“My Dream Is a Ukraine Without Katsaps”: The Case of a Ukrainian ATO Militant Came to Court in Zaporozhye

On September 16th 2017 a bus filled with passengers was travelling along route No. 76 to Zaporozhye. As usual, it stopped at the “Dneproelektro Institute” stop on the Right Bank. A man entered the bus and showed his ATO participant certificate, which allows free travel on city transport.

The driver, Aleksey Lebedev, warned the man that all preferential places are occupied, so if he wants, he can stand in the passenger section. The passenger accepted the offer, but did not go to this section, and instead remained standing near the driver. As the man smelt of booze, Lebedev asked him several times to go to the passenger section, and then the passenger snapped. He started to rage, to use bad language and…

“He smelled of vodka and booze. He punched and kicked me. I was driving and he was hitting me in the face. I remember 5 blows with his hand, then one with this foot, and I don’t remember the rest,” later reported the driver of the route.

As the bus was on the move, Lebedev, who was responsible for passenger safety, could not just abandon the steering wheel. He managed to push the drunk ATO militant away and, bleeding from a broken nose, stopped the bus.

“I called the police, they arrived and started interviewing witnesses of the incident,” said a representative of the victim, the lawyer Vladimir Lapin, to ukraina.ru. “In the video from the surveillance cameras of police officers, which we today (February 21st, 2020) looked at in the court session, people say that the ATO militant was the first to be rude, that the driver did not refuse him free passage, but he suddenly showed aggression. What is interesting is that the video shows that when passengers speak Russian to the police, the ATO militant says in Ukrainian to the police: ‘Who are you listening to? This is the Russian-speaking population’. As a lawyer, I do not believe that we have a Ukrainian-speaking population and a Russian-speaking population. We are all citizens of Ukraine, we all have the same rights.”

Eight passengers themselves wanted to go to the police as witnesses and confirmed that this was the case.

According to the medical certificate issued by the Zaporozhye Regional Bureau of Forensic Medicine and attached to the case file, the driver Lebedev has a nose bone fracture, bruising of the soft tissues of the face, a bruise of the upper lip, as well as bruising of the left hand and chin. After an examination at the City Clinical Hospital of Emergency and Rapid Medical Care, outpatient treatment was prescribed in the polyclinic at the place of residence. Then on the same day they conducted an examination in a drug dispensary. The driver, as expected, turned out to be absolutely sober, but the violent passenger was intoxicated.

In such circumstances, law enforcement authorities were forced to open a criminal case under paragraph 1 of article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (hooliganism, i.e., a gross violation of public order on the grounds of apparent disrespect for society, accompanied by special audacity or exceptional cynicism), which entails either a fine or arrest for up to six months or restriction of liberty for up to three years.

Less than a couple of days passed, and so-called activists from Maidan-esque public organisations organised outside the City Hall an unauthorised rally demanding to tear up the contract with the carrier company LLC “Travel-Auto”, along the route of which the driver worked, and to punish the driver for God only knows what.

In addition, they block traffic in the city center, create congestion, stop the traffic of public transport and ambulances, but there is no reaction from law enforcement officers.

It is not clear at all who has power in the city – the municipality or street troublemakers. As a result, instead of detaining the violators of order, officials went to the protesters and promised to decide what to do with the drivers of routes who refuse to carry veterans of the ATO free of charge.

And the local media immediately proclaimed that “the driver beat up the ATO soldiers”, “Vatniks completely lost self-control”, etc. The ATO militant himself in numerous interviews (journalists were not interested in the driver) reported that Lebedev broke his lip.

Indeed, the “hero” appeared at a rally with a patch on his face, but in the criminal case file there are no examinations of this kind. Also the participant of ATO said that such a situation arose for him not for the first time, but literally the day before the incident there was the same thing concerning another route, but it ended with a verbal exchange and the driver was silenced.

Thus, it turns out that hurting drivers of routes due to drunkenness is an ordinary event for ATO militants.

The pre-trial investigation lasted until the end of the year, but when the case was finally brought to court, an amazing thing happened. On January 16th 2018 the Leninsky District Court (the district was of course renamed, but the court somehow was not) returned to the prosecutor the indictment on the grounds that the right to defence was allegedly violated – the suspect was not provided with a free lawyer during the investigation.

But the case file, including the interrogation of the ATO militant during the pre-trial investigation, states along with his signature that the suspect said that he did not need a lawyer and would not involve one in the case.

The gravity of the prosecution article does not imply the obligation to have a lawyer. But the lawyer did show up, only at a preliminary hearing when the court returned the indictment.

Valko, the same lawyer, reported that the Centre for Free Secondary Legal Aid had referred him to the case, but he had not been allowed to participate in the pre-trial investigation. A request was made to the Centre. The ATO militant did apply there on September 21st 2017 (a few days after the offence was committed), but did not indicate exactly what process he needed legal assistance in.

The Centre provided him with a lawyer, but this was not reported to the prosecutor. And Valko’s lawyer did not take part in any proceedings (there were interrogations and investigative experiments) for 3 months after his appointment and did not send any document on the reasons for the failure to appear.

Moreover, at the preparatory session, the ATO militant stated that he was seeing the lawyer for the first time. But the indictment was still returned. The prosecutor wrote an appeal. Not immediately, but he did set a date for its consideration. And then there was another miracle.

“Thanks to FB I learned about the attempt to condemn the veteran who lost his hand in the ATO. The Zaporozhye driver of the route who refused to give the soldier free transport also decided to condemn the defender of Ukraine for beatings ’caused by the fists of his left and right hands’. The lies are obvious and shameful. The soldier has no right hand. Justice is restored. The Prosecutor’s Office refused to support the prosecution,” wrote the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yury Lutsenko on Facebook at that time in the summer of 2018.

Firstly, the soldier has a hand, he didn’t lose it. The humeral joint doesn’t move at the hand, true, but it exists all the same, which is easy to verify with the help of the photos of the accused.

Secondly, the presence of a dozen witnesses and documented beatings is difficult to call “obvious and shameful lies”. But, apparently, for the uneducated Prosecutor General, who decides to close the case being guided by information from Facebook, everything is possible.

A new government came to power, and the Zaporozhye prosecutor (surprisingly, such people were still left in place after all the political cleansing) again initiated consideration of the case. This time the indictment was approved and to date it has been possible to hear the testimony of two witnesses and to see in court the recording made by the police video recorder – the one in which the accused calls on the police “not to listen to the Russian-speaking population”.

A 74-year-old witness, who was sitting right behind the driver, said that the drunk ATO militant started to be rude to the driver first, and when he rushed to hit the driver, she tried to drag him by the strap of his bag, but the accused pushed the woman away and continued to commit the crime.

“The cynicism of this crime,” says the lawyer Vladimir Lapin, “is that the status of a participant in hostilities does not give the right to inflict bodily harm on anyone. And now 20-30 people with certificates ‘people of peace, citizens of the Earth” (some crazy people) come to each court session, representatives of the Association of ATO Veterans come and shout that a patriot is being trialled.

People are gathered via Facebook for every session. I don’t mind, it’s not prohibited by law, but you can’t pressure the court. In addition, the media organised the harassment of the carrier company, allegedly they refuse to transport veterans of the ATO. These text articles are attached to the case file.”

But who is he and whom is he a hero for, despite the obvious crime committed, when not only all local neo-Nazis rise up, but also the former Prosecutor General himself? The name of this character is Svatoslav-Andrey Grushevsky nicknamed Zorik – he is an activist of “Svoboda“, and in 1995 he participated in meetings in support of Chechen terrorists, he was a participant of Maidan, a militant of the “Donbas” volunteer battalion, and a “hero” of the Ilovaisk cauldron, where he was wounded.

In 2015, the-then President Petro Poroshenko awarded him the Order of Courage of the III degree, after which Grushevsky decided to go into politics – he ran for the Zaporozhye City Council of the 7th convocation in the majority, but did not get enough votes. It is no surprise that with such a backstory Grushevsky is an open Nazi, racist, Russophobe, anti-Semite, and neo-pagan.

His Facebook page is full of national and religious hatred, and he calls for repression and terror against the Russian and Jewish populations of Ukraine.

“From the series ‘my golden dream’. I need Ukraine without katsaps, kikes, and other worms.”

It’s funny that this “patriot” hesitates to write his cherished words as they are, and hides them with a partial transition in the Latin alphabet.

“Why don’t those who communicate with Moscow’s bleating renounce Ukrainian citizenship, and at the same time, the right to vote?”

“Ukrainians have no sacred or constitutional obligation to hear and understand the katsap bleating ,which is like a worm parasitising my people.”

The only things Grushevsky doesn’t mention: Judo-Christianity, and “Christ get out!,” and “kike ass” and “destroy Zelensky trash”, and “Russian-speaking bio-waste”.

It is such a character that Poroshenko awarded, and it is whom Lutsenko, “activists”, and the local media defend.

In fact, the monetary claim of the battered minibus driver is nothing at all. One of the representatives of Zelensky’s team in Zaporozhye filed a complaint with the police against Grushevsky under article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of the equality of citizens depending on their race, nationality, or attitude to religion), but things are right where they started.

This article does not work in Ukraine, because it would be necessary to involve everyone who thinks they “are in power here”.

Whether or not the judges will have the civil courage and professional conscience to punish the offender by law is the question. And the word “punish” for a hooligan is too loud. But it is time for Ukraine to get out of the hole of lawlessness where it was plunged in 2014, so even punishment for hooliganism against neo-Nazi militants who still feel unpunished and untouchable should not be neglected.

Pavel Volkov

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