Wednesday, 23 September

At the round table of the Verkhovna Rada Committee, the head of C14 Yevhen Karas and people’s deputy Ihor Lutsenko urged the Roma that they are gypsies. The invited Roma were very upset by this attitude and did not see the desire of the authorities to solve their problems.

The deputy complained about discrimination

People’s deputy Ihor Lutsenko is extremely concerned that Ukraine is gradually gaining a reputation of a country of xenophobes. In his opinion, this is not true, since, “left organizations, from extremists such as the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation or organizations of the left-liberal mainstream, with the support of the ex-“regional” (“Party of Regions” – translator’s note) and Russian media, are now fueling interethnic opposition in the state… the left push the thesis that Ukrainians are making xenophobic acts among themselves, and they demand punishment for inciting ethnic hatred”.

In order to “dispel the left myth”, Ihor Lutsenko decided to arrange a meeting between the leaders of the Roma organizations of Ukraine and the head of the right-wing radical organization C14 Yevhen Karas. To the round table were also invited officials, human rights activists and journalists. The name of the event was as follows: “Current problems of protection of the Roma minority: who sabotages the integration of Roma into Ukrainian society?”. The invited President of the All-Ukrainian Union of Public Organizations “Congress of the Roma of Ukraine” Petro Grygorichenko said that it is very unpleasant for him to hear the word “gypsy” related to him. “Just as you are uncomfortable to hear the words “maloros” or “khokhol” (derogatory, insulting or joking nickname of Ukrainians – translator’s note), he explained.

Zola Kondur, the Vice-president of the ICO “Roma Women’s Fund “Chirikli” said that it is customary at the international level to use the self-name of the Roma people. “We are in the Verkhovna Rada at an official event, then dut to respect for our people, we use its self-name, she explained. “If you want to call us gypsies, then you can do it at home with your friends”.

“I never thought that the word “gypsies” would be offensive to someone,” answered Ihor Lutsenko, the word “Roma” translates as “people”. And then, who are we? Where are my rights, like Ukrainian? Where is my language? I am now discriminated, indicating which words I should use! I fought for three hundred years for this language!”, Ihor Lutsenko was supported by the leader of C14, Yevhen Karas. “Everyone can think that he is discriminated or not discriminated, (calling the “gypsies”- O.Sh.) I don’t care at all,” he said. There was an emotional and unpleasant argument. It is not surprising that the organizer of the round table, Ihor Lutsenko, who promised to contribute to the resolution of conflicts, did not want to yield to the invited Roma leaders even in such trifles, but immediately arranged and led the confrontation.

The Romany strategy of the Government is not being implemented

At the beginning of the conversation, the people’s deputy reminded the present that in 2013 the Ukrainian Government had adopted a “Strategy for the Protection and Integration of the Roma National Minority into Ukrainian Society for the Period to 2020”. He asked how the implementation of this strategy is going on.

The representative of the Secretariat of the Cabinet’s Interdepartmental Working Group on the implementation of the Roma strategy, Volodymyr Yakovenko, said that it was established only a year ago – July 3, 2017. “The Secretariat does not have funds from the state at all,” said Volodymyr Yakovenko. “The International Renaissance Foundation finances us”. Because of this, the whole process is very protracted: for example, the group on social protection and health of the Roma held its meeting only in June 2018.

Volodymyr Yakovenko said that some regions indeed carry out their activities to protect and integrate Romani, regional budgets were financing them, and some send formal annotations. For example, local authorities in Ternopil region replied: “Since, according to the 2001 census, we have a very small number of Roma, we consider it inappropriate to carry out any activities”. “As a result, Volodymyr Yakovenko reminded, “It was in Ternopil region that a group of unidentified people attacked a Romani settlement and committed violence, these people fired and ran after the children in the forest”.

The president of the All-Ukrainian Union of Public Organizations “Congress of the Roma of Ukraine” Petro Grygorichenko recalled that the first program of protection and integration of the Roma was in operation in 2003-2006. “It also received no funds, so it was carried out very fragmentarily,” Petro Grygorichenko said,  “They did not continue it”. The next program was signed by Viktor Yanukovych only in order to report to the West because it was one of the conditions for signing an association with EU and getting visa-free regime”. In his opinion, this second strategy is emasculated and ineffective, so it must be filled with other content and continue. “Perhaps someone does not agree with the fact that something needs to be done for the Roma,” Petro Grygorichenko said, “But they are citizens of Ukraine and, according to our data, they are about 400,000. In Ukraine, there is no agency of Ethnopolitics at all: the main areas of the stable Romany program should be education, health care, housing and legal protection”.

Ex-ombudswoman Valeriya Lutkovska said that it is necessary to start the Roma help with the passporting and issuance of birth certificates since many of them do not have documents and therefore cannot receive social payments to be medically treated, to study and to work. “To obtain a passport, you need to have a birth certificate, but it is often not available in Romany families,” Valeriya Lutkovska said. It is possible to get a passport and without it, if there is evidence of neighbors, but neighbors often also have no documents”.

The representative of the Ombudsman Andrii Mamalyga said that inaction towards the Roma resulted in the inaction of the Police. He also recalled that in 1995 Ukraine ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. But all strategies and conventions are not implemented because of a lack of funding, and therefore, they have a purely declarative nature. “To implement the Romany strategy, it is necessary that in the budget there is a separate line for the next year – the financing of the action plan,” Andrii Mamalyga said.

Zola Kondur, the Vice-president of the ICO “Roma Women’s Fund “Chirikli”, said that some things can be done without funding. “The rural head in Transcarpathia for seven years without any means did everything to ensure that the Roma people, who live there did not differ from all other people,” she said. “They were helped to issue documents, legalized the houses and helped to find a job”. Zola Kondur believes that the Strategy is not being implemented because there are people in Ukraine, who do not consider Roma as citizens: some people’s deputies make statements that the Roma are illegal immigrants, who need to be evicted from the country”.

С14 substitutes the Police

 “Since the state does not provide funding for the Strategy, the establishment of an international peace is the responsibility of the public activists themselves,” Ihor Lutsenko said.

“I would like to address the chairman of the public organization “Sich” or C14 Yevhen Karas,” Petro Grygorichenko said, “It is known that you have received state funding. How did you manage to do this? Share your experience”.

“Sich” won the projects of the Ministry of Youth and Sports on the national-patriotic education for the co-organization of the camps,” Yevhen Karas said. “The money that “Sich” received for this camp, is a red tape, not joy. I did not get a penny on my hands”.

Yevhen Karas also explained the conflict that arose around the Romany camp on the Lysa Mountain in Kyiv: “Some people think that we came there to beat the Gypsies,” he said. “We came so that there would not be deforestation”. Representatives of the RSA and other state bodies were appealing to us, and now the invented version is that there are neo-Nazis, racists and all the rest, and they have only one problem. To send “Sich” to jail – and there will be no problem. And the fact that the RSA, amenity and the National Police were engaged in this (the Roma camp – O.Sh.) – they close eyes to this. They just found a “scapegoat” on our side. As a citizen, I am pleased with the fact that the reciprocal reaction has begun: law enforcement agencies are now forced not to close the eyes to the representatives of certain Gypsy communities involved in crime”.

Also, Yevhen Karas has reminded of Lviv group L.O.V.T.S.I. “These are just people, who catch robbers in the act,” he said, “they are not one political organization, and they are not racists”. The leader of C14 said that “this state is unlikely to be able to help anyone, not just representatives of ethnic minorities, but even to oneself, that’s why we need to act. We are not interested in the nation. If a person is engaged in criminal activity, if the law enforcers not to do it, then we will deal with this”.

“Let’s recognize that we do not have a state,” Ihor Lutsenko said, “We do not have police, we do not have SSU, etc. What do we do? We have only public organizations,” he added and pointed out at Yevhen Karas.

At that moment a heated argument arose. The participants answered Yevhen Karas that his organization does not have to substitute power structures. “You are antagonizing the representatives of the gypsy community because they are afraid of you,” Valeriya Lutkovska said, “You are causing fear. I’m not sure that this is correct”.

“If we do not have a state, then what are we doing here?”, Petro Grygorichenko asked in surprise.

Roma took offense at political manipulation

Zola Kondur noted that crime has no nationality, and only the law enforcement agencies should deal with it. “We share the provision of assistance and the use of force,” she added, “By protecting the interests of certain citizens by force, we do not violate the rights of other citizens. No organization has the right to replace state authorities. It’s very strange to me that today in the Verkhovna Rada we are so insistently saying that we do not have a state, and therefore some people and organizations must take responsibility. It is simply unacceptable! I do not want to comment on the actions of C14 or L.O.V.T.S.I. that were involved in attacks on the Roma settlement because this should be done by law enforcement agencies”. According to Zola Kondur, the actions of the right-wing radicals have caused huge damage to Ukraine at the international level, because today they speak of us, as a country where Nazism is growing up.

Andrii Mamalyga said that, in his opinion, there are no manifestations of Nazism in Ukraine. “If we want a public dialogue, we should stop labeling each other,” he said and turned to Yevhen Karas, “But in Ukraine, only the state has a monopoly on the use of force. Not a single public organization can use force, even realizing that state bodies are inactive”.

“Sich” does not assume the functions of the state in order to come and throw out someone from somewhere,” answered Yevhen Karas, “The state appealed to us for help. The patrol police in informal conversations said that they were afraid to enter these nomad settlements without the company of “Berkut”.

“The first burning and destruction of the Romany camps took place in 2012,” Petro Grygorichenko reminded. “Then the police did it, but now the police refused to do it and is using you instead”.

“It does not use,” Yevhen Karas said, “It does not quite use”.

“And you abuse it,” said Petro Grygorichenko, “It will use you again, do not worry, it’s still ahead, in this state you are being used”. The Roma was chosen to draw away attention from nation-wide problems, exactly like in Germany in 1938, when the Crystal night happened and hundreds of thousands of Jews suffered as a result of the pogroms. You are a young man, think about it, go to Auschwitz, where many Roma died at the hands of the Nazis. Go also to Babyn Yar, where thousands of Roma were shot”.

The lawyer and assistant on the voluntary basis of the deputy Ihor Lutsenko, Lyubov Krygan, said that it is unacceptable, of course, when a public organization takes on the functions of law enforcement agencies, but this is a reality and a fact.

Ihor Lutsenko summed up the conversation as follows: “If our media writes that there was a pogrom, it means that there was a pogrom, although, in reality, there was no pogrom, now everyone talks about this as an accomplished fact. We are under constant attention of the propagandists, who can treat any event as fascism or neo-Nazism. Since our state does not work, it is necessary to develop horizontal contacts at all levels”.

Zola Kondur did not wait for the end of the round table and left it. Later she commented: “I was invited to discuss the problems of the integration of the Roma. As soon as the political manipulation and justification of the C14 actions began, I left the meeting hall,” she said. “The question of the legality of the C14 action is the competence of the court and law enforcement agencies”.

According to Zola Kondur, it is not worth attending such meetings. “I considered this invitation as another provocation or manipulation, but I came because if there were no Roma, they would again blame us. This meeting caused even more questions to the activity of some deputies. If the Verkhovna Rada deputy says that we do not have state and there are no state authorities and organizations of type C14 should deal with all problems, then why such a person is a deputy?”

Text by Oleh Shynkarenko

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