Ukraine: Non-Romani politician charged with shooting one Romani man dead during pogrom and wounding four others
Is it a case of local racism, or revenge for an attack on a politician's son? Ukrainian Police have charged a non-Romani regional councilor with the premeditated murder of a Romani man committed during an anti-Romani pogrom.
Disturbing information is being revealed about the massive street battle involving approximately 50 people during which armed residents of the village of Olshany in the Kharkov district shot dead a local Romani man (age 50) and injured four others on 16 May. Representatives of the local government, the mayor and his father, who was remanded into custody the next day, are said to have been actively involved in the pogrom.
A total of 21 people have been summoned to give statements by police, all of whom were then released except for three. The situation in the village remains tense, the access roads and public administration buildings are being protected by 50 riot police units with dogs.
The incident has been reported on by the news server apostrophe.ua and all the main Ukrainian media outlets. Longtime tensions between the non-Romani residents of the village of Olshany and roughly 100 local Romani people turned into a bloodbath there on 16 May.
On that day in front of the building of the municipal authority, people began to assemble at about 10 AM. In the area in front of the office building two groups began shouting at each other, dissatisfied non-Romani locals from the mayor's circle and Romani residents.
"One of them ran over to me and wanted to take my shovel so he could use it in the street fighting," gardener Vasiliy Zub, who had been digging in the flower beds in front of the building, told a reporter from news server mediaport.ru. "Understandably I did not give it to him."
After a couple of minutes, according to Zub, gunshots were heard and five Romani men were lying on the ground in pools of their own blood. "I don't know who fired, but it certainly wasn't the Roma," Zub told the reporter.
The investigation has found that one of those who began shooting into the group of Romani people with a so-called "traumatic pistol" was a councilor from the Kharkov Regional Authority, Alexey Litvinov, who is also the father of the local mayor. Immediately after the incident, the councilor told a reporter for the Kharkov-based news server vogrode.ua that he had not been involved in the incident, however.
"We've had enough of the gypsy riots, they are making fun of local people," the councilor said in front of the journalist. When asked whether he believed that was a reason to shoot Romani people, he answered: "You know, people are just people. These are our times."
The councilor also alleged that the Romani residents rob older people and start conflicts with local youth. The village is home to 8 200 people, approximately 100 of whom are Roma.
"It's understandable that I am on the side of our [non-Romani] people, we want order and peace here," he emphasized. One day later he was arrested by police and charged with felony rioting and premeditated murder.
Local Romani representatives allege that Mayor Litvinov and his father Alexey actively incited the hatred of the non-Romani residents against them. Just prior to the shooting, shouts were heard from the crowd of non-Romani locals such as "We've had enough! We have to drive the Roma out of town!"
Revenge for a brawl
Not all of the non-Romani residents of Olshany stand behind the representatives of the local powers that be. From their interviews with journalists it has come to light that they know the local Roma and have no problem with them.
"I've known them since I was little, we went to school together. There are so few of them here that we know nothing about them, we just see them when they go shopping. They are absolutely ordinary people just like us," a sales clerk in a grocery store told one reporter.
Similarly conciliatory opinions about Romani residents are held by several other non-Romani locals, according to mediaport.ua. From the testimony of the relatives of the deceased Romani man, Nikolay Kaspicky, it has come to light that the immediate cause of the conflict was a brawl between Kaspicky's son Peter and the mayor.
"We went to see the mayor to explain what happened yesterday between him and our son," the widow of the deceased, Fatima Kaspicka, told the press on 17 May. "We went there in peace, we were prepared to apologize, but then the [non-Romani] locals began to descend upon us, calling for a pogrom and firing weapons."
"It ended with this tragedy," Kaspicka said, who seemed utterly destroyed. Local non-Romani residents, according to her, then began to behave worse and worse toward the Roma.
The widow alleges that she was not even allowed into the hospital where her husband lay dying. The chair of the Chachimo Romani organization, Nikolay Burlucky, compared the conflict in Olshany with the progroms that have happened in recent months elsewhere in Ukraine.
"Personally I believe this is a big warning sign about what is happening now in our society," he said. Local non-Romani politicians, according to Burlucky, frequently treat Romani residents with animosity and blame the problems they are unable to solve on them.
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