Security Service picketed by opponents of a return to 1937


A demonstration was held on 15 September outside the central office of the Security Service [SBU] to protest against persecution of historian Ruslan Zabily who works with declassified documents. The protesters demanded the dismissal of the management of the SBU and that the process of declassified documents about the repressions and liberation movement in Ukraine, stopped by the new regime, be resumed.

The most active of the protesters demanding that they be arrested as the “third party” since they wanted to receive the documents which Zabily had been carrying (the SBU have claimed that he was trying to pass them to a “third party”).

More than 500 people gathered, carried national symbols and flags of right-wing political parties. There were a number of well-known former political prisoners and dissidents including Levko Lukyanenko, Stepan Khmara and Vasyl Ovsiyenko.

Banners read “Zabily was carrying documents for me”; “The SBU is a branch of the FSB [Russian Security Service”; “Khoroshkovsky [Head of the SBU] – take up cosmetology”; “This is the KGB. It bites and stinks”.

One of the organizers of the demonstration, former Head of the SBU Central Archive, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, says that the Ukrainian historians working with archival documents stand accused of divulging State secrets unlawfully.

“Some material in the SBU archive may be secret, however in no way historical documents. If we speak of the archive where Ruslan Zabily worked, hundreds of other Ukrainian and foreign historians work there, so there can’t be any secret documents. What is in question is solely documents of the Cheka or NKVD which tell of the repressions in Soviet Ukraine and the fight against them”.

Protest: “Is this Volodymyrska St or Lubyanka?”

35-year old Lviv historian and Director of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho”, Ruslan Zabily was detained by SBU officers on 9 September. He says that after an interrogation lasting many hours, his laptop and two hard disks with archival material declassified over recent years were removed.

Volodymyr Vyatrovych assumes that the SBU officers who removed the archival data simply don’t understand what constitutes a state secret, and offers to organize a seminar for them on the subject.

Can you count the entire Ukrainian nation as a “third party”?

Most of the demonstrators, however, are convinced that the SBU management is in this way, on the orders of the regime, deliberately putting pressure on historians researching the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists [OUN], Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA] and other liberation movements fighting the Soviet regime. This is the view of Oksana Zabuzhko, the well-known writer who took part in the demonstration: “The former chief customs officers instead of a list of goods not allowed into the country has given his subordinates a chekist instruction book. However they are declaring war not only against the dead. They are declaring war against us. This is our history, our families, this is the memory of each Ukrainian. Regardless of which side they were on”.

The most active of the demonstrators sat down right under the SBU doors and chanted “Arrest us”. They maintain that the information which Zabily was supposedly carrying for “third parties” was addressed to the entire Ukrainian nation.

The SBU promise to look at the documents and return them

SBU spokesperson stated at a briefing that the statements made at the demonstration were not correct.

“The position of the SBU with regard to reinstating historical justice and honouring the victims of repression remains unchanged. The documents removed are State property and they will in no way be lost. Experienced specialists are working with them. The documents will be returned in the same condition that they were taken in”.

The SBU states that following Zabily’s detention, a criminal investigation was initiated on charges of attempting to pass information containing state secrets to third parties.

Attempts to once again classify archival documents might not have happened if former President Yushchenko had completed this task, Vakhtang Kipiani, journalist and specialist on issues of reinstatement of historical memory, is convinced.

“The key point is that Yushchenko is all to blame. If he had transferred the archive of essentially historical documents from SBU jurisdiction to, say, the Institute for National Remembrance or an other, non-enforcement, institution, there would not be any problems over repeated classification of this information.

At the same time he predicts that any attempt by the authorities to put pressure on historians and once again classify documents on the liberation movement will be doomed to failure.

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