Appeal to Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs over Russia’s ban on human rights defender
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union [UHHRU] and Kharkiv Human Rights Group [KHPG] would ask you to defend the freedom of movement of well-known human rights activist, former dissident and prisoner of conscience, member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group from 1978, member of the UHHRU Supervisory Council and KHPG Coordinator for Historical Research, Vasyl Ovsiyenko.
Around midnight on 22 July in Bryansk on Train No. 42 from Moscow, Russian border guards removed V. Ovsiyenko from the train and sent him back to Ukraine. He was informed that his name was on the list of people banned entry to the Russian Federation.
Vasyl Ovsienko was travelling to the village of Kuchino in the Perm region, to the Museum of the History of Political Repression and Totalitarianism open since 1996 in part of Perm-36, the especially harsh regime labour camp. Mr Ovsiyenko was himself a prisoner in that camp from 1981-1987. It is the camp in which the poet Vasyl Stus died, which played a major part in the deaths of Oleksa Tykyhy, Yury Lytvyn and Valery Marchenko. Other Ukrainian human rights defenders imprisoned there included Levko Lukyanenko, Mykhailo Horyn, Ivan Kandyba, Ivan Sokulsky and Ivan Hel.
Mr Ovsiyenko has been at the Perm-36 Museum several times, the last time being in 2005, and he is a member of its Council. He had been invited by the Director of the Museum to take part in an International Civic Forum. He was planning to take part in the discussions on the pluses and minuses of the collapse of the Soviet Union; the tragedy of the Russian village, and other topics. He was taking books by former prisoners of Kuchino, as well as a rushnyk [an embroidered towel which is traditionally hung around icons, portraits, for example, of Taras Shevchenko] to tie around the Cross which stands on the graves of prisoners.
Such action by the Russian Federation authorities elicits bemusement and outrage. Over a month ago the Presidents of both countries publicly agreed to abolish their blacklists of people not allowed entry. The Ukrainian authorities have allowed many people to enter the country despite their activities on Ukrainian territory.
Vasyl Ovsiyenko has never violated Russian laws, he is not a politician but a researcher into the history of the dissident movement.
Good-neighbourly relations between countries cannot exist where there are such unwarranted actions which violate the individual’s right to freedom of movement especially when the person involved has never committed actions aimed against the Russian Federation.
We call on you to:
Demand an explanation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation regarding the grounds for banning Mr Ovsiyenko’s entry into the country;
Make public the response from the Russian Foreign Minister regarding the grounds;
Demand from the Russian side an official explanation regarding the continued existence of a blacklist of people not permitted to enter the country despite the agreement between the two Presidents.
Please send the answer to UHHRU, 04071, Kyiv, Olehivska St, 36, office 309.
Volodymyr Yavorsky, Executive Director, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair, Kharkiv Human Rights Group