Journalist taken to court over article on Holodomor


The good news in this dispute over an article denying that Holodomor was an act of genocide is that lawyers are certain the civil suit brought by a local businessman against the author has no chance of success. The bad news is that it has happened at all.

The newspaper “Sevodnya” [“Today”] reports that on 21 January the first court case will be heard against a person who publicly expressed doubt that Holodomor 1932-1933 was genocide of the Ukrainian people. The suit has been brought against Sergei Shvedko, Chief Editor of the district newspaper “Rodnoye Priyapovye”, which is published in Novoyazovsk (Donetsk region). On 25 November 2009, he published an article entitled “Holodomor strides around the country” and was taken to court over it by Vasyl Kovalenko, owner of a business called “Vlasko” and the Head of the district branch of the political party “Our Ukraine” [headed by President Yushchenko].

Mr Shvedko told “Sevodnya” that he had not placed in question either the fact of Holodomor 1932-1933, nor that it had been a crime of the regime. However he did not agree that Holodomor should be classified as genocide of Ukrainians. “That contradicts the definition of this concept adopted by the UN. After all it was not only Ukrainians, but Russians, Kazakhis and other peoples of the USSR who died of famine. I don’t like the way Yushchenko and the authorities savour naturalistic details of that nightmare and exaggerate the number of victims.”  He is prepared to defend his position in court, and considers that he acted in accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech.

Vasyl Kovalenko is asking that the court find Shvedko’s publication an unlawful act aimed at denigrating Ukrainians’ dignity, dishonouring of the memory of the victims of Holodomor and a public denial of Holodomor as genocide of Ukrainians. He is also demanding a retraction of the article from the newspaper. He states that this is based on Article 1 of the Law on Holodomor 1932-1933 which declares the Famine genocide, and Article 2 “which says that denial of  Holodomor as genocide is an unlawful act.”

Sevodnya points out that Article 2 names denial of the fact of Holodomor unlawful, not denial that it was genocide.  It says that the lawyers it spoke with believe there is no chance that Kovalenko will win the case since Shvedko does not place the events in question, but does not agree with its definition, this being a matter of opinion.

From a report at

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