Svetlana Milchevich, 62, was initially sued by local authorities for refusing to halt construction of a home for which she had already received permission. However after her neighbor and close friend of Uzhhorod Mayor Sergey Ratushnyak, whose name is also spelled as Serhiy Ratushniak, allegedly bribed a key official inspector Alexandra Zotova and the permission was suddenly withdrawn.
Lower courts working closely with Mayor Ratushnyak and his allies ordered Milchevich to stop building her house, but the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine, the country’s highest legal body, threw out these rulings by dismissing the case on legal grounds. “I dismiss this case because the municipality should have gone to other courts, not to administrative judges,” Judge S.A. Gorbatyuk said, speaking from Kiev in a telephone interview with BosNewsLife.
That the Uzhhorod municipality approached administrative courts instead of others did not came as a surprise to local observers: One of the main administrative judges in Uzhhorod is Vasily Dmitrevich Andrijtso, a close friend of the mayor and his allies, who have been involved in controversial business dealings.
The mayor has a tendency not to speak to foreign reporters and has beaten up opponents.
Milchevich is now considering seeking compensation from authorities for moral and especially material damages. During her appeal procedures a bulldozer suddenly appeared, crashing everything on its way, including a fence and water pipes, dumping construction materials in a hole where her basement was planned.
“We are going to take over this parcel,” an official was heard saying.
Milchevich, a soft spoken, tender lady, who made her living as a clothing designer, has become somewhat of a local celebrity, heralding the promises of the 2004 ‘Orange Revolution’ for democratic change to this city of roughly 110,000 people. Her case is seen by the unregistered Christian group ‘Concerned Citizens of Uzhhorod’, which supports Milchevich, as a “test-case for residents” who they say have suffered under “years of persecution by former Communist officials” in this city and other areas.
Milchevich’s case, which initially began as a dispute between two neighbors, gained local and international attention after she unveiled a network of officials involved in grabbing lands and even homes from residents. Several are still homeless, with at least one woman sleeping in the railway station or hospitals, after Mayor Ratushnyak apparently took away her home some 10 years ago, when he was serving his first term, BosNewsLife learned.
Milchevich is the mother of BosNewsLife Senior International Correspondent Agnes R. Bos who, backed by ‘Concerned Citizens of Uzhhorod,’ soon used the trial to unravel wider corruption in Uzhhorod, despite apparent death threats directed towards her and her mother. In a recent letter, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, said she shared Milchevich’s concern.
Her case is also expected to put more pressure on Judge Andrijtso, who was appointed as chair of the District Administrative Court in Uzhhorod, in June last year. He is already investigated for allegedly permitting the tax-free import of hundreds of luxury cars and other products from Western countries, apparently damaging the state budget for at least hundreds of thousands of dollars, the government said.
“Can you imagine such a ruling from a court that gives such a right?”, wondered Prime Minister Tymoshenko recently. Milchevich still has some trials, including one on July 1 against allegedly corrupt official Construction Inspector Alexandra Zotova, and after more than two years of legal procedures may be forgiven for considering to build somewhere else. But, “For me this is also a principal case,”, stressed Milchevich, who now lives in a rundown apartment block in the center of Uzhhorod, near potholes and wild dogs. She wants the Orange Revolution to reach areas far removed from Kiev. “I hate corruption,” she told BosNewsLife.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko agrees. “We are starting the process of cleansing the country. I will do everything to ensure that dirty, shadowy money will cease to be a major factor in Ukrainian politics,” she said earlier this year.
Ukraine’s government, which seeks EU membership, has come under mounting pressure from Brussels to tackle corruption and improve the lives of the former Soviet state’s 47 million population.
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