This weekend near the Office of the President (OP), at a protest in defense of the Odesa activist and former leader of the Right Sector (Pravyi Sector in Ukrainian) Serhiy Sternenko, who was sentenced to 7.3 years in prison with the confiscation of half of the property, the Ukrainians inflicted damage on the building. The damage was previously estimated at 2 million UAH.
Protests for Sternenko: what happened
Activists gathered near the Office of the President on Bankova Street to commemorate Sternenko's birthday, March 20. Then they threw flares at the building, burned the entrance sign, painted graffiti (including offensive inscriptions), and also broke the glass in the front door, the publication delo.ua writes. Thus, the activists demanded to release Sternenko, Andriy Antonenko and other political prisoners, to impose sanctions of the National Security and Defense Council to the Deputy Head of the Administration of former President Viktor Yanukovych Andriy Portnov, to resign Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova and Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov.
The police classified the riots as hooliganism. One of the activists has already been detained and reported suspicion. The Investigation Department of the Pechersk Police Department has opened a case under Part 4 of Art. 296 of the Criminal Code that provides for up to seven years in prison, the website of the Main Police Department in Kyiv reports.
Losses from Sternenko's protests: how much does it cost to clean the OP walls and how to protest properly
The press service of the OP reported that the damage from the activists actions was tentatively estimated at 2 million UAH.
"If washing off the paint within 72 hours is not begun, it will penetrate into the granite, and then the amount of damage will be completely different. Recall that the first two floors of the building were built at the end of the 19th century, others were completed at the beginning of the 20th century," the message says.
At the same time, according to the activist of the initiative "Kyiv, my" and the representative of the party Democratic Axe (Demokratychna Sokyra in Ukrainian) Yelisei Khodolovsky, the OP disseminates false information. On his Facebook page, he wrote that washing off and cleaning the facade of the building (not counting the replacement of glass in the doors) will cost about 80,000 UAH, taking into account transport, gasoline and depreciation of equipment, and will take 8-12 hours.
As for the protests, according to the Adviser to the Head of the Office of the President Mykhailo Podolyak, the concept of President Volodymyr Zelensky is that if people want to go out and say something, they can do it and police will not clear away people or will not prohibit them from anything. But this time, the action turned into a manifestation of vandalism, and that led to an aggressive situation, the official said.
According to him, most of the people who were at the rally wanted to express a peaceful protest, but the remaining 10% were prepared to commit provocations.
The same opinion is shared by the Head of the State Security Department Serhii Rud.
"Everyone has the right to express their opinion. Therefore, no one forbids to do that—people can come here and demonstrate, perhaps, a manifestation of disrespect, their opinion, but at the same time not allow vandalism, provocations and hooliganism—what happened yesterday," he said.
Rud also added that during the protest there was a threat of burning the flag of Ukraine that was located on the building of the OP, and this, in turn, can be regarded as a desecration of the symbols of the state.
Who is to blame for the riots near the President's Office
Podolyak believes that this protest is a political provocation created by political opponents. According to him, it did not reap the dividends that the organizers expected.
At the same time, the Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, Mykhailo Apostol, promised that the Ministry would name the well-known politicians who were allegedly involved in organizing the protest action on Saturday within two days. As he said in a commentary to Ukraine 24, the organizers tried to create a conflict between law enforcement officers and participants.
Context. On February 23, a mass protest rally in support of Sternenko took place in Kyiv and other large cities of the country. Read more about this here.