The Trial of the Ukrainian Nationalist Kokhanovsky: Yet Another Example of the Absence of Basic Order in Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard

25/10/2017 1/2

On Monday October 23rd the Svyatoshinsky district court started choosing the measure of restraint for the commander of the voluntary battalion “OUN” Nikolay Kokhanovsky, who opened fire on a street in Kiev.

The nationalist’s supporters barricaded themselves in the court the day before, the police tried to storm the building twice. Before noon on Tuesday the special forces restrained and removed from the court three dozen activists.

What is he judged for

The defendant Nikolay Kokhanovsky was detained on October 21st for shooting at the commander of the battalion “Odin” with the call sign Rem.

Later the police revealed the details of the shooting of Kokhanovsky. The causes of the conflict aren’t established by the police. Previously, a fight began because of some disagreements, then Kokhanovsky took out a traumatic weapon and started shooting. The victim has tangential wounds to the back and foot. His weapon was unregistered.

Nikolay Kokhanivsky stated that the injured Ruslan Kachmala attacked him unexpectedly. He allegedly beat him, threatened him, and sprayed gas at him. As a result Kokhanovsky, according to him, was obliged to defend himself.

“Strana” obtained the video that shows Kokhanovsky striking the first blow to Kachmala.

Why was there was a conflict

According to sources of “Strana” in law enforcement bodies, there were aversions between Nikolay Kokhanovsky and Ruslan Kachmala in June of this year concerning in-fighting surrounding the building on 60 Obukhovskaya Street in Kiev.

Kokhanivsky, with his battalion, illegally settled into this building, which, according to some information, earlier belonged to structures close to the former Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Arbuzov. Its market value is more than 10 million UAH. That’s why others also couldn’t not pay attention to such a tasty morsel.

In particular, the people serving in the “Odin” battalion.

But Ram-Kachmala claims that the reason for the skirmish was a discussion about war.

“The dispute happened because of a conflict concerning the fighter who I pulled out from a meteotower in Donetsk airport. Kokhanovsky spreads rumours that I was afraid there, and that I didn’t prove myself there as a fighter. I approached to tell him that he behaves incorrectly. Kokhanovsky didn’t want to talk on camera. Although my comrade continued to film. After this, I told him not to judge me because he’s never been to Donetsk airport in the meteotower. After these words he attacked me. At first he pulled out a knife, I pushed him away. After this Nikolay pulled out a gun,” said Kachmala in comment to “Gromadske Radio”.

Kokhanovsky stated that his wife was sprayed in the face with gas. According to his version of events, at about 17:00 Nikolay Kokhanovsky and his wife Katya walked to the metro.

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On the way people allegedly attacked them, who try to take under control the building on Obukhovskaya Street. They were four, some others stood nearby. One of them, according to Kokhanovsky, sprayed gas in the face of his wife, then attacked him.

How the court session took place

About 30 people came to the court session. From the authorities Kokhanovsky was supported by people’s deputies Igor Mosiychuk and Igor Lutsenko. Prior to the beginning of the court session activists hung agitational posters up in the hall.

The accused was defended by six lawyers, who twice demanded the recusal of the judge. During the court session there were hitches because the legality of the announcement of the charge was doubted. The defence stated that the accused weren’t given the charge in the time established by the law, the prosecution denies this.

On Monday evening the court was postponed to the morning of Tuesday because of a need to establish who handed the charge to Kokhanovsky and when. Activists and the accused stayed to spend the night in the hall – OUN members refused to leave Kokhanovsky in custody, as is prescribed by law.

As a result the police tried to drag away the head of OUN by force.

Storms of the court

At approximately at 01:00 on Tuesday the special forces started storming the courthouse. Nationalists barricaded themselves in the hall. The police used tear gas, radicals smashed furniture in the courtroom and smashed the windows.

After 02:00 the police stopped attempts to rush into the courtroom. The court session in the morning at 09:00 didn’t begin because the hall was trashed and barricaded.

But in the morning at 10:20 the storm was repeated, and this time successfully.

For this purpose the police and court resorted to a certain cunning tactics. At first they agreed with the Deputy from the Radical party Igor Mosiychuk that Kokhanovsky in an environment of brothers-in-arms (but not under police escort!) will move from the already trashed hall to another one, in order to continue the court session. But as soon as the group of nationalists started to move, it appeared that the police was already readied in another hall.

Mosiychuk started to use foul language in response.

The brothers-in-arms, having smelled a rat, decided to return to the hall and quickly started restoring the barricade near the door. But they weren’t in time – from two sides the special forces rushed into the room. Some of the police officers rushed through the doors, others – from the internal court-yard through the window.

Resistance was quelled quickly and rigidly.

The special forces detained 30 people and, using two police vans, brought them to Shevchenkovsky regional department of police. Two journalists, including the correspondent of “Strana” Kirill Malyshev, who one minute prior to the detention filmed an exclusive video of the storm, were detained.

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Later both members of the media were released.

The most interesting thing is that on Tuesday, October 24th, Kokhanovsky was as a result released, because the term since his detention expired, and the measure of restraint wasn’t chosen.

Experts say: courts become a new battlefield between competing forces in the country, and this aggravates the general situation, which risks to develop into anarchy.

Nothing new

Excesses during judicial proceedings, such as the ones in Kokhanovsky’s case, isn’t new for today’s Ukraine. It is enough to remember the trial of the chief of staff of the “Aidar” battalion Valentin Likholit with the call sign “Batya” in July of last year.

He was charged with robbery and marauding.

When the Pechersky district court of Kiev arrested Likholit for two months, his colleagues blocked the building so that he wasn’t take away to the pre-trial detention center. They blocked the Khreshchatyk, where the court resides. And some of the most violent went to picket Petro Poroshenko’s manor in Kozin.

This had an effect. Recently appointed Prosecutor-General Yury Lutsenko immediately arrived to the courtroom and declared that he knows “Batya” personally and considers that the promises of the latter to cooperate with the prosecutor’s office will be enough to swap the measure of restraint for a softer one during the period of the additional investigation.

After such a statement the Court of Appeal of Kiev with incredible speed considered the case and released “Batya” on the bail of the People’s Deputies Egor Sobolev and Semen Semenchenko (both from the Samopomich faction), Igor Mosiychuk and Andrey Lozovoy (both from the Radical party faction).

Thus what is characteristic is that in court Lutsenko sat on the same bench as Likholit.

Games from the right

As for Kokhanovsky, he became the constant participant of various riots in Kiev long ago. Moreover, everything he did escaped punishment.

But this time it was decided to take it seriously. Perhaps, as “Strana” already wrote, the reason is that the commander of the OUN battalion entered into conflict with structures close to Arsen Avakov concerning “Arbuzov’s house”. And it is precisely this that the shooting that Kokhanovsky was detained for is connected to.

That’s why the reaction of the authorities concerning this case was initially very rigid. And the forcible actions of the special forces to unblock the court in the morning of Tuesday received the approval of Bankova Street.

The political scientist Ruslan Bortnik, with reference to sources, offers a different underlying reason. He claims that Kokhanovsky’s situation was provoked by a rigid behind-the-curtain fight for supremacy in the right-wing segment of Ukrainian politics.

“There is a confrontation for, so to speak, the ‘right franchise’ – between the ‘pro-authorities’ and the ‘wild’ right. And Kokhanovsky and his company belongs precisely to the latter. Even though they are connected to certain deputies from the Radical party, they are a non-systemic movement that often opposes the authorities,” said Bortnik to “Strana”.

Becoming accustomed to riots

In general the story with Kokhanovsky leads to unfavourable conclusions. The famous jurist Marina Stavniychuk notes: the skirmishes in courts show that the legal methods for the defence of violated rights cease to work in the country.

Society gets used to the fact that the courts are attacked and smashed up. And such methods even find supporters.

“It seems that the number of those who supports the smashing up of courts are more than the quantity of all those who consider Poroshenko as a reformer, and those who support Saakashvili with his ‘cool’ ultimatum concerning the electoral law and anti-corruption court! Those who rationally think again ‘don’t exist’ in the information space,” stated the former People’s Deputy and former chairman of the Kiev’s Regional State Administration Evgeny Zhovtyak.

It’s time to speak not about the continuation of judicial reform in the country and the launching of courts of new jurisdiction, but in general about the possibility of normal court proceedings.

“Why have all these changes in the Constitution and laws, public councils, re-certifications, examinations, evaluations, lustrations, new Supreme Courts, and the highest councils of justice, if it is possible to simply destroy and block the work of the court, to physically destroy the hearing hall, nobody will be punished for this?” asked the former deputy chief of staff of the President and known lawyer Andrey Portnov on his page on Facebook.

Thus, according to Bortnik, the authorities themselves are the source of problems.

“But it is strange that the present leadership of the country on the one hand speaks about the threat of the arrival of anarchy and a coup d’etat, and on the another hand – actively uses radicals in their political aims, then downplay their different escapades. This is a paradox, which can cost the country dearly. Establishing order is, perhaps, task number one for the country and the demand of society. But the present authorities shows that it’s not able to fulfill this demand and to provide at least basic order in the State,” summarised Bortnik.

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