News Politics Society, 16/05/2019

UPDATED: ‘All for Victory Tent:’ Kharkiv City Council vs. Activists

A showdown between city council and activists around the “All for the Victory” volunteers’ tent that started on May 8 is heating up. Since the controversial petition had passed the required threshold, the Kharkiv City mayor Hennadiy Kernes announced a move to vote its removal at the city council session.

Nevertheless, activists don’t give up and will do their best to save the tent as a symbol of Ukrainian Kharkiv.

The meeting in support of the tent took place on May 12, due to the fact that on the previous day a city council executive department had issued a decision on the deconstruction of the tent for May 14. About 500 people took part in the event at the Maidan Svobody.

During the meeting, deputies, ATO veterans, volunteers and civil activists spoke to all comers; orthodox priests conducted a public prayer. People also signed a petition to local authorities against the tent’s removal. According to volunteer Yaryna Chahovets, about 9,000 citizens have signed it so far.

Some activists were holding posters saying “War is Going on” and “Kharkiv is Ukraine!” in protest of Kharkiv mayor’s words that “the tent reminds us of the war and needs to be removed.”

“For me, this tent is a symbol of the fact that the war is continuing in our country, literally a hundred kilometers from us, and in 2014 Kharkiv could have become ‘Kharkiv People’s Republic.’ When I pass this tent, I remember those people who are fighting for our freedom, and that things are not going well in the country. If the tent were to be removed, it would be the omission of the real situation in Ukraine,” Tetiana Holubova, a meeting participant, said.

The decision on opening MP Yaroslav Markevich’s deputy’s reception in the tent was made at the meeting. In addition, Iryna Gerashchenko, First Vice Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, came up with the initiative to open public reception there.

The conflict between the city council and activists is escalating. On May 13 at about 10 a.m., Kharkiv Heating Networks staff fenced the area around the tent. Fences were quickly removed by activists.

On May 14, a dozen of lorries and other plant equipment belonging to Kharkiv Heating Networks arrived at Freedom Square to carry out renovation work in the tent’s location. Heating Networks employees inspected the collectors next to the tent and drew up a record suggesting that urgent utility repairments have to be done there.

Still, the activists doubt that any networks utilities are placed under the tent as there is metro underpass just in that area of the square.

In the afternoon, a wall made of foamed concrete blocks was installed around the tent. According to activists, it symbolizes the checkpoint and reminds us that war in the east of Ukraine is still ongoing.

According to the city council’s officials, the tent was installed illegally as it wasn’t agreed with municipal authorities and is considered as an illegally installed site. According to the mayor, the object is located on the roadway next to the zebra crossing and obstructs the pedestrians’ overview. Nevertheless, activists claim they appealed to the city council last year and got the permission to uphold this action from January 1 to December 31, 2019.

On May 15, the conciliation commission of the Kharkiv city council proposed the removal of the tent from Freedom Square to Zakhysnykiv Ukrainy Square (English: Defenders of Ukraine). “In case of a refusal, the Legal Department of the Kharkiv City Council will start the preparation and submission of respective relevant material to the Kharkiv District Administrative Court as scheduled,” Kharkiv city council’s press-service informs.

On the same day, Oleksiy Kalyna, the director of the territorial control of the city council, noted that according to the commission meeting results, the law department of the Kharkiv city council filed a lawsuit at the Kharkiv Regional Administrative Court asking for the prohibition of the tent’s use.

He stressed that it is not possible to dismantle and remove the tent before the court has come to a decision.

According to him, it is currently unknown when exactly the court will consider the lawsuit of the legal department. “I do not know that, I think it will take a week or two,” Kalyna highlights.

Also, the Head of National police in Kharkiv region Valeriy Sokurenko stated that according to his knowledge the tent is legitimate and its arbitrary removal by city authorities will be qualified as the crime. Police pledges to observe order around the tent and preserve it.

None of the parties is going to give in and the issue is far from being brought to closure.

Reference: “All for Victory” volunteers’ tent was installed in front of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration in September 2014. This action was preceded by dramatic events of March 2014 when pro-Russian activists, many of whom came to Kharkiv from outside including allegedly Russia,  took over the Administration’s building and beat Euromaidan activists. Another attempt was made by Russian proxies in early April during the second seizure of the Administration and the proclamation of the so-called “Kharkiv People’s Republic.” Its supporters were promptly cleared by special units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.

According to Boris Redin, the tent’s founder, activists started collecting aid for the army and provided assistance to internally displaced persons in 2014. Some of them found shelter in the tent until they were settled.

Since the Ukrainian army has got back on its feet, the tent was turned into Ukrainian historical cultural center where Kharkiv guests, including overseas tourists, are given tours and told about Ukrainian history which nowadays is often created at the expense of our compatriots’ lives. The tent is that very place where Ukrainian patriots take a stance in favor of independent Ukraine and are not going to give up. 

Update: On May 18, The Kharkiv district administrative court refused to grant the city council’s claim, which requested the removal of the volunteers’ tent from the city center. This decision was adopted by court’s judge Vladyslav Yehupenko.

The court did not agree with the city council’s argument that the tent allegedly threatens national security. Also, the court does not consider that it creates obstacles to traffic.

The parties have one day to appeal the decision.

Text: Natalia Ivanova

Photo: korrespondent.net, politeka.net, e-news.su, vgorode.ua, social nets