KIEV — In a widely viewed video, the head of Ukraine’s National Television channel can be seen being beaten by right-wing members of the Ukrainian Parliament for allowing the ceremony celebrating Crimea’s entrance into the Russian Federation to be broadcast live on television.
Television executive Aleksander Panteleimonov was grabbed by his necktie, strangled, hit on the head, shoved into a car and apparently only released when he signed a “voluntary” resignation announcement. After discovering what had happened to Panteleimonov, journalists demonstrated outside of the prosecutor’s office in Kiev and outside of the far-right Svoboda (“Freedom”) party offices. The two parliament members seen on the video roughing up Panteleimonov are both representatives of the party.
“There’s a feeling that Svoboda is intentionally helping the enemies of the Ukrainain government,” says television journalist Darka Olifer.
Earlier she documented the protests in Maidan Square, and now she is joining journalists protesting against radicals. “Igor Miroshnichenko, the deputy who beat up my colleague, used to work as a journalist. Bogdan Benyuk, the other member of parliament who appears on the video, is a well-known actor,” Olifer says. “When Benyuk strangles Panteleimonov in the video, you almost think they’re filming a movie, and you wait to hear ‘cut.’ ”
From the video (see below), it seems that the freedom party members behind the attacks on Panteleimonov filmed themselves, taking pride in their actions. When they entered the national television company’s building — as a “parliamentary delegation” — they began by condemning famous Ukrainian television star Olga Sumskaya because her daughter is planning to get Russian citizenship. They expressed their disapproval of a Sumskaya portrait hanging in the television company’s corridor.
Then they proceeded to the office of the television channel’s director. “They dragged Panteleimonov out after beating him up, cursing,” says Mark Gres, an employee at the station.
Ukrainian politicians seemed mildly exasperated at the behavior of the deputies. “That’s not our approach,” announced Ukrainian government leader Arsenii Yatsenyuk, who was supported by politicians from other political parties. “The cabinet of ministers should be the only ones to judge the actions of the National Television company.”
Even members of the “Freedom” party weren’t entirely happy with their colleague’s actions. Party leader Oleg Tyagnyibok says he doesn’t condone the actions, but only because, “We are part of Ukraine’s government now, and we have other means at our disposal to deal with Ukraine’s enemies.”
Miroshnichenko defended himself from the journalists’ protests, saying that his actions were appropriate given the situation.
A federal prosecutor announced that there would be an investigation into the incident, and charges of inciting inter-ethnic hatred.
“The beating of a journalist should be a catalyst for bringing the situation under control, disarming the Maidan self-defense forces and forcing radicals to obey the law,” says Aleksei Poltorakov, a political scientist from Kiev.
At the moment, he says, Ukraine’s cabinet posts are occupied by “Revolutionary Commissars,” who have “absolutely no experience governing, combined with a singular talent for chopping firewood.”