The Pirogov First Volunteer Mobile Hospital (PFVMH), one of Ukraine’s largest community of medical veterans of the war for the country’s independence, was shocked by the last weeks’ developments launched by the news conference at the Interior Ministry of Ukraine on Dec. 12, 2019. The President of Ukraine, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, the Interior Minister of Ukraine, and a number of high-ranking officers of the National Police of Ukraine attended the conference, during which the Police leadership, in fact, “designated” perpetrators in the case of journalist Pavel Sheremet homicide, this designation being approved by the nation’s leadership. The suspects include our brother Andriy Antonenko – a PFVMH veteran, renowned rock musician, and active sergeant of the Special Operations Forces within the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU).
Besides Andriy, the high-ranking officials said they also suspected well-known volunteer Yulia Kuzmenko, a gifted cardiac surgeon, and AFU Corporal Yana Druhar, a nurse of the 25th Airborne Brigade of the Ukrainian Air Assault Forces.
We are neither investigators nor judges. We are not familiar with the case details except those published in open sources. We do not know who killed Pavel Sheremet. However, the lack of any convincing evidence and rational reason for the homicide in the National Police’s version immediately gave rise to a host of questions and our natural indignation. And the more we learned about the case, the more questions were left unanswered. The impression was that anyone of us could have found oneself in the place of Andriy, Yulia, and Yana. We could not help recalling the notorious proverb from Stalin’s era: “Bring me a man and I’ll find a crime.”
The measure of restraint selected by the judges for the suspects has only enhanced our indignation with the brutal violation of the presumption of innocence and procedural rights of our sisters and brother. It roused a suspicion that the utterly unpopular Interior Minister was knowingly using this case to discredit the community of veterans and volunteers, which enjoys the highest level of Ukrainian society’s confidence. The plain violation of the presumption of innocence, the political pressure on the court, the neglect of the fundamental rights of suspects, and the undisguised disregard of public opinion are stirring up veterans’ community to radical actions. This is unacceptable as the only real beneficiary of any internal conflict in Ukraine will be Putin.
Therefore, we demand from authorities:
- Carry out a maximally transparent, unbiased, and professional investigation of the Pavel Sheremet case;
- Unconditionally observe presumption of innocence and other rights of the journalist homicide suspects;
- Prevent any political intervention in the investigation and political pressure on the court;
- Resort to the harshest measures of restraint, such as the detention of suspects in custody, only when there is convincing evidence that they have intent and a possibility to influence or obstruct the investigation;
- Continuously inform the public on investigation progress;
- Immediately stop the disparagement of the veteran/volunteer community, which – despite all its objective shortcomings – saved the Ukrainian statehood in 2014.
The ancient maxim of law states: “Omnis indemnatus рro innoxis legibus habetur” – every uncondemned person is held by law as innocent. We demand that Ukrainian authorities strictly abide by this fundamental principle of law. For where the rule of law falls, only the rule of force remains. The rule of force is a sign of a police state, the one we rose against six years ago. The one against which we have been defending our freedom and independence at the front for the last six years.
We have got tired of revolutions and rebellions. We realize that any social outburst in Ukraine will eventually benefit only the Kremlin. But you just can leave us no choice. And it will be the worst option for Ukraine.
December 28, 2019
the fifth anniversary of the PFVMH
Gennadiy Druzenko, PFVMH Cofounder and Supervisory Board Chairman
Oleh Shyba, PFVMH Cofounder and President
Oleksandr Hahayev, PFVMH Vice President
Ihor Buyvol, PFVMH Vice President
Tamila Danilevska, PFVMH Executive Director
86 more PFVMH veterans