Is President Poroshenko turning to selective stripping of Ukrainian citizenship?
Almost a week after the first reports that Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko had stripped controversial MP Andriy Artemenko of his citizenship, there is still no official statement from the President’s Administration, nor can the decree be seen on the official website. The decree was, however, reported as fact early on May 5 by the State Migration Service, and there has unfortunately been no attempt to refute the information provided.
If the apparent decree posted by a Radical Party MP on Facebook is genuine, then Poroshenko has set a very dangerous precedent. Five people are named however the move would almost certainly be linked with two prominent figures: MP Andriy Artemenko, who may or may not have current Canadian citizenship and Sasha Borovik, an Odesa City Council deputy, who had German citizenship when he received his Ukrainian passport.
Artemenko was very widely criticized in February this year after being named in a New York Times article entitled A Back-Channel Plan for Ukraine and Russia, Courtesy of Trump Associates. Artemenko was described as one of US President Donald Trump’s connections in Ukraine, who was proposing a ‘peace plan for Ukraine and Russia’ which would give Trump a way of lifting sanctions against Russia.
According to the report, Artemenko, “who sees himself as a Trump-style leader of a future Ukraine, claims to have evidence — “names of companies, wire transfers” — showing corruption by the Ukrainian president, Petro O. Poroshenko, that could help oust him. And Mr. Artemenko said he had received encouragement for his plans from top aides to Mr. Putin.”
The supposed peace plan was entirely unacceptable to Ukraine, entailing a referendum as to whether Crimea would be “leased to Russia” for 50 or 100 years. The article set Artemenko and all those reportedly involved in a very negative light, and the MP was immediately expelled from his own – ‘Radical’ - Party.
In April, Foreign Policy reported that Artemenko was still peddling his ‘deal’ in the USA.
That report coincided with a statement from Arkady Bushchenko of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and KHPG Director Yevhen Zakharov concerning a search carried out on April 13 of the International Centre for Policy Studies, as part of an investigation into Artemenko’s so-called peace plan. The statement condemned the criminal investigation on suspicion of treason over Artemenko’s remarks and the search carried out of an analytical centre. This was, the authors said, an attack on freedom of expression.
If Artemenko has now been stripped of his citizenship, it would be difficult to not see this as linked to the same expression of his views, to which he has a right, however offensive we may find them.
There also appears to be a question mark as to whether in fact he still has Canadian citizenship.
Borovik has already said that he will be appealing against this apparent decision, about which he learned from Facebook (!). He told Radio Svoboda that he was born a Ukrainian and in Ukraine, and he will fight any attempt to strip him of that citizenship.
He asserts that he came to Ukraine in 2015 as a member of the Ukrainian Diaspora and citizen of Germany, following negotiations between himself, Germany and the Ukrainian government. He was invited to Ukraine, he adds, with this being a political decision.
He notes that he did not take on another country’s citizenship after becoming a Ukrainian citizen, it is simply that he had, and did not renounce, his German passport.
It is to be hoped that Borovik seeks proper legal advice since at the moment he is talking of turning immediately to the European Court of Human Rights. This would guarantee the latter’s rejection of his application since he must exhaust all avenues in Ukraine first.
The reaction of Ukrainian courts in this case is not certain. Ukraine’s Constitution appears quite unequivocal in Article 25, which states that “A citizen of Ukraine shall not be deprived of citizenship and of the right to change citizenship.”
Yes, one of the President’s powers, as per Article 106 of the same Constitution, says that the President “takes decisions on granting citizenship of Ukraine, and terminating such citizenship”. It is much less clear whether this gives the President the right to forcibly strip a person of his citizenship, as in this case.
One of the three grounds given in Article 19 of the Law on Citizenship for a person losing Ukrainian citizenship may apply to Artemenko who “voluntarily took on the citizenship of another country” – namely Canada in 2005. They do not quite seem to apply in the case of Sasha Borovik, who has not taken on any other citizenship since receiving Ukrainian.
Borovik’s case is problematical for yet another reason. If Ukraine is to start stripping people of the citizenship it first offered them when inviting them to come to Ukraine, who will agree to come?
The whole procedure seems dangerously selective since there are other MPs and prominent politicians who have at least dual citizenship.
As reported earlier, there are numerous other reasons why any such actions in stripping people of their citizenship could open a dangerous Pandora’s box. Poroshenko recently tabled Draft law No. 6175 which proposes to automatically strip Ukrainians of their citizenship if they have voluntarily taken on citizenship of another country. The move provoked an outcry both from Ukrainians living in other countries, and many in Ukraine living in areas bordering on Romania or Hungary who often have citizenship of those countries as well as Ukrainian.
Given the specific nature of the reports in western media about Artemenko’s so-called ‘peace plan’, any attempt to present a decree depriving him of his citizenship as somehow normal procedure, is extremely difficult to take seriously. So too is a situation where a person is forced to learn he has ceased to be a Ukrainian citizen from a social network page, and a public statement from the President seems long overdue.