Why Yuliya Tymoshenko’s Party Was Interrogated by the SBU Two Weeks Before The Presidential Election

In the Zaporozhye region of Ukraine the SBU summoned 73 members of Yuliya Tymoshenko’s headquarters for interrogation concerning the accusations of her party using a voter bribery scheme known as “webs”. This is despite the fact that more than enough proof exists of Poroshenko doing exactly the same thing on a much larger scale, since his re-election chances are slim to none.

The Ukrainian journalist Pavel Volkov wrote in more detail about what exactly happened to Tymoshenko’s party members and why the interrogation process was illegal from start to finish…

On March 15th 2019 the press conference of “Batkivshchyna” party on the topic “Summons for interrogation in the SBU for ‘Batkivshchyna’ party members in Zaporozhye. Political repression or the fight against electoral violations?” took place in Zaporozhye.

The Deputy of the City Council and authorised representative of Yuliya Tymoshenko at the 75th electoral district Vitaly Ryabtsev, the lawyer Igor Novikov, and also the party members Ekaterina Bardadim, Tamara Krat, and Yury Kosarevsky spoke.

Vitaly Ryabtsev stated that a week ago party members started receiving summonses from the SBU:

All heads of primary party organisations – 73 persons – received a summons on the basis of a criminal case concerning alleged voter bribery. The Prosecutor-General’s Office and SBU decided that our party structure is a certain ‘web’

The deputy said that several heads of party organisations had already been interrogated. At this election all of them carry out duties of members of electoral commissions and also observers from the candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko. They had to answer such questions as:

  1. Do you have ties to a political force that acts on the territory of Ukraine?
  2. Who tasked you with being the senior of the party group?
  3. What role do you play in this political force?
  4. How are your services being paid by the client?
  5. What tasks did you perform?
  6. What instruction were you given during your work?
  7. In what districts do you work?
  8. How much money do you receive?
  9. Who do you receive it from?
  10. What purposes is this money spent on?
  11. Do you involve people in the activity of “webs”? What amount of payment?
  12. What sum is allocated for payment?
  13. Did you encourage people materially?
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Vitaly Ryabtsev insists that questions 5 and 6 are questions that concern the internal activity of the party during the electoral campaign.

Are the SBU and Prosecutor-General’s Office representatives of the HQ of Poroshenko? They are very interested in what tasks were performed by our primary organisation leaders?

Concerning the suspicion of creating “webs”, Ryabtsev explained that from the 2,000 party members in Zaporozhye, in the electoral campaign 1,600 participate as members of electoral commissions, on-site observers, and tent campaigners, etc. According to him, all of them wrote statements about being lured for campaign work on a volunteer basis.

There isn’t any webs, there is a party structure. They want to demoralise it as much as possible. There are phone calls, SBU employees carry out intimidation. There is only one purpose – so that we can’t come on election day, and so that our observers can’t come to sites

The lawyer Igor Novikov spoke about what norms of law were violated when serving summonses:

“There is Article 135 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, where it is said: persons who are called in by the investigator must be served the summons properly. According to Article 136, the summons must specify the time, day, year, and place of arrival of the summoned person. This information is not present on these summonses. There is a stamp, but there is no signature of a representative. The person sees their full name, their place of residence, but not either the date, time at which the person was summoned, or an office. Some parts of the summonses don’t even mentioned the surname of the investigator. Some summonses were thrown into mailboxes, some fell out and simply lay at the entrance, some were handed to neighbours, who gave it to the addressee 3-4 days later, when the summons had already expired, and some in general were brought to the wrong door. According to the Article 137 the person must receive the summons no later than three days before the person can contact a lawyer. Yesterday, on March 14th, a summons arrived for the morning of March 15th – 3-4 persons were appointed for the same time”.

The lawyer claims that according to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, in the event of the incorrect registration of the summons, it is considered that the person wasn’t summoned properly and therefore isn’t obliged to come to interrogation. They have to go to the investigator only if a correctly issued summons was received by mail and they signed for it upon reception.

The lawyer paid attention to the fact that a criminal case was opened on February 11th 2019, whereas the ruling of the Kiev Pechersky court concerning searches in 20 regions of Ukraine – Zaporozhye, Lvov, etc – was already posted on Facebook. He connects this first of foremost to the exertion of psychological pressure on people who, during their work at polling precincts, will be obliged to think not about the electoral process, but about summonses and interrogations. The lawyer Novikov expressed his opinion:

All of us, citizens, feel the pressure being put on us, on our opinion, and also on our right of choice. Such actions are aimed not only at the candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko, but also at other candidates who feel the pressure being put on them by the authorities in power represented by agencies. Pressure is also being put on voters when it is suggested to them that it is necessary to vote for a specific candidate

Besides this, the speakers noted that when it appeared that most party members don’t turn up for interrogation, employees of the SBU started to come to their homes in the evenings and tried to interrogate them at home without the presence of a lawyer, thus without introducing themselves and without showing documents. Attempts to carry out interrogation by phone were also recorded. According to the speakers, a search was carried out at the home of a sociologist who was cooperating with the party. All of his computer equipment, mobile phones, including the phones of his wife and small child, were confiscated, then the sociologist for obvious reasons refused to participate in the electoral campaign anymore.

Also, the deputy Vitaly Ryabtsev noted that this electoral campaign became unprecedented in respect of the exertion of pressure by the authorities on oppositional media agencies, journalists, bloggers, and public figures.

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At the end of the press conference he stated that “the Prosecutor-General’s Office and SBU work as the campaign headquarters of one of the candidates, which shouldn’t be happening in a normal democratic country”, therefore:

  1. As the summonses are issued incorrectly, people won’t come for interrogation;
  2. Concerning every participant of the pre-election process who will be summoned for interrogation, a complaint will be written to the Central Election Commission about the current government’s interference in the electoral process;
  3. All persons who participated in this – from the Prosecutor-General to the ordinary employee – will be punished. On March 31st, irrespective of the results of the election, a statement will be handed to all appropriate structures, including the European Court.

Representatives of the “Batkivshchyna” party appealed to the journalists and members of international public organisations who were present at the press conference with a request to inform the broad masses about these events.

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