PRAVDA.Ru has reported that the Ukrainian fiscal police searched the office of the Obkom.net Internet edition located in Kiev on February 19. Computers and documents were withdrawn from the office, and journalists were taken to the police department in handcuffs. The next day, a fiscal police spokesman said the search had been accidental. However, the equipment withdrawn from the Obkom.net office was not returned. The attitude of the fiscal police to the search has changed for the worse: they said the search had not been accidental at all. The inspection of the withdrawn equipment and documents revealed “a porno file” on one of the computers, that the payment of wages was done with infringement of the tax legislation, etc. An investigation was instituted in connection with the mentioned facts. Moreover, the journalists were told that all the withdrawn equipment had been successfully sent back to the office, which also became an outright lie. The Obkom.net journalists appealed to the court with a claim against the fiscal police.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoly Kinakh promised to take up the accident personally, but he seems to have forgotten his promise. At least, the situation has not improved. The journalists (editor-in-chief Alexey Mironov, deputy editor-in-chief Sergey Sukhobok, and head of the marketing department Alexander Slepushkin) have given up hope for justice at home and appealed to the US Embassy for political asylum.
Sergey Sukhobok is sure that “the fiscal administration with Mr.Azarov at head” is the initiator of the closure of the Internet-edition. In his words, “the fiscal police is an organization based on public gangsterism.” The decision to ask for political asylum in the USA is explained the following way: “We have been charged with no accusations. No criminal case has been instituted. The company’s property was stolen, and nothing was left for us, except to ask for political asylum in the USA.” If the US authorities turn the request down, the Obkom.net journalists will have to ask for political asylum in other European country. They believe that it is impossible to continue working in Ukraine.
A month has passed since the accident, but no influential authority started an investigation of the problem. No response to the injustice and anarchy was received from the authorities, and the journalists still experience pressure: it was hinted that they should think more about their families and future.
At the same time, Interfax-Ukraine informs that US press-secretary in Ukraine Peter Savchin has said that the US Embassy cannot allow appeals for political asylum in the USA from people who are in Ukraine now.
Andrei Lubensky PRAVDA.Ru Ukraine
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/03/21/38563.html