Media executive assaulted

His attackers said, “We are sick of you!” Police are treating the assault as a robbery.

New York, July 17, 2001–Oleh Velichko, the head of the Avers media corporation in western Ukraine, was brutally beaten by two unknown assailants outside his home in the late evening hours of Wednesday, July 11, according to CPJ sources and press reports.

Ukrainian police are treating the assault as a robbery. Approximately US$250 was taken from Velichko during the attack, according to some local press accounts.

“We fear that the police may be jumping to conclusions at this early stage in the investigation,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “We urge Ukrainian authorities to consider the possibility that Velichko was attacked because of his professional work.”

Velichko is the president of the Avers Corporation, which owns the television station Avers and the local newspapers Avers-Press and Lutskaya Yarmarka in the provincial city of Lutsk. Velichko’s colleagues believe that he could have been attacked in retaliation for his television station’s critical news reports.

Avers TV director Volodimir Sinkevich told CPJ in a telephone interview today that the station’s news reports have been very critical of local police officials, politicians, business executives, and criminals. Most recently, Sinkevich said, the station had been investigating the construction of a private garage in a nearby national park.

“We are sick of you!”
Velichko was assaulted as he entered his apartment building between 11 p.m. and midnight. His attackers repeatedly said, “We are sick of you!” while they beat him, the Ukrayna Sehodny news Web site reported.

The publisher was taken to a local hospital where he was diagnosed with a concussion, broken ribs, and a bruised arm. He is currently in stable condition, according to his doctors.

The local police have launched an official investigation into the incident. During a July 16 press briefing, Lutsk police chief Serhiy Shvachka described the attack as a robbery.