06.08.2010 | Vasyl Ovsiyenko

Having received no answer …


Having received neither explanation, nor apology from the Russian Federation Ambassador in Ukraine, Mikhail Zurabov, as to why he was not allowed into Russia, human rights defender Vasyl Ovsienko addressed this statement to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Dear Minister,

At midnight from 22 to 23 July, 2010, in Bryansk, Russian border guards removed me from Train No. 42 heading for Moscow, and sent me back to Ukraine. My name turned out to be on a list of people banned from entering the RF.

I was travelling to the village of Kuchyno in the Perm region, where I was imprisoned in the special regime labour camp VS-389/36. There is now a world-known Museum of the History of Political Repression and Totalitarianism “Perm-36”. The Director of the Museum had invited me to take part in an International Civic Forum “Pilorama-2010” [the word refers to a power saw bench  – translator). I was hoping to meet with former Soviet political prisoners, to light a candle at the place where they buried Yury Lytvyn, Ishkhan Mkrtchyan, Vasyl Stus and others who died there.

The media have reported that Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs approached their Russian counterpart seeking an explanation for why I was refused entry. There was a telephone call on this matter between the Head of Ukraine’s MFA Konstantin Hryshchenko and the Acting Head of Russia’s MFA Andrei Denisov. It is reported that this issue was discussed at a meeting between Ukraine’s Ambassador to Russia and the leadership of the Russian foreign policy department. And that the Russian side at a high level expressed regret over the matter. Ukraine’s MFA Press Secretary, Oleksandr Dikusarov, added “We consider the unfortunate incident closed”.

I do not consider the incident closed and would ask you, Minister, to explain who, when and on what grounds put my main on your blacklist?

After all this occurred a mere two weeks after the Department for information processing and press of the Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had taken the decision on a bilateral basis to abandon the practice of so called blacklists, this reflecting the new nature of relations between Moscow and Kyiv.

In my view, the “innovation” lies purely in the fact that previously they took me into Russia under convoy, and now they don’t let me visit my own prison.

And the “mutual” nature is clearly in the fact that before this Ukraine allowed entry of Deputy of the Russian State Duma Konstantin Zatulin and the Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov who are calling for the city of Sevastopol and the entire Crimea to be handed over to Russia, and Russian citizen Gundyaev – Patriarch Kyril – openly preaches in Ukraine the “unity of the Russian world”. That is, they call for a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity, and nobody expels them from Ukraine.

I am not a politician. I work in the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, collect and publish material about Soviet political prisoners. And also about those responsible for punitive measures. All that I write can be read here:

Perhaps my writings were the reason for this ban? After all there have never been any incidents in Russia. In 2005 I went to the Perm-36 Museum, as well as to Solovky and to the Sandarmokh Clearing in Karelia, where many political prisoners were shot. Then in 2006 I was in Moscow for the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Moscow Helsinki Group, now again persecuted in Russia.

Minister, I would ask you to explain what I have done wrong before Russia which I worked for over 10 years of captivity.

Please relieve me of my doubts, regarding whether President Medvedev spoke the truth when he said that blacklists had been abolished, if after my incident a Danish citizen, Ms Mari Bastaszewski, a photographer, who works on disappearances in the Caucuses, was on 28 July also refused entry to Russia.

So that citizens of other countries don’t check in the Russian MFA to find out if they’re on the blacklist, and don’t waste time and money on preparing for trips to Russia, perhaps it would be a good idea to publish these blacklists?

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