"Unprecedented freedom of speech" is a fake" - interview with Vladimir Skachko

"Unprecedented freedom of speech" is a fake" - interview with Vladimir Skachko

After the 14.5-hour search that took place in the house of the Ukrainian journalist Vladimir Skachko on March 5th, the partners of the "Uspishna Varta" human rights platform team from "Klimenko Time" came to visit the journalist in order to find out the details of what happened.

As a reminder, on March 5th in Kiev the staff of the Security Service of Ukraine came to the apartment of the Ukrainian journalist Vladimir Skachko, known for his oppositional and critical statements in relation to the current government, in order to carry out a search.

After the investigative actions had finished, the Kiev journalist Vladimir Skachko was handed a summons for interrogation and a notice of suspicion concerning the infringement of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. The case against Skachko is connected to the case of the journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, who was detained in May 2018 on suspicion of treason and is still in custody in Kherson.

The "Uspishna Varta" human rights platform perceives the cases against the journalists Kirill Vyshinsky and Vladimir Skachko as political persecution and calls on the security bodies of Ukraine to stop the politically motivated persecution of opposition Ukrainian journalists for their professional activities.

How exactly the SBU officers entered his house? What kind of violation did they commit and why did they act despicably? Where did the lawyer come from, and who is the woman who came to the journalist's house with a package during the search? And also, what did the SBU officers find and what predictions did Vladimir Skachko give concerning his criminal case? The answers to these and other questions are in this interview with the journalist Vladimir Skachko.

Interview with Vladimir Skachko: the search, violations of the SBU, and his criminal case



So, Vladimir, let’s start from the very beginning, what happened yesterday? Since the morning. How did they enter, how did they introduce themselves, what documents did they show? Tell us, please.

It started in the morning, probably at 9:10... My wife and I had only just woken up, after having returned from a short holiday. We flew for five hours, we were very tired and were recovering. I sat down near the computer and heard the doorbell, she went to open the door, and suddenly I heard some noise with shouting – ‘Vova, come here! Hurry, call the police!’. I ran out to the corridor and saw that my wife was being manhandled, her hands were being grabbed, and two persons tried to rush towards me through her hands. I tried to stop them, they started to shout ‘this is a search, be quiet, this is the SBU!’. Something like that. There were two of them, they pushed me away and then six people entered the apartment.

I was shown the ID of the head of the investigation team of the SBU, I have no right to say his surname, for the simple reason that this can be regarded by them as the exertion of pressure... Then several more people came, in the end there were 11. Two witnesses, some specialist, or 12 people who, in general, introduced themselves as an investigation team, which handed to me a court warrant for carrying out a search at my home for the purpose of confiscating some documents - from electronic media to printed materials - in confirmation of the suspicion of me implementing appeals to carry out the forceful division of Ukraine, i.e., violations of the territorial integrity and borders of Ukraine – the 110th article of the Criminal Code, Part 2. I.e., an act that was allegedly committed by a government official in conspiracy of persons, a group of persons, and against the background of ethnic strife and religious discord.

I said that owing to the fact that I do not have, cannot have, and won’t have anything of the sort, I in general agreed and said ‘go ahead’.

They explained to me that they rushed into my home only because they thought that I might not let them in. It was boundless rudeness and bestiality, but owing to the fact that they gave me an explanation, I had nothing else to say and agreed to it.

Concerning the lawyer…

They asked whether or not I have a lawyer. I answered that I have no lawyer because, by and large, I don’t need one in principle. They told me to call someone, I did not know who to call, therefore my wife called a familiar lawyer. Thanks to which all this lawlessness entered into some normal procedural framework, which not only stopped me in my attempts to say something out of turn, but also very much helped the investigation team of 11 people not only to keep in line, but also to behave not just like beasts. But nevertheless, this is how they behaved. It was a pre-assigned group in which a large number of people did not execute the order, but acted on a whim. “Ukrainskaya Pravda” confirmed it today.

Despite the fact that in the room, in accordance with procedure and the law, operative filming was done by a designated camera, a huge number of these goddamn sh*tty patriots were walking around and photographed certain things that were pleasant to them, which, according to them, as they said, make me a pro-Putin whoever. They photographed them and handed them over. For a small payment, because of their patriotism, because of their congenital bestiality, they handed them (the photos) over to “Ukrainskaya Pravda”, which published a part of my books (photos of them).

I have quite a big library, I have 3,000 cups, I have about 200 plates with the designation of different political leaders, from Hitler, excuse me, to Putin, from Stalin to Kravchuk, Poroshenko and other riff-raff who led our countries. They chose only Putin and said “here it is, take it, Ukrainskaya Pravda, publish it, prove that Skachko is a b*stard who ripped away Crimea and Donetsk”. This isn’t just a violation; it is elementary human baseness and pest-like behaviour of these people. So now I can … I can look at them with contempt!

Here they are, you can show them. Look, this is the library. My library is normally arranged thematically: Russia to Russia, Putin to Putin, Stalin to Stalin, Poroshenko to Poroshenko. They captured (photographed) materials spanning a period of 20 years devoted anyway to the ideology of Russia. They had no procedural right to do it, my lawyer told them about this. They did it illegally and they illegally leaked them to “Ukrainskaya Pravda” in order to create the public opinion that I am a pro-Putin patriot who tore away Crimea. They did this contrary to the order of the chief of the group who carried out this search. He agreed with the lawyer and asked not to take photos, he is a Lieutenant Colonel of the SBU, but nevertheless all of this riff-raff who ran about there, there were about 10 of them, did it nevertheless. And they photographed.

They found 18 business cards. In all my 32 years of journalistic activity, they were given to me while meeting different acquaintances, with who I am only on nodding terms, and who they (the SBU) consider to be Russians. They took 8 USB sticks that allegedly may contain plans for cutting up Ukraine developed by me. They confiscated some documents that I used for writing articles. They confiscated my computer, laptop, phone, and bankcards, having deprived me of my means of livelihood and means of production. I practically have nothing on what to work and nothing to live off.

Tell us, please, is it the one who was formally tasked with carrying out the search who did it? Did you clarify it?

Yes, I repeat, except for these b*stards, frankly speaking, who worked on a special task and the person who was rude, used foul language, and threatened that I will be jailed, all the other people in general behaved correctly, they even did their baseness quietly, within the norms of politeness. Except for these precedents, I have no pretensions to them. During 14 hours we suffered together with them over the fulfilment of tasks that are not clear either to them or me.

Some pressure was put on you? They somehow threatened you?

No, well, periodically there was "do not go there, do not go here". Periodically this "fruit" tried to influence, to somehow push around, which I did not allow and they immediately said sorry to me if someone tried to push or restrain me. Even the minimum physical influence that I paid attention to led to apologies. Except that 14.5 hours of interrogation with two cups of coffee without food for my wife and I … Well, for me it is okay – I am an enemy. This is torture even under any international conventions.

Why didn’t they allow your wife to leave?

Only for that simple reason that we have to be here under observation. Then they brought some food and started to devour it and offered some to me, naturally I refused after such treatment, I do not want to quietly die after three days of holiday. I do not trust people, and I say it openly now, especially following the results and end of this, I unfortunately don’t believe people who defend…

Who were the witnesses?

The witnesses were two ordinary citizens, and once again I cannot name them. Personally I do not know them, but according to documents I know that they are ordinary citizens of Kiev. In any case, according to the information that they presented.

The witnesses were brought by the SBU?

Of course. They came like Poroshenko with his own. If they brought in addition an executioner and a person who puts on handcuffs, I would be surprised, but I repeat, the witnesses behaved correctly, politely, and were involved only to the extent of procedural moments.

I was stunned... There is such a preliminary examination of the texts for compliance with the charges. I was stunned, she is called a specialist. So this specialist should be objective, not prejudiced, and in full compliance with freedom of speech and so on. In reality, she turned out to be the head of the Department of the SBU Academy. The SBU carried out an examination on whether or not the SBU correctly accuses me. This is brilliant. If this is transmitted to democrats - European or international - who love our democracy, I'm sure they won't believe it. The SBU asked their own Colonel “Am I doing things correctly?”. And the Colonel said in response: “I will say impartially and objectively - of course it is being done correctly. You entered the lair of the enemy and Putin's bear”. Well, this is nonsense, well, I repeat, “unprecedented freedom of speech” probably has such criteria... I am against them... Because, by and large, except for light sparring with it... which led to the fact that one of these investigators assaulted me, shouting, "You will sit in prison!" and used foul language... towards me. It didn't lead to anything. She behaved correctly, and I tried too. I tried to prove to her that in the case of Sinyavsky, Danel, and Pasternak it’s not the KGB that is guilty, and in my case it’s not the SBU that is guilty, but such voluntary assistants who "didn't read, but condemn" and demand to cut off the author's head... I am an educated person, I consider that intellectuals, lawyers... they have to create an atmosphere of freedom. Via all their activities, even being at work, they must create a certain aura that the boor and cattle mustn’t enter. They create an atmosphere in which society acquires some better new features. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist in Ukraine; it terribly upsets me.

Can you comment on how the search took place, which room did the search begin with?

They started with my study, then they went to the so-called bedroom, then the so-called children’s room, then the bathroom, toilet, and kitchen. Naturally, everyone was present. Nothing was planted, nothing was stolen, nothing was destroyed, and nothing was broken. Everyone remained in the framework of the strict procedure of a completely objective search.

What did their documents permit them to confiscate?

According to their documents they were allowed to confiscate everything that in one way or another confirms the accusation that I called... And all of this was from electronic media to photographs, everything they looked at and everything they wanted, I helped, handed things over, and did not resist. For the simple reason that I consider that here there is nothing and can’t be anything that confirms the accusations.

I take it you've been charged? Who announced the charges?

Not a charge, it's called a suspicion. It was announced to me in the presence of a lawyer. The representative, probably, of the Crimean Prosecutor's office and two investigators. They read it to me, announced it, cautioned me, and warned me about what I can and can't do.I repeat, proceeding from the fact that I am ready to find out myself how I "tore away Crimea" - I agreed. I have no complaints about these people…

Were you forbidden to leave this room when the search was conducted?

Yes and no. I repeat, if it is not revealed in some way ... I have no complaints about the method, nature, and techniques of the search. Nothing was disturbed. Simply chaos was created over the fact that I have, for example, a collection of 3,000 cups, which they had to verify and several thousand books, which they also had to verify, and several thousand photos in a notebook. In the process of this, there was a certain chaos and disorder, which is probably inevitable. No one created anything; frankly speaking, nobody was beaten up, pushed, or jumped on. I repeat – it was correct and polite. With the exception of this petty b*tch filming with a phone. Probably, among these 11 people there are several people who were charged with patriotism, of the most rotten manner, and on the payroll. This, of course, upset me; it upsets me now, 20 hours after it ended. I thought that they were better, that among 11 people there was one b*stard, but it turned out that there were a few more. Probably, the ratio of "nation" starts to take a grip.

Tell me please, if I understand correctly, you aren’t allowed to show the documents and protocol?

I can't show, I was warned about this, I agreed with this and, of course, I will not do it... I repeat, I want to work with people in the framework of lawfulness and procedural norms.

Tell me please, did the lawyer make any remarks?

The lawyer made remarks about the fact that nothing should be filmed and pressure shouldn’t be put on me. After all, I don't understand certain rules.

They asked me: "Explain to us why you absorb so much Putin?".

My lawyer told me: "You don't have to answer this question". I said: "I won't answer".

All these procedural aspects with the lawyer, me, and the investigation team were solved, I think, in the rules of procedure.

We were given the right to remark on record. Only I made a remark, only for the reason that I was referred to using the informal version of "you", they were incredibly rude, so I mentioned all of this. All of this was recorded and taken into account.

Vladimir, we have a general question – what is your feeling, why are they swooping down on you precisely now?

I have a twofold feeling. The first one is that now there is a very acute phase of the political struggle, namely the elections - before the first round and between the first and second ones. Probably, all the critical arrows fired at the authorities and individual candidates are unpleasant for them, that’s why there will be repression against me, against Kotsaba, against Vasilets, against all the others, and against "Klimenko Time", and against "Strana.ua". These are the only journalists and media outlets that, for example, have supported me within the framework of journalistic solidarity. And for this I bow before them. I consider that journalism remains standing due to three things: objectivity, on speed, and on journalistic solidarity. The Americans clearly said - "this is a son of a b*tch, but he is my son of a b*tch!". Firstly, we save journalists from these jackals, and then we will punish them ourselves. This is the most fun thing; journalism existed like this as the watchdog of democracy. Unfortunately, as you see, this doesn’t exist in Ukraine... none, none, except the media outlets that I named, did anything other than sh*t on my head. No one said, "guys, don't touch him, don't do politics, do journalism. Don't touch... don't shoot the pianist, he plays as he can".If he wrote "kill Karl" – trial him, but if he wrote that Karl died during the trial, it doesn’t mean that he calls to kill Karl – this does not mean incitement to murder Karl. There must be professionalism, there must be a certain algorithm created by society to evaluate the activities of journalism. Because journalism is a watchdog, a connecting belt, a layer between civil society... unfortunately none of this exists. Sadly, but in my case I am convinced that, unfortunately, in Ukraine this doesn’t exist. And by and large "unprecedented freedom of speech" is the same fake as the incredible state talents of Petro Poroshenko. It’s the same, i.e., equal to zero. Their place is in the crapper where yeast was inadvertently thrown.

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