Clashes, arson, and arrests: on the first night, thousands of people came to Zelensky demanding to free Sternenko

Protests for Sternenko near the Office of the President. Photo: UNIAN

Protests for Sternenko near the Office of the President. Photo: UNIAN

In Kyiv and other large cities of the country on the evening of February 23, a mass protest was held in support of the Odesa blogger, activist, former leader of the Right Sector (Pravyi Sektor in Ukrainina) Serhii Sternenko, who had been sentenced to 7 years and 3 months in prison the day before. According to the police, about 2000 people gathered at the Office of the President.

According to the BBC Ukraine, the rally was attended by law enforcement officers who blocked Bankova Street. There were clashes between the two sides, casualties are reported. As a result, 24 protesters were detained, but later released.

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The protesters demanded to release Sternenko, shouted slogans: "Shame", "Avakov is a devil", " Free Sternenko", "Zelia has to resign" and others. Tear gas was used during the rallies, but who did it is unknown.

It is worth noting that, according to the National Police, the protesters used gas canisters and threw flares at the police during the scuffle, several law enforcement officers suffered eye burns.

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Subsequently, the activists burned several helmets torn off from law enforcement officers. Upon clashes at Bankova Street, the police began criminal proceedings under Art. 342 (Resistance to a representative of a law enforcement agency) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

According to Masi Nayyem, Sternenko's lawyer, the rally aims to make President Volodymyr Zelensky meet with the protesters.

"Either he is with the pro-Russian forces and is for the imprisonment of the activist, or he will say that this is an illegal sentence. Or at least say something," he said.

Now it is not known where Sternenko himself is.

Quote"Now it is not known where he is—he is not in the pre-trial detention center... We are not given an answer, neither where he is, nor where he may be," Nayyem explained.

Protests for Sternenko in major cities of Ukraine

Sternenko's Telegram channel announced protests in more than 20 Ukrainian cities. It is about Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Ivano-Frankivsk, Vinnytsia, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia and others.

As Radio Svoboda writes, protesters gathered in Lviv with posters "Give Sternenko freedom", "Who is next", "The rule of law is who", "Spring has come—the wrong people are being jailed," "If there were a man, there would be a case". The protesters chanted: " Free Sternenko."

Clashes occurred in Zhytomyr during the action. The police reported two detainees. As for other cities, in Kharkiv about a 100 people took part in the rally, in Vinnytsia—several dozen people, in Kherson protesters burned flares.

At the same time, according to Radio Svoboda, the protestants announced an indefinite protest in support of Sternenko that will begin on February 27 at 12:00 and will continue until all political prisoners, including Sternenko, are released.

Context. On the eve of the Odesa court sentenced Sternenko to 7 years and 3 months in prison with the confiscation of half of the property. He was found guilty of abducting and torturing Serhii Shcherbich, Head of the Odesa branch of the pro-Russian party Rodina, in April 2015. In addition to the assault, Sternenko was found guilty of illegal possession of a weapon—a traumatic pistol.

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