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"I'm fighting Yanukovych"

Roman Goncharenko, Markian Ostaptschuk / smsJanuary 10, 2014

The opposition journalist Tetyana Chornovol suspects that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych ordered the brutal assault on her. The activist also claims to have more damaging material on the president.

Ukrainian journalist and activist Tetyana Chornovol
Image: privat

krainian journalist Tetyana Chornovol, who works at the opposition online newspaper "Ukrainska Pravda," was beaten up on December 25. She said she was being followed in her car by an unknown vehicle and was then forced into an alley by a sport-utility vehicle before being attacked. From the hospital, she told DW about her health and her current outlook and commented on the current political situation in Ukraine.

DW: How do you feel now?

Tetyana Chornovol: More or less normal. The most important thing is that my head was not badly injured. The doctors told me that I would make a full recovery.

In an interview, you accused Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych of having ordered the assault. Why do you think this is the case?

For the last three years I have seen myself not as a journalist but as a person fighting Viktor Yanukovych. I did a lot of journalistic research and happened to become a trailblazer in revealing information about his homes, such as one outside Kyiv. I have also been able to find out about the construction of a huge new estate for the Yanukovych family on the Crimean peninsula as well as the construction of another residence near Kyiv. That's what I'm putting together for publication now.

Then you have more material?

Yes. The luxury that is being created there is immoral. As far as the Crimean estate is concerned, I published the building plans in the summer of 2013. Yanukovych really fears for his security. The publication of the plans for his residence was a real blow to him. As far as the second residence near Kyiv is concerned, I was also able to get plans for the power and ventilation shafts as well as the water supply and sewage system. Any security service would tell you that if these plans reach the public, the whole thing will have to be rebuilt.

How did you obtain the blueprints?

It was before the Maidan protests. First, I received tips about the construction of the facility. Then I went to the market, bought a hard hat and drove there. I took everything that needed to be taken with my own bare hands.

So you stole the blueprints?

Essentially, yes. But since the second residence near Kyiv is partially on state land, it is "stolen" in and of itself. So the question is, who stole from whom.

As you said, you have been working against Yanukovych for years. What did he ever do to you?

It doesn't have to do with what he "did" to me. The most important thing in my life is my country - Ukraine as an independent state. Under President Yanukovych there are certain threats to its independence. And after talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin those threats are fairly serious.

Do you think someone wanted the assault to kill you?

Yes, I think so.

Are you planning to sue President Yanukovych?

I will think about it. But I can hardly trust the courts in our country. I know very well what courts in our country mean.

The government promised to punish those responsible for your assault. Do you believe them?

The people who are in prison now are just the people who carried out the attack. But who ordered it? Several people - I already named one of them. I have no doubt that Viktor Yanukovych had something to do with it. The only question is if he gave the order personally or if there is just a black list authorities work from. It would be interesting to find out the chain of command. I am sure that prosecutors won't ever do that. But the public is working on it.

Do you feel safe now?

Protesters after the assault on Tetyana Chornovol in Kyiv (Photo: Reuters)
Protesters in Kyiv after the assault on Tetyana ChornovolImage: Reuters

Right now I feel very safe, and that's because of the strong reaction people had to what happened to me. I am very grateful for that. Journalists, activists, opposition members and members of the public all support me. I could have been arrested as soon as I went to the hospital, but as I've seen that would have been very problematic.

What could you have been arrested for?

There are plenty of formal reasons. I came up with eight articles I could have been charged with violating. But those have currently been suspended because there is an amnesty for all the arrested demonstrators. One of the reasons could have been "occupying" the city council - but I saw it as "liberating" the city council because it was in Yanukovych's hands. He was literally preventing the mayoral election.

How do you see the current status of the protests on the Maidan?

I am very optimistic. People are coming to Independence Square and showing that they are ready to fight for their country.

Tetyana Chornovol is a pro-European activist and participant in the Maidan protests in Kyiv. The journalist is well known for her reports on corruption and abuse of power among top Ukrainian politicians. She works at the opposition online newspaper "Ukrainska Pravda." The 34-year-old was attacked and brutally beaten at the end of last month. Chornovol made a video about her political work for the Deutsche Welle's Power to the People project.