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You're reading: Latest attack on police watchdog seen as attempt to exterminate group

Road Control, a civic watchdog that exposes corruption among the nation's road police, is under attack. One member of the group was shot and wounded late on Dec. 21 after being attacked by two assailants. It was only the latest incident in what the group says is part of an orchestrated effort to eliminate the organization. 

Volodymyr Maralov, a member
of Road Control, was shot with a Makarov pistol at approximately 11 p.m. on Dec. 21 on Shevchenko Square in Kyiv. The bullet lodged six centimeters inside
his body. It was successfully removed in an operation and he was released from a
hospital on Dec. 22.

After Maralov was shot, the
assailants burned his car, the group’s website says.

Kyiv police spokesperson
Olha Bilyk said the incident is being investigated for hooliganism and property
damage, adding that “every possible motive is being considered, even one that
relates to the group’s professional activity” of monitoring and investigating
alleged traffic police violations.

Three young men inside a
vehicle blocked Maralov’s car after which two emerged and pulled him 20 meters onto
the street, the group’s website says. They demanded he tell them the
whereabouts of a colleague who in November received political asylum in the
U.S. They also asked him where another colleague, who currently is in police
custody, stores a memory stick and equipment that allegedly has evidence of
traffic police infractions.

During the scuffle, Maralov
shot one of the assailants with a traumatic pistol that contained rubber
bullets. However, they disarmed Maralov, interrogated and shot him before
setting his vehicle on fire, according to Yehor Vorobyov, the group’s press
officer.

Earlier this month, Road
Control journalist Andriy Dzyndzya and his lawyer Viktor Smaliy were remanded
in custody for two months on questionable charges, said Halya Coynash, a member
of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

Dzyndzya is accused of
stealing keys to a front-end loader that was used on Dec. 1 by activists with
no clear group or party affiliation to confront riot police in front of the
Presidential Administration on Bankova Street. His lawyer, Smaliy, is accused
of attacking a judge.

Road Control spokesperson
Vorobyov told the Kyiv Post the accusations are groundless and they are
innocent.

When Dzyndzya was arrested
on Dec. 8, the group’s founder Rostislav Shaposhnikov fled to Poland fearing
his arrest.

“These actions (against Road
Control members) are directly related to our police monitoring activity,” said
Vorobyov accusing the police of being behind the incidents.  “These are not random events.”

Police have denied the
group’s allegations.

Road control activists, from left, Alexei Honcharuk, Andriy Dzyndzya and Volodymyr Maralov. Maralov was shot and wounded on Dec. 21 and his car set on fire. Dzyndzya has been held on what many think are dubious charges. Other activists involved in the group, which exposes road police corruption, have been attacked.

Then on Dec. 16, two men severely beat Svitlana
Malytska
– another journalist affiliated with the group – inside an
elevator of the residential building where she lives.

U.S. authorities in November
granted Road Control journalist Andriy Zhukovyen political
asylum
finding that the Ukrainian Interior Ministry organized deliberate
actions against the group for political motives. While in the U.S. in February,
Zhukovyen learned that “questionable” charges had been brought against him in
Ukraine and did not return, opting instead to apply for asylum.

Vorobyov told the Kyiv Post that
group founder Shapashnikov plans to remain in Poland for fear of prosecution.
He is under the care of the Polish Union of Journalists.

Constant thorn on side of police

Road Control has long
annoyed law enforcement bodies.  Founded more than five years ago,
Vorobyov said the group started to be pressured once it started investigating
alleged illegal business activity by the traffic police related to car lots to
where vehicles are impounded.

According to the Helsinki
human rights group, over the last two years its journalists have faced attacks
and dodgy criminal proceedings.

“The events over the last
two weeks look worryingly like an all-out offensive against the civic
organization by those whose confidence in their own impunity makes them a
danger to the public,” reads a Helsinki group statement.

In March 2012, according to
Vorobyov, Shaposhnikov was driven to a forest by four assailants and threatened
with his life. He was brutally beaten and was often choked
during the attack
.

Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached
at m.rachkevych@kyivpost.com.

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