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26.11.2019 | Halya Coynash

Ukrainian journalist in Russian-occupied Crimea fined for negative Facebook post about Putin

   

A Russian-controlled Crimean court has found Ukrainian blogger Yevhen Haivoronsky (Evgeny Gaivoronskyi) guilty of ‘petty hooliganism’ over a Facebook post on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s birthday (7 October). 

On 25 November, ‘judge’ Boris Viktorovich from the de facto Yalta City Court fined Haivoronsky 30 thousand roubles, claiming that he had used a swearword that cannot be printed.  The post, in fact, called Putin ‘khuylo’ or ‘dickhead’.  The text, which is now unavailable, stated the following:

“Healthy people are today outraged by the existence of a balding rat, stealing foreign lands, destroying millions of people. Unhealthy and unfree people today write: “Happy Birthday, Vladimir Vladimirovich”.  

The text goes on to say that his dream will be fulfilled, he will get into the history textbooks, where he will be called “bloody dictator Putin KHUYLO”.  The word, in different, all unflattering contexts, is used many times.

The text ends without it, but with a statement which may well be the reason that this post was singled out: “And Crimea is Ukraine and the main disgrace of this balding creature”.

This was qualified as petty hooliganism under Article 20.1.3 of Russia’s code of administrative offices. 

Haivoronsky’s lawyer, Alexei Ladin pointed out that there was nothing to prove that Haivoronsky was the author of the said text.  Ladin says that the ‘specialist’ questioned during the hearing even admitted that anybody can create a post on the site in question and Ladin asked that the police establish whom the Facebook page belongs to.  All of this was ignored, as was Ladin’s request for the hearing to be adjourned since Haivoronsky himself was unwell.

Ladin first reported this new administrative charge on 31 October while Haivoronsky was serving a 15-day jail sentence on equally questionable charges.  He had been accused of refusing to undergo ‘treatment’ for drug dependence.  He denies any such dependence and the court order for the ‘treatment’ came on the same day that an interview was published in which Haivoronsky called for Crimea “to be saved from Russia”.   That sentence was passed on 22 October by the Russian-controlled Magistrate’s Court in Yalta which ignored the blogger’s complaint that the police had hit his head against their car several times. 

On 6 March 2019, a search was reportedly carried out of Haivoronsky’s home, with documents, computer and electronic devices removed.  All information about that search came from the journalist himself, or from pro-Russian blogger and activist, Ilya Bolshedvorov. The latter said that Haivoronsky had been tested for drugs or alcohol in his body, with nothing found.

It was after this that Haivoronsky gave a number of interviews in which, for example, he said that most Crimeans want “to return to Ukraine”.  He named economic factors as the main reason, but also spoke of repression against ordinary citizens,

By 22 March, in an article entitled “A patriot whom we have lost’, the Crimean newspaper Primechania announced that they would no longer be publishing any texts by Haivoronsky due to his pro-Ukrainian statements.

An interview with Haivoronsky was published by Krym.Realii on 26 March.  This actually begins with Haivoronsky’s words “Crimea must be saved from Russia” and again repeats that Crimeans have understood their mistake and wish to return to Ukraine.

He was detained that same day, and later jailed, once again by a de facto magistrate’s court, for 12 days.  The administrative sentence was over his alleged use of a narcotic substance without a doctor’s prescription.  As well as the 12-day period of administrative arrest, Haivoronsky was ordered to undergo ‘treatment for drug dependence’. He has consistently denied having any such dependence.

Haivoronsky has continued making extremely critical and pro-Ukrainian comments about Crimea.  On his release from the first administrative arrest, for example, he told Krym.Realii that “the FSB say with horror that Crimeans want to return to Ukraine”. 

In response to a fairly blunt question about his former support for the so-called ‘Russian spring’ and specifically Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea, Haivoronsky said that he had repented in the previous interview given hours before his arrest.

In that 26 March interview, he gave a rather blurred account of what appears to have been very active support in 2014 for Russia.  Haivoronsky is from Donetsk, but says that he came to Crimea in 2013. He reportedly worked as press-secretary for the pro-Russian ‘People’s Unity’ organization in Yalta, and in March 2014 collected signatures for the supposed ‘referendum’ on ‘joining Crimea to Russia’. He was for some time editor of two pro-Russian publications, and during his time on the first publication publicly praised Putin

In the 26 March interview, Haivoronsky said that his support for Russia had ended a couple of years earlier, when he understood “that the entire system of state power in Russia is flawed and anti-human” and that “an unhealthy experiment has been carried out on people.”

“Russia can be seen as a kind of mental prison.  People are subjected to constant torrents of harsh, obtuse propaganda from the television”.  All of this prevents people from understanding what is really happening. “However in the end I understood that we had been cynically deceived, that during the time that we had lived behind a specific kind of iron wall, that very many positive changes, reforms had been taking place in Ukraine, and that the current model of Ukraine of much more healthy for society which wants to live harmoniously.  I now read Ukrainian news, bloggers and feel fresh air from them”.

“I believe that Crimea is Ukraine, that Ukraine will return here and justice will triumph.  We need to save Crimea, this is generally a task for mankind.”

“There are very many people here who have become disillusioned with Russia, they dream of returning to Ukraine”.

As reported earlier, Haivoronsky’s previous pro-Russian views, combined with the reasonably ‘mild’ repression (if compared with nine Crimean Tatar civic journalists facing huge sentences on trumped-up ‘terrorism’ charges), have made many wary of his apparent dissidence.  It is, however,  possible that those very public pro-Russian views make the occupation regime loath to give publicity to his current acknowledgement that Crimea is Ukraine and criticism of the Kremlin’s invasion and annexation.  This was essentially why the Soviet regime began using punitive psychiatry against dissidents.  Haivoronsky reported after being released in October that “Russian police officers told me that only a drug addict or psychologically ill person can affirm that ‘Crimea is Ukraine’,”

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