Ukraine vows 'impartial' probe of police attack on journalist

KIEV, Ukraine, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Ukraine's Interior Ministry has promised an "impartial" investigation into an incident in which a journalist claims he was beaten and robbed by police in Kiev.

A statement issued Sunday by the Ministry of Internal Affairs confirmed that Victor Menyailo, editor of TVi's travel and cultural program "Avtomandri," complained to authorities that police had attacked and robbed him early Saturday.


The statement indicated criminal proceedings had been launched under Ukrainian laws banning the abuse of power or authority. "MIA wants a thorough and impartial investigation into the incident," the ministry said.

Yuriy Lucania, chairman of Ukraine's Independent Media Trade Union, said Menyailo was stopped by police at a traffic light at 8 a.m. Saturday as he was on his way to pick up his dog, which had been hospitalized after a complicated surgery.

The journalist claims that after police checked his documents, they discovered he was carrying almost $200 to pay for the dog's surgery and demanded it. He says he refused to submit and began to record the incident on his cellphone camera.


One officer, later identified as part of the Interior Ministry's special "Cobra" unit, allegedly grabbed Menyailo, uttering, "[expletive] hack, I've been reading the Internet," and proceeded to beat him with his fists on the head, chest and abdomen.

Minyailo said he was then dragged to a police car, where officers allegedly refused to give him his phone to call his wife and co-workers, and threatened him with more physical violence. When he finally gave them his money, they let him go, he said.

He was taken to a hospital emergency room where he was found to have sustained bruises chest to his chest and head.

The union chief added members of the Cobra unit have already appealed to Minyailo to resolve the situation.

Prior to joining TVi, Minyailo was a longtime employee of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. That news organization reported Sunday that activists of the Ukrainian non-governmental organization Traffic Control are trying to restore the cellphone video of the incident.

It also brought condemnation from members of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Committee on Freedom of Speech, which urged that Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Pshonka take personal control of the investigation, the news website Vgolos reported.

A statement to Pshonka issued by committee Chairman Nicholas Tomenko, and fellow Members of Parliament Helen Kondratiuk, George Stec and Alexander Abdullin, said the episode as well as other recent attacks on journalists in Ukraine demonstrated "a complete loss of confidence in the police and Interior Ministry leadership, which turns a blind eye to the brutal beating of journalists.


"This is not uncommon -- it is open war on reporters," Tomenko stated. "As chairman of the parliamentary committee, I appeal personally to the prosecutor general to take the case under his personal control, because it is ... about violence and extortion by the so-called law enforcement."

The incident came a month after allegations surfaced that two journalists covering a public demonstration against police brutality were beaten by the police in Kiev's central Maidan Nezalezhnosti square.

The free speech NGO Freedom House also reported that in May two journalists were attacked by unknown assailants as police stood by, with authorities investigating only after the media and public protested their inaction.

The Kiev demonstrators were demanding police reforms and the resignation of Internal Affairs Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko.

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