On Saturday 8th February 2014, a group of Ukrainian protestors gathered at Dam Square in Amsterdam. The group was protesting to raise awareness about the human rights issues and corruption occurring in Ukraine.
Jaroslav, a young protester, said at the time there were at least five people killed by the police and many more injured. As of Thursday 20th February 2014, it was estimated that 70 protesters had been killed 1. He described how peaceful protests are cracked down on by the Ukrainian government, and stated that many of the protestors are arrested on the spot and driven to the forests to be beaten.
According to Jaroslav, the corruption and human rights issues went deeper than police brutality. According to his contacts in Kiev, police forces are hiring people from the countryside to form gangs to attack the peaceful demonstrators. From what he told me, these people were paid less than 20 euros to do so. The demonstrators are therefore at risk of attack from both the Ukrainian police force and the rogue gangs.
Furthermore, Jaroslav stated that demonstrators were not receiving medical care after beatings. He said their resolution, however is unwavering. Protestors continued to demonstrate on the streets when the temperature recently dropped to -20C.
Suzanne, one of the organisers of the demonstrations, provided more information about the goal of the protests. The protests in Dam Square were targeting organisations in the Netherlands that are linked to the Ukrainian government. The demonstrators state there are organisations based in the Netherlands which are owned by Oleksandr Yanukovych, son of the ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. In February 2013 Forbes Ukraine claimed that Oleksandr Yanukovych earned more from Ukrainian government contracts than any other businessman 2.
The protestors claimed that Yanukovych earned this money through nepotism. Suzanne argued that there are businesses in the Netherlands which act as money launderers for these funds. For details of these companies, see this link. A journalist has published details of European companies linked to Ukrainian government, including one based in the Netherlands 3. Suzanne stated that several American companies have already put blocks on the funds in these bank accounts, but there had not been similar blocks from European banks.
The protestors at Dam Square stated that it is no longer about obtaining integration of Ukraine into the EU. Suzanne stated that the Ukrainian protestors want EU intervention to block the accounts that they argue are being used for money laundering. Furthermore, she stated that they are hoping the EU and United States government will intervene to remove what they believe is a corrupt government.
As of Monday 24th February 2014; a warrant for the arrest of Yanukovych has been issued, and he has been ousted by parliament. Yulia Tymoshenko, leader of the opposition, was released from jail on Saturday 22nd February 2014, and addressed the crowds in Kiev straight afterwards. Oleksandr Turchinov, longtime ally of Tymoshenko, has been appointed as acting President. The election date for a new president has been announced for May 25th 2014 4. It remains to be seen if the Dutch government or tax services will undertake any action against the companies accused of money laundering. The Netherlands has been previously accused of allowing ‘mailbox companies’ which provide the opportunity to launder money, however this has been denied by the government 5. It has been reported that high profile bands like the Rolling Stones are based in the Netherlands in order to minimise their tax bill 6.
If you would like to assist or support, you could visit this site. This group is trying to block transfers by companies run by Yanukovych; http://yanukovich.info/oleksandr-yanukovych-assets/