YouTube Keeps A Check On Unruly Sons Of Ukraine’s Elite

KIEV, Ukraine -- Some of the offspring of Ukraine’s leaders seem to be a particularly unruly bunch. Hardly a month goes by without Ukrainian newspapers reporting on their outrageous – if not downright unlawful – behaviour.

Roman Landik, the son of parliament member Vladimir Landik, filmed by a security camera, violently assaulting 20-year-old model and photo editor Maria Korshunova.

But in today's era of security cameras and viral online videos, their actions have less chance of going by unnoticed and unpunished.

Roman Landik, the son of Ukrainian media mogul and parliament member Vladimir Landik (of the ruling Regional Party), was filmed early July by a security camera in a trendy café in the eastern city of Lugansk violently assaulting 20-year-old model and photo editor Maria Korshunova.

In the course of the 14-minute-long video, Landink is seen grabbing Korshunova by the throat, yanking her out of her booth and dragging her by the hair on the floor.

The young woman suffered a concussion and nervous breakdown following the assault, and had to be hospitalized.

The argument reportedly began when Landik, recently married, tried to flirt with Korshunova.

She refused his advances, and can be seen on the video pushing away the drink he insisted on buying her.

This apparently enraged Landik, who threw himself at the young woman.

Initially, Roman Landik minimised the incident, claiming that he had just “taught the girl some manners” (this was also the version of events reported on his father’s TV stations).

But a warrant was issued for his arrest after the video was anonymously uploaded onto YouTube on July 7, prompting Landik to flee to Russia.

He was arrested there a few days later, and has been expelled from the Regional Party, of which he was an active member.

Landik’s father, whose security guards once beat up a police officer who pulled his car over for speeding, now says he failed to "properly educate" his son.

This is not the first time that the son of a high-ranking official is responsible for a serious misdemeanour.

In one of the most shocking incidents to date, Dmitry Rud, the son of a top Ukranian prosecutor, ran over three women with his car in October 2010. All three were killed.

Although witnesses say the women were standing on a road separator, Rud claimed they had suddenly stepped backwards off it to avoid traffic from the opposite lane, and stumbled in front of his vehicle.

Rud was released from prison on July 13, and although his case is still under investigation, human rights activists doubt he will receive a significant sentence.

Yaroslav Minkin is the coordinator of the human rights center “Postup” and the founder of the Facebook group “Fight against possessed mazhors” (mazhor is a Russian slang word for gilded youth).

“I think Landik’s swift arrest and expulsion from the Regional Party was probably just for show. He most likely won’t get a real sentence.

There hasn’t been a single case in Ukraine where an active official – or the close relative of an active official – has been punished for a misdemeanour in accordance with the law.

So this case is very important for Ukraine. If Landik is appropriately punished, then a top official may think twice in the future before committing a serious offence.

That’s why it’s so important to us that Landik receive the sentence that is statutory under Ukrainian law.

We’re pushing for the investigation to be made transparent, we will try to attend every court hearing and inform the public and press of everything that is going on. We really hope that, as a result, this case won’t be hushed up.

After the Landik case made headlines, we began receiving letters and calls from people who had had very similar problems with Ukrainian officials.

Some of them felt it was unfair that their situations hadn’t been equally reported in the media.

We find out about new offenses nearly every week – committed not just by government officials but also by rich businessmen with good connections within the government.

The only difference in this case is that this time, there was a video. It’s impossible, after watching the video, to ignore the fact that this man has committed a crime.

If there were videos containing such undeniable evidence in every other case, it would be much easier to punish unruly officials.

Today, people are afraid of such offenders.

You see in the video that people who witness the beating in the café don’t try to intervene, they just ignore the scene or walk away.

That’s because most people in Lugansk know who Landik is, and fear him.

People are afraid to participate in demonstrations denouncing the problem, or to openly talk about abuse they may have been victims of.

They tell us 'I work for a company owned by Landik’s father', or 'I’m just young, I don’t want any problems.'

Another factor is the deep-running misogyny in Ukrainian society.

Gender violence, especially violence against women, is considered somehow ‘normal’ by many people. But I think that factor played a less important role than sheer fear of Landik’s power.

We have created an activist group based in Lugansk, to fight against the unlawful behaviour of activists and their children.

We have branches in many Ukrainian cities. Journalists, human rights activists, men of law – everyone is sick of this situation and wants such men to be punished.”

Source: France 24