Attack on Ukrainian Journalist Reinvigorates Opposition

Ukrainian opposition activists gathered outside the Interior Ministry today to demand action after an attack on journalist Tetyana Chornovil, reinvigorating demonstrations that have waned since a weekend rally.

President Viktor Yanukovych ordered Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko and Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka to “urgently” investigate the attack, according to statement on Yanukovych’s website. Chornovil was beaten by “at least two people” early this morning, she said in comments shown on Hromadske TV.

The incident offers protest leaders a new cause to rally supporters as Ukraine’s biggest street protests in almost a decade lose steam before the New Year’s holiday. Several hundred anti-government activists moved from a tent camp on Independence Square in downtown Kiev to picket the nearby Interior Ministry, while journalists said they planned to hold rallies in several regional cities.

“Does anyone still hope that the authorities will change and listen to anyone?” Vitali Klitschko, an opposition leader and former world boxing champion, said in a statement on his party’s website. “Today they want to do with all of us what they did to Tetyana Chornovil.”

Police in Boryspil, a town about 37 kilometers (23 miles) east of Kiev where the attack occurred, opened a criminal case on hooliganism charges and are continuing to investigate, the Interior Ministry said in statement. The case was sent to a unit of the ministry under Zakharchenko’s direct control.

‘Serious Beating’

The early-morning attack shouldn’t be treated as hooliganism because it is “a serious beating related to her professional activity,” according to Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the head of imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party. Protest leaders will meet activists today to discuss “further steps” after renewing calls for Zakharchenko’s dismissal, he said in a statement on the party website.

Journalists in Donetsk will rally today at 6 p.m. in a show of support for Chornovil, Oleksiy Matsuka, editor in chief of Internet newspaper Novosti Donbassa, said on his Twitter account. Another rally to protest violence against journalists is planned for 5 p.m. in Lviv, the Unian news service reported.

Chornovil’s work included stories on properties she said belong to senior Ukrainian officials, including Zakharchenko and Yanukovych. In a separate statement, Tymoshenko called on protesters to march to Yanukovych’s home.

“Attacks on journalists cannot be tolerated, there must be no impunity for the perpetrators,” Dunja Mijatovic, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s media freedom representative, said in an e-mailed statement. “I welcome that President Yanukovych condemned this attack and call on the authorities to conduct a swift and thorough investigation.”

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