Former Ukrainian Justice Minister Serhy Holovaty accused the administration of President Leonid Kuchma on August 4 of using the state security apparatus in a violent campaign to suppress opposition.
Holovaty's close associate Serhy Odarych was shot and wounded July 29 by an unknown assailant who Odarych says warned him to stop his political activities within the next six months.
Speaking at a press conference about that shooting, Holovaty made obvious pains to avoid direct accusations that could lead to a slander suit. But he strongly implied that the orders leading to the pistol shot to Odarych's left leg originated within Kuchma's administration.
'With the onset of presidential elections we are being forced to cease our political activity,' he said. 'That activity is the reporting of the truth about how ruinous President Kuchma's political policies have been for Ukraine - economic and criminal activities directed by him or by his most powerful and closest advisers.'
In the last year, Holovaty's and Odarych's My (We) human rights organization and associated Ukrainian Perspective think tank have alleged that Kuchma or his appointees manipulated land reform for personal gain, halted prosecution of business associates, traded government housing for votes, and unloaded $32.4 billion worth of Ukrainian Army weapons onto the international arms market.
On August 4, Holovaty contended that My and Ukrainian Perspective employees have been subject to a brutal intimidation campaign.
During the March parliamentary election run-up, as-yet unidentified assailants left candidate Yury Orobets with fractured bones in an apparent attempt to force him from a close race for a Kyiv district seat, Holovaty said.
On April 17, in a similar incident, parliamentary deputy Volodymyr Vasylenko was beaten. The next month, Holovaty said, 'racketeers' hospitalized Leonid Safonov, a manager of the My newspaper published by the human rights organization. On July 16, thugs violently worked over My employee Serhy Kaunov.
'They tried to run me off of the road,' Holovaty added. 'It was very quick, and very professional.'
By profession a lawyer, Holovaty emphasized that he had no hard proof that the perpetrators of the assaults were government security agents acting on presidential order. But Holovaty made clear that, in his opinion, the circumstantial evidence is compelling.
'We have no other enemies but bosses and chiefs of corrupt clans around the president,' he explained.
Holovaty went on to implicate Ukrainian businessman Vadim Rabinovich with even more circuitous language. Framing his charges in the form of questions he said the government should answer, Holovaty suggested Vadim Rabinovich might be one of those 'bosses and chiefs' around the president.
Holovaty suggested the media mogul worked closely with the Kuchma administration and the popular 1+1 television station to manipulate public opinion in recent elections.
'We are not completely informed,' Holovaty said. 'But I for one want to be sure that a close presidential advisor is in fact not a criminal.'
Rabinovich has been named by the U.S. FBI as having connections to Russian organized crime rings operating in the United States, a charge Rabinovich has repeatedly refuted. He did so again when contacted by the Post.
'It's almost become a stereotype,' he said. 'There's something wrong, so they blame Rabinovich.'
In 1980 the Soviet government charged Rabinovich with theft of state property and incarcerated him in a Dnipropetrovsk prison for a ten-year term. Rabinovich insists he was innocent and persecuted because he is Jewish. In 1995, a Kharkiv court formally cleared his record.
'I would like to direct your attention to that,' he said. 'I was conducting business during Soviet days, and now (Holovaty) is saying I am a criminal.'
Rabinovich is involved with the company Prioritet, which has exclusive rights to sell advertising on 1+1 programs, but Rabinovich refutes Holovaty's claim that his money and President Kuchma's administration is behind the 1+1 television station.
When contacted for comment by the Post, 1+1 Director Olexander Rodiansky said the same.
'There was a great deal of factual error in Holovaty's statement,' he said. 'Any hint or intimation about Rabinovich's being associated with [the ownership of] our station is simply not true ... it appears that this is another case of making unfounded charges as is traditional in our Ukrainian politics.'
Although Ukrainian courts have a reputation for awarding massive compensation to plaintiffs suing because they have been unfairly represented in the press, Rodiansky said his station does not plan any legal action. Rabinovich's response was restrained as well.
'Our lawyers are considering his comments for possible legal action,' he said. 'But I am sure that Mr. Holovaty will soon apologize publicly of his own accord. Not if the recent past is any indicator.
The July issue of the My newspaper charged numerous top officials with illegal arms trading, most of them close to Kuchma politically and many of them current or former members of his administration.
Characterizing his chances of winning the presidency as 'O.K', Holovaty promised he would continue to crusade against a presidential administration that he believes has and will continue to use even violent force to suppress opposition.
Dirt on sitting government officials may be the source of Holovaty's confidence in next year's presidential campaign.
One means of attack may be the so-called 'black lists' that Holovaty says he compiled while he was Justice Minister and was appointed by Kuchma to head a campaign against corruption. Holovaty acrimoniously split with Kuchma after the president failed to back him and let the campaign quietly fizzle out.
According to Holovaty, the lists run to hundreds of names and directly implicate members of the Kuchma administration of corruption and other crimes.
'We are prepared for a battle to the end ... to lay the Kuchma regime in its grave,' Holovaty said.
More allegations of politically-motivated violence followed an attack Thursday morning on Dmytro Fischenko, head of campaign headquarters for Andrii Alioshin, a Green Party candidate in forthcoming parliamentary elections to fill the seats still vacant from elections last March.
Fischenko said he was beaten up by three unidentified persons at around three o'clock at night on his way home. He linked the attack with the electoral campaign.
Orobets, the candidate associated with Odarych is also running in the same constituency. Odarych heads his campaign headquarters.
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