On March 20th a large-scale event in support of far-right activist Serhiy Sternenko was held near the office of the President of Ukraine.They were demanding the release of Serhiy Sternenko, sentenced to 7 years and 3 months for abducting and torturing a man in 2015. Sternenko himself and his supporters consider the case a political crackdown. Zelensky’s office announced the repair of the building (following the rally) will cost 2 million hrivnya (some 60 300 euro). The police were present but did not interfere.
A criminal case has been instituted under the statute on hooliganism.
Right after the rally one of the participants, identified as Vlad ”Sord” (Stafiychuk) was detained. He has served five years with Ukrainian army volunteer battalions (the Right Sector, Azov etc.) in the East Ukraine war. He later became a publisher/writer/poet and established the publishing house ”The House of Chimeras” located in the town Vinnitsa. The court has put Vlad “Sord” (Stafiychuk) under house arrest.
On March 23rd Serhiy Sternenko sent a letter from Odessa’s investigatory prison to the President of Ukraine and his letter was even voiced by a member of the Trileteral Contact Group, Denis Kazanski. Sternenko expresses his gratitude to his supporters who attacked the President’s office, says they gave him the best-ever birthday gift. Sternenko called on Zelensky to submit to pressure and get involved into a dialogue with him and his supporters.
The attack of March 20 has triggered very intense debate in Ukraine. Despite the criminal investigation, its organizers have been given options to present their demands in public. Thus, the Current Time-tv showed a debate between Roman Sinitsyn (Roman Balan), one of the organizers of the rally, and Zoryan Shkiryan, an advisor to the Interior Minister of Ukraine. The debate was titled “What Do Angry People Want by Causing Unrest Close to the President’s Office?” and demonstrated the discord between the representatives of the nationalist circles of Ukraine, which are both connected to the bodies of power.
Roman Sinitsyn was introduced as a civil society activist and holds a post within the Interior Ministry Qualification Board while Zoryan Shkiryan is an advisor to the Interior Minister of Ukraine Arsen Avakov. While Sinitsyn claimed that more than ten thousand people attended the rally on March 20, Zoryan Shkiryan responded that the strongest rally recently held in Kiev gathered a maximum 2500 participants and was held a few weeks before the attack on the President’s Office.
Rating Group Ukraine was established in 2008 and is a non-governmental, independent research organization. It published the results of their last poll, where people were asked among other things to express their view on the Serhiy Sternenko case and his supporters. The survey resulted in the following overview: 43% do not support actions in support of Sternenko, 23% support but do not wish to attend them, 4% support and are ready to participate. 74% have heard something about the rally close to the Presidential Office and 70% of the respondents state they do not support it. Only 14% replied they support the protest in which the office of the President was vandalized.