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Ukrainian Jailed Over Tax Protest Starts Hunger Strike

Last year's anti-tax code protest on Kyiv's Independence Square.
A Ukrainian activist detained for destroying city property during a demonstration against tax reforms has gone on hunger strike to protest the charges against him, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Ihor Harkavenko has been in pretrial detention since he was arrested in January together with several other activists for "premeditated destruction of city property."

Several thousand business owners as well as opposition activists protested from November 22-December 3 in central Kyiv, with many camping on Independence Square for several days. They were opposed to a tax code adopted by the parliament in mid-November.

The protesters' tent camp was forcibly cleared by police on December 3. Police say that after the tents were removed it was discovered that protesters had hammered iron spikes into the stone tiles on the square, resulting in considerable damage.

Harkavenko's public defender, Artyom Belov, told RFE/RL that on March 3 the Kyiv city court of appeals will start hearings into Harkavenko's appeal challenging the legitimacy of his arrest.

Oleh Levitskyy, a lawyer for Harkavenko, told RFE/RL that his client's case is politically motivated and that the charges against him are "ridiculous."

Levitskyy said that if his client is charged with the destruction of the stone tiles on Independence Square, then the same charges should be brought against President Viktor Yanukovych's Party of Regions, which set up similar tents during protests on Independence Square in 2007.

Read more in Ukrainian here