Ukrainian Football Fans Rally in Support of the Pavlichenko Family

On Sunday, November 25, over 4,000 football fans organized a demonstration in Kyiv, demanding the release of the Pavlichenko family [uk].

Dmytro Pavlichenko and his son Serhiy, fans of FC Dynamo Kyiv [uk], were found guilty of the murder of a Kyiv Shevchenko District Court Judge Serhiy Zubkov. In the past few months, Ukrainian and European fans have organized [uk] a series of unprecedented actions in their support.

Ukrainian football fans demand freedom for the Pavlichenko family during the Nov. 25 rally in Kyiv. Photo by Sergii Kharchenko, copyright © Demotix (25/11/2012).

The Pavlichenko case

Prior to the murder of the judge, the father of the Pavlichenko family, Dmytro, had been involved in a court case against a Dutch construction company that planned to build new real estate in place of his family’s house in Kyiv. Although a legal owner of his house, Dmytro was charged with illegal construction of additional accommodation. Eventually, he lost the case, and the Pavlichenko family was forcefully evicted from their home shortly before the New Year’s Eve of 2011. The court decision was passed [uk] by Judge Serhiy Zubkov.

In March 2011, Judge Zubkov was found dead in his apartment building. Shortly after the incident, Dmytro Pavlichenko and his son Serhiy were accused of the judge’s murder. Despite mostly circumstantial evidence [uk], both were found guilty. Dmytro Pavlichenko was sentenced to life in prison, while his son got a 13-year prison sentence.


The case received unprecedented publicity due to activism of football fans who united to demand justice for the Pavlichenko family.

A special website – [uk, ru, en] – was set up. Below is the background story from the website, told from the point of view of Dmytro Pavlichenko's youngest son, Ivan (in Ukrainian, with subtitles available for Bulgarian, Croatian, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish):

Over 90 actions in support of the Pavlichenkos were carried out by football fans in more than a dozen countries.

Activists also created special groups on a popular social networks Vkontakte (here and here [ru], with over 14,000 members total), and on Facebook (Freedom Pavlichenko [en, ru, uk]).

LiveJournal user alex-serdyuk expressed [ru] a common sentiment:

Украинское правосудие в действии. У семьи обирают квартиру в пользу непонятной фирмы, глава семьи — Дмитрий Павличенко — не сдается, созывает пресс–конференции, обратился с просьбой к Президенту Украины наказать коррумпированных чиновников и вернуть принадлежащее ему жилье. В марте 2011–го года судья Шевченковского районного суда Сергей Зубков, вынесший вердикт об отчуждении квартиры у семьи Павличенко, был найден мертвым в подъезде своего дома. […] Буквально через два дня киевлянина Дмитрия Павличенко и его сына Сергея арестовали по подозрению в убийстве судьи. Старшему Павличенко дали пожизненное, младшему — 13 лет лишения свободы. Причем свидетели их не узнали, улик прямых нет, у Дмитрия Павличенко есть алиби.

Ukrainian justice system in action. A family has their apartment taken away for the benefit of some shady firm; the head of the family – Dmytro Pavlichenko – does not give up, he organizes press-conferences, calls on the President of Ukraine to punish the corrupt authorities and return his rightly-owned home. In March of 2011, Shevchenkivsky District Court Judge Serhiy Zubkov, who passed a verdict of expropriating Pavlichenko’s apartment, is murdered in his residential building. […] Just two days later, Kyiv residents Dmytro and Serhiy Pavlychenko are arrested as murder suspects. Pavlichenko Sr. receives a life sentence and Pavlichenko Jr. – 13 years. And the witnesses did not recognize them, there is no direct evidence, Dmytro Pavlichenko has an alibi.

The November 25 protest

On November 25, supporters of the Pavlichenkos organized their biggest action to date – a march of thousands of people through the center of Kyiv (photos, video). The action was supported by the Belarusian [ru] and Russian [ru] football fans.

LiveJournal user from Lviv, r_drogobych, explains [uk]:

Не одній сотні невинних людей наша гнила феміда вже поламала життя, і за них, в кращому разі крім родичів, не має кому вступитись. Даний випадок трохи вирізняється з переліку інших оскільки молодший Павличенко являється футбольним фанатом і вболівав за столичне Динамо. З моменту ув'язнення Павличенків до СІЗО фанати ДК почали звертату увагу громадськості на цю справу. Малювались банери, влаштовувались акції, писалось в інтернеті. Але з огляду на відсутність доказів вини Павличенків, і навіть навпаки наявності доказів зворотнього (свідок який бачив вбивцю впритул не впізнав жодного Павличенка) якось сподівались, що суд винесе виправдальний вирок, або хоча б відправить справу на дорослідування. Але зараз, коли вже останні ілюзії про якусь справедливість в цій країні розвіялись, акції в підтримку Павличенків переходять в наступну фазу. […]

Our rotten femida [Themis, justice] has broken the lives of hundreds of innocent people. At best, they have had only their relatives to stand by their side. This case is a little different because the younger Pavlichenko is a football fan and supports the capital’s [football club] Dynamo. From the moment of the Pavlichenkos’ [preliminary arrest], Dynamo Kyiv’s fans have been drawing the public attention to the case. [They] made banners, organized actions, wrote [about it] online. Taking into account the absence of evidence of the Pavlichenkos’ guilt and, instead, an abundance of proofs of their innocence […] everybody hoped for their acquittal or at least that the court would send the case back for additional investigation. But now, as the last illusions of having at least some justice in this country have been dispelled, the actions in support of the Pavlichenkos have entered their next phase. […]

Ukrainian football fans march in Kyiv on Nov. 25, demanding justice for the Pavlichenko family. Photo by Sergii Kharchenko, copyright © Demotix (25/11/2012).

The event was widely covered by the Ukrainain mainstream and social media. Facebook user Vitaliy Umanets, along with over 200 other users, shared this photo from the march and wrote [uk]:

Надія Є! Молодь вийшла на захист Павличенків!

There is hope! Young people have come out to defend the Pavlichenkos!

Journalist and blogger Ihor Lutsenko also regarded [uk] the event positively and placed it within the new possible trend for civic activism:

Між тим марш на захист Павличенків – найбільша з часів Майдану непартійна акція, чим можна пишатися. […]
Це прогрес, цивілізаційний прогрес країни.
Успіх тих, хто боровся проти Ахметова, і можливий успіх тих, хто зараз бореться за Павличенків, може, чого доброго, задати політичну моду в країні. Громадяни захопляться організацією масових акцій, почнуть гуртуватися і тисячами виходити на вулиці – о жах! – втративши свою зневіру у публічні акції, перетворяться на… європейців!

In the meantime, the march in defense of the Pavlichenko family is the largest non-partisan action since Maidan [the Orange Revolution], and this is something to be proud of. […]
It is progress, civilizational progress of [our] country.
The success of those who have fought against [the destruction of historical Andriivsky Uzviz street in Kyiv] and the possible success of those who are now fighting for the Pavlichenkos, might, after all, set a new political trend in the country. The citizens will get a taste for organizing mass actions, will unite and go onto the streets in thousands and – how terrible! – lose their disappointment in public actions and turn into… Europeans!

1 comment

  • Gram Zeppi

    The Pavlichenko’s case: Please help to free wrongfully convicted to life imprisonment in Ukraine.
    Sign and promote the petition at

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