Municipal guards: Far-right amy of Kyiv mayor or vigilante groups?

Author : Ksenia Tsyvirko

Source : 112 Ukraine

Does Kyiv really need to legitimize the Municipal guards' structure, which consists of far-right members of the C14 organization?
11:00, 9 September 2020

Rumors about the creation of local law enforcement agencies, which would have independent powers and not be included in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, have been going on in political circles for almost 20 years. With the start of the decentralization reform in 2014, this discussion intensified, but the relevant bills were rejected for several reasons: first, the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs expressed their fears that the state would lose its prerogative of the right to use force; secondly, the areas of responsibility of the National and Municipal Police were not clearly delineated; thirdly, territorial communities have just begun the process of voluntary unification, and "municipal property" has not been formed.

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Trying to speed up the local elections, the Cabinet took the initiative into their own hands and in mid-June finally redrawn the map of Ukraine, approving a list of 1,470 territorial communities. The issue of creating local law enforcement agencies came to the fore again: the Association of Ukrainian Cities reported on the preparation of a new, revised text of the bill. Mainly, such an initiative is associated with the fight against spontaneous trade, illegal construction projects, and the dominance of small architectural forms, for which the patrol police simply do not have enough time. However, experts question the truth of such "good intentions." In their opinion, the municipal police цщгдв serve the personal interests of officials, turning into a legal "gang of racketeers" and bodyguards in case of public protests. Such results have already been shown in the "demo" version of some communal enterprises and public organizations for the protection of law and order: they, generously funded by the mayor's offices, have repeatedly become participants in scandalous "donnybrook."

"I am convinced that there should be municipal police, like in Berlin, like in New York. And we are working on this. And as long as the police are subordinate to the ministry, this is a matter of the Ministry of Internal Affairs," said Vitaliy Klitschko. The Kyiv mayor and the president of the Association of Ukrainian Cities have long been nurturing the idea of ​​reorganizing the existing hierarchy of the law enforcement system in favor of creating municipal police that would be financed and accountable to the local authorities. The ex-boxer promised to take such steps as part of his election program in 2014, announcing putting end to notorious small architectural forms, the fight against illegal construction sites, disorderly parking, and spontaneous street trade. According to the bill, registered in back 2015, adopted in the first reading, the law enforcement agency subordinate to the local authorities was supposed to be called "municipal guards," but the decision was postponed and then completely withdrawn due to the end of the powers of the Verkhovna Rada of the eights convocation.

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It was assumed that the head of the municipal guard would be appointed on the proposal of the chairman of the local council, and the staff would be formed from an estimated number of no more than ten employees per 10,000 resident population.

"Municipal guards" would be able to fine for a number of administrative offenses, like a violation of state standards, norms, and rules in the field of improvement of settlements; unauthorized occupation of residential premises; violation of the rules for parking; violation of the requirements of the legislation on the protection of cultural heritage; violation of the rules of trading; etc. The right to impose administrative penalties and consider such cases would belong to the chief of the municipal guard (whose candidacy, we recall, would have been nominated by the mayor) and his deputies.

At the same time, administrative protocols for most of the listed violations could be drawn up even now, without creating a municipal guard: this is the responsibility of the landscaping inspectors who are on the staff of any local administration. However, in reality, they turn out to be not particularly productive, since they cannot force the offender to provide a passport or other documents to fill out the forms. This right is granted to patrol police officers, who spend their working days mainly on highways, and district officers, who are loaded with trips and paperwork.

Yes, and these police officers do not have time to cope with their official duties to the proper extent: according to official data, the staffing shortage is 20-30%. The authors of the bill focused on the unfavorable situation in law enforcement agencies, in which the police simply do not have enough time for "minor offenses" like selling homemade milk. However, according to experts, the law enforcers would not be able to solve these indisputable problems in the Ukrainian realities, and, most likely, would create new ones.

In addition, the maintenance of municipal guards would require significant financing. For example, in Kyiv, the municipal guard would cost 30 million USD annually, while the comprehensive program "Safe Capital," designed for three years, provides only 9 million...

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Municipal police in miniature

Despite the fact that the work of the municipal police is not regulated at the legislative level, its original prototypes exist in many local self-government bodies. A special role in ensuring that local residents can sleep peacefully is played by numerous "public formations for the protection of public law and order and the state border" - an echo of "people's guards" from the Soviet era.

According to the law, members of public formations can patrol the area only in conjunction with district officers and patrol police, and the route and schedule are determined in advance in the corresponding orders. In addition, modern "self-defense militia" plays the role of attesting witnesses in case of searches of detainees, although their testimony is sometimes questioned in courts: in most cases, former and current law enforcement officers become members of public formations, and therefore potentially interested persons.

However, the lofty and noble goals spelled out in the official statutes conceal much more mundane motives than "ensuring public order."

First, members of community groups have the right to purchase traumatic weapons. Sometimes this circumstance becomes the first and last reason for registering a legal entity of a public formation, especially since the territorial departments of the National Police do not keep statistical records separately for such categories of citizens.

Secondly, in recent years, local authorities do not hesitate to use public formations registered on their territory for their own selfish purposes. Many of the "squads" have already proved their effectiveness during numerous protests, and some of them use it as a main source of income.

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Crooked cops

According to the former policeman, the civic formations became completely “tame” mainly after the Revolution of Dignity, which gave birth to thugs for hire in "street battles." Even the war in eastern Ukraine played into the hands of this process: Donbas veterans usually did not know how to apply their military skills in a peaceful life, and, faced with a shortage of jobs, profitable "vacancies" in the "pocket armies" of the Ukrainian mayors.

“About a quarter of the members of the public formations that are part of the Association also participated in Donbas war or Maidan protests. Our lads did not shout or wave flags, but simply did their duty. Now no one needs us. After a protocol meeting with the leadership of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in 2017, we were included in the reserve of territorial defense, so they keep us, rather, as a consumable. In the early 2000s, Kyiv city public formation included about 12,000 members. Gradually, all this legacy fell into decay, and now a newly created "Municipal Guard" is operating in the capital, purely to serve the needs of the Klitschko team," Serhiy Kurtyan, Head of the Association of Public Formations of Ukraine for the Protection of Public Order and the State Border, Colonel-General of the Civil Service, believes.

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According to the specialized law "On the participation of citizens in the maintenance of public order," PFs (public formations) can rely, if not on direct financial supply, then at least on support in the form of premises, uniforms, and technical means. At the same time, only one public fund "Municipal Guard" (as it was supposed to call the new law enforcement body of local self-government), created in 2017 on the basis of veteran organizations of the city, receives such assistance, moreover, with salaries for employees of the administrative department and compensations for the use of fuel resources. According to the Unified state reserve, in total, almost 2 dozen public formations are registered in Kyiv, however, according to the head of the department for interaction with law enforcement agencies to ensure law and order and municipal security of the Kyiv City State Administration, Oleg Kuyavsky, only three of them operate legally: they have coordinated the statute with the territorial Directorate of the National Police and approved it by the local administration. At the same time, only the Municipal Guard was included in the Safe Capital 2019-2021 comprehensive target program, for the activities of which 2,350 million USD was allocated from the budget, and in 2018 – another 0,5 million USD for the purchase of clothing and equipment. The founders of the "Municipal Guard" and "Municipal Guard" are also associated with the management of the private security firms "Munvarta" LLC and "Veterano Guard" LLC.

"Municipal Guard" has been involved in several high-profile scandals. First of all, related to the seizure of the Kyiv cinema in June 2019, which the media call asset-grabbing; in repeated clashes with representatives of other "guards" and "self-defense", accompanied by shootings, bodily injuries, and arson of cars; in involvement in the formation of right-wing radical groups known for hooliganism (for example, one of the leaders of far-right C14 organization Serhiy Bondar headed a cell of the "Municipal Guard" in the Holosiyivsky district of Kyiv).

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"I know personally the guys from the Guard. Actually, 30 percent of them are quite sincerely working for the benefit of the community, they want to help put things in order in the city. But the rest 70% receive considerable cash bonuses in envelopes. And those guys are a cheap cover for the controlling authorities and society in order to somehow hide the lawlessness committed on the direct orders of the mayor's office. Therefore, I believe that it is impossible to create the municipal police in such realities, especially subordinate to Klitschko, who at one time was a member of a racketeering gang. We should all carefully observe what role the "Municipal Guard" and "Municipal Guard" would play in the upcoming local elections... Local municipal police could be created only with one condition: if the heads of city and district administrations are elected by the residents themselves. But here another question arises: how to make these elections fair and representative?" Eduard Bagirov, the human rights activist, sums up.

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