“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2008, #01
The Human Rights Ombudspersons work in January 2008 We need a new Constitution! The Case of “Maidan” activists v. Nina Karpachova begins Implementation of European Law
Mediation is better Against torture and ill-treatment
Ukraines reports to the UN Committee against Torture must be public Freedom of conscience and religion
Crimean Prosecutor protests against the actions of the Simferopol City Council. Crimean Muslims begin protest over obstruction in building a Mosque in Simpferopol Freedom of expression
Putrid lies and other unpleasant odours Who proved for sale in December? Lviv Mayor becomes anti-hero in a documentary film Access to information
Where is the Aarhus Convention? Some Cabinet of Ministers Resolutions to see the light of day Prohibition of discrimination
Skinheads on Kyivs Khreschatyk On refugees
No grounds for remanding Gangan in custody Dissidents and their time
His return Andrew Grigorenko: “Making Russian a State language would perpetuate colonial dependence”
Politics and human rights
The Human Rights Ombudspersons work in January 2008
Monitoring the work of the present Ombudsperson and her Secretariat is no easy matter: they remain extraordinarily secretive.
There is no information, for example, about the structure and staffing of the Secretariat. Nor do they provide generalized accounts of their work, decisions, conclusions, proposals, recommendations or reports.
Their financial expenditure remains a tightly-held secret.
All attempts have failed to find out about the number of applications made to the Ombudsperson from different parts of society; about the number of proceedings initiated into cases involving infringements of rights; the number of submissions made by the Ombudsperson to the Constitutional Court or to the State authorities, bodies of local self-government or civic associations, etc. Nor are there any summarized accounts of such proceedings.
According to Article 14.2 of the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson, the latter must protect confidential information. It would appear that the Secretariat considers its own activities to fall into this category.
Formal information requests to the Ombudsperson remain unanswered giving grounds for civil suits.
The fragmentary snippets from the Ombudspersons press service seem less about information than about self-advertising, and yet they remain virtually the sole source of official information about the Ombudspersons activities.
There were seven items in January on the official website. This, by the way, is a record: for the same period in 2003 there were 2; in 2004 – 3; 2005 – none; 2006 – 1 and in 2007, the month preceding her re-election, there were 5).
It is cheering that the reports for January 2008 are less offensive than those last year. Their content gives some hope for positive qualitative changes in the work of the Ombudsperson in defending peoples rights. There is a chance that this year already representative offices of the Ombudsperson will be set up and begin working in the regions. At the end of January, President Yushchenko responded to an appeal from the Ombudsperson and sent a letter to the Speaker of the Crimean Parliament, and the heads of the regional administrations for the Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zhytomyr, Transcarpathian, Zaporizhya, Ivano-Frankivsk, Luhansk, Lviv, Odessa and Kharkiv regions asking them to provide all assistance in setting up premises for the Ombudspersons representatives.
It is to be hoped that the formation of national preventive mechanisms for the prevention of torture will finally be set up. After lobbying for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT), the Ombudsperson refused to implement the recommendations of the Verkhovna Rada and create such a mechanism within the structure of the Ombudspersons office.
In January this year the Ombudsperson took part in the Paris Forum on positive moves in prevention of torture in places of imprisonment in Europe where the creation of such national preventive mechanisms was discussed.
From unofficial sources we have learned that Ms Karpachova is no longer objecting to these mechanisms being created within the structure of the Ombudspersons office. It is a shame that two full years have been wasted during which Ms Karpachova ignore the Verkhovna Rada roundtables on preparing a strategy for the mechanisms. Better late than never, as they say, and we will hope for movement in this area from now on.
Before her departure for the Paris Forum, Ms Karpachova submitted proposals and additions to the draft Cabinet of Ministers action plan. In the document submitted she proposes the creation of a national preventive mechanism in accordance with OPCAT.
On 21 January there was a meeting initiated by the Ombudsperson between her and the President. They discussed improving cooperation between their secretariats and issues linked with constitutional reforms. The Ombudsperson submitted proposals regarding the makeup of the National Constitutional Council. They also discussed prisoners rights and President Yushchenko supported the idea of a joint project aimed at decreasing the number of underage prisoners, including via pardoning.
At the present time there are 1902 underage prisoners in 10 special penal colonies. One in two has been sentenced to between 3 and 5 years. One in three is serving a sentence for thefts. Two thirds of the prisoners are between the ages of 14 and 17.
We believe that the joint project will be more effective if after the young people are released, the Ombudsperson oversees their resocialization.
The Ombudsperson has stated that she plans to initiate the signing and ratification by Ukraine of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Disabled. She also intends to oversee the creation of a State Migration Service and lobby for the ratification of the International Convention on Migrant Workers and their Families and a number of other documents protecting the rights of migrant workers.
The intentions have been declared. Lets hope for their implementation.
Slightly adapted from www.maidan.org.ua
We need a new Constitution!
For more than three years now virtually all human rights defenders have been calling for amendments to the Constitution passed on 8 December 2004 to be revoked. The fact that the changes were adopted as part of a package vote, together with ordinary laws, was a flagrant violation of procedure for constitutional reform. Nor had the changes received appropriate checking by the Constitutional Court. Yet the Court was deliberately blocked by parliament and the President did nothing to remove these flagrant infringements.
The consequences of the inept changes have been disastrous. We have seen the creation of two centres fighting for power within the one executive branch. The country has become steadily less governable, with increasing corruption of the political elite and the worst form of political collectivism where deputies are entirely dependent on the will of faction leaders and become button-pushing robots. There is increasing pressure on parliament from financial and industrial groups with it almost totally impossible for members of the public to exert influence on policy. It is now possible to not take ordinary members of political parties into consideration at all.
Particular danger was also seen in the disregard demonstrated the Constitution and laws of the country by the highest government bodies and high-ranking officials. One need only recall the deliberate blocking of the Constitutional Court by the then Speaker of Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn; the active participation by the Head of the Supreme Court Vasyl Malyarenko and other judges, as well as the Human Rights Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova in the 2006 electoral campaign; the mass and chronic practice of vote-casting by National Deputies using others plastic cards; the adoption of Verkhovna Rada Resolutions instead of laws (such Resolutions cannot be vetoed by the President – translator), and others.
The model of proportional representation for district, city and regional levels of local self-government, introduced in 2006, also proved harmful. The extraordinary spread of salaries in the public sector also considerably undermines the foundations of power. What kind of national unity can one speak of when a National Deputy earns ten times more than and highly-qualified teacher or surgeon, and the maximum salary is 60 times higher than the lowest?
The Constitution has been destroyed, and its no longer possible to build on its basis. The rift in the executive branch of power brought about by the constitutional amendments have led to conflict between the external and domestic political course of the country, between bodies of local self-government and State administrations in the East and South of the country. Combined with a revival of the retrograde style of management which typified the Kuchma era, this has led to a nationwide political crisis. This is first and foremost a crisis of public faith in the authorities, resulting in many Ukrainians seeing the very idea of joining NATO or the European Union as frightening. There is also the crisis linked with the economic divide between rich and poor, as well as between higher and lower-ranking civil servants. There is a crisis of constitutionalism and respect for the law resulting in high-ranking public officials daring to ignore the basic requirements of its legal system.
The Ukrainian State had reached a dead end and the dissolution of parliament was an attempt to put an end to the crisis. Yet simply dissolving parliament and calling early elections couldnt pull the country out of a systemic crisis caused by the constitutional amendments of 2004. As long as the Constitution which came into force on 1 January 2006 remains unchanged, no parliament and Cabinet of Ministers will be able to escape its destructive influence. Whoever becomes Prime Minister, conflict between her / him and the President is inevitable. And it will all be repeated again.
The constitutional amendments of 2004 must therefore be revoked. However at the present time this seems improbable. Is it, moreover, a good idea to return to the past? Does the Ukrainian Constitution passed in 1996 suit the present state of Ukrainian society? I believe that it is hindering social progress. It contains masses of social guaranties of the type: the right to accommodation, to a sufficient living standard, to work, to free medical care etc, which the State is unable to enforce. The widespread assertion that the Ukrainian Constitution is one of the best in Europe is of course insincere.
The Constitution of 1996 effectively consolidated the system of State relations that existed at that moment – a semi-Presidential unitary republic with a parliament lacking any real powers, a relatively weak judicial system and also a Cabinet of Ministers without any significant political functions and therefore constantly dependent on direct presidential support. In general, the lack of accountability of the state to society in the new Constitution remained almost on the level of Soviet times.
The main, while at the same time, «shadow» power in the State was wielded by the Presidential Administration – accountable to no one, managing everything, an effectively uncontrollable power structure. The government was to fulfil not only the Presidents directives, but also those of the head of the Administration, while bearing full responsibility for the state of affairs in the country. At the same time the Prime Ministers role was often that of a boy to take the beating.. It is hardly surprising that the holders of this post changed virtually every year.
All this, to a certain extent, doomed the role of the Constitution to be a force not of dynamism, but of stagnation in the Ukrainian socio-economic and political transformations. The Constitution, moreover, was a rather eclectic legal text with norms passed as a compromise which different political players – from the communists to the «Greens» – interpreted in their own ways. However, the contradictions imbedded in the Constitution fairly soon became apparent and not only at the level of party disputes and differences in interpretation. Shortly after its adoption, discussion began within society about the need for amendments and supplementary articles to the constitutional text.
Ukrainian society therefore faces the task of creating and passing an entirely new Constitution. And it is of fundamental importance that all adhere to it. Following the rules is much more important than who wins political battles. The main thing is that all must keep to the rules and not adapt them to receive the desired result, or post fact.
What State model should the new Constitution envisage? In my view the events of 2006 – 2007 demonstrated clearly that Ukraine is not yet ready for a parliamentary republic since the party system undeveloped. All parties in some strange way are reminiscent of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In each case the main issues are decided by one or several leaders. It is to be expected that these leaders demand the imperative mandate, understanding it as effectively strict factional discipline. However world practice shows that one receives the best results from a pluralistic society, where respect for individuals intellect combines with collective tolerance. It is clear that the Ukrainian parliament built on party lists is not capable of this.
Another consequence of proportional representation is the dubious legitimacy of the Verkhovna Rada where more than 250 Deputies represent the capital, with very weak representation of regional interests. We need a two-chamber parliament, with one chamber representing the regions.
The proximity of a strong presidential Russia makes it necessary to have adequate effective mechanisms for decision-making, this being a presidential republic. The President should head the executive branch of power, organizing and coordinating the work of the government. Both chambers of parliament – a higher, chamber of the regions, and lower, formed on a proportional model, must have strong mechanisms of control over the work of the executive. These are at present very weak. The new Constitution must allow for a much stronger and truly independent judiciary. We need to seriously strengthen constitutional protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as local self-government.
The current Constitution does not envisage consideration of an entirely new draft, with parliament only having been mandated to only pass a Constitution once, with only changes and additions possible. Since the people are the single source of power, a new Constitution must be passed at a referendum. According to the present Constitution the President can submit this for a referendum, but first a draft needs to be prepared and thoroughly discussed.
The Presidential Decree from 27 December envisages the creation of a National Constitutional Council, made up of academics, politicians, regional representatives delegated by bodies of local self-government and public figures. The President will confirm the Councils makeup and head it. The Council should discuss and prepare a draft Constitution which must then be widely discussed.
Can such a draft be legitimate enough to be put to a referendum? I doubt it since it is effectively created by an advisory body under the President. There needs to be another stage before a referendum, consideration and passing of a draft prepared by a special representative body – a Constitutional Assembly. This cannot be entrusted to parliament since the latter is too removed from society and the temptation to adapt the Constitution to its selfish interests is unavoidable. The Constitution is an act of civic society and should not be adopted by only professional politicians. Therefore a condition for all members of the Constitutional Council should be that they cannot run for office during the next parliamentary term.
It would be desirable if parliament passed a draft law for a Constitutional Council in the first half of 2008. This would demonstrate public consensus on the need for a new Constitution and the procedure for passing it. Parliaments attitude to this will be the litmus test which will demonstrate their real, not just declared concern for Ukraines national interests.
Be that as it may, it is clear that a new Constitution is needed and as soon as possible. It is equally clear that this must not be done in haste. 2008 will show whether Ukrainian society is mature enough to avoid conflict around the adoption of a new Constitution and build a strong foundation for future progress.
The Case of “Maidan” activists v. Nina Karpachova begins
On 29 January a preliminary hearing in a Kyiv administrative court was held with regard to the civil suit brought by “Maidan” Alliance activists Viktor Garbar and Oleksandr Severyn against the Verkhovna Rada, the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (the Human Rights Ombudsperson) and the Speaker of Parliament.
The claimants believe that a number of serious infringements of the Law “On the Human Rights Ombudsperson” took place and are demanding that: the following all be declared in breach of this Law: :
- The inaction of the Verkhovna Rada from 5 June 2006 in not dismissing the Ombudsperson given her election as National Deputy;
- The Verkhovna Rada Resolution from 17 November 2006 ending Nina Karpachovas term as Human Rights Ombudsperson early because of her having been elected National Deputy;
- The inaction of the Human Rights Ombudsperson (Nina Karpachova) in not handing in her resignation as National Deputy within 10 days of assuming her deputy mandate;
- The action of the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada in putting forward the candidacy of National Deputy Nina Karpachova for the position of Human Rights Ombudsperson (in November 2006);
- The inaction of the Verkhovna Rada in not voting on the appointment of a Human Rights Ombudsperson during the legally established period (between 18.12.06 and 29.12.06)
- The actions of the Verkhovna Rada in holding a vote on the appointment of Human Rights Ombudsperson late, on 8 February 2007;
- The Verkhovna Rada Resolution from 8 February 2007 proclaiming Nina Karpachova Human Rights Ombudsperson;
- The claimants are demanding that those involved in putting forward candidates for the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson be bound within 20 days of the coming into force of the Courts ruling to enforce Article 6 of the Law “On the Human Rights Ombudsperson” [according to this voting for a new Ombudsperson should take place no earlier than 10 days, but no later than 20 days after the expiry of the period for proposing candidates.]
At the preliminary hearing, the respondents representatives denied any infringements at all, despite the fact that the dates clearly do not comply with the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson.
We will keep readers posted on the course of the civil proceedings.
An adaptation of the legalese original at www.maidan.org.ua
Implementation of European Law
Mediation is better
The Ministry of Justice has announced plans to introduce a mediation procedure to be applied when examining criminal, civil and economic court cases.
The relevant draft laws “On mediation” and “On amendments to some legislative acts on mediation procedure”, drawn up by the Ministry of Justice, have been submitted for public discussion and all individuals, organizations and interested public bodies invited to make their comments.
The Minister of Justice Mykola Onishchuk explains that the draft laws have been prepared in order to bring domestic legislation into line with European Union and Council of Europe requirements. They envisage the introduction of a specific mechanism in Ukrainian court proceedings which will guarantee people the right to mediation. A mediator would be available to try to enable the parties to resolve disputes amicably.
It is expected that this would ensure more equitable resolution of issues involving compensation for material or moral damages, and would also reduce the workload on courts. There will be legal regulation of the activities of civic organizations implementing mediation programmes.
The press release adds that there are plans to reduce the number of people being sentenced to terms o imprisonment. The mediation procedure could be used in cases involving minor or medium-seriousness crimes as well as crimes classified as serious, but committed through negligence.
According to estimates, such mediation procedure could be applied in the cases of over 101 thousand people.
From information at www.minjust.gov.ua
Against torture and ill-treatment
Ukraines reports to the UN Committee against Torture must be public
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group believes that Ukraines Fifth Periodic Report to the UN Committee against Torture on its implementation of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment does not fully reflect the changes in legislation and practice over the last three years. The report was prepared at the beginning of 2004 and was not updated before being submitted last year.
At a press conference in Kyiv on 19 December KHPG Co-Chair Yevhen Zakharov stated that the report does not identify problems which exist in this area.
He said that this report as all periodic reports and similar are prepared by government bodies without public participation or discussion. He stressed that all such reporting to the UN, Council of Europe and other international organizations needed to be public.
As reported at the time, on 8-9 May this year the UN Committee against Torture reviewed Ukraines Fifth Periodic Report. The UN encourages nongovernmental organizations to submit commentaries on these official reports, and indeed the shadow report submitted by KHPG this year was its third, following reports on the Third and Fourth Periodic Reports in 1997 and 2001, respectively.
Arkady Bushchenko, lawyer and KHPG programme coordinator pointed to positive changes and trends over recent years. He said, however, that certain problems remained of concern, namely, impunity in cases where torture has been applied, conflict over the functions of the prosecutors office which hampers the efficient investigation of cases of torture, and the use of violence against many in penal institutions.
“The main defects in the Ukrainian legal system are the use of confessions in legal proceedings as grounds for convictions. Cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty are widespread; there is no strict system for registering individuals deprived of liberty, nor the key safeguards against ill-treatment recognized in international practice, namely free access to a lawyer, doctor and the possibility of contact with the outside world, as well as information about ones rights”. Mr Bushchenko also pointed to the bad conditions in penal institutions.
He believes that the KHPG report had a significant impact on the conclusions of the UN Committee. “I believe that on many issues the Ukrainian Government was unable to provide well-argued answers and prove that it had fulfilled its commitments on implementing the UN Convention against Torture
Oleh Martynenko, Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, noted a clear confrontation between government structures, including the MIA, and human rights organizations.
He stresses however that cooperation with the latter is the single effective way of overcoming the problem of the use of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement or any other government bodies.
Freedom of conscience and religion
Crimean Prosecutor protests against the actions of the Simferopol City Council.
The Prosecutor has issued a protest over the decision taken by the Simferopol City Council when agreeing allocation of land for the Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of the Crimea. In allocating land on Luhova St, the Council infringed established procedure for assigning land. “The procedure envisages taking a decision to allocate the land site or turn the application down. … Instead of reviewing the building plan, the deputies unwarrantedly changed the location of the Mosque, this being in violation of the law and exceeded their authority. Such a decision must be preceded by an application from members of the public, and the formalization of preliminary agreements. In the given instance, the Spiritual Directorate did not apply for the land site on Luhova St and clearly did not submit the building documentation.”
“This case prompts the Prosecutor to once again draw the attention of the authorities to sources of escalating tension in inter-religious relations. The issue of allocation of land for places of worship for the Roman Catholic Church in Simferopol and the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in Yalta have for a considerable period of time not been considered. No measures are being taken to resolve the conflict over the Svyato-Uspensky monastery (Bakhchysarai) and the Matrosky Sad (Feodosia).
The Crimean Prosecutor has sent a letter to the Crimean Parliament and Council of Ministers, the representative office of the President in the Crimea proposing that an action plan be drawn up aimed at averting an escalation in inter-religious relations.
Crimean Muslims begin protest over obstruction in building a Mosque in Simpferopol
On 23 January Muslims in the Crimea began an indefinite protest action alleging discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds. They held a picket and prayer service in the place where the Simferopol City Council had previously given permission to build the Soborna Mosque. At one of the last sessions, the Councils deputies reversed this decision which has prompted the Muslims of Crimea to call on Kyiv to dissolve the Council and hold new elections for Mayor of Simferopol.
The process of gathering all necessary documentation for the building permits had taken two years and cost over 70 thousand UAH.
The protesters have set up a tent and are calling their action an information picket. They say that they will continue their protest until the Council removes its ban on the construction of the Mosque.
One of the leaders of the Mejilis Refat Chubarov, who is also a National Deputy, took part in the picket and prayer service yesterday. He initiated an open appeal addressed to President Yushchenko. The appeal claims that the Crimean authorities may avoid resolving the long-standing problems with land and instead resort to provocative measures as a way of escaping liability for numerous fraudulent dealings over land.
A supermarket instead?
The Mayor of Simferopol Gennady Babenko has long avoided discussing this subject with the press. The Councils press service claims that the Council had a number of reasons, but supposedly most important was a “large number of appeals from individuals”.
“You cant build any old constructions at the mouth of a water reservoir which is a protected zone”, representative of the press service Tetyana Shkuro stated. At the same time a source within the S=City Council said that the local authorities want to allocate the land involved to build a supermarket.
From material at: www.radiosvoboda.org
Freedom of expression
Putrid lies and other unpleasant odours
We all know how smells permeate. Once the pong has penetrated every corner of the house locating its source is no easy matter. This doubtless suits those whose real objective is also less than sweet-smelling.
Following an article on an Internet site and an extraordinarily misplaced display of vigilance from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs a quiet-looking pensioner from Zaporizhya, Vasyl Tymchya, gained fame – or notoriety – in both Ukraine and Russia.
I have already spoken of this alleged case of anti-Semitism and shown that it did not happen. It is distressing to knowingly repeat myself in public, but when theres no escape from the smell which is spreading fast and triumphantly leaping borders and linguistic barriers, what choice do they leave me?
On 29 November 2007, the Internet publication MIGnews.com published a short article in which they claimed that the Head of the Zaporizhya Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists Vasyl Tymchyna had told a gathering that “Our time has come and the Dnipro will become red with the blood of Jews and Russians*!” The journalist claimed to be most appalled that “none of the numerous representatives of the Security Service [SBU], law enforcement agencies or Prosecutors office said a word”.
In an extended version of the report from 30 November with the telling headline: “Theres a directive! Jews and Russians will be drowned in the Dnipro!”, the journalist is clearly implying that the alleged remark was ordered from those in higher places.
Before considering all kinds of alarming conclusions, we should clarify one or two points. The first is no mere detail given the seriousness of the allegation. The dates are muddled and the alleged speech is said to have been at the opening of a memorial to the victims of Holodomor on 29 November. Mr Tymchyna was ill on that occasion and quite simply not there. As alibis go, you must admit its not one of the weakest.
There was however a remembrance gathering on 24 November which Mr Tymchyna did address. It was possible that the Internet site had been careless about detail, but accurately reported the speech. This, we assume, is how the SBU and the Zaporizhya Prosecutor were thinking since they investigated the speeches at the remembrance gathering in search of the alleged crime. They viewed a video recording of the speeches made on that occasion and stated publicly that neither Vasyl Tymchyna nor anybody else had said anything of the sort.
Had the Mignews team carried out the investigation they so loudly promised, they could have allayed their readers anxiety as to why all the authorities were silent. Forgive such banality, but it is difficult to foam with indignation over words not spoken.
The conclusions of the Prosecutors office were posted on the Internet and reported by several agencies. On 24 December the UNIAN news agency http://human-rights.unian.net/ukr/detail/186730 stated that the Prosecutor had instructed the Zaporizhya SBU to find out who had provided MIGnews with false information. The first suggestions that this information was if not pure, certainly fiction, had, incidentally been voiced on reputable sites much earlier.
It was unfortunate that the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also expressed concern without checking the facts which we commented on (http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1198799277)
How much can you say about something that never happened? That, unfortunately, is the problem. If it really doesnt suit certain people to believe that it didnt happen, they can say a great deal. The more the better if they want to ensure that the truth is forgotten.
New articles appeared in January on the sites http://2000.net.ua/print?a=%2Fb%2F44511 (with the telling title: My murder is already planned) and http://time4news.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2114&Itemid=31
In fact, a simple Google search will bring up a very large number of publications both on Russian and Ukrainian sites, most of them repeating the original incorrect information.
Most disturbing in this respect is the fact that the author of the monthly bulletin “Anti-Semitism, Xenophobia and Minority Rights in Ukraine” presented the MIGnews account as a factual occurrence http://kngu.org/KongrUkr/12-07/likh-11-07.html It seems incredible that he saw no need to at least sniff around such a sensational report, and has not since felt the need to retract the information.
What do we have?
We have a person accused of a crime (inciting ethnic enmity). No criminal investigation, no court case, nothing, and the Prosecutor has publicly said that the crime Mr Tymchyna is accused of quite simply never happened. Now clearly, I cant guarantee, that in his own home, maybe in front of his cat, Mr Tymchyna did not say those appalling words (and the cat remained silent!). He did not, however, make the imputed speech and all those publications repeating defamatory information are now openly in breach of the law and violating his rights. Vasyl Tymchyna should seriously consider lodging civil suits against those Ukrainian websites so brazenly libelling him.
We have the enforcement agencies maybe or maybe not investigating the source of the original false information. We have no evidence of any results or any sign that they are seeking to have the offending articles publicly refuted, including many published after their public statement that the information is false.
MIGnews has ignored our request for information about their “investigation” into the alleged incident and their plans for retracting defamatory information now that the said incident has been proven to be fictitious.
We have one more slur on Ukraines reputation which is being manufactured before our eyes. A crime which never took place is being used widely to “prove” how anti-Semitic and russophobic Ukrainians are.
We have a considerable number of people who trained as journalists. We would like them to be proud of their profession. It is an honourable calling. It is also one which bears with it great responsibility.
And theres you and I. It is our right to information which is being violated, our right to know the truth and to not be subjected to cheap manipulation and grubby disinformation. It is also our reputation which is tainted by many of the allegations hurled about.
I believe it is time we stopped wincing with distaste and averting our gaze from appalling lies and subterfuge, and began asserting our right to the truth. If the food item you bought in a supermarket proves rotten and smelly, you dont just, so to speak, swallow it. Why accept information which is no less toxic and of dubious quality?
Where you see articles which you are certain are knowingly false or manipulative, do not stay silent! At very least, contact us at [email protected]. However, better still write first to the publication involved. Ask the Editor politely where they received the information. Keep records of your request and, obviously, of any answer received. If you are not satisfied, contact the Prosecutors office – ask them to examine whether there are any legal grounds for preventing such material being published. Write to the Ukrainian Media Trade Union (www.profspilka.org.ua), ask them whether they regard such journalism as acceptable, and whether anything can be done to ensure that attempts are not made in future to mislead you.
Nobody likes to admit that they made a mistake. Yet when the mistake is quite so lethal, and there can only be harm done to the country and its reputation, then reluctance to retract false information is especially unwarranted. The conclusion seems called for that we are again seeing painfully familiar and no less dishonest attempts to rewrite history.
Freedom of speech without respect for others rights all too easily turns into a licence for arbitrary rule and a threat on our inalienable right to live without lies.
* the words for both Jews and Russians are offensive
Who proved for sale in December?
The initiative “Were not for sale!” states that in December “Energoatom” bought the most news items, the TV and radio company “Era” sold the most, and an ICTV presenter read the most.
The results of monitoring carried out by the Initiative in December show that the NNEGC [National Nuclear Energy Generating Company] Energoatom figured most often in material prepared with infringements of the standards of topicality, significance and balanced presentation during news broadcasts on national television channels. The programme with the largest amount of such material was found to be “Pidsumky” [“Summary”] on “Era”.
These were the conclusions reached by Natalya Ligachova, Chief Editor of “Telekritika”, Victoria Syumar from the Institute for Mass Information, Taras Shevchenko from the Media Law Institute and Vitaly Maximov from the publication “Dyelo” [“Business”] on the basis of the above-mentioned monitoring.
Of the 20 pieces of material which the media experts were unanimous in concluding had been prepared with infringements of the standards of topicality, significance and balanced presentation, 8 were about Energoatom.
During the first report for November, the Initiative refrained from naming actual colleagues observed broadcasting news material to order in the hope that the journalists involved would rectify the situation. This time they named names, with Olena Frolova from ICTV identified as the presenter with the largest amount of material infringing journalist standards.
According to Vitaly Maximov “We are publishing anti-ratings of presenters for the first time, not in order to humiliate our colleagues who are effectively being used to carry out dirty work, but to stress the huge responsibility which the face of the channels bears.
If journalists and presenters jointly engage in discussion with their managers, corruption in the news in the Ukrainian media will disappear”.
The initiative “Were not for sale!” began in early November 2007 with a statement issued by dozens of television presenters, editors and journalists pledging to boycott any news material prepared to order.
The Initiative carries out daily monitoring of the news broadcasts on the 11 nationwide channels.
Based on material at www.telekritika.kiev.ua
Lviv Mayor becomes anti-hero in a documentary film
Ihor Chaika, who has already produced several documentary films on press freedom, has turned his attention to Andriy Sadovy, Mayor of Lviv.
All of the films have effectively investigated the state of Ukrainian journalism in the “new democracy”. Chaika and his team, together with colleagues from other parts of the country, are endeavouring to establish the extent of the divide between the fine statements made by those in power, as well as sometimes by the media outlet owners themselves, about “freedom of speech”, “media independence”, “free journalism”, etc and reality.
They have understood that there are plenty of other forms of “influence” less primitive than the “temnyky” – semi-official instructions issued under the Kuchma regime to media outlets on what to cover and how. Over recent times the “carrot and stick” approach has become widespread, with financial levers being applied. The “stick” aspect here is seen in the fact that if a journalist or outlet cant be “bought”, they can be bankrupted (for example, via the court), or the media outlet can stop being financed.
Ihor Chaikas new film speaks of the Lviv experience in affirming “freedom of speech” through the example of the fight between Lvivs Mayor Andriy Sadovy (also a media owner) with the Lviv City Councils newspaper “Ratusz” and its “recalcitrant” editor Mykola Savelyev.
“I know very well that after people view the film, there will be lots of accusations that the film has been made to order, and that it is supposedly directed against the well-known democrat Mr Andriy Sadovy.”, Ihor Chaika explains. “However if in this case there can be any talk of being “to order”, this is only from the point of view of defending all journalists against the arbitrary rule of those in power. In that sense I would agree, but only as the positioning of our story as commissioned by our profession. Its after all no accident that the first acknowledgements at the beginning of the film are to the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine which is presenting our new work.”
Based on a report at www.zik.com.ua
Access to information
Where is the Aarhus Convention?
Prominent environmental and human rights activists have put their signatures to a letter addressed to Ukraines leaders. In it they give a scathing assessment of Ukraines adherence to the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters and make a number of urgent recommendations for action.
The environmentalists worked together during 2006 and 2007 on monitoring observance of environmental rights. They found a systemic nature to violations of all the rights which the Aarhus Convention covers. Reasons for this include:
- the fact that many normative legal acts do not comply with international standards;
- application of the law is inadequate;
- the lack of political will from those in authority.
And all this as Ukraine moves closer to the tenth anniversary in June 2008 of its signing of the Aarhus Convention. The Convention was passed within the framework of “Environment for Europe” and aimed at future cooperation between European nations on protecting the environment.
Despite the fact that since the Verkhovna Rada ratified the Convention in 1999, it has become a part of domestic legislation, its provisions are still not being properly enforced.
In their letter, the environmentalists point out that Ukraine is signatory to the Aarhus Convention which renders untenable attempts by the Cabinet of Ministers to pass responsibility for the Conventions implementation to the Ministry for Environmental Protection, without binding all other government bodies to play their role.
They believe that the President, the Verkhovna Rada, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are failing their duties in not overseeing observance of the Aarhus Convention.
As a result, amendments have only been made to four laws in compliance with the Convention, namely: “On protection of the natural environment”
“On environmental impact assessments”
“On local self-government in Ukraine”
The Code of Administrative Offences
Changes clearly required to other laws, including the Law on Information have yet to be implemented.
Nor are the current laws and subordinate legislation being properly implemented.
There have been no National Reports on the State of the Environment for 2005 or 2006, despite review of such reports by the Verkhovna Rada on an annual basis being a requirement of the Law “On protection of the natural environment”
In violation of Article 5 of the Convention, neither the Ministry for Environmental Protection nor other government bodies have yet drawn up and published lists of the environmental information they are in possession of, and conditions of access to this information.
Virtually nothing has been done to create a nationwide computerized system for ensuring access to environmental information which according to Article 10 of the Law “On protection of the natural environment”, the Law “On local self-government in Ukraine”, and resolutions by the Verkhovna Rada and Cabinet of Ministers should have been functional as far back as 2005.
The interpretation of the very concept “environmental information” given in the Law “On protection of the natural environment” differs from that in the Aarhus Convention. It excludes such important areas as information about state of health and safety, living conditions, the state of cultural structures and the degree to which the environment has or could have impact upon them.
“Regulations on procedure for providing environmental information” (Order of the Ministry for Environmental Protection from 18.12.2003 No. 169 does not mean international standards regarding access to environmental information in that it allows for this to be classified as State secrets and restricts the number of questions in a formal requests for information.
It should be noted that the Second Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention in Almati (2005) found that Ukraine, together with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, were failing to adhere to the Convention.
Yet this information has been consistently concealed from the Ukrainian public.
In June 2008 the Third Meeting of the Parties to the Aarhus Convention will be held in Riga. We would note that in the last two and a half years the Government has still not implemented the recommendations from the Second Meeting that Ukraine:
- bring its legislation and practice into line with the provisions of the Convention; :
- no later than the end of 2005 present the UN EEC Committee on Observance of the Convention with a Strategy Plan for integrating its provisions in domestic legislation, together with the relevant schedules, practical mechanisms and procedure for enforcing implementing legislation.
Such procrastination is unacceptable given Ukraines Euro-integration plans. If the situation is not rectified as a matter of urgency, Ukraine will face even harsher criticism and inevitable sanctions.
If the issue of political liability by government officials for the longstanding failure to implement the provisions of the Aarhus Convention is not raised, we should forget all the political declarations about Ukraines democratic and European choice.
The letters authors call for the following immediate measures
- Draw up within a short period Strategy and Action Plans on integrating the provisions of the Aarhus Convention into domestic legislation with this including practical mechanisms; procedure and measures for increasing application in law;
- The Cabinet of Ministers, Verkhovna Rada and Presidential Secretariat should thoroughly analyze the degree to which government bodies are adhering to legislation on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, and inform the public about the results of such an analysis
- Bring legislation and practice into line with the provisions of the Convention by:
- Accelerating preparation of draft laws in keeping with modern principles of access to information, including a new version of the Law “On information”;
- accelerate preparation of Cabinet of Ministers resolutions establishing specific procedure for ensuring access to environmental information and public participation in decision-making;
- introduction of amendments or revoking of current normative legal acts which do not comply with Aarhus Convention standards on access to environmental information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters;
- For the purpose of general coordination, create a National Commission on Monitoring Adherence to the Aarhus Convention, involving representatives of civic organizations;
- Envisage the creation of infrastructure relevant for providing environmental information, as well as educational and awareness-raising activities, including those for public officials and officials from bodies of local self-government, judges, deputies and members of the public;
- Publish in Ukrainian in the official media channels the main documents of the UN EEC Committee on Observance of the Aarhus Convention, and 5. У системі впровадження and the Meetings of the Parties, as well as all decisions concerning Union.
The letters authors ask for a response to be provided in according with Article 20 of the Law “On citizens appeals”.
Some Cabinet of Ministers Resolutions to see the light of day
According to a statement released today on the Ministry of Justices official website, the Cabinet of Ministers is planning to remove the stamps “Not to be printed” and “Not to be published” from Cabinet of Ministers Resolutions and Instructions issued between 1991 and 2005 since these stamps are not allowed for by Ukrainian legislation. The Minister of Justice Mykola Onishchuk informs that the relevant Instruction on revoking these stamps has already gone through checking procedure in the Ministry. He adds that the Instruction is aimed at ensuring citizens rights of access to information, as guaranteed by the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.
The statement goes on to say that the Cabinet of Ministers plans to ensure free access to legislative acts which were not on general access in previous years.
The Minister states that restrictions in access to more than one thousand government acts issued between 1991 and 2005 will be removed.
Approximately 300 others will have the above mentioned stamps removed, however will still not be available to public scrutiny with another stamp “For official use only” being used instead. It is stated that almost all these acts deal with defence and security or contain issues relating to economic competition.
www.minjust.gov.ua (slightly abridged)
It is worth noting that KHPG and other human rights groups have also expressed concern about the use of the stamp “For official use only”. This may, in contrast to the first two, be envisaged by legislation, however the question remains as to whether removing such acts from public scrutiny is warranted.
Once more information becomes available, they will be making all efforts to establish what security-related information or that dealing with economic competition is still being kept from the public.
Prohibition of discrimination
Skinheads on Kyivs Khreschatyk
Last Friday, the website www.basket.com.ua reported that the basketball player Marcus Faison, who is playing for the team «Kyiv» had been attacked by skinheads in the centre of Kyiv. The information, it said, had come from sources close to the team. Most disturbingly it said that Mr Faison had managed to break free of the skinheads and had run to a police patrol car. It claimed that the police officers had simply got into the car and driven away after which the skinheads had continued beating their victim. During the fight, the basketball player was stabbed on the arm and later had to have nine stitches.
The Internet publication Glavred has followed up the incident. In the press service of the capitals police, it was informed that Mr Faison had not reported the incident to any district police departments and therefore the police had no record of it happening. They said that they had also not found any medical institutions that he had approached. However, they were later able to contact the basketball club and told that Mr Faison had been seen in a private clinic. The police service said that they would visit the sportsman and ascertain what had happened. They added that if it was found that police officers had indeed acted improperly and not helped, that would be the subject of a separate internal enquiry.
Glavred reports that this was not the only attack by skinheads which came to light on 11 January. A police department received information from a doctor who had treated a 36-year-old Chinese national who had wounds to the head and back. Apparently the attack actually happened before New Year. The victim in this case also did not approach the police.
According to Glavred, the Kyiv Prosecutor has only recently passed a criminal case to the Court of Appeal following a fatal attack on a Korean national Kang Jongvon by four men on 23 April last year.
The article stresses that there are more attacks known of although not reported. Many of the victims from African or Asian countries are in the country illegally and are frightened to turn to the police.
Glavred points out that it is not only foreign nationals who are targeted by skinheads. The latter also assault people from fringe groups in society who unfortunately are also too scared on reprisals to turn to the police.
The publication points to discrepancies between human rights organizations which say that there is a problem with skinheads, and the police who claim that the problem is exaggerated, and often classify run-ins as hooliganism or everyday fights.
The number of skinhead-type organizations is rising year by year. The areas with the highest number of such individuals are Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Lviv and Mykolaiv. The most scandalous is the international Blood & Honour Division Ukraine, which according to unofficial information has more than a thousand members in Ukraine. Other groups with skinhead and fascist ideas are the «Petrovsk tigers», «Dozor [Watch]-88» and «Peruns hammer». There are also other ultra-right groups «White Power – Skinhead Spectrum», and «Pagan Front». There is also the racist Ukrainian Movement against Illegal Immigration.
It is not for nothing, the publication adds, that at the Presidents instruction, in October 2007 a special department was created within the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] to fight xenophobia and fight actions aimed at inciting national, racial or religious enmity.
No grounds for remanding Gangan in custody
The Zamostyansky District Court in Vinnytsa has rejected an application made by the Department for Fighting Organized Crime to take Mikhail Gangan whose extradition is sought by the Russian authorities into custody again.
The court took account of the fact that the Russians detention at the beginning of January had involved infringements of established procedure. Nor had there been any need for his detention since even the Russian court which had sentenced Gangan in 2004 [at that time it was a suspended sentence – translator] had given him a positive character reference.
Gangans lawyer, Ludmila Romanyuk said at the court hearing on Wednesday that her client had lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights asking that he be declared a political refugee. She considers that his chances are good since in her words Strasbourg has passed such decisions in the case of two other members of Gangans party who took part in the Meeting of those in dissent during the May 2007 Russia-EU Summit in Samara.
The prosecution also acknowledged that Gangan presented no danger to Ukrainian society. The Department for Fighting Organized Crime said that his detention had only been because he was only the international wanted list.
They discounted the possibility of any direct contact between the law enforcement agencies of Vinnytsa and Samara.
Gangan maintains that he would face not only three years imprisonment, but also physical violence if extradited to Russia. One of his fellow party activists Yury Chervochkin was beaten to death recently and Gangan has also received threats of physical reprisal.
As already reported, on 11 January the Vinnytsa Regional Court of Appeal revoked the Zamostyansky District Courts initial ruling to hold Gangan in custody, and released him.
Mykhail Gangan is applying for political asylum in Ukraine.
Dissidents and their time
6 January 2007, Christmas Eve in the Orthodox tradition should have been the seventieth birthday of Vasyl Stus, poet, dissident thinker and Soviet political prisoner. He died in the Perm Labour Camp 22 years ago, on 4 September 1985.
Radio Svobodas Kyrylo Bulkin spoke with Yevhen Sverstyuk, public figure and writer, one of the leaders of the Shestydesyatnyky [the Sixties activists] and former prisoner of conscience, and Vasyl Ovsiyenko, former political prisoner who served some of his sentence in the same camp as Vasyl Stus.
Kyrylo Bulkin: I know that you both often meet with young school and university students and speak about Vasyl Stus.
What impression do you have? Is Stus accessible to the younger generation?
Yevhen Sverstyuk: Id like to say that at one stage there was the idea that Stus wasnt for the contemporary reader, that there was a huge divide between his concepts, his language, his imperatives, his moral and ethical maxims and the world to which his name is returning.
In fact, however, we underestimated peoples consciousness. Whatever we may think about the vast abyss dividing the poet and that world which rejected him, it has to be acknowledged that people love him and feel much more than they are able to express. Theyre drawn to him. In «Smoloskyp» around a year ago we had young people doing research, mainly from the eastern regions, from Kharkiv, Donetsk, and from the South. You see a wonderful thing, with people being very drawn to Stus, and to his deep and mysterious word, his mission.
I think therefore that theres much more understanding of Stus than you might think just looking at the general crowd.
Vasyl Ovsiyenko I have been talking with school and university students about Stus since around 1990. Ive spoken to perhaps hundreds of audiences. It very seldom happens that theyre not receptive.
When, as somebody who saw Stus during those times in the camp, when I show them pictures of that place which is now a Museum to the Victims of Totalitarianism, it makes an impression. I think it depends how you present him to people.
K.B.: Id like to touch on the issue of perhaps a simplistic presentation of Stus which is on surface for the teacher. After all we see in his biography: «prisoner of conscience, human rights defender». And Stus as a poet is perhaps somewhere in the background.
Pan Yevhen. How do you feel that todays teachers in Ukrainian schools present to students the phenomenon of Vasyl Stus?
Yevhen Sverstyuk: When I was a teacher back in 1952, I had to present to senior school students interpretations of political type declarations by Tychyna or Rilksky. That was ultimately simple poetry. I had a huge problem – I felt shame before the children. And the deeper, even incomprehensible, yet deeper something is, a work, an image, poetry, the more interesting it is for children.
So I think its much easier to present a complex, than an excessively simply text.
However I am afraid that there is a very big problem for modern teachers in studying Stus precisely because the whole way of perceiving things, present experience, the ease with which things are perceived and the present circumstances are far removed from the foundation of Stus work, his maximalism, his very high aspirations.
K.B.: Does the sense of Stus link with something higher, more sublime, have any religious foundation?
Yevhen Sverstyuk: Stus is one of those poets religious in the deepest sense. His religious, you might say, is at its core national, the peoples Christianity. However its so penetrating and total, that it defies all attributes. And incidentally there is no mistake, nothing forced in Stus, as one finds in many people these days, even those quite experienced and even those well up on religion dont use religious conceptions adequately. Theres nothing contrived.
He speaks of higher spiritual values as though of a world mastered, a world in which he lives. It is effectively in his works that for the first time we came upon such concepts as «prayer», «second birth» and «God is already being born in me». In this sense he is very close to Taras Shevchenko and this brings him particularly close to people. They have the same needs and he provides an answer to them.
Id like to touch on the issue of fate. The poet is essentially both his works and his fate. The concept of victim is often encountered as a concept or image. However maybe it wouldnt seem like this if it did not so permeated his own fate.
I think that for many people Stus fate and his works are inseparable. His fate is extremely important for the history of Ukraine and for our history over the last decades. Through his return Stus raised the spirits of Ukrainian people and his burial was an unheard of event in the USSR, which totally shattered all obstacles and all standards of what was permitted.
I believe that this maximalism, its force has been felt since his return to Ukraine, since the return of his name. He saved us from uniting our spirit of protest with the spirit of conformism which was so successfully emerging from the beginning of the 1990s and is still present.
Stus stands as guard, as warning pillar. This is one thing, and that is another, this is ours, this is the peoples and that is for those who are servile.
Pan Vasyl. You were with Vasyl Stus in the camp. What was your feeling about how he accepted his path which was eventually to bring him to his Golgotha?
Vasyl Ovsiyenko: First, that he foresaw it. There were no pompous words in my presence, however the words are there in his verse.
For example, we recall here the reburial of Yury Lytvyn, Oleksa Tykhy and Vasyl Stus on 19 November 1989. He predicted it all. «However we will still return, albeit in coffins. Yet not dead, not defeated, but immortal».
A sign of genius is the ability to foresee the future and in many places, many poems, this can be felt.
In everyday camp life was this also felt? Did those with him have the sense that this was a great man who would later attain such heights?
Yevhen Sverstyuk: In general the camps did not provide a good atmosphere for perceiving a persons stature. It makes all more similar and all nondescript. Its quite understandable that for many people the poet Don Quixote seems an oddball who doesnt behave properly. The majority are like that. In any crowd theyre always in the majority. However those that understand, they understand that he is not simply different.
An abridged version of a radio interview on Radio Svobodas Ukrainian service
More information about Vasyl Stus can be found at: http://archive.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1114000264
Andrew Grigorenko: “Making Russian a State language would perpetuate colonial dependence”
Last year Ukraine commemorated the centenary of the birth of General Petro Grigorenko. Even if the National Deputies in the Verkhovna Rada at the time were unable to recognize the importance of Petro Grigorenko to Ukraine, others remembered the General with love and respect (see the links below).
The following interview was given by Andrew Grigorenko, Petro Grigorenkos son and “comrade in arms”, who now lives in the USA.
What do you do in America?
I still partly work in journalism, sometimes have things published, although rarely. I also write on the Grigorenko Foundation website, as well as sending out a publication in three languages (English, Ukrainian and Russian). The material is usually linked with human rights. For example, at the moment events in Russia are extremely topical with totalitarianism again gaining force. There are already three recorded cases of people being put into psychiatric institutions purely for their views as once happened to my father. The renewed chauvinist attacks are also worrying.
Do you remember your arrests? How long were you imprisoned?
The periods were not long. All of us who took part in the “Union for the revival of Leninism” were quickly released because my father was declared insane. We were therefore considered victims who had fallen under his bad influence. In that way Father protected us from further repression. Later they arrested me several times more, however it was more a formality, the enforcement bodies needed to show that they were active.
What helped you to endure such mockery when your father, a major general and the head of a military institute faculty was pronounced mad?
Doubts about Soviet ideology gripped me before they did him. My fathers address in 1961 at the Party conference where he called for democratization of the Party milieu merely strengthened our shared views. From then on we were comrades in arms. I tried to somehow make things better for him in prison, give him support.
Why was specifically a “Union for the revival of Leninism” created? Did you believe that Lenins cause had simply been corrupted by his successors?
For you young people these days its hard to understand that. We were too some extent zombies, like the Protestants who looked in the Bible for answers to problems in Christianity. Lenin and Marx, they were our bible. So we looked there. Only it transpired that that Marxist-Leninist bible was stupid. And time was needed to understand that. Father continued for a long time to clutch at that ideological straw, hoping for the democratic communists of the West. It proved in vain. In the end he rejected that worldview, turned to Orthodoxy. I had done that earlier.
We know that the General regretted deeply throughout his life his role in the destruction of churches.
That was certainly the case. Incidentally I recently came upon information from Smolensk where they wrote that the Smolensk Cathedral had been destroyed by the criminal Grigorenko. Let theres nothing said about those who gave the order. He didnt come personally after all to destroy an entire building himself, although he refused to take any more part in the destruction. However that did indeed torment him all his life and evidence of his remorse can be seen in his mention of those events in his memoirs. There were a lot of crimes committed at that time yet to this day nobody has openly admitted committing them. Yet he did.
Perhaps the main problem today is precisely that no one has shown remorse for the past?
There are a lot of problems. The Ukrainian people suffered terrible losses. Just in approximate figures, during the Soviet period almost 50% of Ukrainians were killed (I mean here not ethnic Ukrainians, but all those living in Ukraine). The losses were horrific. It is pretty hard to regenerate the nation. Yet I see the worst ill of the present as being that the population does not have a historical perspective. You dont have to look far for examples. Take Odessa, where theyve erected a monument to Catherine the Great. How is that possible? That shows one part of the nation spitting at another part. And in Simferopol, not far from the monument to my father in one night they erected a monstrosity in honour of the victims of UPA [the Ukrainian Resistance Army]. The UPAs victims could well have been NKVD men yet now two Ukrainian police officers guard this architectural structure so that nobody destroys it.
Is the present political situation in the country to your liking?
Im not greatly enamoured, however there are nonetheless some positive changes. You can even take the fact that nobody is insulted either in Kyiv or Kharkiv if they approach somebody and speak Ukrainian. I was in Kyiv before emigrating to say goodbye to Ukraine. I got off the train and walked up to a taxi stand. When I asked who was at the end of the queue, I was told to speak a proper language. You dont have that anymore.
That was in 1975?
Yes. Maybe its a small thing, yet the progress is clear. Making the Russian language a second State language would perpetuate the colonial dependence on Russia.
In your opinion who out of the Ukrainian State figures is most promoting Ukraines self-identification? Who do you find the most acceptable?
Ive lived longer in the West so it would be in bad taste for me to talk about likes and dislikes. When I hear how in some country, like for example, Russia they sing Putins praise, for me thats the sign of a grave illness in the country and it needs immediate treatment. While if somebody in America says “Bush is an idiot!”, thats fine.
Here they often like now to pour dirt on public officials
No dirt is bad. However a critical attitude is normal. Ukraine is still in transition and that complicates the situation. Its bad that the branches of power are not clearly separated, after all that is one of the fundamental features of a democracy. The tendency to flirt with the Churches is unfortunate since the Church must be separate from the State. I would even express the heretical view that the traditional existence in Ukraine of Catholic and Orthodox Churches has a positive effect on the people. A lot of people would say I was talking nonsense. Im Orthodox myself (he laughs). Yet this division forces people to be tolerant since all of them are Ukrainians and Christians. And here you cant do anything and the State must not interfere in the process. You can see, after all, whats going on in Russia. They threw off communist and placed Orthodoxy in its place. And when I see former KGB officers standing today with candles in Church, I feel pretty sick. I am a Christian and understand that every person can change and repent. Yet they have not repented.
Lets come back to your father? Is he well-known enough in Ukraine?
I dont think that hes known here. Ukraine has been independent for so many years now, yet my fathers works which remain topical have still not been published. The publishing house “Smoloskyp” is only now for the first time going to publish them.
What are they planning to publish?
The third part of his memoirs entitled “In the underground you can only meet rats” and works written when he was involved in human rights work, as well as addresses given from the Diaspora. The book was supposed to come out on 16 October, to mark Petro Grigorenkos date of birth, however it has been postponed for technical reasons.
Was it your idea to join the commemoration of the centenaries of your father and of Roman Shukhevych? Did they end up having to fight against each other? What did Petro Grigorenko say about UPA fighters?
Oh, he was very happy that he had never had to fight against UPA. He said that it was absolutely likely since after all before the War he had served in Belarus. However fate was merciful and he did not take part in any military actions against that army. He always spoke well of the resistance fighters because he knew from the accounts that they were extremely steadfast. Even in the camps, where there were none who agreed to collaborate [literally: “went to kum”, a KGB officer in the camps whose job was to get the prisoners to inform on others – translator]. Do you know who “kumy” were? Well, the UPA fighters never cooperated.
Is the level of human rights protection in todays Ukraine sufficiently high?
Human rights are an issue which will always exist. We are not able after all to create heaven on earth – it was the Internationale – communists who believed that to be possible. No, we will always live in an imperfect human society where there will be corruption, and violations. It is another question how many such violations. I have contact with all human rights defenders, Ukrainian, and Russian also. The Russian ones are in a very bad position right now.
What can you say about this the centenary honouring of General Grigorenko?
I know that Yushchenko wanted to declare Petro Grigorenko a Hero of Ukraine. That would have been fair, although I have extremely mixed feelings about that honour which is like a caricature of the honour of Hero of the USSR. And some of the Heroes of Ukraine have a far from good reputation. Its best not to be placed next to them. The main thing is that at the moment I am going to meet young people in a Kyiv school which is on General Grigorenko Avenue. And that indeed means a lot. Coming back to the merging of anniversaries of Shukevych and my father, the joint commemoration was at the initiative of the Ukrainian government. Its a shame that those in power did not take the opportunity to equate the UPA General with the Soviet General. After all they were both patriots, but on different sides. That is a complicated story. If we look at those events openly then we will finally gain national insight
Andriy [Andrew] Grigorenko was born in 1945. He studied at the Moscow Power Institute but was expelled because of his arrest in 1964 over his involvement in the secret movement “Union for the revival of Leninism” which his father had created. After this he was unable to find work for a long time because he was on the KGB blacklist. He then entered the evening studies department of the Moscow Institute for Construction Engineering, while also taking part in the human rights movement. The Soviet authorities finally giving up against the freethinking nature of the Generals family, in 1975 forced Andriy Petrovych to emigrate.
The interviewer was Marianna Kuzan from the Glavred Magazine