Ukraine: Editorial offices of "disobedient" newspaper set on fire in Kharkov
A serious incident took place last weekend in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov when unidentified perpetrators broke windows in the editorial offices of the nationwide newspaper Slovyanka, defaced the walls with Nazi swastikas and threatening messages, and set the building on fire with Molotov cocktails. According to eyewitnesses, the group of perpetrators had been active participants in demonstrations in Kharkov honoring the victims of the Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris.
Molotov cocktails and swasitkas
The group of about 20 people, dressed mostly in black with balaclavas over their faces and wearing scarves of the local football club FC Metalist Kharkov, attacked the building on Saturday where the editorial office of the Slovyanka newspaper is headquartered. While chanting nationalist slogans, they used sticks to smash in windows and throw several Molotov cocktails into the building.
Some members of the group also spray-painted the wall of the building with Nazi swastikas, with runes used in the symbol of the controversial Ukrainian combat regiment "Azov", and with threatening messages. One read: "This is a warning against falsehoods."
At the time of the attack only one editor was on duty in the offices. She managed to escape in time and to call the militia and firefighters, whom it took several hours to get the blaze under control.
The editor's shouting got the attention of newspaper owner Vladimir Abramenko, who was in his private apartment one floor up. "Nationalists have repeatedly called us before and threatened us. They demanded that we immediately stop publishing the newspaper. Their reason was that we allegedly sympathize with the separatists. They threatened to kill us, to set us on fire, to put us in the ground," Abramenko told the press, adding that, "We have never published anything that would substantiate such objections. We have never printed any calls for separatism."
The height of absurdity
Paradoxically, that same day in Kharkov a demonstration against Islamist terrorism was held on the main square to honor the victims of the terrorist attacks on the editorial offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. The small group that set the Slovyanka offices on fire, purportedly because of a difference of opinion, had participated in the demonstration "for freedom of speech", according to eyewitnesses.
The assailants drew attention to themselves on the square by loudly chanting nationalist slogans and wearing the scarves of the local football club, but they have not yet been apprehended or brought to justice. Local antifascist activists called that fact "the height of absurdity and an example of the double standard in the law and in people's minds."
The incident in Kharkov, the obvious motivation of which was to violently silence a newspaper whose opinions do not strictly adhere to the nationalist rhetoric of the rest of the Ukrainian media (and even less to those of the local radicals supporting the Right Sector group) was reported by approximately 10 online and print media outlets in Ukraine, but not by the most-read dailies and weeklies or by radio or television. As of yesterday no Czech media outlets had reported on the incident either.
This attack on freedom of the press in Ukraine, which happened in the shadow of the global actions to support journalists in France, reveals the double standard and spin of Ukrainian media and politicians. These have actively protested against the terrorist attack on the free media in Paris while ostentatiously ignoring an arson attack with a similar motivation in their own country.
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