Q&A: Ukrainian Journalist and Activist Igor Lutsenko

by Carly Alvarez | January 28, 2014

Igor Lutsenko

Activist Igor Lutsenko

The Albert Einstein Institution research team talked to Ukrainian opposition activist Igor Lutsenko regarding his recent torture and kidnapping in Kiev.

Can you explain your rationale for continuing to advocate for nonviolent discipline?

In this situation, reacting with violence adds only more violence. The people that kidnapped me were so misinformed about the situation in Maidan, and of our purpose for protesting. If you try to provide some objective information about how things really are in the protests, if you hear from both sides in Ukraine, you realize they are actually not separate. They share the same aims. One of those who kidnapped me said, ‘this is kind of nonsense, why are we fighting each other if what you’re saying is true?’ This is very important.

To what extent are the security forces reliable in terms of carrying out the government’s orders?

Unfortunately, the militia and the police think that violent action against violent forms of protest is necessary. At some point they will commit worse actions than what was done to me. I think they will be ready to kill soon because there is a lot of danger in the potential change of power.

What can you tell us about your kidnapping? Why do you think you were released?

I’m not clear if it was the security forces who kidnapped me. It was clear that the people who did it thought they were doing a good thing for our country. It was technically and politically dangerous for police in Kiev to arrest me after I was tortured. Previously they’ve done that to people who are not well known and there has been some informational silence on this. I think at some point police refused to do that because I’m well known for my disposition against violence. I don’t think they were directed to kill me, and others would have made too much noise about it. The example of the attacked journalist Tetyana Chornovol was very important because those who fulfilled that order were caught. My kidnappers must have decided it was better to release me than go to jail.

Can you tell us anything generally about the situation now?

I think it’s unprecedentedly dangerous. The mechanism of violence is starting to work more and more intensely from both sides and I think protesters are provoked, which causes the police to use more violence. The special force of police, Berkut, do not have any way back. They have to kill people to save their own lives. They think if the opposition prevails they will all be killed. They have nothing to lose so they will do everything to threaten the protesters in attempt to protect themselves. I think in order to succeed, the opposition must provide the special forces with a guarantee that they won’t be subject to revenge after the revolution. It’s problematic that the opposition is divided because they can’t promise anything. With an agreement [among the opposition], the situation could be saved. If the police were to give up right now, who could they talk to? It’s a very difficult situation for the police.