The Expensive Cars of Ukrainian Agents

SCOOP coordinator Henrik Kaufholz gave handed the prize to Valeriya Yegoshyna.

At the MezhyhiryaFest in Kyiv 9.-10. of June the SCOOP coordinator Henrik Kaufholz handed the Proxy Award and 1.000 EUR for the best investigation in Ukraine to Valeriya Yegoshyna.  Of almost 100 nominations a Ukrainian jury gave the award for investigation of the expensive cars owned (or maybe only driven) by the agents of the secret service, SBU.

It was published by Radio Liberty and can be seen here with English subtitles.

The Ukrainian Proxy award is funded by Danish Journalists for the fifth time. This year the 1.000 Euro were provided by the journalists of Denmark’s leading national daily, Politiken.

Valeriya Yegoshyna has 7 years of experience in several media in Odessa. In the winter of 2016 Valeriya joined the team of the investigative TV program “Schemes. Corruption in details” as an intern (as a member of Journalism Exchange Program organized by Media Development Foundation) and quickly became a full member of the team of 6 investigative journalists. The project has been on air since 2014, supported by American Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and  broadcasted on a regular basis by the Ukrainian First TV channel (Ukrainian public broadcaster).

Valeriya Yegoshyna has been awarded several prizes for her investigative journalism.

In 2017, Valeriya received a Vasyl Sergienko Award at the competition of journalistic investigations in the category “The Best Investigation in the Internet Media” for her Special Project “Vanishing heritage”, a digital project and documentary about abandoned historical houses, whose influential owners got them  through intransparent schemes. Also, she was shortlisted in the category “Best TV Investigation” for her work “Office for the Protection of Own Interests”.

She is a known face in Denmark, since she was one the heroes in a Danish TV-documentary, ‘Ukraines korruptionsjægere’ (Ukraine’s Corruption Hunters) produced by Matilde Kimer in December of 2017. Can be seen here

Several times during recent years, her stories were announced as best investigative work through all RFE/RL services (in 23 countries).  Some of  Valeriya’s investigations led to several official criminal cases.

About the Festival

After Ukraine’s ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and his closest allies fled the country millions of dollars in assets were left behind to be investigated by journalists and state law enforcement agencies. Ukrainian investigative journalists poured through millions of documents to find proof those assets were acquired through corrupt means and kept revealing further properties and accounts. However, the state’s progress has been slow at best. Only a small portion of the stolen money was returned to the Ukrainian state budget. This year’s MezhyhiryaFest looked into why the recovery process of state assets is moving so slowly and how the international experience of asset recovery and management can help improve and accelerate the process.

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Alisa Yurchenko Wins SCOOP-sponsored Award

Alica Yurchenko, investigative reporter of weekly TV show Nashi Groshi, won the Ukrainian Investigative Journalism Award sponsored by SCOOP. She was awarded at the ceremony on MezhyhiryaFest, the annual journalism conference in the residence of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych where YanukovychLeaks was born in 2014. Congratulations!

Alisa Yurchenko was congratulated by among others SCOOP coordinator Oleg Khomenok and the American ambassador Mari Yovanovitch.

Alisa Yurchenko investigated the scandal with launching of an e-declaring system in Ukraine. In her research Alisa had proven that public officials were involved in a fraudulous deal intenting to compromise the e-declaring launch, pretending that the system is not protected from hacking attacks.

Read a short version of the story (in Ukrainian)

See the TV version of the story (with English subtitles)


Under the shadow of corruption

kyiv3More than 160 investigative reporters from Ukraine and neighbouring countries met in  Kyiv in the weekend 19th and 20th of November to exchange experiences and intensify their networking.

One of the burning issues in Ukraine, the comprehensive corruption in the country, was high on both the agenda and the mingling. On this there was a session on cooperation between anticorruption institutions and the media. Here the former investigative reporter, now member of the Ukrainian parliament, Iegor Sobolev, stated that the reformers in parliament now had succeeded in creating the tools needed by reporters to expose corruption: Now it’s up to you to use them.

The participants met the award winning American reporter Tom Torok, who used to work for The New York Times,  and the Icelandic reporter Johannes Kr. Kristjansson, who did very important reporting with the Panama Papers. Paul Meyers from BBC showed a lot of tricks how to search in the internet and reporters from Ukraine, Russia, Armenia, Poland, Romania, Georgia presented their investigations on issues as different as the construction of a new stadium, the fight against tuberculosis and smuggling of amber.

kyiv2This was the 8th annual conference for investigative reporters in Ukraine and took as in earlier years place in the conference hotel Kozatsky Stan. It was made possible by donations from e.g. USAID,  Canadian government, Internews, German embassy in Kyiv, International Renaissance Foundation and Politiken-Fonden.

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No Foreign Medicine Over the Counter

belarusmedWhen Belarusians come to the pharmacy, they cannot buy the products that they are used to. Import of medicine has been reduced, and there has been a big effort to substitute them with Belarusian products. But pharmacists and customers are not happy with the quality.

In 2008, there were only 550 domestic drugs sold in Belarus, now there are 1.5 thousand of them. There are rumours of a “stop list” that requires officials to delay import licences to medicine imports from other countries. Mariya Ejsmant from Narodnaja Vola took a closer look.

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Still Looking for Missing Belarusians

Famous Belarusian politicians – Yury Zakharanka, Viktar Hanchar and a businessman Anatol Krasouski were kidnapped in Minsk in 1999. A TV cameraman Dzmitry Zavadski disappeared without a trace in the summer of 2000.

It has been repeatedly stated by the kidnapped people’s relatives as well as by lawyers and journalists that these crimes don’t have statutes of limitations, and that the patrons and executors of these crimes will be severely punished sooner or later.

Katsiaryna Andreyeva from the ‘Belarusian Partisan’ reporters have visited the people, who had relation to the most resonant criminal cases in Belarus.

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Illegal Drugs for Do-It-Yourself Sex Change

pasport31-year-old Iryna Bialcova (the name was changed for privacy) from Minsk, Belarus, had a sex-change operation in 2010-11 after heving treated herself with illegal male hormones. All the female organs were removed, she – now he – received a new birth certificate, a passport with a male name and a military ID. But later she realized that she had made the biggest mistake in her life. Today the girl considers herself a victim of the black market of hormones.

In Belarus it is very easy to get hold of the illegal hormones, and the black market thrives, and Iryna is not the only one regretting a sex change. Doctors warn of the consequences of the illegal market for hormones.

Olga Dzeksnis investigated the story for the Belarusian Journal.

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Money Loves Silence

loggingThe Ukrainian TV-program ‘Stop corruption’ has exposed systematic illegal logging and collection of old metal from the zone around the wrecked nuclear power plant Chernobyl.  It is a very profitable business, and authorities seem to do very little to stop it.

In the TV-documentary, we follow an activist guiding journalists around to the sites, where huge areas of trees are cut down. The TV-crew also operates a small drone that we can get an overview of the situation. The investigation is made by Roman Bochkala and was broadcast on Feb 27, 2016 on Channel 5 (National wide news channel).

See the original report in text and video

See the report with English subtitles

The report in longread format


Media Under Control in Southern Ukraine

mediaIn the southern regions of Ukraine, it is almost a matter of pride for businessmen, politicians and local officials to own their own media outlets. Out of many hundreds of newspapers registered, less than a dozen publish regularly. A lot of the content produced by these outlets is “ordered.”

In the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv (495.000 inhabitants) you will find 20 news portals in the internet, 5 radio-tv channels and 250 registered newspapers and magazines of which around 10 will publish on a regular basis.

In neighbouring Kherson (330.000  inhabitants) you will also find 20 newsportals, 6 radio-tv channels and 200 registered newspapers and magazines of which 4 publish on a regular basis.

In both cities these media have almost monopoly when it comes to local and regional news, so the reporters Tetyana Haydabas and Olena Vasyna decided to find out who owns them. This should be easy. According to the law all media have to report their ownership to official registers. But no way.

The article “Media owners in Southern Ukraine: Who orders the ‘music’ of information in Mykolaiv and Kherson” was published on March 2, 2016 on the website of the Center for Investigative Journalism

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Big money in Illegal Ukrainian amber

Wherever you find precious stones like amber, you also find smugglers and organized crime. The Volyn region in Ukraine and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad – both with large deposits of the precious material – are no exceptions, and consequently the Polish city of Gdansk is the capital of a veritable industry of  illegal jewellery.

The Russian reporter Nikita Kuzmin and his Ukrainian colleague Maya Holub investigated how amber is mined illegally, crossing borders illegally and the structures behind the schemes. And surprise, surprise: a friend, Sergey Chemezov, of the Russian president Vladimir Putin is in this business.

The article “How Ukrainian Amber is Illegally Transported to Poland” by reporters Maya Holub from the Ukrainian/Polish newspaper “Monitor Wołyński” and Nikita Kuzmin from the Kaliningrad business portal was published online on the portal on February 24, 2016.

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Dangerous Smoke from a Giant

People in the Kherson region in Southern Ukraine are suffering from poisonous smoke from the chemical plant Crimean Titan, which is situated right at the new border between Ukraine and occupied Crimea. In its 20 years of operation, the cancer rates in this region have gone up drastically.

Since Crimean Titan is located on the Crimean peninsula, which is now occupied by Russia, nobody responds to requests, and nobody is accountable for the damage.

The article “Smog over Crimean Titan” by reporter Oleh Baturin was published online at the Noviy Den website on December 11, 2015.

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(Photo: Noviy Den)