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University Protests 'Interference' By Ukraine Security Service

Students rally in Lviv to demand the dismissal of Education and Science Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk on April 20.
Students rally in Lviv to demand the dismissal of Education and Science Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk on April 20.
LVIV, Ukraine -- Teaching staff at the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv have complained about interference by the country's Security Service in its activities, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

University Rector Borys Gudziak said in a memorandum that on May 18 he received a call on his mobile phone from a representative of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) requesting a meeting.

During the meeting the same day, Gudziak said the agent told him the university administration should warn students that those involved in illegal activities during protests against the government will be prosecuted.

Illegal activities include not only acts of violence, but also any protests not approved in advance by the authorities.

Gudziak said he refused to accept and sign an official letter saying that he had been warned about that policy.

He also said the security official demanded he return the letter after signing it in order to "prevent the spreading of this information on the Internet."

University Vice Rector Myroslav Marynovych said he believed that such intimidation is a throwback to totalitarian times.

"I regard this as inertia. The Security Service is not aware that it must change its practices," Marynovych told RFE/RL.

The SBU's regional representative told an RFE/RL correspondent on May 25 he was not aware of either the Ukrainian Catholic University's complaint, or the meeting between Gudziak and the SBU agent.

SBU headquarters in Kyiv later confirmed that the meeting took place. Spokeswoman Maryna Ostapenko said the meeting was legitimate, and that it was intended to prevent a violation of the law.

The Ukrainian Catholic University also stated that on May 11 it received a phone call from the office of the Lviv regional administration with a request to report the number of students who have participated in antigovernment protests.

But Lviv Governor Vasyl Horbal of the ruling Party of Regions told RFE/RL that he did not give any such order.

A group of students recently staged a protest in Lviv against an agreement signed with Moscow extending the lease of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Crimea and against the Ukrainian government's education policy.

Further opposition protests are scheduled for May 27, when President Viktor Yanukovych is to visit Lviv for the first time since his February election victory. His visit has already been postponed twice.