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.

Freedom of conscience and religion

Let’s build our places of worship together!

An initiative warmly to be welcomed!  Very many Ukrainians have been appalled by the difficulties encountered by Crimean Muslims who have long been trying to build a Soborna or Assembly Mosque  - Dzhuma – Dzhami – in Simferopol.

As reported here already, the Spiritual Directorate of Crimean Muslims submitted all applications and documents for permission to build on Yaltynska St in Simferopol almost three years ago.  This entailed considerable effort, and cost around 70 thousand US dollars.  The Simferopol City Council had previously given permission to build the Soborna Mosque, yet then at its session on 10 January 2008 it passed a decision to change the location, allocating a different site.

There was considerable protest, including from the Crimean Prosecutor and justice finally prevailed with the courts upholding the rights to the Muslim community which is shortly to begin building the Soborna Mosque on the land originally agreed.

The Mejilis of the Crimean Tatar people, together with the Spiritual Directorate of Muslims, had refused to give in and called on Muslims and other residents of the Crimea to bring one stone each for the Mosque.  The number received was impressive.

It is not only Muslims who experience difficulties in the Crimea, with Simferopol parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church encountering no less problems. They have also been asking the authorities for years now to be allocated land to build their churches. However the officials are all too crafty and good at saying no, leaving the spiritual fathers and parishes to rely on the grace of God and their own efforts.

However all of us, concerned citizens, Ukrainian patriots can help residents of the Crimea of different nationalities and different faiths. Using the Internet, the post or branches of any bank you can make your donation towards the building in Simferopol of a Muslim Mosque and Christian Churches. 

The details for bank transfers can be found in Ukrainian here:

The problem we have discovered is that only one of the communities has an account for foreign currency donations, and it doesn’t seem fair to give only one.

If anybody reading this would like to make a donation, please drop a line to [email protected] and we can try to put you in touch with the community.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of Speech Commission also dubious

The National Commission for the Affirmation of Freedom of Speech* is calling on the Prosecutor General to inform the public about the investigation into the Kalashnikov case.

The Commission has expressed concerned that the criminal investigation into the assault on journalists from an STB filming crew in July 2006 has, as reported here, been terminated.

The Commission’s statement, issued on 21 May, reads:

“Over recent times there have been a number of disturbing indications of infringements of journalists’ rights in Ukraine. A significant number of these involve obstruction of journalists in carrying out their legitimate professional duties. This in turn restricts the right of society to information which is one of the fundamental human rights and guarantees for the stable existence of civic society and democracy.

Among such cases of obstruction of journalists in their work was that involving the National Deputy Oleh Kalashnikov and journalists of TV STB on 12 July 2006. The Pechersky District Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal investigation into this incident under Article 171 of the Criminal Code – obstruction of the legitimate professional activities of journalists. On 10 April 2008 the Kyiv prosecutor’s office terminated the proceedings into the case “for lack of elements of a crime”. Back in July 2006 President Yushchenko stressed that he considered an incident in which a National Deputy had obstructed journalists to be unacceptable, and supported the solidarity shown by representatives of the mass media in reacting to the brutal case involving the assault of their colleagues near the Verkhovna Rada.

The National Commission for the Affirmation of Freedom of Speech and the Development of the Information Realm, under the auspices of the President, therefore deems it necessary to recommend that the Prosecutor General inform the public about the investigation into this case in accordance with Ukrainian legislation and international standards.


*  The full title is the National Commission for the Affirmation of Freedom of Speech and the Development of the Information Realm, under the auspices of the President,)

Access to information

Defumigating channels of information

Who wouldn’t hurtle in pursuit if a cockroach suddenly appeared? When it’s two, three or more the task becomes harder. And if we have no wish to share our flat with a foul infestation, major steps are needed.

It is unlikely that we will succeed in identifying the true source of dirty lies about a supposedly Ukrainian manufacturer of a Hitler doll being widely sold to children which scurried around the world media a month ago.  The reason is painfully banal: nobody will wish to admit to having bitten at such rancid bait for the sake of a highly dubious sensation.

For a month now we have been strongly advising the media to sort out their channels of information as soon as they possibly can. We brazenly hope to have demonstrated to some western media outlets, in particular the BBC, Deutsche Welle, and the newspapers Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, that they should not have ignored fundamental principles of good journalism and that it was their reputation which has suffered through disregard for their professional duty.

There is no longer any need to prove the total lack of substance to the “information” about the Hitler doll. That they could have found this out with ease by simply reading the original article in the newspaper “Dzerkalo tyzhnya” we were forced to explain to all too many media outlets. Three of the above-mentioned – the BBC, Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph – removed the offending material , the BBC immediately and the other two after hearing the words “press complaints commission”. Deutsche Welle dug their heels in longer, however having finally removed the article in question, almost immediately publicly apologised and placed an interview with the Editor in Chief of the publication “Telekritika” about how the scandal was manufactured (,2144,3337110,00.html). We of course informed the other media outlets of this wise move and an apology soon appeared on the BBC’s website (we had already received an apology which with the BBC’s permission we posted on our sites ). The negotiations with the editor of the Daily Mail were, we must admit, in somewhat different mode, however a retraction and apology appeared on that paper’s website on 23 May After fleeting willingness to talk to us, the editorial office of the Daily Telegraph is again ignoring our letters calling upon them to publicly apologize. We assume, however, that it is now just a matter of time.

The power of persuasion

Much as we would like to believe in the magic power of our words, it’s all, of course, more prosaic. Media outlets have to fight for their corner, and obviously can’t afford to bore their readers brainless. They are not however entitled to deceive people and must be accountable for the truth or the offensive lies which they report.

The fact that they reported information they themselves received from somewhere does not absolve them of responsibility. We are not talking (or not only) about moral responsibility. There are laws and press codes in all our countries and the media cannot expect to be patted on the back for deceiving their audience and violating our right to truthful information.

We spoke with various media outlets. There was the feeling that for some reputation was paramount, while for others the words “Press Complaints Commission” worked like magic.

In one case we were already close to turning to that very Commission to resolve the situation. We agreed to a retraction which would stay on the outlet’s site less time than the offending article only after long hesitation. We decided that it was better to get a retraction, albeit not fully satisfactory, and circulate it as widely as possible, than wait yet another month. After all information cockroaches multiply just as quickly as their real counterparts. Now we are fully entitled to file complaints against any media outlets refusing to remove material reposted from that source.

We had another reason also. During those first days after the lies were published, many of us felt despairing. The outrageous slander was being repeated everywhere. Yet another attack had been made on the reputation of the country, the reputation of each of us.  Yet this time a lot of people felt no wish to silently tolerate the lies and it turned out that we could have impact upon the situation. It would be tedious to list all the media outlets which removed material or actually wrote articles about the distorted sensation. There were a lot. The extraordinary speed with which the information cockroaches infested different parts of the globe prompts thoughts about the possible existence of some kind of “source X”. If the latter acted with ill intent, then we can only modestly hope that on this occasion their plan was a total flop.

Could the authorities have helped?  I have equivocal feelings about this. The scale of the scam and certain suspicions regarding the source make the virtually total silence from the government difficult to understand. On the other hand, I have no idea how they could have adequately reacted at an official level. Besides Deutsche Welle, and to a lesser extent, the BBC, we were dealing with privately-owned media outlets. Their behaviour needs to be regulated by internal laws and press codes, not diplomatic notes.

The problem lies, perhaps, on two different levels. In this grubby story a lot of people were most shocked by the involvement of western media outlets in an all-too-familiar game. A foul monstrosity, namely a Hitler doll, which unfortunately finds buyers in many countries of the world, was used to impose old stereotypes of Ukrainians we are all familiar with from Soviet propaganda. The government must undoubtedly follow any attempts to damage the image and reputation of the country.

There is, however, a second level. If you have an invasion of cockroaches and the dirt is somewhere in a neighbour’s flat, then all of this will be established, but later. Urgent measures of a different nature are needed immediately. We all saw how lies spread dispersing foul waste. This time you and I reacted. We deflected one dirty wave of false information and upheld our right to truthful and objective information. Not such a bad lesson for the media, and let’s hope, for us as well.

Lesson consolidation

Over the last two or three weeks we have gone on and on about one unspeakable monstrosity, namely, a Hitler doll or model. We are sincerely hoping to be able to leave this foul subject and get onto more important things, but first we have one big request.

A lesson needs drumming in and your help is vital.

Apologies for inaccurate and misleading information regarding a Hitler doll in Kyiv can now be found at the following sites:,2144,3337110,00.html

We are glad that the editors of these publications understood the need to retract information which was unchecked and incorrect.

These texts spread and have polluted many other websites.

A lot have already removed misleading reports, some apologizing for posting them, for which we are most grateful.

Some are stubbornly refusing to publicly acknowledge their mistake. Others have been informed that the information is incorrect and are in no hurry to stop misleading their readers.

Let’s remind them that lying is not just a bad thing to do, it is also against the law.

Three of the original sources of false information have publicly apologized. The Daily Telegraph removed the offensive material but for some reason does not want to recognize the damage caused.

And Deutsche Presse Agentur has not even removed the fatally flawed article they published.

We have again written sample letters and give emails.  Please help us by sending them. 

We have warned the Daily Telegraph and Deutsche Presse Agentur that we will complain to their press complaints commissions if an adequate response is not forthcoming. 

We are however, hoping that they themselves and other media outlets will understand without such measures that they cannot knowingly mislead their readers, or where the damage has been major simply remove their article, but disregard the toxic waste it spread. . 

On an information battleground, this lesson is extremely important – and useful – for us all.

Please join us in vital lesson consolidation!


The Daily Telegraph 

Send to:  [email protected]

Dear Editor,

I am writing in connection with the material which the Daily Telegraph posted here

I are glad that material so seriously flawed in terms of accuracy, objectivity and other principles of good journalism was removed.

You may be interested to know that apologies have been issued by three other sources of the misleading information – BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Daily Mail.  Their statements can be found here:,2144,3337110,00.html

I invite you to recognize that your article was misleading and inaccurate and has caused damage with sites quoting you as their source.  A public apology is clearly called for. if the above is not received, I fully endorse the plans to approach the UK Press Complaints Commission.

Yours sincerely,



Deutsche Press Agentur

Dear Editor,

I am writing in connection with the material which is h posted here,report-hitler-doll-to-sell-in-ukraine.html

The information is quite incorrect, and the article you refer to makes it entirely clear that the doll found in one Kyiv store (not a toy store) was from Taiwan.

You may be interested to know that apologies have been issued by three other sources of the misleading information – BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Daily Mail.  Their statements can be found here:,2144,3337110,00.html

I invite you to recognize that your article is misleading and inaccurate and has caused damage with sites quoting you as their source.  It should be removed and a public apology made. Iif the above is not received, I fully endorse the plans to approach the UK Press Complaints Commission.

Yours sincerely,



Other websites

Ananova   Write to:  [email protected] 

Dear Editor,

I am writing in connection with the material which is h posted here

The material here is incorrect and retractions have been issued by three other sources of the misleading information – BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Daily Mail.  Their statements can be found here:,2144,3337110,00.html

I invite you to recognize that your article is misleading and inaccurate, and to remove it immediately.

Yours sincerely,



Daily Times

Write to: [email protected][email protected][email protected]

Dear Editor,

I am writing in connection with the material which is h posted here

The material here is incorrect and retractions have been issued by three other sources of the misleading information – BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Daily Mail.  Their statements can be found here:,2144,3337110,00.html

I invite you to recognize that your article is misleading and inaccurate, and to remove it immediately.

Yours sincerely,

(ПІДПИС)  - write to: [email protected]

Dear Editor,

I am writing in connection with the material which is h posted here

The material here is incorrect and retractions have been issued by three other sources of the misleading information – BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Daily Mail.  Their statements can be found here:,2144,3337110,00.html

I invite you to recognize that your article is misleading and inaccurate, and to remove it immediately.

Yours sincerely,

(ПІДПИС)  write to:  [email protected]

Dear Editor,

I am writing in connection with the material which is h posted here

The material here is incorrect and retractions have been issued by three other sources of the misleading information – BBC, Deutsche Welle and the Daily Mail.  Their statements can be found here:,2144,3337110,00.html

I invite you to recognize that your article is misleading and inaccurate, and to remove it immediately.

Yours sincerely,



Write to:  [email protected]   Re

Write to [email protected]   Re{F7C2278C-BB72-47E8-AB61-99F16F54172C}&check=online

On “National images of the past”

The twentieth century left deep and unhealed wounds in the memory of almost all the nations of Eastern and Central Europe, with its revolutions, uprisings, two World Wars, the Nazi occupation of Europe, the inconceivable horror of the Holocaust. Then there was the huge number of local wars and conflicts, most of which had a pronounced national flavour: the Baltic States, Poland, Western Ukraine and the Balkans. We witnessed a string of dictatorships of different ilk, each unceremoniously depriving people of their civic and political liberty, foisting upon them instead a standard system of values binding on all. National independence was in succession gained and lost, and gained again, with this for the most part being seen within the framework of ethnic self-identification. And each time, this or that community felt insulted and humiliated.

This is our shared history. Yet each national group remembers and perceives it own history in its own way. National memory refashions and interprets this shared history in its own way. For this reason, each national group has its own twentieth century.

* * *

Obviously, any “collective image of the past” is a loose and abstract category. Yet this abstraction is embodied in entirely specific things and public political and moral assessments of historical events, in cultural life, in the content of education, in State police and inter-ethnic and international relations.

The bitterness of old mutual grievances can long poison relations between ethnic groups,  unless they have leaders like Vaclav Havel who, having become President of Czechoslovakia, found the courage (despite the mood at the time of most of his fellow citizens) to publicly apologize to the Germans expelled after the War from the Sudeten region and their descendants.

Such symbolic gestures are fully capable, if not of putting an end to mutual grievances of different groups, then significantly softening their force. Unfortunately people of the moral calibre of Vaclav Havel seldom become national leaders. We are aware that there is no judge who would be able to hand down an independent and unbiased verdict on the past. In almost every one of the various images of the past generated by national memory, one can see both the wish to justify ones own national group, and a fragment of the historical truth which is most clear specifically for that national group and less noticeable to its neighbours. The difference in historical assessments is a reality which is senseless and dangerous to try to blur.  It is not sufficient to simply bear it in mind; we need to try to understand it.

At present disputes on historical issues arise less over the facts themselves, as how these are interpreted. An honest attempt to understand this or that event, phenomenon or process requires in the first instance consideration within a specific historical context. However the very choice of this context often generates assessments which are difficult to reconcile.  For example, the forced separation of Vilnius and the area around it from the Lithuanian state in 1920 and its subsequent annexation by Poland, the return of this territory to Lithuania in autumn 1939 looks like an act restoring justice. Yet this looks entirely different if viewed within the context of the Molotov – Ribbentrop Pact and the accompanying secret protocols, the destruction of Poland under the double blow from the West and the East, and other realities of the first weeks of the Second World War. A similar multitude of assessments is implicit in a whole range of territorial reapportioning, “annexations” and “restorations” of those years.

What is 17 September 1939 for Poles? It is a day marking a national tragedy when the country resisting with its last breath the Nazi aggression was suddenly subjected to an unprovoked invasion from the East. This is historic fact and no references to the injustice of the pre-War borders or to the need to ensure defence for the Soviet Union of its western borders can remove the Stalinist leadership’s burden of responsibility for their complicity in the Nazi aggression against Poland.

However for a significant part of the Ukrainian people this day has an extra meaning, since this day marked the uniting of Ukrainian lands into a single whole, albeit within the USSR.

Do Ukrainians have the right to a different approach from Poles to these events?  They do, yet both Poles and Ukrainians are entitled to expect understanding from each other and respect for their different memories. .

How should one view the events of 1944 when the Soviet Army drove the Germans out of Lithuania, Estonia and most of Latvia? As the liberation of the Baltic State from the Nazis? As an important step towards the final Victory over Nazism? Undoubtedly, and this is precisely how the events are perceived in the world. In Russia the perception is especially strong with it forming part of the basis of national self-awareness.

Yet for Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians, the military victories of the Soviet Army also meant the return of their countries into the USSR, which in 1940 had deprived them of their national independence. It spelled the restoration of a regime which over 11 months from July 1940 to June 1941 had made its mark through huge numbers of arrests and politically motivated charges, the deportation of tens of thousands to Siberia and Kazakhstan and the extrajudicial executions of prisoners in the first days of the War. And the immediate future, as became finally clear in the autumn of 1944, held forced collectivization, new arrests and new deportations on a mass scale. Do citizens of Russia and the other republics of the USSR have the right to be proud of the Soviet Army’s military successes in 1941? Without any doubt, this right was paid for with the blood of hundreds of thousands of soldiers.

Yet while not in any way waiving that legitimate pride, they should know and understand what, as well as liberation from Nazism, these successes also brought the Baltic nations. The latter in their turn, while remembering their tragic history, should remember and understand what the memory of the great struggle of the nations against Nazism meant for Russia and for all humanity.

“Museums of the Soviet Occupation have recently opened in Georgia and Ukraine. This has aroused bemusement and irritation in most Russian citizens since in the mass consciousness there is no memory of the forced inclusion of these countries into the Soviet Union. In Russia only specialist historians know about the existence of a Georgian Democratic Republic from 1918 to 1921 and about the attempts from 1918 to 1920 to create an independent Ukrainian National Republic, as well as about the role of the Red Army in their liquidation. Yet in the countries themselves the memory of their independent existence as states in the twentieth century albeit for a short period has never fully been erased. It is entirely natural that the will is now emerging there to rethink the events of 1920 and 1921.

One can disagree with some conclusions which are made in the process.  You can argue with those historians and lawyers who derive present Ukrainian or Georgian statehood from the events of 1918. You can emphatically argue with those inclined to view all the history of these countries from the end of the Civil War to 1991 as a period of “occupation”. However society in Russia, the country which many are used to regarding as responsible for everything that the Soviet regime did, should be aware of the discussions about the past developing in their neighbouring countries and treat such discussions with respect and understanding, and not respond merely with newspaper satire and cartoons.

At the same time one would like Ukrainian and Georgian society to acknowledge that the fact that in Russia there is no automatic consensus with the hard-hitting epithets sometimes applied in Georgia or Ukraine to some key episodes in our joint history does not necessarily demonstrate “Great Russian chauvinism” and “enduring stereotypes of imperialist consciousness.”

This applies to assessments of the armed partisan resistance to the communist regime during the post-War years in Western Ukraine, in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland.  The memory of the resistance movements, as a rule, is complex and dramatic and cannot fail to generate a multitude of very different judgments, including the most radical. Some are inclined to unquestioning glorification of “the freedom fighters”, for others it’s desperately difficult to part with the usual ideas about “bandits”. And you can find arguments without difficulty for any point of view. Those arguing are not able to convince one another even where the dispute takes place within one country. When the heated debate becomes merged with national and state ambitions and political passions, one can probably not hope to achieve balanced and mutually acceptable judgments. However we can and must move from arguments and mutual insults to a civilized exchange of opinions.

The list of examples when the memory of one people comes into conflict with the memory of another could be continued. There is absolutely nothing bad in these contradictions, on the contrary, if we treat them with proper understanding they only enrich the historical consciousness of each group and make our impression of the past more comprehensive.

* * *

In the area of history which Memorial is involved with, the history of the Soviet State terror, this difference in assessments and understanding has proved no less painful than in other fields. The tragedies of the past not recognized or understood, or seen in a hypocritical and superficial manner, become the basis for new historical and political myths, influence national mentalities, distort them and bring countries and national groups into conflict.

In almost all countries of the former socialist bloc the forms of historical and political reflection flourishing are those which represent “their” suffering purely as the result of ill will from “others”. Dictatorship and terror are presented in the first instance as aimed against the nation, and those who carry them out as “foreigners” or foreign puppets. The fact that the communist regimes in those countries were for many years propped up not only by Soviet bayonets, but by certain internal resources is gradually erased from the national memory.

At the same time the historical and legal assessments of what is taking place are sharpened to the limit. For example, standard fare in the political lexicon of a whole number of post-communist countries is the word “genocide”. We recognize that extreme assessments of this kind often have some historical truth. Yet we assume that partial truth is always dangerous, in the first instance for those who are prepared to accept it as historical truth in its entirety. The cultivation of an image of one’s own people as “victims”, and elevation of the level of human losses to the rank of national dignity are linked with the removing of responsibility and the personification of the image of “executioner” in a neighbour. This is the natural result of the reflex-level need people have to remove from themselves the overly burdensome weight of civic responsibility for the past. However waiving any responsibility and placing it all upon ones neighbour is not only a poor foundation e for mutual understanding between nations, but is also bad for ones own national revival.

For Russia, the history of the collapse Soviet Union cannot be separated from its own history – this is the self-awareness of most of its citizens. Partly for that reason, and partly because Russia declared itself the successor to the USSR, for a number of neighbouring nations, it becomes a convenient object on which to lay historical liability, to quite unequivocally identify today’s Russia with Stalin’s USSR and point to it as a source of its national tragedies.

Russia on its part has found a particular means of easing the burden placed by history on the national groups which went through totalitarianism. Instead of honest attempts to come to an understanding of twentieth century history in its tragic entirety, instead of a serious nationwide discussion about its Soviet past, the Soviet State patriotic myth with small changes is reviving. This myth views Russian history as a string of glorious and heroic achievements. In this myth there is largely no room for blame or responsibility or acknowledgement of the very fact of the tragedy. What kind of civic responsibility can you have for heroism and self-sacrifice?  As a result many Russian citizens are simply incapable of understanding not simply the level of historical responsibility of the Soviet Union before the neighbours of modern Russia, but even the scale of the catastrophe for Russia itself. The rejection of memory, its replacement by a tacky picture of an empire where “from Moldovan to Finn, in all languages each is silent, for they thrive” poses for Russia no less public danger than the cultivation of national grievances for its neighbours.

* * *

We would repeat again that in themselves national differences in the interpretation of important historical events are natural and inevitable. We must simply understand clearly how to relate to these differences.

We should obviously not reject our own understand of history to fit “political correctness”, but must also  not foist our own truth upon our neighbours.

It is senseless to ignore “another” memory, pretending that it doesn’t exist at al, senseless to deny its justification, declaring all the facts and interpretations it’s based on totally false.

One must not turn the suffering and misfortune of ones own people into a kind of moral primacy over other peoples supposedly (or in actual fact) not having suffered so much, and use this suffering as political capital, converting it into lists of grievances to present to neighbouring countries and peoples.

One must not under any circumstances try to exploit the discrepancies in the “national images of the past” and to turn the specific features of national memory into a reason for inter-ethnic enmity and inter-governmental conflicts.

With any historical perception at present it is unproductive and dangerous to divide nations into “victims” and “executioners” and to assess the past in categories of “historical blame” of some with regard to others. It is not even merely that contemporary legal thinking rejections the concept of collective, let alone inherited, blame for a crime. We are not touching upon issues connected with legal liability of states before their own or foreign nationals.  We are convinced that in order to seriously come to an understanding of the past and to seek a way out of the dead end of historical contradictions, the main thing is to not seek those guilty, but civic responsibility which all voluntarily takes upon themselves, feeling themselves to be members of a historically formed community for the actions committed in the name of that community. If a people are united not only by everyday civic and political existence, but by a shared passed and the hopes for a shared future, then the concept of civic responsibility naturally extends to national history. It is specifically civic responsibility for ones own history, and not the great achievements and major catastrophes as such which make a group in the fullest sense a nation – a society of fellow citizens.

This responsibility is not work which can be done once and for all. Each nation must return to its past again and again. It must again and again, with each new generation, understand and reassess this past, not turning away from its bitter and terrible pages. It must develop its own reading of history – and clearly understand with this that others have the right to their own, different reading. Moreover, each nation must aspire to see and understand the images of the past which their neighbours experienced, and understand that historical reality which is behind these images. Not accept, but understand, not replace ones own truth in history with another truth but to supplement and enrich ones own view of the past.

* * *

Unfortunately, history before our very eyes is becoming an instrument to achieve immediate political gain, a club in the hands of people who essentially have no interest in the national memory of other nations, nor in the tragedies experienced by their own people, or in the past in general. The events which were played out recently around the memorial to Soviet soldiers in Tallinn clearly demonstrated the lack of civic responsibility among politicians both in Estonia and in Russia. The story with the monument is a clear illustration of the possible consequences of differences in national images of the past, if the dispute about history assumes the form of a “conflict of memories”.

There will clearly always be people wanting to stir up this conflict for political dividends – at the expense of their own people, at the expense of other nations and at the expense of all normal people. One cannot remove responsibility in society for such a course of events, since conflict becomes possible where there is a lack of good-willed and interested dialogue.

What can society use to oppose old-fashioned prejudice, mutual intolerance, self-interest and the limited horizons of politicians?

We believe that the only way of overcoming the increasing divide between nations is free, unbiased and civilized exchange of opinions on all issues of our common history eliciting disagreements.  The purpose of this exchange of opinions is not to fully eradicate differences, but merely to better learn and try to understand each other’s point of view. If we reach a shared view of some painful issue linked with our past, that’s wonderful. If we don’t, no problem, each of us will remain with our own understanding, but we will learn to also see and understand the images of the past in the consciousness of our neighbours. The only conditions for dialogue must be the participants’ shared willingness to respect the other’s point of view, however “incorrect” it may seem at first glance, genuine interest in this point of view and the sincere desire to understand it.

For this dialogue, we need to create the corresponding mechanism, a discussion platform of its kind.

* * *

Memorial calls on all interested in a substantive and good-willed discussion on the issues linked with our common past to take part in creating such a platform  — an International historical forum. We view such a forum as a free association of civic organizations, research centres, cultural and educational institutions etc, within which there will be an ongoing exchange of views regarding historical events of conflict in the twentieth century connected with our region.

Clearly, the forum cannot be closed for individual researchers, publicists and other interested individuals. And of course we would hope that both the “dominant” and “dissident” historical viewpoints within any given society would be represented, with the exception of those interpretations based on overt people-hating, fascist or racist value systems.

The state of national memory in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe is interesting and important in the first instance for the peoples of this region, however not only for them. So-called “old Europe” is today turning into a new Europe. Almost all the countries of the region have joined or hope to join common European structures. Together with them, our historical issues, traumas and complexes enter European culture and the shared European memory. The experience of post-communist countries (including not only “geographical” Europe, but also Kazakhstan and the countries of the Caucuses and Central Asia) present a challenge for all Europeans. This needs to be worked on and understood. Our envisaged dialogue is merely a part of a common European, and in the final analysis, a common human dialogue about the past. Furthermore, learning and coming to understand the twentieth century experienced by many peoples in Western Europe, Latin America and other regions of the world,  we have encountered issues similar to those which we face now, and it would be very important to know how these issues were and are being resolved. We therefore hope that the topics and participants in the forum will not be strictly restricted to our region alone.

The specific forms of organization of the dialogue are a special Internet site, a series of “face to face” bilateral and multilateral thematic conferences attended not only by professional historians (who already carry out an exchange of views within the academic community), but lawyers, sociologists, journalists, activists from civic organizations and others. We propose that all who support our idea and are ready to participate in achieving it, work together on preparing it. This applies also to various products of the Forum’s activist including joint periodicals and joint preparation of textbook materials through which the youth in each of our countries can become familiar with the “national image of the past” common among neighbouring countries and peoples.

The historical forum which we are proposing will undoubtedly promote the development of mutual understanding between its participants – individuals and organizations representing different countries and different traditions of interpreting the past. However we hope that it will also become one of the ways towards mutual understand between our countries and peoples.

We must do this in order that our common tragic memories bring nations closer rather than dividing them. We have the chance to achieve this if we agree to work on understanding our past together and not in isolation.

Freedom of movement

The right to education and of freedom of movement violated in Crimean villages

The Crimean Prosecutor is demanding that the government of the autonomous republic take urgent measures to safeguard the rights of residents of the Crimea to education, medical care and freedom of movement.

The Prosecutor’s press service stated that monitoring had been carried out which had identified the populated areas without chemists, shops, communications points, and educational institutions..

The Prosecutor’s information suggests that 563 populated areas in the Crimea do not have educational institutions; 484 are without units for providing communications services; 295 do not have medical care institutions, and 187 do not have shops. 142 are not provided with public transport connections, and 135 don’t have centralized water supplies.

The Prosecutor Vladimir Boiko points out in the letter sent to the Speaker of the Crimean Parliament that for the last three years no programmes for socio-economic development of rural areas of the Crimea have been prepared. The checks showed that district administrations are not taking effective measures to provide the missing services.

Prohibition of discrimination

Men sentenced over racially-motivated murder in Kyiv

The Darnytsky District Court on Friday issued its verdict over the killing of Nigerian national Kunyon Myevi Hodi* in Kyiv near the metro station “Poznyaki” on 25 October 2006.

Of the group of four people whom the criminal investigation unit believed involved in the attack or present at it, one appeared as a witness and one came under an amnesty as being underage.

The other two were both convicted.

One was found guilty of murder (Article 115 § 2 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and of inciting racial hatred and enmity and denigrating a person’s ethnic honour and dignity (Article 161 § 3) and received a four year term of imprisonment. Since the sentences are to be partially merged (under Article 70 of the Criminal Code), he was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.  The sentence is counted from 15 November 2006.

The other was found guilty of inciting racial hatred and enmity and denigrating a person’s ethnic honour and dignity (Article 161 § 2) and received a four and a half year term of imprisonment.  This sentence is counted from November 2006.

In passing sentence, among other considerations, aggravating circumstances were taken into account – the fact that at the time of the crime, the men were in a state of alcoholic intoxication (Article 67 of the Criminal Code)

The defendants only partially admitted guilt. They have 15 days from 18 April to appeal against the verdict.


*  In all the reports at the time, the name was given differently - Hodnoys Myevi. The victim was 47 years old and had lived in Ukraine for a number of years. He had graduated from the Institute of National Economy, defended his PhD thesis in economics and was married to a Ukrainian


Law enforcement agencies

Brief report on the work of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights

The following outlines only the key points of the new report.  This Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights was created at the end of December 2005 and is proving a valuable means of ensuring public participation and control over the work of the law enforcement agencies.  The Public Council is a consultative and advisory body aimed at promoting human rights observance in the work of the MIA.

As already reported there are 10 working groups with the following areas of focus::

  • complaints alleging unlawful actions by law enforcement officers;
  • protection against torture and the right to liberty and personal security in MIA work;
  • MIA and human rights during elections;
  • MIA and freedom of peaceful assembly;
  • the right to privacy in MIA work;
  • the rights of the child and the MIA;
  • the rights of refugees and migrants;
  • preventing domestic violence and ill-treatment of children, human trafficking and gender issues in the MIA;
  • human rights education;
  • normative legal and method backup for the work of the Council

As of 23 April this year, such public councils had been created attached to the department of the MIA for all regions of the country.  Similar councils have also been created within higher educational institutions of the MIA, the transport police and some others.

These councils are largely made up of members of the public, at present representing 125 organizations.

These public councils are active in 11 regions: the Crimea, and the Vinnytsa, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Luhansk, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Sumy, Chernivtsi and Chernihiv regions, while the other regions are not active enough.

Members of the public take part:

-  in official investigations into complaints from the public (in the Kirovohrad and Ternopil regions);

-  in staffing commissions of MIA departments when carrying out attestation of police officers (Luhansk and Mykolaiv regions);

-  carry out public reception work together with MIA management (Vinnytsa, Zhytomyr, Kyiv, Luhansk, Lviv, Odessa, Chernihiv regions and Sevastopol).

The Public Council supported and developed work of MIA mobile groups on monitoring the observance of human rights in MIA places of imprisonment, mainly in its temporary holding centres [ITT].

In 2006-2007 235 ITT (48.2% of the total number) were checked.

Thus far 102 members of mobile groups have attended special training seminars held with the support of the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine for law enforcement officers and human rights organizations.

A further 100 people received training in three courses run by the International Society for Human Rights and the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research supported by the MIA.

The training courses have prepared a national network of people visiting places where people are held in custody in police stations, this being a prerequisite for the creation of a national preventive mechanism against torture and ill-treatment in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). The work of the mobile groups has been assessed highly by OSCE and Council of Europe experts

With the support of the Public Council and the International Renaissance Foundation the first legal aid offices have been opened in Kharkiv, Khmelnytsky, Bila Tserkva. Lawyers provide assistance to all those detained prior to a court ruling on placing charges and choosing a preventive measure.

On 31 May 2007 the MIA, together with members of the Public Council, drew up and approved an Action Plan of Measures for Countering Racism up to 2009.  Measures have included selection meetings and organizing meetings with representatives of diplomatic institutions and international organizations. Lectures on preventing unlawful activities by radical youth gangs, run by member of the Public Council and Executive Director of Amnesty International in Ukraine A. Taranovska, were attended by over 700 police officers from all regions of the country.

The Public Council also carried out a study into how police officers rights and social guarantees are being observed, with a booklet giving the results being published in March 2007.

The experience of cooperation between civic society and the MIA is generally rated very highly.

 Problem areas remaining:

Implementation of the requirements of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture regarding independent monitoring of special MIA institutions:

It is planned to extend the powers of the mobile groups, giving them the right to visit in the evening or at night, and without warning;

Ensuring support and the stabile work of the newly created MIA Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Police Force which should become a model for joint activities between civic society institutions and the enforcement agencies;

An area pointed out as of concern is the issue of social and legal protection for police officers and the insufficiently activity work of trade unions in this field.

Penal institutions

Looking in – and out

An important new website has begun work in gathering and sharing information about Ukraine’s penal institutions. The website has been created by the human rights organization “Donetsk Memorial” with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.

Its organizers explain why a need was seen for such a website.  There are often reports in the media about problems with the penal system and about incidents in penal colonies. They are written by journalists who do not necessarily know much about the system and many questions are often left unanswered, like how many prisoners there are, how many are released each year.

Some questions are not simply for the sake of statistical accuracy.

The website is aimed at helping people who need advice regarding whom they can turn to when a relative or friend has ended up behind bars.

A crucial question is where people who have been released can find support.

There is also advice about how to approach international human rights institutions and much more.

The different sections of the site include a news page giving information about events, including violations of prisoners’ rights, legislation and judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

The section on international documents contains reports from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture on their visits to Ukraine, as well as the recommendations of the Council of Europe regarding specific problems of criminal justice.

Another important section, given the regrettable lack of openness of the Department for the Execution of Sentences, contains correspondence, with examples of letters between civic organizations and State authorities.  One telling example is that of a letter to the Ministry of Justice in which the head of the department is congratulated on the exemplary activities of some heads of the department who were guilty of grave infringements of the Constitution and legislation, this being corroborated by court rulings.

The “Prison website” can be found at 

It is at present only in Ukrainian, however we will also be visiting it and providing ongoing information in English.

NGO activities

Amnesty International’s 2008 Report: No cause for celebration

Amnesty International has published its annual report in this 60th year since the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The title says it all: “Sixty years of human rights failure – governments must apologize and act now”

On 27 May, Amnesty International challenged world leaders to apologize for six decades of human rights failure and re-commit themselves to deliver concrete improvements.
“Injustice, inequality and impunity are the hallmarks of our world today. Governments must act now to close the yawning gap between promise and performance.”
Amnesty International’s Report 2008, shows that sixty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations, people are still tortured or ill-treated in at least 81 countries, face unfair trials in at least 54 countries and are not allowed to speak freely in at least 77 countries.
“2007 was characterised by the impotence of Western governments and the ambivalence or reluctance of emerging powers to tackle some of the world’s worst human rights crises, ranging from entrenched conflicts to growing inequalities which are leaving millions of people behind,” said Ms Khan, AI’s Director

Analysis of the situation in Ukraine

“Perpetrators of torture or other ill-treatment enjoyed impunity. Refugees and asylum-seekers continued to be at risk of enforced return, and foreigners and members of ethnic minorities were subject to racist attacks and harassment. Measures taken to combat people trafficking and domestic violence were inadequate”.

Torture and other ill-treatment in police detention continued to be widely reported. In May, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) considered Ukraine’s fifth periodic report on the implementation of the Convention against Torture. The CAT expressed concern about the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement officers for acts of torture; the failure of the Prosecutor General’s Office to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into complaints of torture; and the use of confessions as principal evidence for prosecutions.

In June, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published the report of its visit to Ukraine in October 2005. The CPT found that there had been a “slight reduction as regards the scale of the phenomenon of ill-treatment”, but that persons detained by the police still ran a “significant risk” of being subjected to ill-treatment, and even torture, particularly during interrogation. The CPT drew attention to the misuse of the Administrative Code to bring people into police custody for questioning about criminal offences, the fact that judges often failed to react to allegations of ill-treatment, and that forensic reports in cases of allegations of ill-treatment could only be provided with authorization from the police.

Edvard Furman was reportedly tortured at the offices of the Ukrainian State Security Services (SBU) in Dnipropetrovsk. He was arrested on 11 April and police investigators allegedly beat him, pressed their fingers into his eye sockets and applied electric shocks to his testicles to try and force him to confess to having shot and killed three people in a jeep in Dnipropetrovsk in March. Several other people were also detained in connection with the same crime. Edvard Furman’s family was allegedly not informed of his arrest, and did not discover his whereabouts until 24 April. Police investigators reportedly forced him to renounce his lawyer and to accept a lawyer appointed by them. However, in October Edvard Furman was granted the right to see the lawyer he initially appointed. Reportedly, no medical examinations were carried out despite the fact that Edvard Furman complained to a judge that he had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The Prosecutor General’s Office refused to open an investigation into the allegations.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

In a position paper published in October, the UNHCR, the refugee agency, advised states against returning third country asylum-seekers to Ukraine because of the risk that such people would be refused readmission; may not have access to a fair and efficient refugee status determination procedure or be treated in accordance with international refugee standards; or may face the risk of being returned to countries where they could face serious human rights violations. In its consideration of Ukraine’s fifth periodic report, the CAT expressed concern that people were being returned by Ukraine to states where they would be in danger of being subjected to torture. Refugees and asylum-seekers were exposed to xenophobia.

Lema Susarov, a Chechen refugee, was arrested on 16 June by officers of the SBU following an extradition request from Russia. On 27 July the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered his extradition. Lema Susarov’s lawyer unsuccessfully appealed against the decision to detain him. An appeal against the extradition order was pending at the Kyiv Administrative Court. Lema Susarov registered as an asylum-seeker with the Kyiv City Migration Service on 8 August, because he feared being subjected to torture and other severe human rights violations if he returned to Russia.


In November, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered Ukraine’s fifth periodic report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee expressed concern about “reports of police abuse and denial of effective protection against acts of discrimination and violence against ethnic and religious minorities especially Roma, Crimean Tatars, Asian and African asylum-seekers as well as Muslims and Jews”.

Asylum-seekers and foreigners living in Ukraine often suffered racist attacks by members of the public and were subjected to racist treatment at the hands of the police, including disproportionately frequent document checks. Two Bangladeshis, a Georgian, a Korean and an Iraqi asylum-seeker died in the course of the year as a result of violent attacks. There were no statistics for the number of racist crimes, and most racist attacks were classified by the police as hooliganism. In meetings with Amnesty International in September, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SBU denied the existence of racism in Ukraine.

The trial against three people accused of the murder of a Nigerian, Kunuon Mievi Godi, in Kyiv in October 2006 was ongoing at the end of the year*. One is charged with murder and the other two with “violation of citizens’ equality based on their race”.

*  The court passed sentence on 18 April.  One of those accused was amnestied as being underage.

One was found guilty of murder (Article 115 § 2 of the Criminal Code) and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and of inciting racial hatred and enmity and denigrating a person’s ethnic honour and dignity (Article 161 § 3) and received a four year term of imprisonment. Since the sentences are to be partially merged (under Article 70 of the Criminal Code), he was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment.  The sentence is counted from 15 November 2006.

The other was found guilty of inciting racial hatred and enmity and denigrating a person’s ethnic honour and dignity (Article 161 § 2) and received a four and a half year term of imprisonment.  This sentence is counted from November 2006.  (KHPG)

Violence against women

In February, the Ukrainian parliament held the first discussion of a new draft law “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine (concerning improving the legislation of Ukraine to counteract violence in the family)”, and recommended further changes. The proposed amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family and other relevant articles of the Administrative Code were broadly in line with the recommendations made by Amnesty International in 2006, but did not ensure adequate short-term and long-term alternative housing for victims of domestic violence. By the end of the year the amended legislation had not been approved.

In March, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Programme covering the period up to 2010. According to an anti-trafficking NGO, the Programme did not include sufficient indicators to measure its effectiveness and was not given enough funding. The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, published in June, highlighted the “failure of Ukraine to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons over the last year, particularly in the area of punishing convicted traffickers”. The report stated that many traffickers received probation rather than prison sentences; government officials were involved in trafficking; and victims were not given sufficient protection and rehabilitation services, including witness protection.


The trial against three police officers charged with murdering the investigative journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, in September 2000 continued. On 16 February, President Yushchenko awarded former Prosecutor General, Mykhailo Potebenko, the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise for his contribution to the building of a law-abiding state. Mykhailo Potebenko was Prosecutor General at the time of Georgiy Gongadze’s murder. In its 2005 decision, the European Court of Human Rights found that the Prosecutor General’s Office had ignored repeated requests for assistance from Georgiy Gongadze in the weeks before his death, when he reported being followed by state law enforcement officials, and termed its response “blatantly negligent”. Following the recovery of Georgiy Gongadze’s decapitated body, the European Court stated, “The State authorities were more preoccupied with proving the lack of involvement of high-level State officials in the case than discovering the truth about the circumstances of [his] disappearance and death.”

Please see for the full report


UHHRU concern over assault on human rights defender

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has issued a statement over the assault on the Coordinator of the Vinnytsa Human Rights Group, Dmytro Groisman, during the night from 23 to 24 May.

Returning home from a work-related trip, Dmytro was approached in the entrance to his apartment block by a man who having asked his identity proceeded to beat him up. Later another man joined in the assault. Dmytro suffered concussion and a broken nose. For some days before the attack a man came to Dmytro’s home and asked his relatives when he would be returning. According to information at hand, a criminal investigation has been initiated under Article 296 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism by a group of people).

Dmytro and his family believe the attack to be connected with his human rights work. He has been active for many years in exposing human rights abuse and has come out with sharp criticism against the actions of the authorities.

UHHRU is concerned over the attack on a colleague involved in human rights work. We are disturbed that people dissatisfied with the activities of a human rights activist could deem it possible to resort to violence and believe this to be a consequence of the frequent lack of progress and punishment of the culprits in similar cases.

We are surprised at the offence being classified as hooliganism. The circumstances suggest that the attack was directed specifically against Dmytro Groisman which excludes the possibility of hooligan motives and suggests another motive for the crime directly linked with his human rights activity.

We would note that according to Article 12 of the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of people, groups and public bodies with regard to encouraging and defending universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, the State must take all measures to protect a person who is acting alone or together with others from any violence, reprisals or threats in connection with his or her human rights work. We believe that human rights activists need special protection in connection with the fact that their activities by their very nature can arouse disgruntlement among people occupying influential positions or having influence on the authorities. The assault on a human rights activist is a worrying signal also to the international community about the presence of systemic problems with human rights observance in Ukraine.

Only an effective investigation into each case and the punishment of each person responsible can create an atmosphere where human rights activists can carry out their social mission. Otherwise the free activity of human rights activists and other civic institutions, one of the most important achievements of Ukrainian democracy, could be negated.

We call on

- the law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation to take all measures needed to uncover this crime and review the article it is classified under;

- the higher management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ensure support and the necessary resources for the successful investigation, and to also maintain constant supervision over it;

- the prosecutor’s office to oversee the quality and lawfulness of the investigation and later prosecution of those responsible;

The Human Rights Ombudsperson to take the investigation under her control and to take all possible measures to create a safe environment for the work of human rights activities.


For more information, please contact: Arkady Bushcehnko on  8 050 406 24 07

Or Volodymyr Yavorsky at:. 417-41-18; mobile . 8 095 272 36 22


Point of view

Desperate glory

Generations and worlds away from us, Englishman Wilfred Owen wrote some of the most poignant anti-War poems ever written. Not at a writing table, from the trenches of “the Great War”. We all know that if there was a Second World War, then there had to be a first, but why it cost the lives of 8 million, including Wilfred Owen few of us could say. Owen spoke of “children ardent for some desperate glory”. The last survivors of the Great War are dying, the poppies where their comrades fell bloom, and why they died we don’t really know.

Ukraine too is full of graves, memories, and bitterness.  It was the war of our fathers, grandfathers, and we all know that the evil was terrible and worth fighting.  Beyond that consensus fails – different emotions come to play with all of us believing we know what they fought for, who the enemy or enemies of Ukraine were.

It is vital to study those times and to ensure that people in Ukraine and in the world understand the terrible choices made by men and women besieged by two monstrous regimes.  It would be best to leave this tormented subject to historians, but it somehow doesn’t happen. It is, after all, our relatives whom we remember and subconsciously defend. One young man had every reason to hate the communist regime, and did, passionately, however went to fight the Nazis ravaging his country. For another, both Nazis and communists had occupied his land. We must undoubtedly listen to and record the accounts of all those who lived through those times.

In the light of moves in neighbouring Russia to give history a “positive slant”, it was difficult to not feel slight concern over the plans announced this week for Ukraine’s Institute of National Remembrance to draw up new textbooks on Ukrainian history “in order to help bring up the younger generation in a spirit recognizing their national identity, respect and love for their native land”.  A school textbook should, as clearly and objectively as possible present the whole truth, the rest is hardly within the scope of the history curriculum.

I am afraid that attempts to present any of those who fought in World War II, whether in the Soviet Army or in the Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA], as heroes will only make such textbooks part of a dangerous ideological campaign which can only divide, not unite Ukrainians.  This is not a value judgment about any side in that conflict, and not written to deny the heroic nature of much of the self-sacrifice of the men who fought during the Second World War. Perhaps future generations will be able to calmly look on those times and make objective assessments. The bitter arguments and emotions unleashed suggest that this is unrealistic at present. 

It has become fashionable to speak of a need for heroes, supposedly to guide young people and to unite Ukrainians.  I will present certain reservations regarding the very idea of national heroes, but would also respectfully remind people of just a few of the Ukrainians whose moral choice and commitment to freedom and to their country make it vital that future generations here and abroad know of these people. 

The Soviet era imposed “heroes” upon the population as all too many remaining monuments and street names demonstrate.  They were ideological heroes in the main, foisted upon people who generally knew better than to argue. Some were discarded instantaneously – who ever saw Pavlik Morozov, who shopped his own father, as a hero?  Others were put aside more reluctantly, with the pain of relinquishing childhood illusions.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the temptation to react in simplistic mode was strong: debunk the old heroes, and raise to a pedestal their arch enemies.  This is perhaps most strong where nationalists were cast as bloodthirsty murderers and bigots as opposed to the “Soviet heroes”.

The yearning for heroes is painfully familiar. Who doesn’t seek for guidance in this so very complicated life? It remains fraught with danger nonetheless. It was all too easy to manufacture heroes in Soviet times. Children were brainwashed from an early age, and open rejection of such idols was punished.

This is not the case in a democracy.  If heroes are not perceived as such by all the population, then there will inevitably be those who object to any but the most objective presentation.  In most European countries, it is by no means easy to name “heroes” from modern times.

In many cases, the reasons are clear: a hero for some, a villain for others.  I asked an Irish acquaintance about “heroes” in his country. He named John Hume, the initiator of the peace process. He was adamant that if his children were presented with a view of history which presented one side in the conflict as heroes, he would remove the children from that school.

I doubt if that Irishman maintains total neutrality nor do we need to. Quite the contrary: it would be an injustice to the many people who demonstrated true heroism during the War. However it is entirely unrealistic to expect that school courses or Presidential decrees could smooth bitter dissent regarding who we deem heroes.

Heroes cannot be imposed. Polish children know of Janusz Korczak, doctor, educationalist and writer who died with the children he dedicated his entire life to at the Treblinka Concentration Camp. Nobody needs to tell them why they should respect him. We need no explanation either.

Those who believe that one should set aside emotional (and often ideological) barriers because young people need heroes unwarrantedly forget about other Ukrainians. They should remember Petro Grigorenko who, following all the rules of circumspect self-interest had only to keep his mouth shut and a comfortable life and glory would have been his. He was not about to stay silent, neither about the tragic plight of the Crimean Tatars deported from their land, nor about violations of human rights in his country. Vasyl Stus, Oleksa Tykhy and Valery Marchenko knew that they would pay with their lives for their inability to remain silent.  They were not stopped. Oksana Meshko was no young woman when she became one of the ten founding members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group. They all knew that retribution from the regime was inevitable. Perhaps the authorities thought that she had “got off lightly” as compared with the others. Seventy-five year old Oksana Meshko was sentenced, to a “mere” 6 months imprisonment and 5 years exile.

Shameful to only mention isolated figures: there were many, after all. No way a majority of course – that doesn’t happen, but a lot nonetheless. They were courageous Ukrainians who knew that they could expect anything but a pat on the back for their independent thinking, for their commitment to freedom, yet they saw no choice. We can only hope that the younger generation will never confront such a moral choice, although moral tests in their lives are inevitable.

  One such test has in fact taken place. In 2004 Ukrainians came out onto the streets to peacefully yet with determination, affirm their right to human dignity and democratic choice.  The world media, and even some world leaders, spoke of the country splitting in half, of civil war and a bloodbath. None of this happened.  Just as their predecessors, including those mentioned here, they exposed the moral bankruptcy of the Soviet and post-Soviet lies, and upheld their right, and the right of their country, to freedom.

There is a lot to be proud of, and let’s not forget it.

Victims of political repression

Ukraine remembers the victims of political repression

In Bykivnya Forest near Kyiv, people gathered on Sunday to remember the victims of political repression. 

Unmarked graves lie strewn throughout Ukraine, but the Bykivnya Graves are believed to hold the last earthly remains of over 100 thousand victims of the NKVD.  Until 1989 the Soviet regime lied about the graves, claiming them to have been the victims of the Nazis.

Those who came today to Bykivnya included people like Volodymyr Onuchak who believes his father’s remains may lie in this place. 

President Yushchenko told those gathered that a draft law was being prepared to begin the real process of eliminating the symbols of totalitarianism and the communist regime in Ukraine. he said that he would submit it to the Verkhovna Rada as urgent.

The President also said that it was vital not only to name those murdered by the communist regime, but those who passed the decisions to execute people and those who carried out the killings. He promised that next year people coming here would see a wall of shame with all these names.

From a report at

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2008, #05