Ukraine: Police brutality targeting Romani people
At first, just like the vast majority of Ukrainians, Romani people in Ukraine experienced euphoria. They believed better times would come after the toppling of Yanukovych's thieving regime.
Now the sobering up has begun. Ukrainian national pride is being turned against Romani people there in the form of discrimination, harassment, and violent actions on the part of the police and their nationally-conscious assistants.
Miroslav Horvát, a Romani activist from Uzhgorod and journalist with a local television station there, has reported about these incidents through his personal social networking page. The most recent anti-Romani provocation took place 10 days ago on 15 March in the village of Velika Dobroň in Uzhgorod district.
A concert by the popular Romani singer Notar Mary was being given at the local Sting cultural club in the village. Romani people from all over the district planned to attend and chartered several buses to take them there.
An unpleasant surprise awaited them at the scene. Several well-muscled youths stood at the entrance to the club and practiced their own peculiar band of racist identity checks.
The bouncers only let in ethnic Ukrainians. "We are not letting Roma inside," was their curt explanation.
Local Romani activists called the incident a clear violation of their fundamental human rights and a display of ethnic intolerance. Recently such incidents have increased in Ukraine.
"Discrimination against Romani people must stop before it is too late. We cannot permit them to refuse to let us go to a concert by a Romani singer, of all people, just because of our skin color," said a witness to the incident in video footage posted to the social networking site.
"Hatred against Romani people is growing. Whatever we do, wherever we go, we're just dirty Gypsies to them. In Chop, where I live, it's gone so far they won't let Romani people ride on public transport. They shout at us that we're out of luck, they will only transport whites," an activist says in the footage.
Another incident with a racist subtext occurred on 6 March in a Romani settlement on the outskirts of Uzhgorod. Three local police cars arrived in the settlement at 6 AM.
Militia members jumped out of the vehicles and began breaking into the homes where everyone was still sleeping. They broke down their doors and sprayed tear gas in the eyes of children who were just waking up.
In one house there were six young children asleep, in another, seven. The pretext for attacking the settlement and forcibly entering its dwellings was an alleged search for a Romani man who had reportedly stolen some hay from a neighboring village.
"They were behaving like bandits, not cops. They pushed me so hard I almost collapsed. I didn't know what to do. The children were terribly afraid and shouting, so they began spraying tear gas in their eyes. Little children!" says one witness to the conflict.
"I told them to prove they were from the police and had permission to enter our homes, but they wouldn't talk to me at all. They just started making threats. They started to beat one of the men they found and then put him in a car. They wouldn't tell us what he did or where they were taking him," a women holding an infant says in the video footage.
Tensions in Ukraine have risen sharply after the publication of the news that the head of the armed fighters with the Right Sector group in western Ukraine, nationalist radical Oleksandr Muzychko (also known as Sashka Byely or "Sasha White"), was recently killed. A special Sokol unit of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry shot him dead during a special raid on nationalist radicals who had rejected a call to hand in their weapons.
Reports are coming in from all over Ukraine about groups of ultra-right nationalists going on violent sprees, people who armed themselves during the revolutionary euphoria by robbing barracks and police stations. The new government in Kiev has long endeavored to conceal and downplay the Nazi and racist slogans and symbols used by these fighters, but in recent days the situation has gotten out of hand.
In addition to Romani people in Ukraine, other minorities are also concerned over how these events will develop and affect them. Ethnic Czechs living in the Volyň area are another such group.
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