A VIRTUAL CRIME
A court hearing in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, scheduled for 4 October, has quite understandably aroused burning interest in Ukraine and to a lesser extent in Russia. Most disturbingly, it appears to have been ignored throughout the rest of the world.
Should this perceived imbalance of zones of interest seem curious, so is the rest of the murky tale.
Taras Zelenyak, a 36-year-old resident of Novosibirsk of Ukrainian descent is charged under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code (“inciting inter-ethnic enmity”).
It is not his Ukrainian roots which have spurred such animated discussion in Ukraine, but the fact that the utterances in question were part of a forum discussion on a Ukrainian website (www,proua.com). It was Zelenyaks Russian provider who (apparently) felt the need to inform the Federal Security Service [FSB] about the statements of (allegedly) one of its clients. This occurred after a new forum participant [4 messages in total before he disappeared from the scene] on a Novosibirsk site wrote: “I have never seen such pathological hatred to Russia and the Russian people. I find it disgusting to quote such utterances, but am forced to ..”.
Should you be experiencing a strange feeling of déjà vu you are not alone. There are a number of Soviet echoes in this story.- the concerned (revolted!) member of the public, the information passed quietly to “competent organs”, etc.
However, before also being compelled to produce the utterances in question, it would be wise to focus on two or three crucial differences. All revolve around the virtual nature of this case. Somebody wrote on a discussion forum of a Ukrainian website. Somebody appeared on another website just long enough to express outrage and horror, then dissolve into some virtual ether. A computer was removed from Zelenyaks flat which, lo and behold, contained each of these utterances (some answers of literally a few words) made a year earlier on the Ukrainian site. Not to mention an array of utterances which Zelenyak is denying authorship of, and which do seem more than unusually erratic if all the work of one person.
What cannot be dismissed as virtual is a man facing a two-year prison sentence, as well as the likely repercussions of a case involving freedom to express ones opinions on an Internet forum – regardless of the forums geographical location.
So what were the opinions? Given the dispute over authorship, we will stay with the username. A certain Novosibirsk-2 (or certain individuals under that username) mostly during a discussion about Ichkeria [Chechnya], made extremely unflattering remarks about Russia. These included two derogatory, but by no means obscene, Ukrainian words for Russians, and the following remarks. I can quote them freely here as they all remain on full view exactly where they were first posted, as well as in the forum entries from the outraged member of the public, this also arousing bemusement given the nature of the charges*.
about Russians in Chechnya: : “its obviously an example of how the occupiers justify themselves, cannon fodder, defend your country – all simple and understandable.”
“Well resettle all the “ruskies” [the Ukrainian term is more derogatory] on new land, and Id even be ready to give them a kick up the arse on their way”.
About Holodomor – the artificially caused Famine in Ukraine which took the lives of up to 8 million people “Well live to see the Hague Tribunal try this putrid nation”.
Vulgar, bad taste, entirely over the top in places, but surely questionable whether such utterances warrant charges under Article 282. The said Article covers:: “Actions aimed at arousing ethnic, racial or religious enmity, denigrating national dignity, or propagating ideas of uniqueness, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the grounds of religion, ethnic or racial origin, if these actions are committed in public or with the use of the mass media”.
I personally find the mention of the Hague Tribunal quite promising. The skinheads who are terrorising, and with depressing regularity murdering people whose ethnic origin annoys them in Russia do not, I think, have such law-abiding objectives. Russia is teeming with websites full of lies, spitting hatred and entirely specific proposals regarding people of different ethnic, racial and religious groups, people with different sexual orientation, etc. Given the number of lives which have already been lost, including those of children, murdered for their ethnic origin, the choice of target in this present case seems highly dubious.
In light of the disturbing echoes of Soviet days in this case, as well as of the undoubted legal questions it raises, another aspect of those less than democratic days seems called for.
PLEASE GIVE MAXIMUM COVERAGE TO THIS CASE. Show the authorities in the Russian Federation that such actions are under the scrutiny of the world community and must be seen to be well-founded, legitimate, and those necessary in a democratic country.
* The websites mentioned are: http://phorum.proua.com/archive/read.php?1,139460,page=1 , http://phorum.proua.com/archive/read.php?1,139460,page= 3 andhttp://forum.academ.org/index.php?showtopic=31250&st=0
Please press the link below for an appeal / petition to the Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson and some more information