In Volyn, the local customs officers attacked the journalists who were trying to learn more about the recent attempt to smuggle 1,300 kg of amber into Poland. What started as an ordinary television story, ended with a call of law enforcement officers, injuries and the media professionals’ stolen documents.

On the eve of the journalists’ and customs officers’ meeting, the border guards in Poland detained a 1,300-kilogram batch of amber from Volyn, that was carried through the checkpoint Yahodyn headed by Oleksandr Onikiichuk. Due to the strange circumstances the Ukrainian customs officers did not notice that the two trucks that would transport the charcoal contained amber. But the poles detected the smuggling at once.

In order to learn more about the incident, the journalists of the TV channel Avers visited one of the restaurants in the village Svitiaz of Shatsk district. It was there, according to them, where the celebration of the local checkpoint head’s, Oleksandr Onikiichuk, birthday took place.

The footage, which an operator managed to capture, the media managed to find almost the entire management team of the local customs: from the main state inspector to the head of the customs clearance sector. Moreover, the restaurant itself, where the celebration took place, belongs to Oleksandr Marchuk, who concurrently serves as the deputy of one of the departments of Volyn customs. Mykhailo Burdeinyk, the supervisor of the shift, which, according to the journalists, let 1,300 kg of amber through in Yahodyn.

In spite of the fact that the journalists introduced themselves and even brought a gift, the dialogue was failed: at first, the owner of the restaurant accompanied by another customs officer pushed the correspondents out to the street, which led to the damage of the camera. Subsequently, Oleksandr Marchuk initiated the “private conversation” with the journalists in the near room, where he assured them that it was not celebration, but the colleagues gathered to mourn. What exactly the customs officers mourned about is unknown.

The worst, according to the media workers, happened after the so-called “negotiations”, because the two correspondents, the operator and the driver were attacked by the customs officers, who were probably in a state of alcoholic intoxication. As a result: injuries, theft of phones, bank cards, journalistic certificates and personal documents and the damage of equipment.

На Волині митники побили журналістів, які розслідують контрабанду бурштину

One of the attackers, who injured the hand of a journalist while taking her phone and editorial certificate, the publication claims, is Marchuk, who initiated “negotiations” with the media a few minutes before.  Moreover, another customs officer, Viktor Lonchuk, the deputy head of one of the departments of Yahodyn, threatened to kill one of the journalists on the next day. The journalists called the police to the scene of the offence.

The press service of the National police of the Volyn oblast confirmed that on May, 8, at approximately 21:00, it was reported to them that unknown persons had inflicted injuries to journalists, damaged their property damage and stolen their documents.

“The investigative data was entered into the Unified Register of Pre-Trial Investigations on signs of the crimes provided by p. 1 Art. 171 (preventing of lawful professional activity of journalists), p. 1 Art. 186 (open theft of someone else’s property – robbery) and p. 1 Art. 125 (deliberate slight physical injury) of the Criminal code of Ukraine,” the law enforcement officers reported.

Serhii Tomilenko, the head of the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, also responded to the incident in Volyn region, stressing that he expects punishment for the perpetrators.

“Damaged camera, torn out documents and phones, bandaged finger, beaten operator and driver – those are the details of a news story about the incident.

We expect the punishment of those who attacked the colleagues. At least, the police quickly opened a criminal proceeding for obstruction of journalistic activity, robbery and beating,” Tomilenko said.

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