As protests unfold, defiant Avakov answers to Rada over police brutality
- 05 June 2020
Ukraine’s controversial Minister of Interior Arsen Avakov stood before the Verkhovna Rada on June 4, questioned by lawmakers regarding recent incidents of extreme police brutality and the organized crime epidemic in Ukraine, APA reports citing Kyiv Post.
In his address to the parliament, the minister decried accusations against him and the country’s National Police following a late May incident in the town of Kaharlyk in Kyiv Oblast, where a young woman was brutally tortured and raped by two police officers.
According to Avakov, the Ukrainian police is nothing but the “flesh and blood of Ukrainian society.”
“There are heroes, hard-workers among us,” he said. “And there are unfortunately those who break the law. Adverse and shocking incidents take place in any society, in any of the world’s police forces. But what is crucial is how the law enforcement system reacts to such incidents. It does not conceal, or encourage, or try to disguise such things, but offers a strong reaction in compliance with the law.”
He called the Kaharlyk case “a shameful incident” that did not represent the whole of the 360,000-strong Ministry of Interior, including 132,000 police personnel.
At the same time, he accused lawmakers of exploiting the public uproar that followed the incident with the goal of scoring political points and smearing the police “because of a handful of misfits.”
“In the police, tens of thousands of people serve Ukraine honestly, enforce the law, solve crimes and carry out combat missions in (Donbas), risking their lives and health,” he said.
“The decisive majority of the police are decent people loyal to their oath of service.”
He added that the Kaharlyk case, unlike a similar case of police brutality that took place in the town of Vradiivka in 2013, was never concealed by the police. Instead of that, the suspects were arrested and handed over to State Investigation Bureau detectives “within less than an hour,” Avakov said.
The minister also dismissed all charges of turning a blind eye on crimes committed by the police on a regular basis. According to him, in 2020 alone, there have been 1,037 criminal proceedings regarding police personnel’s alleged wrongdoing.
Additionally, Avakov pushed back against accusations of weak law enforcement, which flared up again following a mass shooting in the city of Brovary, where as many as 100 gunmen tied to organized crime clashed in the city streets in late May.
The minister said that the police offered an appropriate reaction to the shooting spree, having identified 67 and detained 39 gang members. He also added that some of the local police operative units in the Brovary area were punished for their failure to prevent such an incident.
Lastly, Avakov claimed that, as of 2020, the police solves over 90% of cases of violent crimes committed across the country.
Nonetheless, the minister overtly refused to offer his apologies to the woman tortured in Kaharlyk, as well as to the parents of Kyrylo Tlialov, a 5-year-old boy killed by police officers in late May 2019 in the city of Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky.
“I am not going to do what you want,” he responded to lawmaker Iryna Sovsun of 20-seat faction Golos (“Voice”) party, after she urged the minister to acknowledge personal responsibility for the incidents. “I am going to be doing not what you want but what I am obliged to do. And I will do what I have to.”
He accused the lawmaker of “drawing political dividends from the tragedy.”
“It is not up to you to lecture me,” he said. “I am a patriot down to my bones, and I will work for the benefit of the nation, not certain political parties.”
Meanwhile, mass protests erupted near the Verkhovna Rada demanding Avakov’s resignation and a criminal investigation regarding his activities as interior minister.
Protesters were seen burning flares, lighting smoke bombs and also destroying an old cruiser car painted in police colors.