass action in support of hunger striking political prisoners on April 17, 2012.
It has grown into an annual event marked by human rights organizations and pro-Palestine groups across the world.
More than 100 people confirmed they would attend the protest on its Facebook page.
Organized by Innovative Minds (Inminds), a group which describes itself as online Islamic activists, the demonstration targeted G4S for its operation of two prisons and two detention centers in Israel and one prison in the West Bank.
Some 6,000 Palestinians are currently held in Israeli prisoners, according to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.
Addameer’s monthly detention report for February 2015 indicates 163 of these prisoners are children, 13 of whom are under 16.
The vast majority of those incarcerated are male, with only 22 female prisoners.
Lina Jarbouni, a female detainee from Galilee, is the longest serving female prisoner having been in jail for 13 consecutive years.
“Systematic torture and ill treatment” of Palestinian prisoners is well documented, according to human rights group War on Want.
Activists say G4S is complicit in this ill treatment by providing security systems for the Israel-based Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold political prisoners arrested within Palestine.
War on Want claims G4S has acted in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from an occupied territory to the territory of the occupier.
G4S has become the target of an international boycott, with the South African government resolving to end work contracts with the security firm in November last year.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of several notable activists, including Noam Chomsky, to sign a petition calling for G4S to end its participation in Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Protestors outside the London office of G4S highlighted the plight of Palestinian prisoners being held by Israel as well as those detained by the security firm.
They demanded the release of Palestinian MP Khalida Jarrar, who was arrested by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) earlier this month.
The prominent feminist and human rights activist was sentenced to six months in prison without trial for violating a military injunction, which confines her to the city of Jericho and its surrounding.
Army sources told the Times of Israel the restraining order was based on her “incitement and involvement in terror.”
A spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said Jarrar was heavily involved in the Palestinian Authority’s bid to join the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Activists also demanded justice for Jaafar Awad, 22, a Palestinian man who died from health complications resulting from “medical negligence” during his detention in an Israeli prison, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society.
Another key theme of the protest was the detention of children.
Defense for Children International (DCI) launched an urgent appeal in 2012 after documenting 53 cases in which children were held in solitary confinement at the Al Jalame and Petah Tikva interrogation centers, and Hasharon prison.
Children reported being held in solitary confinement in a “foul smelling” cell measuring approximately 2 meters by 3 for an average of 10 days.
DCI reports no education is provided to them and they are denied access to their parents or lawyers while held in the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) controlled detention centers.
A young Palestinian man was shot in the eye by an Israeli rubber-coated metal bullet, on Wednesday evening, and three others shot in the legs, in the el-‘Eesawiyya town, south of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied East Jerusalem.
The Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) has reported that Suleiman Mahmoud at-Tarbi, 20, was walking in the town when the soldiers invaded it, and clashed with local youths.
Member of the Follow-up Committee in Silwan, Mohammad Abu Al-Hummus, said at-Tarbi left his home heading to a local shop, and had no idea the soldiers were going to invade the town.
He added that at-Tarbi came face to face with the soldiers before one of them pointed his rifle at him and fired; the rubber-coated metal bullet struck the Palestinian in the eye, before the soldiers assaulted him.
The young man was later moved the Hadassah Ein Karem Israeli hospital in Jerusalem for treatment, while Israeli army is still claiming he was participating in the clashes.
Three young men were injured in their legs after the soldiers fired rubber-coated metal bullets at them. The soldiers also fired at Palestinian cars shattering the front shields of three vehicles.
Earlier on Wednesday, soldiers invaded the Shu’fat refugee camp in Jerusalem, and clashed with dozens of local youths.
The soldiers invaded the camp just as schoolchildren were leaving school, and fired gas bombs, causing dozens of suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation.
The soldiers also invaded an under construction residential building, and searched it; the building is close to the military roadblock installed by the soldiers on the entrance of the camp.
On March 31, a Palestinian child identified as Zakariyya al-Joulani, 13 years of age, lost his left eye after being shot by an Israeli rubber-coated metal bullet while walking back home from school in Silwan.
His father said that Israeli soldiers occupied the rooftop of a multi-story under construction residential building and opened fire at schoolchildren walking back home.
Eyewitnesses confirmed to Silwanic that the shooting was not as a result of clashes as the situation was calm when it took place.
A former Ukrainian MP and active anti-Maidan activist, Oleg Kalashnikov, has been killed in his flat in Kiev. His killing is the latest in a series of odd deaths plaguing former government officials and ex-President Yanukovich’s party members.
The 52-year-old was found dead at his residence in Kiev on Wednesday evening. His death was “caused by a gunshot,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement announcing a police inquiry. Ukraine’s criminal investigation chief Vasily Paskal, took the investigation under personal control and promised to share motives and the preliminary results of the probe with reporters as soon as they become available.
The investigation is focused on five possible motives for the crime, according to Interior Minister’s senior adviser, Anton Gerashchenko.
So far the investigation considers the primary possible motive behind the killing to be Kalashnikov’s “political activity” linked with his “participation in the organization and financing” of counter-revolutionary events in Ukraine. Gerashchenko emphasized that Kalashnikov “had knowledge” of the anti-Maidan movement that resisted the coup last year and continues to challenge new authorities in Kiev.
“Without any doubt the deceased knew a lot about who and in what way financed anti-Maidan, which cost Yanukovich and his camarilla several million hryvnias per day. He takes these secrets with him to the grave,” Gerashchenko said, also listing some other leads on his Facebook page. Business debts, personal enmity, burglary attempt and “other versions of murder”are listed among other possible motives.
Ukrainian media reported that before the murder Kalashnikov received threats of physical violence for his political views, in particular for his drive to defend Ukrainians’ right to widely celebrate the 70th anniversary of WWII victory.
In a letter addressed to his friend before the murder, Kalashnikov allegedly wrote that an “open genocide on dissent, death threats and constant dirty insults” have become the “norm” following his open call to honor the memory of heroes and victims of the Great Patriotic War.
An acting Ukrainian MP and ex-spokesman for the extremist Right Sector group, Borislav Bereza, went further and alleged that Kalashnikov has been eliminated by his “former employers,” who were tying up loose ends, “scared” he could disclose details of their past activities. While part of the secret was “taken to the grave,” some information remained in “electronic form,” Bereza stated.
“A series of bizarre suicides of ex-regionals [Members of the Party of Regions], and now the murder of Kalashnikov, raises questions to law enforcement authorities. I hope that Ukrainian society will get the answers,” Bereza said.
Meanwhile, Oleg Tsarev, parliamentary speaker of the self-proclaimed Novorossiya, agreed that Kalashnikov’s murder is the latest link in a chain of mysterious deaths of former supporters of the Party of Regions.
“Of course, this is a political murder. In Ukraine, it is now extremely difficult to maintain your point of view, not to give up, and to publicly express it,” Tsarev told Lifenews. “Of course, this is a retaliatory murder of the sane.”
The murder is meant as a warning for all those who dare to oppose Kiev government, which can do anything against the opponents, Tsarev believes.
In the past few months, at least eight former Ukrainian government officials died mysterious deaths, with most treated as suicides.
On January 29, former chairman of Kharkov region government, Aleksey Kolesnik, was found hanged.
On February 24, former Party of Regions member Stanislav Melnik died of a gunshot with his death treated as suicide.
On February 25, several hours before his trial, the Mayor of Melitopol Sergey Valter was found hanged leaving no suicide note.
The next day, February 26, deputy chief of Melitopol police, Aleksandr Bordyuga, who reportedly acted as Valter’s lawyer, was found dead in his garage.
On February 26, a former MP and ex-chairman of Zaporozhye Regional State Administration was found dead with a gun wound to his neck. His death is being investigated as a suicide.
On February 28, former member of the Party of Regions, Mikhail Chechetov, jumped from the window of his 17th floor apartment in Kiev, leaving a suicide note.
On March 14, a 32-year-old prosecutor Sergey Melnichuk fell from a window of a 9th floor apartment in Odessa.
The FBI and Chicago police department are refusing to release a video of the shooting death of a 17-year-old black man, who was killed by a police officer last year.
Chicago police and the FBI are withholding the dash-cam video because it is “central to their investigation,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was quoted as saying by the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Authorities said they were “confident this video will be released at the appropriate time when their investigation is complete.”
Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times in October 2014 when he allegedly brandished a knife and refused to drop it when confronted by officers. The city has approved a $5 million settlement with the teen’s family.
Some members of the Chicago City Council fear releasing the video could spark the kind of angry protests seen elsewhere in the United States in recent months.
“Regaining the trust of the community, particularly the black community, starts with honesty and hiding a potential execution is the kind of thing that destroys trust,” said Craig Futterman, a law professor at the University of Chicago.
The shooting has not generated the same kind of national attention as other recent high-profile confrontations involving officers. The Chicago police department has long been dogged by a reputation for police brutality.
The officer who killed McDonald is not being named but he has been stripped of his police powers and put on desk duty. No decision has been made on whether he will face criminal charges in the case.
Several videos showing police brutality have been released in recent weeks. A newly released video shows a police officer in Arizona intentionally running over an armed suspect with his vehicle last month.
Police Officer Michael Rapiejko slammed his car into 36-year-old Mario Valencia which was recorded in the dashboard camera that was released on Tuesday. Valencia was taken to a hospital in serious condition but released two days later into police custody.
Another cell phone video was released last week showing an officer in North Charleston, South Carolina firing multiple times at an African-American man as he ran away, sparking outrage around the country.