war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.


It once again depends on us

Venal journalists making television stories to order sully us all no less than censorship three years ago. Like then, it is in our hands. Presenters can refuse to read a story, editors – to prepare it for air, journalists – to film footage or prepare commentaries, where they know that they will be used for paid stories.

At present, as for so long then, it is only the isolated few who take this stand. And even then not all the time.  And the infection is spreading just like in 2002.  As if 2004 never happened.

Straight after that time it felt as though journalism to order was a relic of a dark age. When we were planning “It’s better not to lie”* in 2005, it was aimed exclusively at future journalists so that they didn’t repeat our mistakes. We ourselves were convinced that our generation would no longer take part in that. We will be carrying on our courses on fighting pressure for students of journalists for another two years. Yet maybe it’s time to think about learning ourselves? 

People I know in various faction headquarters say that almost everybody is selling their services. They say even “Chas” [“Time”] on my Channel 5. I would be prepared to stake my flat to prove that that’s a lie since I personally plan the topics, features and guests, together with Katya Lebedeva (just as Sviat Tseholko during his week). But I’m not saying this to stress who’s untainted and who’s not, but so that we understand that writing television features to order sullies all of us, no less than censorship three years ago.

Probably even more. The instructions given by Viktor Medvedchuk’s team [the President’s Administration] were overtly black and white, like all absolute propaganda. Those who are now commissioning features about their party congresses or invitations for their party leaders to have studio interviews are more subtle. They are aimed not so much at concealing the truth, or open defamation, but at highlighting this or that detail.

And they dirty us all. When a politician hears a hard-hitting question, he is convinced that his competitors paid for it. I understand why he thinks that way when people tell me what money the various faction headquarters are now spending on media “services”.  It’s not what politicians think that is important, but the fact that journalism to order, like censorship, is the enemy of every journalist, even if he or she works honestly. It undermines faith in the media as a whole and in each individual media employee. On Monday, I couldn’t stand it any longer and began explaining to Oleksandr Moroz [leader of the Socialist Party, Speaker of Parliament for the coalition] that Petro Poroshenko [owner of the channel and a member of the Nasha Ukraina Bloc] does not write the questions I ask and doesn’t determine who I ask them to. Moroz didn’t argue but it was obvious that he didn’t believe me. Even worse is that on Tuesday I had to explain that my programme was not “for sale” to Natalya Ligachova [Chief Editor of Telekritika”] – a partner in the struggle from 2004!

Our lack of trust in one another is not the biggest problem. The biggest is obvious, but we are again not paying attention to it. Half of the truth is the same as a lie! Ukrainians now (thank God) are living in conditions where they have a choice in all parts of their life and dishonest adjustments of focus distort this choice. As they did before.

Of course it’s possible to react like then. To express disgruntlement behind the scenes, to comfort yourself with the thought that others sell their services more, or to say “But what can I do?”/ However 2004 clearly showed what presenters, editors and journalists really can do.



*  More information about this excellent initiative can be found at:  and at the links on that page


Politics and human rights

Constitutional players in what is no game

The Constitution being one of those immortal documents Ukrainian politicians like to change, but are loath to adhere to (or read), the topic of constitutional amendments was much, if variously, talked about during the recent election campaign.  The need for changes is one of those few subjects of late on which politicians and civic society see eye to eye. 

An initiative (or more cautiously, plans for such) announced by the Deputy Head of the President’s Secretariat Marina Staniychuk has therefore been greeted with interest and a number of specific suggestions by representatives of Ukraine’s civic society. 

Ms Staniychuk announced that President Yushchenko was planning to initiate the drawing up of a new version of the Constitution in the first half of 2008, with a National Constitutional Council being created for this purpose. She explained that the Council would be headed by the President and would consist of 75-100 people who “represent all institutions of civic society”.  As aptly pointed out by Oleksandr Severyn, legal consultant for the “Maidan” Alliance*, Ms Staniychuk’s specification of what such institutions of civic society are, including as it does, “representatives of all political factions” and “government figures” raises some eyebrows. 

As indeed should the number of members. Now, truly representative would be the somewhat unwieldy figure of 48 million. 100 is much more manageable from the point of view of catering, but not necessarily with regard to consensus.  Oleksandr Severyn speaks of the constitutional boat endeavouring to manoeuvre between the two legendary monsters Scylla and Charybdis.  He sees the dangers as being on the one hand that the whole initiative will be hijacked by bureaucrats who will squeeze it into what they consider acceptable form. An equally worrying risk is that it will remain a body which is politely listened to and ignored while the government and “representatives of all political factions” happily make what amendments they please to the Constitution.

Not surprisingly, representatives of that self-same civic society have no desire to toss a coin over these two possibilities. Both are unacceptable.

They are therefore calling for real public participation in the process of drawing up the new version of the Ukrainian Constitution, especially with regard to provisions on human rights and civil liberties, and mechanisms for their protection.

In a statement issued in September, representatives of civic society stressed the importance of the Constitution for all Ukrainians and therefore for impossibility of leaving the constitutional process to politicians. They called for the creation of a Constitutional Assembly which would draw up a document to then be extensively discussed and voted on in a national referendum (see the link below ).

The need is just as burning now and civic society will therefore be doing their utmost to ensure that:

  1. the President’s Decree provides for real mechanisms enabling the Council to work properly and effectively and to produce not just fine words, but an actual draft ready for public discussion;
  2. the members of the Council are not those most easily manipulated or ignored, but respected members of civic society with knowledge of constitutional law, of human rights issues and or undoubted moral stature.

All constructive efforts at ensuring that the Ukrainian Constitution becomes the Main Law of a law-based democracy in which human rights and fundamental freedoms are fully protected will receive the total and active support of Ukrainian civic society and must be warmly welcomed. (in Ukrainian)

Are human rights a priority in the European neighbourhood policy?

An invitation arrived from the European Commission to a conference Working together-strengthening the European Neighbourhood. I didn’t want to go, it’s not my field. But colleagues convinced me that it was necessary, that I needed to talk about the importance of human rights, about the need for funding of human rights projects. So I went.

Brussels proved to be a compact, beautiful old city with narrow picturesque streets, and a cheerful beer festival on the central square near the City Hall. There were the sounds and sights of the: Latin Quarter with its wonderful street musicians playing classical music and craftsmen selling their original works, smiling, confident and friendly Flemish people who could have come straight out of a Rembrandt painting. A city you could live in.

However the conference was a real disappointment, but I’ll start from the beginning..

There was a big hall, like an amphitheatre, divided into two parts. At the front there were officials from the European Commission, representatives of OSCE, the Council of Europe, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of member states of the EU, 15 old and 12 new, other European, Asian and African countries taking part in the neighbourhood policy. The back part seated representatives on nongovernmental organizations and journalists, with several people from each neighbouring country and many EU states.

It all began with a plenary session addressed by the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso, and the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrera-Waldner, then  Ministers of Foreign Affairs  from a number of EU and neighbouring states. The Azerbaijani Minister spoke of occupation of part of their territory by Armenia, the Palestinian Minister spitting hatred denounced Israel, used up to slots of five minutes, and couldn’t stop. The Ministers of Western European countries spoke of how the neighbourhood policy needed to be differentiated, and that this didn’t mean discrimination. One had the feeling however that most of all they were worried about energy problems, and the possible lack of sources of energy. The Belarusian Minister called for economic integration. I listened and listened and understood less and less of what the sense of this policy was.  How can you unite within one framework such totally different countries? And why invite us to listen to ministers?

It was repeatedly stated that Ukraine and Morocco were the best in implementing their action plans within the framework of the good neighbourhood policy. I don’t know about Morocco, but if Ukraine is one of the best, then what does that say about the others? For example, part 2.1 “Political dialogue on reform” of the EU-Ukraine Action Plan has not been implemented over virtually two and a half years. Nonetheless, Morocco and Ukraine are much closer to the EU than other neighbouring countries. It’s unclear what the European Commission was governed by when it categorized the Balkan states as candidates for EU membership, and Ukraine and Moldova as neighbouring states.  The Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs stressed that dialogue needed to be extended between the EU and Ukraine and Moldova and the neighbourhood policy should be a parallel instrument.  And what about Ukraine? Our government completely ignored the conference. It was addressed at the end by Roman Shpek, Ukraine’s Representative at the EU who said that Ukraine preferred bilateral relations. He referred to President Yushchenko who said that European Neighbourhood Policy should not be viewed as enough for Ukraine, and that another agreement was needed envisaging the prospect of EU membership.

After lunch there were three different workshops “Governance and Stability”, “Connecting neighbours” and “Connecting the EU and neighbours”. I was down for one that turned out to be only about investment projects, and another was full, so with my address on human rights I ended up in the workshop on “Connecting neighbours”. Here the difference between declarations and reality was even more palpable. After a woman from Belarus spoke on the difference in cultural code between East and West, I asked for the floor. . I was last to speak and this is what I said.

I listened to addresses given at the plenary session, speeches by Ministers of Foreign Affairs and kept waiting for when they would begin talking about human rights as the basis on which to build European neighbourhood policy. But I didn’t hear it. People spoke of security, stability, economic integration, energy issues, the change in the climate, but there wasn’t a word about freedom as the values and priority of neighbourhood policy, nor about human rights. One has the impressions that Europeans are most concerned about energy issues.

I would like to remind you that in the 1970s and 80s the Helsinki movement succeeded in making human rights an important aspect of international politics.  This resulted in the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Velvet Revolution in countries of Eastern and Central Europe and the creation of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe which later became OSCE.  Alas, these achievements have been lost. The European Union is prepared to talk about economic integration, for example, with Belarus, effectively not paying attention to the fact that almost all nongovernmental organizations have been closed down in that country, and journalists are imprisoned for carrying out their professional duties.

I believe that if the European Union does not make human rights observance a condition for participation in the European neighbourhood policy, and the human rights situation is not properly monitored, this policy is doomed to failure. In my view, our conference should have been clearly and unequivocally stated that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the basis on which this neighbourhood policy is based.

Colleagues from nongovernmental organizations responded with approval while the European Commission officials sat with sour expressions. However at the plenary session, where the work from these workshops was summarized, the idea about observance of human rights as the guarantee of success for the neighbourhood policy was mentioned. I proved to have not been alone, with a few people in the Governance and Stability workshop having said basically the same thing – speaking of the development of civic society as the priority for this policy.

I flew back thinking about how good the comparison is between human rights and the immune system. A healthy society doesn’t even suspect that this immune system is protecting it. Our unhealthy society doesn’t yet know about this and continues thinking about where to obtain the necessary medicine. It would seem, however, that it is beginning to understand that the immune system needs to be strengthened. It would be good if the European Commission realized this!

On Constitutional Reforms

Statement from civic organizations, public figures, and members of the media

There is an urgent need for the mistakes made in Ukraine’s constitutional development to be rectified. Since the beginning of the election campaign various political factions have put forward different proposals for constitutional reforms. They cover both varying relations regarding the rights and powers of the authorities, and different ways of introducing amendments to the Constitution. There has even been the proposal to draw up an entirely new document.

For this reason civic organizations and their leaders from most Ukrainian regions wish to warn political factions and the authorities that the creation of a new Constitution cannot be a matter for one party alone, or for those people who have made politics their profession or occupation. Ukraine needs a new public contract between citizens, enshrined in a new version of the Constitution.

A public contract as a comprehensive outline of the principles and rules for coexistence in society is a matter for civic society itself. The role of the government should be to ensure the coordination, protection and implementation of the public interest. The Constitution must receive the endorsement of civic society which those members of society who take on political functions must comply with.

We therefore state:

  1. It is the citizens of Ukraine who must be the main players in the constitutional process since they are effectively the founders of their own State. In this role they must develop rules for their own self-organization, the organization of a system of governance and conditions for the employment and functioning of the system’s managers, i.e. politicians.
  2. The newly-elected Verkhovna Rada in its sixth term should pass only those changes to the Constitution which allow for the calling of a founding meeting of a Constitutional Assembly for adopting a new Ukrainian Constitution.
  3. The delegates of the Constitutional Assembly should be elected only by Ukrainian citizens and not have the right to stand for any electoral office for the next 10 years. They will thus draw up a Constitution not for themselves or for their parties, but for the common good.
  4. The Constitution drawn up by the Constitutional Assembly should, after extensive public discussion, be put to a national referendum of direct action. This will need to be followed by regular elections to local and central government.

Any attempts to impose an artificial party-coalition constitution on society by parliamentary decision, to carry out an advisory questionnaire-type referendum with equivocal questions, or to put to the national vote any text drawn up only by constitutional lawyers are measures aimed at manipulating public opinion and will inevitably lead to new public conflict. This will result in an ineffective Constitution since it will not be recognized by a part of society and will be a temporary measures since it will nonetheless be necessary to return to the starting point in order to ensure that Ukraine moves forward.


1. Committee on Monitoring Press Freedom in the Crimea
2.  Donetsk Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine
3. Kirovohrad Association “Civic Initiative”
4. Independent Trade Union of Miners of the Barakov Mine in Krasnodon
5. Luhansk Regional civic human rights women’s organization “Chaika”
6. Ukrainian cultural independent journal “J”
7. Association of taxpayers of the Lviv region
8. Director for the Laboratory of Social Research of the Centre for the Support of Private Initiative, Lviv

9. Lviv Civic Forum

10. “Lviv Newspaper”
11. League of Women Voters 50/50, Lviv
12. Lviv Regional Branch of the All-Ukrainian Project in Support of Doctors’ Rights
13. Lviv Regional Branch of the Civic Organization “Ukrainian Experts”

14. Association of Medical Workers’ Trade Unions in the Lviv Region

15. Ukrainian Cultural Movement

16. Society of Residential Owners, Lviv
17.Intellectual-Professional Forum, Lviv
18. Association of Children’s Environmental Groups “Dovkillya” [“Environment”], Lviv

19. All-Ukrainian Civic Organization “Successful Ukraine”
20. Institute of Contemporary Issues in Ukraine, Kyiv
21. Newspaper “Contrast”, Kyiv
22. Newspaper “Information Bulletin”, Kremenchug
23. NGO “For the rights of each of us” (Kremenchug)
24. Sumy Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine
25. Konotop Society of Consumers and Taxpayers “Hidnist” [“Dignity”], ( Konotop, Sumy Region)
26. Sumy City Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine
27. Sumy Regional Committee of Youth Organizations
28. Sumy Regional Organization “Sumy Press Club”

29. Sumy Civic and Political Centre “Open Society”

30. Environmental-Humanitarian Association "Zeleny svit" [“Green World”]

31. Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

32. Kharkiv Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine

33. Kharkiv Human Rights Organization “Prava ludyny” [“Human Rights”

 34. Kherson Regional Fund for Charity and Health
35. Newspaper “Vhoru” [“Upwards”], Kherson
36. Kherson civic organization “Rozvytok” [“Development”]
37. Civic Organization “M’ART” [Youth Alternative]
38. Luhansk Regional Civic Organization “Our Choice”


The statement has, at present, been signed by a further 40-50 individuals, with a site for adding ones own signature provided at:

Implementation of European Law

Ukraine’s new European Court Judge – politician, public official or lawyer?

A “Who’s who in Ukraine” may not seem a guaranteed top seller, except maybe in the detective novel genre, but one wonders who would be intrepid enough to write it.  In recent days Hanne Severinsen, PACE Rapporteur expressed concern over the merging of business and politics in Ukraine.  Her concern is well-founded and shared.

Other spheres are, however, also not untouched. Human rights organizations have long warned that the divide between different branches of power in the country is becoming increasingly blurred. The degree to which all aspects of Ukrainian life, and most worryingly, the judiciary, have become politicized is undermining Ukraine’s development as a law-based society.  

It is no accident that the most sober of us can blink in bemusement as we gaze on the masquerade which goes by the name of Ukrainian reality.  The mask is removed and we have a Human Rights Ombudsperson, then lo and behold, it reveals an MP. Or what about the bewilderingly deft changes in shade – orange, blue … and what next? 

It is precisely this concern over what could come next which has prompted this text.  What can we expect when seemingly standard and uncontroversial entries on CVs or the behaviour of different public bodies suddenly leave us entirely at a loss to know what to write?

The most important judicial body in the land – the Constitutional Court – is at present almost entirely discredited, and any judgments it now issues are likely to be seen as political and rejected by those whose political tastes differ.  Since the President issued his first Decree dissolving parliament, there have been a number of court rulings, some of them flagrantly overstepping their authority, and all with a clear political bent.

All of this is seriously undermining people’s confidence in the rule of law.  It is an extremely disturbing development which requires separate and urgent attention. Of immediate concern to us here is the question of whether a prominent politician can go on to become a judge, and not just any judge, but a Judge of the European Court of Human Rights [hereafter the European Court].*  

We would first stress that none of us wishes to deny any person their democratic right to stand for electoral office.  We would, however, respectfully remind all members of the judiciary, the present Human Rights Ombudsperson, and many others, that life is not a masquerade ball, and you must not expect to be able to alternate masks as the mood takes you. 

In one specific case we see a rather different scenario where one of the candidates for the undoubtedly vital position of European Court Judge is a politician – Serhiy Holovaty who is presently seeking re-election as National Deputy [MP]. .

We would in no way wish to criticize Mr Holovaty or in any way question his professional ability as a lawyer. We are, nonetheless, convinced that it would be entirely inappropriate for Ukraine to be represented at the European Court by a politician. 

Recent events in Ukraine crystallize our doubts. The very nature of politics is, for better or worse, extremely fluid and often strongly influenced by issues of expediency.  An individual politician may be constrained by his or her political faction or sometimes by other factors. 

Mr Holovaty, for example, made certain decisions in April this year which would appear to have been at least partially influenced by his political assessment of the unfolding situation.  He has been a politician since before Independence, being in his own words expelled from the Communist Party for supporting an anti-communist party in 1991.  He had been a Minister of Justice in 2005, and was a member of “Nasha Ukraina” [Our Ukraine] when, in April 2007 President Yushchenko issued his Decree dissolving parliament.  Mr Holovaty attended the session in the Verkhovna Rada which refused to comply with this Decree.  Under the circumstances it seems appropriate to quote his words spoken during the dissolved parliament’s session on 5 April.

S.P. Holovaty [Nasha Ukraina] spoke of the possible arrest of some deputies on the instruction of the President’s Secretariat. He said that “from more than reliable sources I have learned that the President’s Secretariat has given the Supreme Court instructions to study the legal situation: on what grounds it will be possible to begin arresting National Deputies” …. “I’m ready to remain here under the concrete and glass ruins, under Yushchenko’s tanks, to defend the Ukrainian Constitution!” **

Mr Holovaty did not name his “more than reliable sources”.  As we know, there were no tanks, no arrests and no bloodshed.  We would suggest that such remarks in an undoubtedly volatile situation were at very least irresponsible.

Mr Holovaty is presently standing for election in the candidate list for the Party of the Regions, having been expelled from Nasha Ukraina. This is his political decision, and we would not venture to question his right to take such decisions. It is for the voters to give their assessment as to who and which political factions best represent their interests.

The problem for us is that, as mentioned, Serhiy Holovaty is also one of the three candidates for the position of Judge of the European Court of Human Rights. 

We cannot overstate the enormous significance for Ukraine of this Court.  Its judgments are vital not only for redressing the violated rights of individual Ukrainian nationals, but for highlighting shortcomings in Ukrainian legislation and judicial practice which need to be rectified.  The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has been actively involved in training and other work aimed at implementing and developing awareness among Ukrainian judges of European Court judgments. We can already cite positive and cheering examples of where European Court case law has been applied in domestic courts.

All of this is vital for the development of a law-based democratic society, and we are therefore extremely concerned to ensure that the Court continues to enjoy the trust and respect not only of the human rights community in Ukraine, but of the wider Ukrainian public.  

We would wish Serhiy Holovaty well in his political career but respectfully suggest that the further development of a law-based and human rights oriented society in Ukraine can best be facilitated by choosing the candidate who has no connection with either politics or public office in Ukraine.

*  The election of a new Judge from Ukraine will take place at a PACE session in early October.  Ukraine has put forward three candidates: politician Serhiy Holovaty; Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Vasyl Marmazov and bar lawyer and legal secretary to the European Court Anna Yudkivska. 


The right to life

Georgy Gongadze and other journalists remembered in Kyiv

For the third year in a row, a memorial action was held on the capital’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] on 16 September, marking the day of Georgy Gongadze’s disappearance in 2000. It was once again an event organized not by political parties or civic organizations, but by ordinary individuals.  They were both those who had known Georgy personally and those who honour his memory and that of other journalists and their contribution to freedom of speech in Ukraine.

As we stressed here, all those attending were asked to refrain from any form of campaigning and to avoid party regalia.

From morning, two huge banners stood unfurled, one across Khreschatyk St reading “Ukraine, are you not ashamed?” and the other “Georgy, we haven’t forgotten you” with the silhouette image the whole world now knows. There were Ukrainian flags on each side of the banners with black ribbons.

Candles were also used to form the words “GIYA” [as his friends called Georgy] and “We haven’t forgotten”. 

There were no speakers, and no stage for public addresses. Those who wanted to address the gathering were politely told that this was not the occasion for such speeches. Any present who were equally politely asked to remove their party regalia did so without protest.

Against a background of solemn music, the story was recounted of the fates of those journalists who had not sold out but had dared to tell the truth and carry out their duty to inform their fellow citizens.

The names of all journalists killed were then read out. For each journalist a bell tolled and a person came out from behind the banner and placed a candle with a black band of mourning attached, with the name of the journalist etched in red letters.

This was followed by an account of Georgy Gongadze’s story and an excerpt from the television programme “Epicentre” from 1999 in which Georgy put questions to the then President Leonid Kuchma which are likely to have been the reason for his abduction and murder.

The gathering ended with seven minutes silence, to mark the number of years since Georgy Gongadze’s disappearance.

This year the organizers decided not to go to the President’s Secretariat or the Prosecutor General’s building since they see no political will or wish by those in power from any political shade to bring the investigation into Georgy Gongadze’s killing to its conclusion.

Therefore, as after his disappearance, it is the public who must save Ukraine’s reputation. It is they who must feel shame that this prominent case being followed by the whole world remains without conclusion. .

Based on an account from

The right to a fair trial

Criminal liability for non-enforcement of court rulings is nonsense

KHPG legal expert and member of the Coordinating Council attached to the Ministry of Justice on Reforming the System of Legal Aid, Arkady Bushchenko has described the proposal from the Ministry, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, to impose such liability as idiotic.

“From the point of view of criminal law, even liability for escaping from prison is questionable since prisons are created to hold people who don’t want to be there. I think establishing such liability is a means of transferring the problem from the patient to a person in good health. There is a system for mandatory enforcement of rulings which makes it possible to execute them against the wishes of the person who has received the order. It needs to work well and a lot of work is needed to achieve that, including from the Ministry of Justice”.

On 6 September the Ministry of Justice came out with a proposal to introduce criminal liability for individuals who persistently fail to carry out court rulings. The relevant draft law, drawn up by the Ministry, was approved by a session of the Cabinet of Ministers. According to the Minister of Justice O. Lavrynovych, the legislative initiative is based on the need to fundamentally change the public’s attitude to the problem of non-implementation of court rulings since there are thousands of such cases each year in Ukraine.

Freedom of expression

Questions asked over forced resignation of television journalist

The Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union and the Institute of Mass Information are demanding an explanation over the forced resignation of a journalist from TV Channel 5 Ihor Slisarenko. They understand that on Saturday 1 September, he was forced to write a letter of resignation after he gave information during a broadcast about the school where President Yushchenko’s children are studying and mentioned that the school fees are 12 thousand US dollars per annum.

Ihor Slisarenko was told that he should resign since he had “lost the management’s trust”.

The statement by the Trade Union and IMI says that this incident is a reminder of the times of strict censorship on television as in 2004, and that they are therefore demanding an explanation from the television management.

They also call on the President’s Secretariat to make a statement as soon as possible giving their reaction since the news which led to this situation involved the President’s family.

Ihor Slisarenko had worked on Channel 5 since April 2004 and for three and a half years had been a news presenter.

The statement is signed by the Head of the Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union, Mykhailyna Skoryk and the Director of the Institute of Mass Information, Victoria Syumar.

Freedom of peaceful assembly

Legal assistance for NGOs

A project has been launched to provide legal advice on State registration and relations between civic organizations, religious organizations, trade unions, charities and regulatory bodies. It is being run by the Association for Ukrainian-Polish Cooperation on Legal Education, in partnership with the “Our Law” Centre and the Internet publication “Jurisprudence online”. The project is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation.

As we have reported here, the process of registration is by no means simple, and this legal assistance will doubtless be much appreciated.  Lawyers will give consultations on the procedure for registration, on the legal regulations for the activities of such organizations. They will also provide assistance in situations of conflict, and represent people whose rights have been infringed in the courts.

The legal aid will be provided either on a telephone help line (032) 297-54-27, by email  [email protected], or online at:

Those who prefer can visit the consultation centre in Lviv (Snizhka St, 6, office 5.2

Various other activities are also planned, including monitoring of the procedure for registration of the above-mentioned organizations, carrying out journalist investigations into issues around registration.  An electronic legal digest is planned for organizations, as well as a publication on State registration.

Other highly useful activities for ensuring shortcomings in Ukrainian legislation on civic organizations are ironed out involve carrying out a survey of civic organizations, making an analysis of Polish and Ukrainian legislation on the right of association and translating judgments from the European Court of Human Rights on Article 11.

A much abridged account of material posted on

Law enforcement agencies

Lviv residents still don’t trust their police force

According to a recent sociological survey, only 16 percent of Lviv people trust the police. Almost 50% don’t trust them, and another 40% are not satisfied with their work.

Among the main reasons for their mistrust were the following: using their official position for their own ends and impolite, or even rough or brutal treatment of people.

The survey entitled “Public opinion about the work of the Lviv region’s police force” was carried out by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research and commissioned by the Lviv branch of the civic organizations OPORA and the Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights attached to the Lviv Regional Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

One cheering thing perhaps was that the level of trust had increased by 4% since 2003. The improvement was even more noticeable on specific issues. For example, 24% consider that the local police work well, against only 13.4% in 2003.  Executive Secretary of the Public Committee Taras Hatalyak believes that this is because in 2003 the police carried out political commissions, while now they work on maintaining public order. It must be said, however, that 41% of those surveyed this year expressed dissatisfaction with their work.

This may be connected with the fact that 60% of those surveyed had not set eyes on their district police officer.  Of these 55% said that they didn’t want to meet him. Only 14% consider the crime level in their region to be high, and 27% said that their district was not dangerous at night.

The most common problems people encountered were with road code violations, noise during evening hours, people leaving great piles of rubbish, hooliganism, and the use of alcohol or drugs in public places. The least widespread in their opinion were being attacked by dogs, problems with children’s behaviour, prostitution or domestic violence. 2% of the respondents said that they had been the victims of beating, torture inflicted by police officers over the previous 12 months, while another 5% alleged having been subjected to unlawful coercion by police officers before that.

Taras Hatalyak stated that the objective of the survey was to involve the public in evaluating the work of the police and identifying the main problems, so that the main indicator of their work was not their own reports, but public opinion surveys.

Myroslav Ivanyk

Victims of political repression

The Legacy of 1937

We speak of the Terror yet the repressive machine of the proletariat’s dictators began working long before 1937.

Indeed, the repression began immediately after the October Uprising. The communist dictatorship was always, before and after 1937, accompanied by political repression. However it was specifically 1937 that was to become the terrible symbol of mass killings organized and carried out by the State regime. Presumably this was because the Great Terror involved certain specific features and because of the huge impact it had – and continued exerting – on the fate of the whole country.

So it was in the scale of the Terror?

1937 was the gigantic scale of the repression engulfing all layers of society without exception, from the leaders of the country to peasants and workers far removed from politics. More than 1.7 million people were arrested on political charges during 1937 and 1938. If you add the victims of deportation and those convicted as “socially dangerous elements”, the number exceeds two million.

You get the impression that there was a carefully planned machine.

Which was also incredibly brutal, with more than 700 thousand of those arrested being executed.  And there was the unrepresented degree of planning in the terrorist “special operations”. The entire campaign was carefully thought out by the top leaders and carried out under their constant control.  Secret orders issued by the NKVD stipulated the period for carrying out particular operations, the groups and categories of the population who were to be “purged”, as well as the planned numbers of arrests and executions for each region. Any changes, any “initiatives from below” needed to be agreed with Moscow.

And yet people were living, working, having children…

For most of the population, unaware of the orders, the logic of arrests seemed inexplicable and far removed from commonsense. The Great Terror seemed like a huge lottery. There was almost a mystical sense of it being incomprehensible and this elicited a special type of terror and sense of insecurity. The fates of people well-known throughout the country (and these were the main ones reported in the newspapers) whose loyalty had never seemed in doubt heightened the sense of panic and exacerbated the mass psychosis.  This was to give rise to the myth that the Great Terror was directed solely against old Bolsheviks and the Party elite. In fact the overwhelming majority of those arrested and shot were simple Soviet citizens. it was up to the investigator to formulate each individual’s “guilt”. Therefore hundreds of thousands of those arrested faced absurd charges of “counter-revolutionary conspiracies”, “espionage”, “planning terrorist acts”, “sabotage” and so forth.

And yet many even then knew about who was building the Belomor Canal, and that the charges were false. Why was there no reaction to the violence?

The Soviet leadership tried to implicate the whole nation in a system of mutual responsibility. There were meetings where people were forced to vehemently applaud public lies about exposed “enemies of the people”. Children were forced to denounce their parents, wives – their husbands. It was incidentally in 1937 that the characteristic feature of Soviet society formulated – double-thinking, as a result of split reality imposed by propaganda of public and individual consciousness.  Later there were the systematic lies over years regarding the fate of those who’d been executed – first about mythical “camps with no right of correspondence”, and then fictitious dates and places of death supposedly from natural causes.  Yet the Terror, or battle against dissident thinking, didn’t end with the death of Stalin and Beria.

It continued to the middle of the 1980s, virtually to the start of perestroika and collapse of socialism.

There is a stereotype that Stalin was the father of terror, while Lenin was an impassioned revolutionary, the friend of children, workers and peasants.

Lenin was as much a killer as Stalin and Beria and the real father of the terror. It was at his instigation that the labour camps [called concentration camps – translator] were created. He argued after all that for a great cause you could kill as many as needed. That’s clear now from archival documents.

Representatives of today’s left wing continue to espouse the ideological stamps about the humanity of this most humane man, and exploit his social ideas and slogans.

Of the multitude of ideas the main most attractive one is voiced most often, that of social justice. It appeals to people and it’s hard to free oneself of its charm. Communist ideology uses the slogan of equal income and needs, while socialists talk of equal opportunities. Yet in fact inequality is established by the law. If parents are well-off their children have an easier time. If a person has a talent for business, s/he can make a lot of money. It’s the way of the world. Left-wing ideas are fairly popular everywhere, however the law defends human rights.  The communist ideas about justice and equality were quite attractive, but how they were implemented in the USSR led to the Terror, and into a dead end, with victims and violence.

And yet there was the Thaw, an attempt to build socialism with a human face.

We should simply remember Czechoslovakia in 1968 ending with all hopes crushed. The repressive machine was switched on again.

There is yet another myth that under Stalin all was well. And that they repressed “enemies” while order honest people had nothing to fear.

It’s a consequence of ideology and brainwashing. The machine devoured all. Stalin’s approach was based on using fear and slavery. It was all through prisoners’ labour. Anyone who knows history at all will simply annihilate that myth about wellbeing under Stalin.

And yet the fear, the collective covering for each other, the inner slavery, fear of repression have remained in public thinking.

It’s hard to free oneself of fear. During Khrushchev’s Thaw society began finding out and understanding about the repression and Terror. The poet Anna Akhmatova wrote that two Russias– those who imprisoned and those who were imprisoned met and looked each other in the eye.  The process of coming to some understanding needed to continue, but it was stalled.  This stalling led to the emergence of the dissident movement and emigration. Dissidents lived as free people in a captive country.  During Brezhnev’s time, for each dissident actually imprisoned, there were 96 people who experienced the pressure of the repressive machine, being summoned for questioning to the KGB, threatened, coerced. There were around half a million who faced that. Now the fear has diminished, but it still remains in the blood. A generation has now grown up since perestroika and the disappearance of the repressive regime. They have grown up and live in a different society. And Maidan [the Orange Revolution; maidan literally means “square” which was where people held their ground during those days - translator] also gave a certain impulse, after all many were aware that they were risking a lot. And yet they went on Maidan, not sure that they would return alive. The effect of Maidan was in the liberation from fear of a huge number of people.

A lot of people from Kharkiv faced repression

Kharkiv was the capital city [for a long period under the Bolshevik regime – translator] and the repressions were severe.  There was the 1928 Shakhtinsk case, the trial of members of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine [SVU], and many other cases. During the Great Terror more than 20 thousand people were shot. The repressions continued into the 1940s.

In the 1970s and 80s the dissident movement in Ukraine was strong. It consisted of nationalist, general democratic and religious movements, as well as people fighting for the right to emigrate.  People listened to the BBC, Radio Svoboda [Liberty], Voice of America, and there was a lot of samizdat around. Kharkiv after all had a lot of institutes, students and intelligentsia with a technical background.  There was a special department within the KGB to deal with dissidents.

There is now freedom, and yet the law is broken. People get drawn into clan conflicts, and there are raider attacks. They raise tariffs; make areas more built up without asking. The judicial system doesn’t work and there’s no trust in judges.

It’s a whole jigsaw situation. Certainly the local authorities take decisions upon themselves, without consulting anybody. As far as I can see it’s impossible to resolve anything with building, land, etc without the involvement of corrupt setups. You simply won’t achieve anything without bribes and connections. In principle this is not a human rights issue, but the problem is there. On the other hand, people have gained freedom, to go abroad, for example, or to do business. And the standard of living is gradually rising. A middle class is emerging which seems less dependent on the authorities.  And yet as soon as people run up against bureaucracy, they confront the choice of either giving up their work or accepting the system, paying bribes, finding “protection” and so forth.  This cannot continue for long and there is no chance for a normal civilized society where corruption, theft, tax evasion and dirty business flourish. There are also a lot of people in poverty, simply eking out an existence. A lot is distorted, with businesspeople paying out wages in envelopes, avoiding paying tax.

We see how catastrophically double standards are taking root in society

It’s easy to explain that. “Our” people close to those in power are allowed to do anything; “the others” are not. Business and the power structure have become intertwined. Those who are “in” receive money, orders, land, the possibility to build, win tenders. But you have to be “in”, and people are pushed to try to become part of that in crowd.

– There is a problem with voters’ rights.  Party candidate lists and the party-based system of deputies leads to a situation where there is no individual responsibility, only collective – responsibility or lack of such, or closing ranks. You vote and then the party takes over. There is no right to ask what a specific deputy has done for the city, for a district or for one specific voter.

– The constitutional changes of December 2004 introduced a proportional representation system including for local councils. Parties, according to Ukrainian legislation are national and their programmes are for the whole country. Yet each district has its own interests and priorities which may run counter to those national interests or may focus on other problems.  And effectively at local level nobody is obliged to deal with local problems, they need to follow party instructions from the centre. At present after all those in power are mainly the generation of former Komsomol activists, and that’s their form of democratic centralism. They don’t have any need for outstanding individuals at local level who are able to think independently and freely, they need those who will carry out party decisions. That’s why a person capable and willing to do anything at local level has to curry for approval with the party boss. There are a lot of parties and each is like a mini CPSU [Communist Party]. The paradoxical thing is that the President doesn’t have to be a party person; s/he can put themselves forward, simply paying the requisite amount. Yet to become a deputy of a district council in the city you need to be a party member and get on the candidate list. This is where the increase in corporativism and corruption stems from, as well as an even stronger merging of business and political power. Deputies are so eager to get into office precisely because that gives them control over financial channels, benefits and boons.

What will the early elections change in this respect?

I don’t think they’ll change anything. For serious changes we need to change the Constitution, that is, bring in a new version.

The interviewer was Yevhen Maslov

5 September – Remembrance Day for those who died in Soviet labour camps

On 5 September 1918 the Council of People’s Commissars approved a resolution speaking of the “need to safeguard the Soviet Republic against class enemies by isolating them in concentration camps”.

Not the first time that the term “concentration camp” was used, but the beginning nonetheless of what was to turn into the GULAG and claim the lives of millions.

There were millions just in Ukraine alone who were, as Vasyl Stus wrote, “executed, tortured, murdered throughout Solovky, Siberia and Magadan”. 

Vasyl Stus was himself to become a later victim of this regime, as were Yury Lytvyn, Valery Marchenko and Oleksa Tykhy.  Who could name all the victims of those first decades of a war waged against their own people?

In September 1918 Mikhail Krylenko who was shortly afterwards to become Prosecutor and Minister of Justice in the Soviet Union said: “”We must not only punish the guilty. Execution of the innocent spreads fear in the masses”.  The Bolshevik regime worked on this principle. .

The Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] has, as reported here, been working to ensure that the truth is told.  Its Acting Head Valentyn Nalyvaichenko recently called the Terror a crime against humanity. Statements coming out of Russia suggest a different attitude is emerging towards these terrible pages of our shared history.  And yet this history must be confronted - in memory of all its victims and in order that it never ever happen again.

Working group formed for constructing a Memorial to the Victims of Holodomor

President Yushchenko has issued an instruction creating a working group to manage the construction of a Memorial to the Victims of Holodomor* in Ukraine.

The Instruction, placed on the President’s official website, states that the aim is to ensure that the Memorial be constructed in Kyiv by 1 October 2008, to mark the 75th anniversary of Holodomor 1932-1933.

The First Deputy Head of the Kyiv City State Administration Anatoly Hollubchenko is appointed Chair of the working group.  He is authorized to make changes to the composition of the group, as well as drawing in, according to established procedure, specialists from central and local authorities, State enterprises, institutions and organizations (with the consent of their managers), and obtaining documents and material required.

The working group is instructed to draw up and approach a work schedule for the design and construction of the Memorial and to report on their progress on a monthly basis.


*  Since it seems most important that the world finally understands what Holodomor – the Famine of 1932-1933 was, we use the word only in the singular, however there were three famines, all to varying extents manmade, and the Memorial is called to the Victims of Holodomors. [translator]

Dissidents and their time

Memory is the Fate of Proud and Free People!

“He stopped being a Marxist because he was accustomed to thinking things through to the end”(Sergei Kovalyov)

On 16 October 2007 we mark the centenary of the birth of Petro Hryhorovych Grigorenko, a person whose name is indelibly linked with the struggle of the Crimean Tatar people for their return to their homeland and restoration of their rights.

“Rats succeeded in exiling me from my homeland. However rats have no future”

These words are from the memoirs of Petro Grigorenko “In the underground you can only meet rats”, first published in New York in 1981.  Forced from his homeland, Petro Hryhorovych did not lose his innate optimism, concluding his work with the affirmation: “We will return to our Homeland and see our people liberated from the infestation of rats!” Unfortunately he did not live to see the collapse of the totalitarian system and to rejoice together with the Crimean Tatars in returning home.  His closest fellow thinkers are no longer with us. Genrykh Altunian who died in June 2005 said in one of his last interviews: ““I fear nothing. I am seventy years old, as they say, “over the hill”. I have seen it all. I do not except that I will experience anything worse than sitting day after day in the isolation cell of Chystopolsk prison. I am afraid for the country I live in and for the future of those dear to me. It was Bruno Yasensky who called on us to fear those who don’t care. Please God that our people do not become indifferent.”

Mustafa Dzhemilyev, another long-standing fellow thinker and friend of Petro Grigorenko decided to give his colleagues in parliament a chance not only to renounce the stereotypes of the past, but also to prove that they deserved the high status of a member of Ukraine’s parliament. He was unsuccessful since a considerable number of National Deputies refused to give recognition to one of the legendary figures who dedicated their lives to the independence of the country whom the Deputies were elected to represent.

Who can blame me if I label such behaviour pitiful and repeat after Petro Grigorenko “rats have no future”?

“Till we meet again in the Crimea, my friends!”

Praise be the Almighty that this world is held in place by people with conscience and a sense of justice, with gratitude and by those who remember. Today in the Crimea as well as beyond there are hundreds and hundreds of Petro Grigorenko’s friends. Thanks to their efforts and despite opposition from the local authorities, a bust monument to the General has been erected in Simferopol, and streets, Crimean Tatar settlements and one avenue in Kyiv have been named after him. I have no doubt that the events in honour of the centenary of Petro Hryhorovych Grigorenko’s birth will be widely marked in the Crimea. The Crimean Tatar people, headed by the Mejilis will make sure of that.  Perhaps by then those whom Mikhail Bulgakov gave the perfect diagnosis “muddle on the brain” will manage to come to their senses.

Petro Grigorenko never for one second doubted that the struggle of the Crimean Tatar people would end in their return to their Homeland. “Till we meet in the Crimea!” he would say when parting from his Crimean Tatar fellows. And he himself aspired to return to his Homeland till the last moment.

Petro Grigorenko found his last resting place in far-off America. People of different nationalities, Crimean Tatars, Ukrainians, Jewish people visit his grave to pay their respects.

They honour a Man who unstintingly loved his fellow human beings! For memory is the fate of proud and free people!


We are grateful to Refat Chubarov for allowing us to publish these very moving words, which form part of an article found in full (in Ukrainian)  at

Moral Choice

Channel 5 ran the headline that “today would have been Ukrainian dissident Valery Marchenko’s sixtieth birthday.  Words spoken in a similar connection by Myroslav Marynovych 10 years ago came to mind:

“Those whom death takes from us prematurely have one advantage over the living – they do not grow old. For this reason the phrase “Valery Marchenko would have been 50 now” sounds absurd. We know after all that Time is powerless to change the smallest feature on that young face which looks on us from his photograph. And yet the special date is a good reason to once again recall Valery. After all, unlike him, we grow older and that means that we forget. Unfortunately…”

It is indeed to be regretted. There are people whom we have no right to forget for they remind us of the moral choice which in one way or another faces each of us.

Valery Marchenko, journalist, translator and defender of human rights and human dignity was first sentenced on 29 December 1973 for “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” to 6 years labour camp and 2 years exile.

Having challenged the entire empire of lies, I had one support, my awareness that the yoke was unendurable. I need only hurl myself against the stone wall, and feel the pain of impact in order to understand that it can nonetheless be overcome, that one can and must fight it. Rejection of Bolshevism is not a discovery for me, but a form of existence.  And it is not silently, passively that it needs to be opposed. The demand to democratically resolve all problems – this is the only possibility for each Ukrainian citizen

(Valery Marchenko  from a letter to his grandfather, 1975)

Having returned to Kyiv in 1981, despite his serious kidney disorder, he refused to stay silent.  He was arrested again and sentenced in March 1984 to 10 years special regime labour camp (the harshest) and to 5 years exile.  This was, as he knew, a death sentence.  Valery Marchenko died in a prison hospital on 7 October 1984. He was 37. 

He was held in the Perm political labour camps where he met and made an indelible impression on Myroslav Marynovych and many others.

A few excerpts from Myroslav Marynovych’s recollections of Valery Marchenko

Valery as political prisoner

He exuded strength, fortitude and certainty.What as a young prisoner stuck in my mind was Valery’s lack of any doubt where moral choice was involved. He had simply passed beyond the point of fear and it no longer had power to torment him. You could see that beyond that line he had gained such great spiritual treasures that there was already no need for him to agonize over any problem of choice, of whether to dare to take a moral step which would bring new suffering, or whether to lie to himself and gain some leniency that way.

Valery as son

There was a time when it was his mother who taught him – to walk, to make his first independent steps in life, to hold himself straight and proud. And then the roles changed and it was already Valery who taught his mother not to be gripped by that typical clinging fear which stripped Soviet people of their reason, conscience and honour.  He taught her to make her first steps in civic resistance and to also hold herself straight and proud. The time will come when they will meet in Heaven not only as mother and son, but as two of the closest friends who did not let each other fall into life’s blackest abyss.

Valery as fighter

One general remark first of all. People sometimes question the fighter nature of the dissidents, suggesting doubt as to whether they were particularly fighting for anything. Where was a common concept of a future state that they were standing up for? Where are their qualities now when they have divided up into parties and quarrelled among themselves?  Without taking it upon myself to justify what is not worth trying to justify, I would nonetheless like to point the reader’s attention to one fundamental feature of the dissidents. All of them were united in the camps not by a shared and single model for a future state, but by their REJECTION of the existing state. They were united in their protest against the crimes of the Soviet state, even while back then in the camps they differed over possible political solutions. This should not be seen as some kind of failing in the dissident movement, but as a sign of the times which needs deeper philosophical understanding.

Let’s return now to Valery. I would venture to compare him as a fighter with some other dissidents. For example, many knew that they would be arrested. Valery on the other hand knew that he would die in the camps. My mother was witness to this when he told her with bitter irony where it was that he was fated to “emigrate”. The difference in my view is huge. Most political prisoners took part in the common labour camp struggle in relatively good health. Valery fought as a man gravely ill. We all know how our perception of the world changes even when we just have the flu. And what about illnesses which fill the soul with mortal torment? Yet Valery withstood it all, and that therefore was not simply a struggle, but martyrdom. We should remember Valery’s own words that he “wasn’t a kamikaze” who set himself on course for self-annihilation. He loved life and very much wanted to live. However allowing the KGB to destroy his body, he was not going to let them destroy the HUMAN BEING in him. Citizens of many countries have the privilege of being a human being from birth. Valery, together with other dissidents, had to fight for this “privilege”. So was Valery a fighter or not?

Please see for more information about Valery Marchenko

In Memory of Vasyl Stus

During the night between 3 and 4 September 1985, 22 years ago today, Vasyl Stus, Ukrainian poet, human rights activist and member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, died in a punishment cell in one of the Perm Labour Camps.

There are doubtless many profound and penetrating words still waiting to be spoken about Stus the man and the poet.  In remembering him today, however, in a month when all are preoccupied with the elections, and in Odessa (and throughout Ukraine) there are arguments over the planned erection of a monument to Catherine the Great whose claim to a place in Ukrainians’ heart would be difficult to argue, the following excerpt from an article by Yevhen Sverstyuk seems appropriate.

“However you fight against the temptation to “immortalize in stone”, human nature wins out. Foreigners are amazed at how many famous people there are in Ukraine: a monument here, a bust there, a carved outline from behind a tree.

We’re also amazed. Try to explain now to a child who that stone man is sitting or standing in the park, and what he once meant for us.  If we’re honest, then his name never meant anything, not Petrovsky, not Kosyura, not Manuilsky. The monuments were erected “for unwavering commitment to the Party”.

The monuments to the big leaders inspired lots of anecdotes among the people (it would be interesting to read a book of those imprisoned for such anecdotes.)

And as for heroes – it wasn’t the Brezhnev carnival that broke all records for moral discrediting of “heroes”, but Kuchma’s regime. Here you’d just need to print a list of “heroes of Ukraine”, for people to begin shaking their heads “well, well, well.”

Against this background, for the 20th anniversary of Vasyl Stus’ death they began talking about whether he shouldn’t be made a “Hero” posthumously.

If we’re to touch on this subject, then the question could be put differently: isn’t it time to come to terms with all these monuments which are mutually exclusive? After all, it’s not just surprise that is elicited, but a real neurosis when they place Kosyura before a monument to the victims of Holodomor.

The idea has long been floating around to gather all those monuments to cogs in the machine into a heap, like a museum of weapons from the War:  “Monuments of the totalitarian era”.

And then, after the parks and squares are thus humanized, we could think about erecting a modest monument to the Poet. And that will finally be a symbol reminiscent of the honour and dignity of the Ukrainian people.

Why specifically to Stus? Perhaps it’s because during his lifetime, Kyiv was a place of persecution for him, of dark trials and draconian sentences. It was a city of great love and of great pain. Kyiv was a city where he was the “least” in the eyes of those who determined fates, who hunted people of real stature. The least in fact, because the most. I would like to see a monument to him somewhere opposite the Institute of Literature where without any sense whatsoever at present Petrovsky, the old “All-Ukrainian elder” casts his grey presence. And then finally people will begin bringing flowers.

Stus needs no pedestal at all. He could quietly slip out from between the trees. Once in the middle of the 1960s just such a monument to Lesya Ukrainian was spontaneously erected in the Pershotravnevy Park.

Stus is essentially like this, standing apart, like a soul driven from the world of lies and violence, and ever returning.

Vasyl Stus was not the only person whom Kyiv singed with its flame. One would not want to clutter the air with names which the river of time has carried away. Yet justice demands that we immortalize the lofty soul of the poet, because it is sorely wanted here.



Please see for more information about Vasyl Stus

News from the CIS countries

Yelena Bonner: The authorities are trying to destroy the Sakharov Prize

Yelena Bonner, widow of Andrei Sakharov and prominent human rights defender has stated that the Russian authorities are attempting to destroy the Andrei Sakharov Prize “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience”.  This followed a search carried out in the last few days of the office of the firm “Vinland” which belongs to the founder of the Prize Peter Vins. Law enforcement officers sealed the safe with money for paying wages as well as that of the firm’s head, and removed financial documents, stamps, and eight computers and servers. It should be said that the witnesses, who arrived together with those carrying out the check, helped remove the items.

Vinland representatives have sent complaints about the search to the Prosecutor General, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the head of the FSB and the commission under the auspices of the President for supporting small- and medium-scale business.

Peter Vins back in the Soviet Union was involved in human rights woman for which he served a sentence, before being forced to emigrate with his father Georgy, and the rest of the family*. He returned to Russia in the 1990s and in 2000 he founded the Andrei Sakharov Prize “For Journalism as an Act of Conscience” in memory of the help offered his family by Andrei Sakharov.


Please see  for details about Peter Vins and his father

No more looking for enemies of the people

For those familiar with the darker pages of Soviet history, recent developments in Russia are especially disturbing.  In a year which for many of us is of poignant significance as the seventieth anniversary of the unleashing of the Great Terror, the grotesque echoes from that time cause real pain.

Two days before what should have been Anna Politkovskaya’s 49th birthday, the Russian Prosecutor General announced arrests and suggested, without providing any substantiation, a foreign link in the journalist’s murder.  Sycophantic to the last (the main requirement for government officials), he was to some extent simply repeating what Putin said after Politkovskaya’s murder, and what has increasingly become the general line in Russian policy.  Look for the foreign link, the conspiracy and the enemies of the Russian people. The latter are, by the way, seen as represented by Vladimir Putin, and therefore any attempts to “discredit” (in free countries this translates as criticizing) the latter are effectively aimed against the nation. 

In 1937 our grandfathers were accused of links with Trotskyite groups, conspiring to overthrow the Soviet regime and join Ukraine to Poland, or to Germany, or to the capitalist fiends wherever, and whoever they might be.  In short, they were enemies of the people, as represented by Stalin and the Party.

Once Trotsky from his exile was the universal villain; now it is Boris Berezovsky who serves the same purpose. Besides wishing the latter no harm, and therefore hoping our analogy goes only so far, there are doubtless also other differences. Two closely-linked similarities, however, are striking. In the 1930s and since Putin came to power, we see a population fed lies and disinformation from the mass media. Partly as a result of this, the popular antagonism for the Kremlin’s “bogey men” is strong, making arrant nonsense less likely to be analyzed in any critical fashion.

Among those who wanted people to analyze and to know the truth was Anna Politkovskaya.  She was not the first journalist, nor tragically the last, in Putin’s Russia to be murdered.

Her colleagues at Novaya Gazeta have confidence in the investigators and believe that those detained this week may be implicated in the hired killing.  That is where their points of agreement with the Prosecutor General end. 

Upbeat noises were, nonetheless, made not only in Russia, but from within the international community, over “progress” in uncovering this heinous crime. 

I would suggest any such optimism is seriously undermined by the Prosecutor General’s offensively primitive and unsubstantiated “conclusions”.  There must be no question of any “uncovering” of this crime which does not clearly identify those who ordered the killing and provide evidence which would stand up to scrutiny in any country’s courts.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2007, #09