Starting on Monday the trial of four eco-activists began at Vinnytsia City court. The defendants are accused of libel and false accusation by the head of Tulchyn Rayon state administration, Mykola Pidbolyachnyy. In a collective letter addressed to president Poroshenko the group criticized state bodies, including the one of Pidbolyachnyy, for questionable procedure during providing permits for planned construction of large poultry brigade of Myronivsky Hliboproduct (MHP), a conglomerate owned by oligarch Yuriy Kosiuk.
On September 25th, the first hearing at Vinnytsia City court took place. However an appointed judge Sergiy Fedchyshen abstained from the trial due to unknown reasons. A new judge Valeriy Boyko was assigned by automatic distribution to continue the case.
Pidbolyachnyy approached the court to defend his “honor, dignity and professional reputation” which has been allegedly harmed by the claims of the residents of Tulchyn Raion lead by four activists from Kleban, Zaozerne and Tulchyn. Pidbolyachnyy demands an apology and the concerned individuals to openly refute and acknowledge their previous claims as false accusation. The collective letter appeal to the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko states that Pidbolyachnyy “lobbies interests of the oligarch Yuriy Kosiuk”, the CEO of MHP. This open letter was published by one of the local media leading to court persecution of the involved journalist also.
The MHP is one of the largest companies in the country and is active in all branches of agricultural industry. In 2016 the conglomerate gained $1,135 million USD with total profit exceeding $69 millions. Yuriy Kosiuk, the CEO of the Myronivsky Hliboproduct conglomerate is said to be a close companion to high state politicians and allegedly among the current richest Ukrainians. At the same time the MHP has been a target of accusations for environmental recklessness, even human rights violation.
Defenders gained support
“We consider this lawsuit to be an attempt to pressure the local activists, who are having their principal position regarding the MHP,” says Tamara Kharchylava from Centre of Environmental Initiatives – Ecoaction. ”In this case we also see the disregard to the opinion of 1465 people, have signed the appeal,” she proclaims. The non-governmental organization Ecoaction have made a decision to take active part in this court case on the side of the activists.
“Today the people were deprived of the right to defend themselves from ungrounded claims,“ Kharchylava stated.
Members of Ecoaction demonstrated in front of the Vinnytsia City Court in support of sued activists. They’ve brought a banner saying “Stop persecution of the activists”, and symbolically tapped up mouths to point out that the communities are not given the opportunity to speak out loud on socially significant topics.
Violence linked company expanding to Europe
MHP recently announced plans to launch another branch in the EU´s market. After enterprises in the Netherlands and Slovakia, this will bring further expansion to the west.
Lawsuit held with activists from Vinnytsia is one of many recent cases of environmental persecution associated with the MHP. Except of verbal threats or surveillance, Ecoaction monitorized several cases of beating of anti-MHP activists. The cases were in cooperation with Czech NGO Arnika published on stop-persectuion.org. Persecution of environmental activists is an upgrowing phenomenon both in EU and non-EU countries. In reaction almost fifty world countries associated with the Aarhus Convention on environmental democracy published a firm statement for stronger protection and casted off Belarus for a concrete case of oppression.