The South Ukrainian city of Kherson has two large administrative buildings, one for the city and one for the whole region.
The regional administrative building has an impressive neoclassical limestone facade. The city hall is a much more down-to-earth concrete affair. But there is another difference …
a large banner with the cartoon picture of a young woman with a red splash across her face and the words ‘Excuse me, but who ordered Handzyuk?’.
It’s a reminder that last July one of its employees, Kateryna Handzyuk, an anti-corruption activist, had been doused in a litre of sulphuric acid. She suffered 40% burns and died of her injuries three months later.
The attack came after she had accused two leading figures in the regional administration of being involved in a scam to carry out illegal logging.
At the time of the attack, there was a national and international outcry. Local police made a quick arrest, accusing someone who happened to have been out of town when the incident took place. They also assessed the incident to be ‘hooliganism’ rather than an attempt to silence her.
Friends of Ms Handzyuk started a campaign to have the case properly investigated, along with over forty other attacks on activists which had come to light. The case has now been escalated to Ukraine’s Security Service. However, to maintain the pressure, especially during the current presidential elections, a series of protests are taking place of which the following small, but vocal, protest was one.
On 28th March 2019 fifty or so protesters made their presence felt with firecrackers and flares in front of the regional building as members of the administration simply watched from inside.
In one final act, protesters sprayed the names of who they suspected of ordering her murder on the building’s facade and on the pavement in front.
And then it was over.
No sooner had the protest finished, than the efforts to remove the writing began, but it was a ham-fisted attempt. Rather than properly clean the pavement, they daubed what looked like grey cement over the writing in big squares with a paint roller.
As for the building, one of the men took an angle grinder to the limestone facade and started grinding away the walls leaving circular gouge marks in the stonework.
So now whoever enters the building will walk past the scarred walls and every time they look out of the window, they’ll see the big grey squares with the names of the accused captured within.
Let’s hope the case doesn’t end in such a blatant cover-up.