Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Chickening out in Kiev

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Chickening out in Kiev

Article excerpt

Tetiana Chornovol specialises in exposing the murky world of Ukraine's top officials. As an investigative reporter for opposition websites, she has a reputation for unorthodox methods and daring stunts. On Christmas Day 1013, she was dragged out of her car, beaten up and almost killed in an attack most Ukrainians believe was linked to her work as a journalist.

When I arrive at her house on the outskirts of Kiev her three-year-old son is racing around the front room on a scooter. Chornovol's mother, Natalia, watches him nervously. "He's fearless and Tetiana was just the same as a child," she tells me. "She climbed up the highest fences in our village and scared her granny witless."

Now 34, Chornovol is still fearless and still climbing fences. As we drink tea, she 2014

shows me photographs she took secretly a couple years ago of the palatial residence outside Kiev occupied by the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych. Wearing a camouflage jacket, she hid in the forest nearby, waiting for the right moment. Then she shimmied up the wall Lara Croft-style, using a plank and a rope, right over the heads of the security patrol.

Before she was caught, she smuggled out some images of a gold-plated barge where he'd throw parties. Just one of the imported crystal chandeliers there costs [pounds sterling]60,000--almost the equivalent of Yanukovych's official annual salary. "The worst thing," she says, "is that we don't have a hospital in Ukraine for children with cancer--the government says it lacks the funds."

The president's estate is just one of many lavish residences built by the ruling elite. Chornovol believes a new mansion south of the capital is for the president's eldest son, Oleksandr, but she could find no official documents for the building. So, a few months ago, wearing a plastic helmet, she crawled through a hole in the fence. …

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