On May 27th, an open discussion was organized by the International Charitable Organization Roma Women Fund Chiricli to discuss the racial attacks that have happened in the past, the event was called “A year after Roma pogroms: where are we now?”. The purpose of the event was to discuss past hate crimes, talk about how these attacks can manifest and to examine how to help the victims of these attacks in the hopes they can continue on with their lives as best they can. Thereby honouring the victims.
Among the guest speakers were Matthew Schaaf, (Director of the Freedom House in Ukraine) Vyacheslav Likhachev, (Head of the Monitoring Group on the Rights of National Minorities) Konstantin Tarasenko, (Head of the Human Rights Department of the National Police of Ukraine) Julian Kondur, (project coordinator of the Roma Women’s Fund Chiricli.)
It’s important to note before the event started, two members of the far-right movement were seen close to the venue, the Ukrainian crisis media centre on Khreshyatik street. Upon seeing these people near a Roma event the organizers requested assistance from Patrol Police as it was already known these same people had been involved in disrupting and dismantling public events related to Roma previously with the use of violence.
The discussion went off to a good start, the event had gathered attention because of the important topic so there was a sizeable audience. Despite this just as the second speaker finished his statement it was then followed by interruptions from the audience, by two men who identified themselves as patriots.
Their interventions were aggressive and discussion came to a halt as it was clear they could not continue further. In addition, one of the men clothed in camouflage revealed from his bag in front of the audience and speakers, an axe, two screwdrivers and two bottles of whiskey. This action was accompanied by the narrative that these items were taken from Roma who had allegedly used these items to attack people. The man in camouflage introduced himself as Sergey Yarosh.
This awful public display of racism was ended shortly after the police officers arrived at the venue. The perpetrators were gradually pacified and made to leave the building. However the discussion, unfortunately, could not be continued despite several efforts of the moderator to do so, as speakers were repeatedly interrupted and everyone was left shocked by the events that unfolded.
In conclusion, the event was disrupted by members of a far-right organization in Ukraine. Their exact affiliation or involvement in a specific organization was not clear, but they have been continually spotted near Roma related events. The perpetrators of this racial attack utilized public space and use of media to publicly display their hatred for Roma to an audience, they criminalized them without any real evidence or just cause.
These so-called patriots specifically attended this event in the hopes to destroy it and stop it from happening. It’s hard to fathom how they could justify attending an event that was set up to open discussion to address the violent attacks happening in our community, by brandishing weapons and speaking aggressively directed to Roma communities, their voices filled with hate. Racism against Roma is often described as the last acceptable form of racism, this act reinforces that premise.