The article uncovers the corrupt scheme that exists in Ukraine that allows for illegally purchasing permits to bear weapons
1. How to Legally Purchase Weapons in Ukraine
About 190,000 Ukrainians have less lethal weapons. According to law, all of these people have to either be MPs, law enforcement, judges, state officials or journalists.
Other citizens do not have the right to receive permits for less lethal weapons. The law that allows all adult citizens to purchase less lethal weapons has not been passed yet.
In the meantime, Ukrainians are arming themselves. One of the most popular schemes these days is as follows: a citizen purchases a journalism license and then receives a permit to bear less lethal weapons like a journalist.
In order to receive a license, a journalist has to collect a set of documents. The obligatory documents are a request from the editor of a media outlet to the head of the local police department and a copy of their journalism license. These are the documents that are “in the most demand” today.
At the time of the writing of this article, we found two “trade” organizations/media outlets that sell licenses. There is an offer to become a journalist for money on a website with the TVi channel logo.
In order to receive the license, there is no need to have journalism education or work experience. All it takes is a payment of UAH 550 for the license. That is the official price indicated on the website.
You must negotiate separately for the request to bear arms. Without this piece of paper, it is impossible to get “less lethal weapons.”
When we called, a man answered who asked to write to the email [email protected] They responded to the message very quickly. However, there was no one established price for the package of documents.
We asked to create one complete package of documents for Oleksandr, a proxy who “needs less lethal weapons.” The managers of the “fake” TV channel offered to do all of the documents for UAH 1,700.
These people that used the TVi brand refused to deliver all of the documents in person. But they did as they promised. Within just one week, the documents were in our hands.
The license and the request were sent by mail. Payment was made after the documents were received. The envelope contained four documents: two licenses for journalism from TVi channel, the request for permission to bear arms and a slip proving that Oleksandr really worked for TVi channel.
2. “Honest fraudsters”
The documents did have signatures and wet stamps. Moreover, the number of the identification code on the stamp was the same as the number of the identification code of Teleradiosvit, Ltd. This company is the real owner of TVi channel.
The request was written to the current heard of the Chief Department of Police in Zaporizhya Oblast, Viktor Ivanovich Olkhovskiy. He was appointed to this position after the events in February in Kyiv.
However, there was something that “entrepreneurs” neglected. The signature on the documents belonged to the former general director of TVi channel, Mykola Knyazhytskiy. Knyazhytskiy has not worked at the TV channel since 2012 when he was elected to parliament.
Knyazhytskiy denied that it was his signature and refused to comment on the situation.
The current management of the TV channel also claimed that they did not issue any documents and reassured us that they would write a claim to the General Prosecutor about this. Moreover, on its official site, the TV channel published news with the headline “Fraudsters sell fake licenses from TVi.”
“Previously there used to be an entire system on how to receive permits that was monitored by the Ministry of Internal Affairs that controlled the production of stamps and their circulation,” says Oleksandr Burmahin, lawyer from the legal department of the Regional Press Development Institute. “However, as of right now, this whole situation has been cancelled and basically anyone can produce any stamps. That is why there is nothing preventing anyone from making the same stamp.”
In order to find out how the case was going, we wrote a request to the General Prosecutor. We asked whether TVi journalists went to the General Prosecutor and at what stage their cases were being considered. In response, we received a form reply. They refused to provide information to us due to the protection of citizens’ personal lives.
After sending the request to the prosecutor, the website where they were trading licenses got “cleaned up.” The logo of the TV channel and the “unique” offer disappeared.
3. Cooler than Yarosh’s business card
However, there are enough traders of permit documents even without the “fake” TVi website. On the social network VKontakte, we found the group “Less Lethal Weapons.”
You can buy a journalism license and permit to bear arms in this group from a person who calls himself Petro Vyhovskiy – a trustee of presidential candidate Dmitriy Yarosh, head of Right Sector.
This man posted on his page a scan of the trustee certificate with the name Petro Vyhovskiy. Moreover, his last name and initials are indicated in the appendix of the central election committee’s decree on the registration of trustees for Yarosh, a candidate for president.
In the “Less Lethal Weapons” group, Vyhovskiy offered to sell weapons, licenses and requests for weapons. We followed up on the offer and wrote him a letter. In his response, the man said that he was ready to create the documents for UAH 500. However, he did not state what newspaper we were going to get the license from. He only wrote “the newspaper is in Kyiv from the publishing house Vzayemodopomoha. Just like the first time, the payment was expected after receipt of the documents.
Vyhovskiy did not respond to questions in a private chat.
4. How many armed journalists are in Ukraine
We sent a request to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in order to find out how many permits to bear arms were issued to journalists in 2013-2014. However, representatives of the ministry responded that they do not have separate statistics on permits for journalists.
The staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs refused to fulfill our second request as well, in which we asked for a list of media outlets that sent requests to bear arms for their employees in 2013-2014. Apparently, the Ministry of Internal Affairs did not have this information either.
“We inform you that the creation of the indicated lists is not required by legal and regulatory acts,” the response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs said.
Thus, as we can see, today in Ukraine, not only MPs, law enforcement, judges, state officials and journalists have the right to bear arms, so does anyone who has an “extra” UAH 500-2,000.
Responsibility for fraud falls under article 358 of the Criminal Code “fraudulent licenses or other official documents issued or certified by a company… These actions are punished with fines of up to 100 non-taxed income minimums of citizens, arrest for up to 6 months, or imprisonment for up to 2 years.”
Point four of the same article lists responsibility also for people who use fake licenses.
This investigation was conducted with the support of SCOOP