The demolished buildings concealed behind a 5-meter high fence were numbered 10A and 10B on Andriyivsky Uzviz and 9/11 on Frolivska Street. The first one was recorded in the register of architecturally significant sites. Serhiy Tselovalnyk, Head of the Main Department for City Construction, Architecture and Urban Design at the Kyiv City State Administration, said that the demolished buildings were of absolutely no value and that it made no sense for the public to start a storm in a teacup. “This 1 hectare large quarter covering Andriyivsy Uzviz, Borychiv Tik and Frolivska Street contains only two architecturally significant sites, both of them on Borychiv Tik,” he told the journalists. “Why is it that as soon as a builder appears with a spade in a hard hat, you are there with your cameras?” However, Kyiv’s chief architect is reluctant to take responsibility for the radical transformations on the other side of the fence. “We, as the current administration, have nothing to do with what’s going on here,” he claimed. “I have no idea why these buildings have been demolished.” According to Mr. Tselovalnyk, this will be the site of a “very interesting” 7-story trade and business center called Andriyivsky Plaza.
Mykhailo Kuchuk, Deputy Head of Kyiv City State Administration, also stated that the city administration has not authorized the demolition of the buildings or the new construction. According to him, the developers got their okay from the Inspection of State Architectural and Construction Supervision, thus essentially saying that one state entity can authorize construction without other two even knowing about it.
The construction was ordered by ESTA Holding, part of Rinat Akhmetov’s SCM Finance. According to Ukrayinska Pravda (Ukrainian Truth), an online publication, ESTA Holding’s press-service has denied destroying the historical building. However, Vladyslava Osmak, an expert on Kyiv and an activist of the Andriyivsky Uzviz public network, claims that “in reality”, there is some confusion with the numbering of these buildings on maps, the demolished buildings were not actually buildings of architectural significance and that building 10A, which was designated as an architecturally significant building, is still standing. She stated that “The Ministry of Culture signed a Decree on 20 January 2012, granting Andriyivsky Uzviz the status of an urban architecturally significant site, therefore every building on the street is now a historical one. This makes any new construction here illegal. The buildings can only be restored, not even reconstructed! With support from the Verkhovna Rada, the city council may have to revise all these documents and certificates for the purchase, sale or privatization of any building, and return Andriyivsky Uzviz to state ownership.”
The Kyiv City State Administration’s Decree No. 979 from 16 Mary 2002 grants Andriyivsky Uzviz a protected status. This provides for specific construction rules and the arbitrary demolition of any buildings, even ones that do not qualify as architecturally significant sites, is completely illegal. Nobody can carry out any works there without prior approval from the Department for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Sites. According to Acting Head Yakiv Dikhtiar, neither his Department nor the Archeological institute, have authorized the construction.
The Decree clearly determines that any new construction must take into account the architectural ensemble of the site and “preserve the archeological style of the existing historical environment”. How the glass cube designed for the site complies with the Decree is a mystery.
The street has long been a pain in the neck for officials. In summer 2006, the Podil District Administration announced a reconstruction tender that was not authorized by the Kyiv State City Administration, which makes it illegal. Notably, reconstruction here means the demolition of old and construction of new buildings, rather than minor repairs. The reconstruction would have closed down the street for two years. As a result, artists working there, some of them having been there for decades, would have nowhere to work. At that time, the construction of parking lots and shopping malls had already been planned. Once this sparked a scandal in the media, the tender was cancelled and postponed for an undetermined term but weird things, such as fires in old buildings, blamed on homeless people, did not stop. The cobblestones made by ancient Kyivites from the stones left around Kyiv by a Scandinavian glacier 150,000 years ago will be replaced by concrete slabs to make it easier for cars to drive up the street that is actually designated for pedestrians.
“Does Andriyivsky Uzviz need a business center and more offices?” Vladyslava Osmak wonders. “A museum complex would be more appropriate, as well as bookstores, music stores and tiny restaurants where people would feel protected… all this is small business that would be more relevant for this historical street , not the big business implemented in huge complexes.”
Late on 10 April, Oleksandr Popov, Head of Kyiv City State Administration, played “good cop” once more. The Inspection of State Architectural and Construction Supervision in Kyiv suspended preliminary work on the construction of the trade and business center with all adjoining premises and underground parking lot. The works were stopped on the demand of the Kyiv City State Administration, based on the fact that it had not been notified of the start of construction by the developer.
For Ukrainians incarcerated in the occupied territories and in the Russian Federation itself, things could get much worse in 2018. Only serious international pressure is likely to make Moscow release these political prisoners