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Frustrated Ukrainian Activists Dishing Out 'Trash-Bucket Justice'

  • Tom Balmforth

Lawmaker Nestor Shufrych was beaten by a mob in Odesa on September 30 while receiving little help from local police.

Lawmaker Nestor Shufrych was beaten by a mob in Odesa on September 30 while receiving little help from local police.

MOSCOW -- You can call it the "people's lustration," the "Trash-Bucket Challenge," or mob rule. But by whatever name, Ukrainian activists are increasingly taking the matter of punishing officials from the old regime into their own hands.

Impatient with unsigned lustration legislation, activists from groups like the ultranationalist Right Sector have been tossing officials in trash containers -- and sometimes beating them, too -- to signal disgust at the officials' ties to the government of former President Viktor Yanukovych, their alleged corruption, or their supposed support for separatists in the country’s east.

The latest target? Nestor Shufrych, a lawmaker from ousted President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, who has condemned Ukraine’s military campaign against pro-Russian rebels in the war-torn east.

Shufrych arrived on September 30 in the Black Sea city of Odesa for a campaign press conference ahead of October 26 parliamentary elections.

Shufrych was beaten, his face bloodied, and his shirt torn off outside a regional administration building by a mob of more than a dozen activists wearing masks, including members of Right Sector. He fled to his minivan before the crowd could toss him into a trash container, receiving little help from police in the process.

WATCH: Mob in Odesa attacks lawmaker Nestor Shufrych:

Shufrych is the latest victim of a trend that accelerated at the beginning of September when Ukraine's parliament, the Verhovna Rada, was preparing to vote on a "lustration" bill to clean up the new government in Kyiv of corrupt officials and practices or of those with links to separatists.

Activists have advertised their activities on social networks under the hashtag #TrashBucketChallenge, playing off the name of the Ice-Bucket Challenge, the viral Internet campaign that sought to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

It signals a growing frustration in Ukraine with what's widely seen as enduring corruption, abuse of power, and foot-dragging on political reforms by the new authorities.

On September 16, Vitaliy Zhuravsky, a Verhovna Rada deputy, was thrown into a trash container outside parliament because he voted against the legislation.

Former Cossack leader Oleksandr Panchenko is among many officials who have been thrown into trash containers.

Former Cossack leader Oleksandr Panchenko is among many officials who have been thrown into trash containers.

The lustration bill ultimately was passed on its third reading that day and now awaits President Petro Poroshenko's signature.

The list of officials who have been victims of the "Trash-Bucket Challenge" is long and includes:

-- Oleh Rudenko, a regional public insurance official in Odesa who was recently accused of bribe-taking

-- Vitaliy Fedak, a bureaucrat from Ternopil

-- Oleksandr Panchenko, a former Cossack leader from the Zaporizhzhya region

-- Mykola Koretsky, a regional lawmaker from Kirovohrad Oblast, formerly of the Party of Regions

-- Viktor Pylypyshyn, a lawmaker in the Verhovna Rada from the Party of Regions

Shufrych suffered a concussion and later made a television appearance from his hospital bed, sporting a bandaged eye. A criminal investigation for "hooliganism" has been opened, although Shufrych's opposition bloc expressed doubts it would yield much.

In a Facebook post on October 1, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov appealed to the activists to end the practice, saying it could cost Ukraine support in the West.

"A couple more broken faces...and Europe will turn away from our victorious revolution. I fear America will as well. Gentlemen radicals, don’t behave like marginal imbeciles -- don’t fall for the stupid, instinctive, and provocational desire for mob justice,” he wrote.

Speaking to RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Right Sector activist Yuriy Mindyuk said the group "understands that activists went beyond the boundaries of the law...but we are more concerned that lustration in Ukraine may not even happen and that the old bandits who robbed this country will never have to answer."

RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service contributed to this report
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