A brutal rape of a resident of the village Vradiyevka (Nikolayev Province, Ukraine) Irina Krashkova by local police officers has led to huge public outcry and has developed into open defiance of the authorities. As the suspects were attempting to evade responsibility, using their official position and family ties amongst the top-level leaders of law enforcement agencies, villagers, outraged by the actions of law enforcement officers, stormed the building of the District Department of the Internal Affairs. Thus, the high-profile events in Vradiyevka clearly demonstrated the fundamental problems of the Ukrainian militia and the urgent need for reform.
The rape of Irina Krashkova
On 26 June, 2013, close to midnight, on Mayakovsky street, a car drove up to a 29-year-old resident of the village of Vradiyevka, Irina Krashkova, who was returning home from a disco, and one of the men sitting in the car offered the girl a ride. When she refused, she was forcefully dragged inside. As it transpired, inside the car were police officers: Captain Yevgeniy Dryzhak and Lt. Dmitriy Polishchuk, and at the wheel was a local taxi driver, Sergei Ryabinenko. They took Irina into a wooded area near the village of Syrovo, which is located about 6 km to the north-west of Vradiyevka. According to the victim, while the car was still in motion, the police officers began to beat her, not only with their hands but also, presumably, with a heavy object, after she asked them to drop her off near her house. When they arrived at the the woodland area, the driver also joined the policemen, and he was beating her particularly severely. “They pushed me to the ground and kept beating and kicking me. Then they dragged me back into the car and Dryzhak raped me”- the victim reported. After that, Dryzhak invited Polishchuk to do the same: “Do you want her? She’s all yours”, to which he replied: “I do”, and so he also raped Irina Krashkova. Ryabinenko did not abuse her sexually, but while the police officers were raping her, he was hitting her hard about the head.
After the rape, the men dragged Irina out of the car, took her personal belongings (all her clothing, handbag, phone and gold jewellery) and left. It was with great difficulty that she crawled into the high bushes and hid. After a while, the rapists came back and began to look for her, but, fortunately, they couldn’t find her. It was the next morning before the naked and battered resident of Vradiyevka reached a mill on the edge of the village of Syrovo, whose employees gave her first aid and called an ambulance. Irena was admitted to the intensive care unit of the Vradiyevka central hospital, where she was diagnosed with open fractures of the skull, cuts and abrasions to the head and face, multiple contusions and bruises. After some time, Krashkova was taken to the Nikolayev neurosurgery emergency hospital, where she underwent two surgical procedures. Physicians announced her condition to be ‘serious but stable’.
On 27 June, 2013, a report concerning Irina Krashkova’s hospitalisation was delivered from the hospital to the front office of the Vradiyevka police station. According to the information included in the notification, Irina Krashkova had reported that she had been beaten and raped, and so an investigative team was sent to the hospital. After the investigating officers received medical documents confirming the serious condition of the victim, criminal proceedings were instituted on charges of causing an intentional grievous bodily harm ( Article 125 section 1 of the Criminal Code), which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of 5 to 8 years. Also, on the basis of the testimony given by the victim, criminal proceedings were initiated on charges of committing robbery (Article 187, section 4 of the Criminal Code, punishable by imprisonment for a term of 8 to 15 years with confiscation of property) and rape (Article 152, section 3 of the Criminal Code, punishable by imprisonment for a term of 7 to 12 years).
As the suspects are police officers, the case file was transferred to the prosecutor’s office. On 30 June, 2013, the district court granted the motion of the prosecutor’s office, ordering a measure of restraint taking the form of 60-day detentions for two of the alleged attackers, whom the victim had identified: Lieutenant Dmitriy Polishchuk and taxi driver, Sergei Ryabinenko. It is worth noting that Yevgeniy Dryzhak wasn’t arrested, because, as explained the Vradiyevka District Prosecutor Sergei Mochalko, the testimony of witnesses (colleagues of the policeman) and footage from security cameras, proved he was in his workplace on 24-hour duty in the police department.
However, this alibi provided by the law enforcement agencies, failed to convince the villagers. Some saw Yevgeniy Dryzhak on the evening of 26 June, 2013, in the street and at the disco, which flew in the face of the version of the investigators. On the same day, dozens of Vradiyevka residents gathered near the Vradiyevka District Court (buildings of the prosecutor’s office and the police station are located in the vicinity of the court), where the hearing regarding the imposition of a preventive measure for the two detainees: Lieutenant Dmitriy Polishchuk and a gamekeeper Sergei Ryabinenko were being held. They demanded that the second policeman whom the victim identified, be arrested as well. Later in the afternoon, the number of participants of the spontaneous rally near the walls of the law enforcement agencies increased to several hundred. Many of those present openly declared that they were ready to lynch the perpetrators. The situation became more aggravated when no one from among representatives of the authorities came out to address crowd in order to explain the situation. A rapid response unit ‘Berkut’ was dispatched from Nikolayev to the district centre (the administrative centre of the Nikolayev province).
On 1 July, 2013, at 7:00 p.m., in front of the District Department of Internal Affairs (DDIA), a large-scale rally, attended by more than 1,000 people from Vradievka and neighbouring communities, was held. The protesters demanded the arrest of Yevgeniy Dryzhak and the submission of an open report on the results of the investigation carried out by the authorities. The head of the DDIA, Vitaliy Sinitskiy, came out to address the crowd and announced that the police captain had an alibi. However, after the suspect allegedly looked through the window, some people began to throw eggs and stones in the direction of the district department, and others rushed toward the front door. In response, the police used tear gas and began to shoot. Later, protesters broke into the courtyard of the office building and began to cause damage to police vehicles.
In turn, the management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), through its official website, disseminated information that the vast majority of them were in the state of alcoholic intoxication. The news was aired in an attempt to discredit the protesters who were trying to storm the building. It was only late in the night that the manager of the Nikolayev Regional Police Department, Valentin Parsenyuk and deputy prosecutor of the Nikolayev Province, Dmitriy Yefymenko, persuaded the protesters to stop the storming of the regional department and to disperse. Charges of hooliganism committed by a group of persons were instituted in connection with the attack on the district police station ( Article 296, section 4 of the Criminal Code, punishable by imprisonment for a term of 3 to 7 years) and intentional damage to property (Article 194, section 1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 years). On 5 July, 2013, the Prosecutor of Nikolayev Province, Andrey Kuris, announced that the prosecution file of these cases will not be closed: “Protests can take many forms, but damage of property and bodily injury are crimes that should be punished”. However, the co-chairman of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Yevgeniy Zakharov stated that these people should not be subjected to prosecution, as they acted in the heat of passion caused by the unlawful actions of police officers.
The reaction of the authorities and the public
On 1 July, 2013, the opposition parliamentary faction ‘UDAR’ [‘The Blow’] demanded sight of the report of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Zakharchenko on the situation that has developed in his department in connection with the rape of Irene Krashkova, reportedly carried out by two policemen from Vradiyevka. When reporting to the deputies of the Supreme Council, he placed all the blame for the incident on Vitaliy Sinitskiy and Valentin Parsenyuk. By the order of the Minister, they were dismissed from their posts in the internal affairs department for concealment of objective information regarding the circumstances of the crime. At the same time, the leader of the parliamentary faction ‘Batkivshchina’ [Motherland’] Arseniy Yatsenyuk demanded that Vitaliy Zakharchenko also offer his resignation, but in an interview for the ICTV on 6 July, 2013, the latter announced that he was not going to do that “at a time when the ministry is undergoing transformation”.
On 2 July, 2013, the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, made a decision to personally supervise the investigation into the events in the Nikolayev Province. In turn, the General Prosecutor of Ukraine, Viktor Pshonka, warned all those who protect people whose irresponsibility led to this situation, shall be subject to personal liability. On the order of Sergey Mochalko, prosecutor of the Vradiyevka District, was dismissed from work for ‘improper performance of functional duties’.
Finally, following an identification parade on 2 July, 2013, , the Central District Court of Nikolayev decided to arrest and detain Yevgeniy Dryzhak the following day. He will remain in detention until 15 August, 2013. A representative of the prosecutor of the Nikolayev Province, Anatoliy Titus, questioned the alibi of the police captain. According to him, on the night of the crime, the surveillance camera was recording nothing but darkness for a sustained period because on 26 June, 2013, at approximately 11:11 p.m., the power was cut off in the department. On 5 July, 2013, Yegeniy Dryzhak’s immediate supervisor, a deputy chief of the criminal police of the Vradiyevka DDIA, Major Mikhail Kudrinskiy, was arrested on charges of abuse of power (Article 365, section 2 of the Criminal Code, punishable with imprisonment for a term of 3 to 8 years). He was accused of attempting to pervert the course of justice by concealing the participation of his subordinates in the crime having forced Sergey Ryabinenko to testify that Dryzhak didn’t rape or beat Irina Krashkova.
Ukrainian and foreign observers agree that the case of the rape of Irena Krashkova by police officers was the final straw not only for Vradiyevka residents, but also to all citizens of the country. Tatyana Mazur, the director of Amnesty International in Ukraine, stated that “the reaction of Vradiyevka residents clearly shows the level of people’s distrust with the current system of investigation and punishment for crimes committed by public officials”, and the authoritative newspaper Washington Post reported that the ‘case shows the increasing feeling of resentment of Ukrainians resulting from unpunished actions of officials and their influential friends’.
Vradiyevka villagers have long complained about the local law enforcement agencies. In private conversations with a representative of the Foundation, they compared the work of the agencies to the activities of a mafia organisation. One of the main principles of the criminal subculture – covering each other’s back – along with family ties to the management of law enforcement agencies and the district authorities, manifested itself at an early stage of the investigation of the high-profile case. Lieutenant Dmitriy Polishchuk transpired to be the nephew of the Prosecutor of the Zavodskoy District of Nikolayev, Sergey Polishchuk, and the main suspect, Captain Yevgeniy Dryzhak – the godson of Major General Valentin Parsenyuk, the head of the regional police force, who previously served as the chief of the Vradiyevka District Department. A member of the faction ‘Batkivshchina’ [‘Motherland’], Lieutenant-General of the police, Gennadiy Moskal, stated that the Interior Ministry has sought to conceal the crime by falsifying data, which was confirmed by the fact that the official report sent to the Supreme Council, the Administration of the President and the Cabinet of Ministers of 01.07.2013, didn’t contain a solitary mention of the rape or the third identified accomplice in the attack: Yevgeniy Dryzhak.
On 1 July, 2013, not only relatives and acquaintances of the victim, but also persons whose relatives have also suffered violence at the hands police officers, attempting to compel them to confess to crimes they hadn’t committed, gathered at a rally near the DDIA building. Major television channels: ‘Ukraine’ and ‘ICTV’ presented stories of Grigoriy Mogilev, whom Vradiyevka police tried to accuse of the murder of his mother, and Alina Porkul, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who was found dead in a local pond. The dead girl’s mother refused to answer the questions of the representative of the Open Dialogue Foundation, justifying her silence with her poor health condition. Meanwhile, On 4 July, 2013, the head of the special ministerial committee, established in order to conduct an investigation into the abuse of office by employees of the Vradiyevka DDIA, Vladimir Berezan stated that the case of the rape of Irena Krashkova and the murder of Alina Porkul have been merged into one. This means that the arrested policemen, Yevgeniy Dryzhak and Dmitriy Polishchuk have also become suspects in the unsolved crime, committed two years ago.
The opposition has promised to protect all the protesters in Vradiyevka and sent their representatives – Eduard Leonov (from VO ‘Svoboda’) and Andrey Parubiy (from ‘Batkivshchina’) there. When reporting to members of parliament about the results of the mission, from the rostrum of the Supreme Council, they demanded the dismissal of the chairman of the Nikolayev Regional State Administration, Nikolay Kruglov. On 2 July, 2013, in Kiev, near the Presidential Administration, and in Lviv, by the Interior Ministry, protests against police brutality in the Nikolayev Province were organised. During the rallies, participants expressed their support for residents of Vradiyevka. Similar protests were held on 9 July, 2013, in other regional centres of Ukraine: Zhytomyr, Kirovograd, Poltava, Ternopil and Chernikhiv, under a common slogan: “The whole of Ukraine is Vradiyevka”.
On 7 July, 2013, the ‘Vradiyevka march” was held from Vradiyevka to Kiev. Its organisers demanded the resignation of the Minister of Internal Affairs, as well as a “profound re-licencing” of police staff. However, on 18 July, 2013, after the demonstrators erected tents on Independence Square, police tore them down during the night and arrested participants. Seven of the nine detained activists were fined by a court, and the organiser of the march – Vasiliy Lyubarts – was sentenced to 10 days’ incarceration for violating the rules of peaceful assembly (Article 185 of the Code of Administrative Offences). The activist went on hunger strike for the entire period of his incarceration.
The Open Dialogue Foundation hereby expresses its grave concern regarding the frequent criminal offences in Ukraine, committed by employees and officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. For the authorities, the case of ‘Vradiyevka rapists’ should become a ‘point of no return’, and those suspected in the rape and beating of Irina Krashkova: Lt. Dmitriy Polishchuk, Captain Yevgeniy Dryzhak, the gamekeeper Sergey Ryabinenko, as well as Major Mikhail Kudrinskiy, who tried to cover up the crimes of his subordinates, should face fair, public trial.
The Open Dialogue Foundation hereby calls for the cessation of criminal proceedings with regard to the charges of hooliganism and intentional damage to property, instituted against protesters in Vradievka, as they provide a means by which those accused may be subjected to further persecution.
Ukraine’s government should launch a comprehensive reform of the police with the wide-scale involvement and participation of representatives of civil society and local authorities. The primary objective of the reform should be to restore society’s trust in law enforcement agencies, which should be achieved by means of:
- conducting an immediate and comprehensive review of staff and officials of the Ministry;
- establishing a mechanism providing for personal culpability of the management, in particular, the top-rank officials, for the actions of their subordinates;
- establishing an independent body charged with investigating crimes of which members and officials of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine are accused.