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Unruly Untouchables

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July 14, 2011, 10:53 p.m. | Ukraine — by Yuriy Onyshkiv

Roman Landik, son of an influential lawmaker close to President Viktor Yanukovych, attends a Luhansk city council meeting on Dec. 26, 2006. He was 32 years old at the time. Five years later, Landik has been expelled from the pro-presidential Party of Regions for allegedly violently beating a girl.
© (Nikolay Sidorov)

Beating puts spotlight on rich kids. The video of a girl allegedly being brutally beated by Roman Landik, son of a pro-presidential lawmaker, has stunned Ukraine. But this incident is only one example of the behavior of Ukraine's mazhory, or rich brats.

They are known for often shocking behavior. Some have landed in court. Far too often they get away unpunished or with misdemeanors, critics say, because of powerful parents. Analysts say the impression of impunity creates a dangerous gap in society that could explode.

They are young, flushed with cash and irresponsible.

Because of who their parents are, critics say they get away with misdemeanors for which others would be punished harshly. They are Ukraine’s mazhory, or rich brats, the children of the country’s elite – lawmakers and businessmen.

The case of Roman Landik – the 37-year-old son of a pro-presidential parliamentarian close to President Viktor Yanukovych who earlier this month was apparently caught on video viciously beating a girl in a Luhansk restaurant – has brought into focus the lifestyles of the children of Ukraine’s rich and powerful.

On July 5, Landik, a Luhansk city councilmember, punched and dragged a girl by her hair through a restaurant in the eastern Ukrainian city. After public revulsion at a video of the incident widely posted on the Internet, police in Luhansk issued a search warrant.


A man identified as Roman Landik is seen on video beating Maria Korshunova in Luhansk’s Bakkara restaurant on July 4. (youtube.com/Inter)

He was apprehended in Krasnodar, Russia on July 10. He is currently in detention awaiting deportation proceedings.

In recent interviews, Landik says he can't understand why the incident is being investigated because he claims to have made peace with the girl.

Landik’s luck may have run out, although there’s a long process ahead before a potential trial in Ukraine. But the video sheds light on the way that mazhory act with disregard for the law and with a sense of impunity, much like their influential parents, be they lawmakers, government officials or children of oligarchs.

This impression – expressed widely in comments on news websites and under posts of the video – creates a dangerous divide in the country between “them” and “us,” the very gap, analysts say, that led to the Arab Spring protests in which populations in the Middle East and North Africa this year have risen up against their rulers.
This is a model of feudal capitalism which is characterized by the divide between upper and lower classes. - Vadym Karasyov, political consultant.

“Such incidents decrease trust toward the political elite at large,” said Andriy Bychenko, director of sociological service at the Razumkov Center think tank.

He added that the attention to and indignation at the incident demonstrates the low level of trust among Ukrainians of the authorities and politicians.

Political consultant Vadym Karasyov said relations between those in power and the rest of Ukraine’s population is very similar to those in Middle Eastern and North African countries, which in the last months experienced a wave of massive demonstrations that brought down local ruling clans in several countries.

“This is a model of feudal capitalism which is characterized by the divide between upper and lower classes,” he said, describing the political system in Arab countries, where ruling clans have for decades been benefiting at the expense of average citizens, as many critics believe the Ukrainian ruling classes have been.

The incident with Landik is the latest in a long line of incidents in recent years where the law has apparently been broken by mazhory, but they have got off lightly.

The nongovernmental activist organization New Citizen held a protest on July 14 in downtown Kyiv to express public disapproval on Landik and his fellow rich kids.
While the rich have been driving their expensive cars and living a life of luxury, average citizens have been shouldering an increasing burden.


Activists from Ukraine’s New Citizen organization protested on July 14 in front of Ukraine’s General Prosecutor’s Office against the impunity that children of influential parents far too often benefit from. (Ukrainian photo)

Annual inflation has hovered at double-digit levels in the past decade. Utility prices and the retirement age are being raised to patch up stretched state finances. Meanwhile, reports and evidence build up implicating top officials of corruption that bleeds budget coffers while making their friends rich, but few are held accountable.

Karasyov said Ukraine is moving toward a feudal quasi-capitalism in which elites are formed not through social and political competition but as a result of nepotism or other close affiliation.

“This system cannot be competitive because it is economically inefficient and socially dangerous. At some point people decide to leave or change the country,” he said adding that if tension builds up, an explosive revolution is possible.

The incident with Landik is the latest of many in recent years where the children of the rich and powerful have acted badly – often criminally – and been let off lightly, critics say, because of their connections.

Below is just a short list of a few other such examples:


Does impunity apply to these children of influential parents?

Dmytro Chernushenko, son of a Kyiv appeal court judge, was reportedly intoxicated on July 7 when he got into a fight with security guards in front of an Odesa nightclub.

Chernushenko and his girlfriend, a district judge in Kyiv, refused to pass through a metal detector to enter the nightclub and attacked security guards in an incident caught on video.

When the police arrived, he allegedly began shouting that his dad is a Kyiv judge and threatened to make sure the police officers get fired. According to Chernushenko, the nightclub's security is to blame for the scandal.

Although the video of the incident posted on the Internet shows how he and his companion attacked the guards, Chernushenko says the security men were rude to them and the police detained them for no reason.


Nataliya Solovey,
a judge’s assistant, ran over and killed a woman while parking her expensive Mercedes jeep on a sidewalk in Kyiv on June 24.

Solovey, 29, was released on bail. According to the police, the car accident might have been due to the driver mixing up the brake and the gas pedal.

A criminal case was launched on charges of violating traffic rules. If found guilty, she will face from three to 10 years in jail. Solovey refused to talk to journalists.



Rodion Haysynsky,
son of Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes, boasted on online car forums of driving at 260 kilometers per hour.

Rodion, a 19-year-old student who drives a $100,000 BMW, was reportedly never pulled over by police for speeding. Haysynsky denies ever driving a BMW or speeding.

However, his classmates are reported to have confirmed to have seen Rodion frequently arriving at classes in his BMW. Video footage on the Internet appears to confirm their claim.






Dmytro Rud,
son of a prosecutor in Dnipropetrovsk, ran over and killed three women last October and drove away.

A criminal case was launched against him. Rud was detained for the duration of the investigation and trial, but has been recently released on bail. Initially Rud said he was not driving his car, because it had been stolen on the day of the accident.

Then his lawyer acknowledged that fact that his client had hit the people, but noted that he was not to blame for the accident.

The latest situation is that Rud’s lawyer says his client may face lesser punishment as he financially compensated the losses of the victim’s relatives and they have no complaints against him now.


Dmytro Karatumanov
, the 17-year-old son of a Kharkiv oblast council deputy, killed a 19-year-old student in a car accident back in 2008.

The criminal case was closed and Karatumanov was found innocent.







Serhiy Kalynovsky,
the 22-year-old former stepson of gas-trading oligarch Dmytro Firtash, was driving at high speed when he ran into a parked car, killing two people in Kyiv in 2007.

A criminal case was launched against him, but Kalynovsky disappeared and is now allegedly abroad.















Vitaliy Faingold
, son of a Simferopil city council deputy, killed a 25-year-old motorcyclist while driving a Bentley at high speed in an accident in 2008.

Faingold got a two-year suspended sentence.







Serhiy Demishkan,
the son of Volodymyr Demishkan, a close associate of President Viktor Yanukovych and head of the state roadway service, was accused by prosecutors of taking part in a brutal murder.

He spent time in pre-trial detention but was released on bail in 2010, the year that Yanukovych became president of Ukraine.












Viktor Yanukovych
, the 29-year old son of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and a lawmaker in the pro-presidential Party of Regions faction, has been caught several times in sticky situations.

As well as being videoed voting on behalf of allies in parliament, contravening the Constitution, he was also recently behind an off-road race in wildlife reserve area that activists said posed a danger to local wildlife.

In a video posted on YouTube this week, Yanukovych appeared unsteady on his feet, reportedly drunk, cursing and struggling to find his way home while his bodyguards tried to help him out. His assistant did not respond to requests for comment from the Kyiv Post.

At a recent press conference his father President Yanukovych said he is “not ashamed of [his] children and grandchildren.”
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