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Suspect in Chornovol beating granted asylum in Russia

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Aug. 6, 2014, 9:02 p.m. | Ukraine — by Oleg Sukhov

Tetyana Chornovol, a journalist and activist, was attacked in the morning on Dec. 25. The vehicle driven by her alleged attackers was found in a Kyiv suburb. One of the men suspected of beating her was granted asylum in Russia on Aug. 6.
© Mustafa Nayem

Oleg Sukhov

Oleg Sukhov is a former Moscow Times editor and reporter and a graduate of Moscow State University. He also used to teach history and the theory of knowledge in English at the European Gymnasium in Moscow.

The man who is suspected of beating journalist and EuroMaidan activist Tetyana Chornovol, who irritated overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych with her investigations, has been granted political asylum in Moscow on Aug. 6, according to reports in Russian media.

The beating, which took place on Dec. 25, 2013, amid the EuroMaidan Revolution, has provoked massive outcry worldwide, with Chornovol and her supporters accusing Yanukovych and his allies of being behind the crime. Documents uncovered at Yanukovych's Mezhyhirya estate implicate his security chief in orchestrating the attack.

The Federal Migration Service’s Moscow branch approved an asylum request filed by one of those suspected of beating Chornovol, Andrei Zinchenko, making it impossible for him to be extradited to Ukraine, Izvestiya reported Aug. 6.

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Illarion Vasilyev, Zinchenko’s lawyer, told the paper that the suspect was released on Aug. 4 after his detention period expired. He was detained by Moscow police in February after fleeing to Russia. Ukrainian authorities are seeking to extradite him.

Zinchenko claims that he was framed, and that “powerful people” are behind the crime, Vasilyev said. A friend of Zinchenko’s has taken the blame in exchange for $25,000 and falsely accused him of being an accomplice, Vasilyev added.

Chornovol was not immediately available for comment. 

Political analyst Vitaly Bala said by phone that he doubted the case against Zinchenko had been fabricated, attributing Russia's decision to grant him asylum to its conflict with Ukraine.  "A lot of stuff is being done in order to irritate Ukraine," he said. 

Another five suspects in the case were arrested in December 2013, but three of them were released in February. 

The beating took place near Boryspil International Airport outside Kyiv. Chornovol was attacked by two men after their Porsche Cayenne crashed into her car. She was then thrown into a roadside ditch.

According to the investigators, Zinchenko was the Porsche’s driver.

The attack happened after Chornovol investigated the residences of Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, key Yanukovych associates.

Chornovol has accused Yanukovych himself of ordering the attack because of her investigations into a luxury mansion and palace he was building.

Oleksiy Haran, head of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy's Political Analysis School, suggested that Chornovol's beating may have been ordered by Yanukovych or his inner circle. 

Documents found on the former presidential estate in Mezhyhirya showed that Chornovol's moves were tracked, and that Yanukovych's security guards had a file on the whistle-blowing journalist who was later appointed to head the government's anti-corruption body, the National Anti-Corruption Committee.

In 1996-2001, Chornovol was an activist of the UNA-UNSO nationalist group.

Oleg Sukhov is a contributing writer at the Kyiv Post.

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