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.

Politics and human rights

Crisis of political genre

You can never step into the same river twice however - forgive me Herodotus - tumbling back into the same bog is the simplest thing in the world! That’s if you think that we ever actually climb out of it which is also questionable. The following thoughts are based on two assumptions:  1) Life in a bog may have a beneficial effect on the health and good spirits of a frog, but it does nothing for you or I; 2) with all due respect to the poet Fyodor Tyutchev, any nation is fathomable. Those who push the idea that Russians, Ukrainians or others cannot be understood, but only believed in, usually have their own dubious aims.

It has become virtually impossible to differentiate between political events and their reflection in the media, and it is politicians themselves who contribute most to this. They don’t balk at any genre, and the media unfortunately are all too eager to go along with them.  The headlines have been shouting about coups, State treason, insufficient patriotism, excessive nationalism, venality, stupidity, and much more. Articles demand more attention to detail than any Agatha Christie novel so as to gauge just whose devious scheming we’re dealing with.

I have to admit that a few times over the last week I’ve compared information with reports in the Ukrainian services of western media outlets. Not that I expected to gain more information, probably less in fact. However you get tired of constantly having to thoroughly check any text for hidden advertising, propaganda or simple sincere bias.

You get tired, in short, of the very genre – “political crisis” – in its numerous remakes.

There is also a nagging sense of some kind of a misunderstanding here. This has nothing to do with disillusionment. Illusions are as subjective as toothache. Some shed them all a long time ago, while others have only now abandoned their last hope. There may also be somebody whose disillusionment threshold is that much higher, and who is still hoping. No, the misunderstanding, as far as I can see, is over who precisely holds the leading roles.

I glanced at news stories. In England, it seems, a scandal has erupted over the Minister of Foreign Affairs having travelled around the world more than the Queen. Why this is so shocking I can’t say – I didn’t read any further.  This wee scandal does, however, clearly demonstrate a crucial difference. Politicians in England are nervous of the press. Journalists get under their feet, hassle them and ask uncomfortable questions. In Ukraine this also happens, however you more often have the impression that politicians see journalists as freelance workers in their public liaison services. The public on the other hand have one consolation: all the politicians have the same attitude to the press.  That makes for some kind of pluralism, although admittedly there’s much more spam than critical journalism.

And what can you say about the latest political crisis? Judging by all the websites around, whatever you want. I’ll confine myself, however, to the obvious fact that citizens of the country and the international community are once again overwhelmed by accusations of State treason, that A, B, or C are destroying democracy.  They couldn’t care less that there are presidential elections in a year. They want to see the country’s interests protected now at a time of enormous tension for all of Europe. Some are wondering whether it’s worth investing in Ukraine at all, while in the European Union they’re almost certainly asking themselves just what Ukraine actually wants.

You can hear alternative voices. The Ukrainian Catholic University issued an appeal to the country’s academic community in which it warns of the serious consequences of such political irresponsibility and the nihilism it engenders. There are also complaints that Ukrainian politicians lack State-orientated thinking. That they are short on this is not in question, however I am rather sceptical as to whether they differ in this so sharply from politicians in other countries.

The difference, in my view, is that the voters in those other countries, including members of the media, demand that politicians follow certain rules of a law-based democracy. Journalists have an interest in catching any politicians breaking these rules and blowing the whistle on them as loudly and unceremoniously as necessary.

The never-ending mutual accusations of all mortal sins are highly disturbing. However the worst thing is that politicians are openly seeking control over State bodies and over the judiciary, and the media and public see this as something normal.

If you want democracy, and not the “managed” imitation Putin espouses, then this is no less a coup d’etat for which all without exception share the blame.

There are numerous examples, but I’ll mention only the scandal around Zhvania. Everything connected with the battle between former political allies can only arouse disgust, however we have no right to look away squeamishly when the courts are dragged in and the possibility of depriving a person of his citizenship is used for political ends. Journalists did in fact give wide coverage to part of this story when their colleague was interrogated for a long time in the prosecutor’s office. It’s good that they did so. However what was at risk was not merely the right to freedom of speech and press freedom.

We have no grounds to expect new, more adequate politicians to emerge under the present system. It’s even less justified to hope that they will themselves begin behaving better while they think they can wreak havoc and shame the country with impunity. Most of us have our own political preferences and perhaps you are convinced that one side is right, the other not. You may even believe that all will be well if X comes to power. If X gets enough votes we’ll see. No great tragedy if it again proves no panacea.

What will be a tragedy is if we end up in an entirely different play. It’s extremely difficult to create a law-based democracy. Like quality cinema, everything is complicated, demanding attention and effort. While soaps, where all is simplistic and dense, are relaxing. You stop reacting and paying attention when they turn the constitutional process into a tacky parade of political manifestos, parliament into a sandpit and State bodies of power into pawns for their political gain. We are not likely to create a new breed of politicians however we are entitled to determine their role, and the very genre. And we should, before it’s too late, ensure that they don’t forget who calls the tune.

Appeal from the Ukrainian Catholic University to Ukraine’s academic community

Dear Colleagues,

At this time Ukraine is experiencing new turmoil with a parliamentary crisis suddenly upon us again..

The first autumn days of the Verkhovna Rada’s work have demonstrated that Ukrainian politicians spent their summer holidays engaged in the favourite pastime of the Cossack elders – preparing treachery and conspiracies. As if they didn’t know how it all ended for those selfsame Cossack elders.

No side is without blame in this conflict. Each feels that they are the victim of the other’s treachery, despite the fact that they themselves also resort to dishonourable conspiring when it’s convenient.

The excitement of competition and the greed to hold the Hetman’s mace have totally blurred the horizon. How can one detect that national interests are being transformed merely into a blue and yellow ribbon used to wrap up a lush array of overt egoisms?

It may seem to some that such harsh words have an odd ring from an academic milieu. After all, they say, maintaining neutrality is the long-standing pragmatic wisdom which protected the management of Soviet institutes from doom.

Yet how can we, Ukraine’s academic institutes bring up a new and morally steadfast generation when for the seventeenth year now the Ukrainian political milieu, aside from rare moments of spiritual enlightenment, has been unfailingly presenting examples of cynical disregard for God’s laws and immoral assault of the truth?

The time has come to openly tell all of those vested with power that in the social conditions they are creating it is impossible to bring up people with respect for those in authority. The disillusionment of young people with all political parties without any exception, their contempt for civil servants, nihilistic rejection of the rule of law or attempts at any cost to emigrate from Ukraine – these are all the worm-ridden fruits of rotten governance which lies on the conscience of those holding power.

However we are not inclined to confine ourselves to condemnation of the authorities. The test has come for academic institutes themselves.

After all, the vast majority of those whom society is today inclined to condemn have higher education. Their worldview and first social skills were formed within the walls of their own universities. Is this not a signal for us that the knowledge which the universities are giving their students is not based on firm moral principles and therefore becomes destructive?

We are convinced that the present crisis is the moment of truth which must reveal to Ukraine’s academic community all its responsibility for education’s moral castration. In 2004 we believed that Ukraine’s orange outburst would restore respect of its political elite to the moral principles of building the State. In fact, after a brief pause the devaluation of values rapidly continued.  The symbol of that devaluation was the devaluing of the word which from the lips of those in power has ceased to be the bearer of truth.

However universities are where they know that words must have value! For the Word is God and when the fruit of the word is ridden with the seeping rot of deception, society cannot hold firm. We have no right to remain silent since it is the very tacit consent of society to accept total rivalry that in fact makes it possible.

Democracy guarantees pluralism of convictions and political positions, however it also envisages that those with different views will not resort to self-destruction, dragging the whole country with them.  For blinded rivalry does not pass by itself, it leads to the total ruination of the system.

We call on the academic community to do all in their power to stop the ruination of Ukrainian statehood and to contribute towards national reconciliation.

Those who rule Ukraine must heed our words.  We repeat that we have no right to remain silent. With our voices united let us put a stop to the rivalry – and may the Lord bless Ukraine!

Against torture and ill-treatment

Harsh criticism of MIA bodies at local level

A Kyiv lawyer Oleh Veremiyenko on 10 September circulated an open letter to the Minister of Internal Affairs in which he says that despite positive moves and initiatives from the MIA, there has recently been a negative trend in the work of the police at local level.

In the first place, he alleges, flagrant violations of the law, including the use of torture by police officers at management level (deputy head of a police station, etc) have become more common. He suggests that the MIA seems to have lost control over the situation at local level.

He cites the example of a former officer of the Darnytsa district police station in Kyiv, who he says personally tortured an 18-year-old suspect to extract a confession, beating his head against a concrete wall. The young man involved is Mr Veremiyenko’s client and has been remanded in custody for 18 months while the court examination continues.  He says that it is quite clear that there has been a miscarriage of justice, and that his client is innocent of the murder he is charged with.

He is scathing of the fact that there has been no investigation into the allegations of unlawful treatment of Yevhen Novytsky and nobody has even faced disciplinary charges for beating a confession out of the young man.  On the contrary, the man whom he alleges is responsible has been promoted.

The latter has ignored summonses to appear in court as a witness.

Another example Mr Veremiyenko cites apparently took place in March 2008 in Zhytomyr.  He alleges that a traffic police office and his colleagues beat up a border guard officer Valentyn Kopiychuk, and then poured alcohol over his clothes to get doctors to certify that the man was drunk.  A blood test later, however, showed that he had not been under the influence of alcohol.  Mr Veremiyenko says that the employees of the traffic police produced written statements from fictitious witnesses and passed these to the district court.  He adds that this information can be confirmed by the Military Prosecutor’s Office in Zhytomyr which investigated the case. Apparently in this court Kopiychuk was in his absence found guilty of persistently not obeying police officers under Article 185 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

Until the end of the summer, the internal security service of the MIA and prosecutor’s office for the Zhytomyr region denied that any offences had been committed, however on 28 August the Human Rights Ombudsperson opened proceedings into the case and asked the Prosecutor General and MIA to look into Mr Veremiyenko also complains that cases of flagrant interference in the work of lawyers has become more frequent (though unauthorized tapping of mobile phones, etc), as well as the use by police officers under investigation of threats, including of physical reprisals,  against witnesses or people alleging that they were tortured.

He cites the example of violence against two construction workers (Vorodai and Peresta) by Kyiv Railway Station police officers. After a press conference on 15 August about this outrageous case in which the two victims were shot out with rubber bullets, Mr Veremiyenko lodged complaints on the men’s behalf. He says that after this he and relatives become receiving phone calls, and his phone was tapped. Then on 4-5 September one of the two victims began getting telephone calls demanding that he withdraw his statement, or else he will have health problems.

Mr Veremiyenko believes that these cases demonstrate that the situation with discipline and lawfulness in police officers’ work is unsatisfactory.  He asserts that radical measures are needed, a strict and principled stand from the Minister and Central Department regarding everything concerning effective, full and swift investigation of such cases.  There must be punishment of police officers who use torture and degrading treatment  in their work. He says that this should include dismissal, as well as disciplinary measures. and that it is only this way that the police can rid themselves of the bad elements in their ranks.

Freedom of expression

Court revokes massive compensation award against a newspaper and journalist

On 24 September the Kyiv Court of Appeal reversed the ruling of the Desnyansky District Court over the civil suit brought by Yury Sidorenko, Head of the Consulting Council of the consortium SSAPS [Single State Automated Passport System] against the company “Blitz-Inform” the editorial board of the newspaper “Business” and its journalist Maxim Birovash.  It was the latter’s representative, Oleksandr Burmahin, in court who passed the information to “Telekritika”.

The court totally turned down the claimant’s demand for moral compensation to the sum of 22 million UAH from “Blitz-Inform”, and 5 thousand UAH from Mr Birovash and the former Editor of the newspaper. It did, however, uphold the part of the original ruling regarding retraction and prohibition on using the photography of the claimant.  The court also ordered the claimant to pay 1 million 250 thousand UAH in connection with the appeal submitted by “Blitz-Inform”. 

Oleksandr Burmahin said that they would await the motivation part of the ruling before deciding whether to submit a cassation appeal against the part of the ruling which was upheld. He stressed that the journalist and newspaper had acted conscientiously and had carried out a journalistic investigation on the basis of the documents.

As reported here, the Desnyansky District Court passed its ruling on 23 May 2008, after Mr Sidorenko filed his claim for 46 million UAH in November 2007, and also paid duty of 4.6 million UAH.

Maxim Birovash had published his journalist’s investigation into Ukraine’s passport system in “Business”.

Plus ca change, plus ce le meme chose?

An article was published a few days ago in the newspaper “Le Monde” by French “writer and film maker” Michaël Prazan.  The author is renowned for his broad knowledge of Japanese culture, however had up till now modestly concealed his interest in Ukraine and its history. The work was published under the title ““L’Ukraine, "pays européen" ? Pas évident » and was aimed at convincing the reader that it would be unacceptable for Ukraine to join the EU and NATO. Now clearly the recent activity by the French President over the military conflict between Russia and Georgia may not have been to everybody’s liking.  It is equally evident that not all Europeans wish to welcome Ukraine and Georgia into the fold.  However,  when the arguments ars so familiar from Soviet times, then certain equally familiar questions regarding sources must be raised. 

Inevitably in our post 8 August world, talk of Ukraine begins with the Crimea.  The author gives his reason immediately, together with a rather questionable opinion presented as fact :

« Even if Russia for geopolitical motives does not plan to annex Crimea tomorrow – although the majority of Crimea’s inhabitants are adamantly in favour of such an annexation – the peninsula reamins one of the most sensitive areas »

There’s certainly no doubt about the author’s view: Russia’s motives are pure and will not intervene however much they are begged for help by Crimean residents yearning to secede. It is unclear where Monsieur Prazan gained his information which forms one of his main arguments, this being that the Crimea is a guaranteed time bomb which would drag Europe into conflict. Unclear, yet the similarity with remarks produced by Russian politicians, most notoriously Moscow’s Mayor Yury Luzhkov, is striking.  First of all a sneering suggestion that the term “shared history” implies some kind of continuum which Ukraine is lacking. And then this staggeringly far-reaching conclusion for a film-maker with an interest in Japan:

“The overwhelming majority of the Crimea’s inhabitants, maybe with the sole exception of the Tatar minority who swore allegiance to the Nazi occupiers – consider themselves to be Russians, speak Russian, and turn their gaze on Kyiv only to express their lack of faith in the Ukrainian metropolis. It should be noted that Ukrainian identity is at least problematical”.

Before going on to consider the author’s other confident strides through another country’s history, I would particularly note the first especially bad smell. The Crimean Tatars were victims of a terrible crime perpetrated by Stalin’s regime – the Deportation of 1944 being on the pretext of collaboration with the Nazis.  They were fully exonerated of any wrong-doing and throwing in a phrase of this ilk can only be described as low and inexcusable, however flimsy your knowledge of history.

The question does, of course, arise why, if you know so pathetically little, you choose to write on this subject at all. Yury Luzhkov’s motives are clear. Monsieur Prazan’s rather less so.  One might also ask how the citizen of a country with France’s record of collaboration in WWII should have felt so confident of assessing the behaviour of people in that part of Europe which any historian could have told him was treated with exceptional brutality, unlike France. 

  Before looking at where this article leads us, it is worth mentioning that for a European the line of argument was by no means as inevitable as it may seem to Ukrainians reading this. Monsieur Pravan could have talked of Chernobyl, of poverty, while the subject of political instability as justification for concerns hits one in the eye. Yet no, he chose a road we all know so drearily well. I quote:

  “However strange this may sound, whereas all of the Crimea is immersed in nostalgia for the USSR, the once Polish Halychyna which is today part of Ukraine and extremely nationalistic, in its turn feels nostalgia for its allegiance to the Nazi occupiers. This gives a particular twist to the term “pro-Western” which in the given case is hardly compatible with “shared values”.

“Proof” of this is provided in mention of a demonstration supposedly held on 27 July in Lviv in memory of the UPA [Ukrainian Resistance Army “collaborating with the Nazis before turning against them”) and the SS Galizien “an auxiliary unit of the SS with Ukrainian Nazis committing murders, in particular, on the territory of former Yugoslavia.”  A small, but not entirely irrelevant point: there were no demonstrations that day in Lviv remotely resembling the one described.  Nor am I aware of any joint demonstrations remembering UPA fighters and members of SS Galizien.  There is after all a very substantial difference between the two, which the author swiftly passes over. This is a controversial part of Ukraine’s recent history and one best left to those who know something about it, or who are prepared to find out. Monsieur Prazan has clearly received his information, like a hamburger, ready packed and convenient for easy consumption – so easy that perhaps he didn’t notice that it had gone off.

There are a number of highly dubious assertions in this text, but the point is not even so much in the fact that many are untrue or distorted. Monsieur Prazan and I were both born after the War, in which many of his compatriots collaborated with the Vichy regime and in which my father fought against the Nazis. I would not venture to condemn people living in a country I am in time and culture far removed from, and I can only regret that if he felt so entitled, he did not at least do his homework a little better.

There are different views, for example, of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian nationalist and by no means all non-“pro-Russians” consider him a hero. However stating that Bandera “made a pact with the German “liberators” in the first months of the War” without mentioning that this pact lasted only as long as it took the Nazis to show total contempt for the Ukrainian state Bandera had declared is shoddy – or extremely dishonest – journalism.

  Or it demonstrates that he did not check the information he was handed – for accuracy and, frankly, for smell. Most of his accusations have been levied before, effectively without any discrimination against all Ukrainians, and if they are adjusted now for a new task, the changes are cosmetic.  He claims with no backup at all and no reference to his source that:

  “In Ukraine choosing the western camp often means identifying yourself with the UPA and the SS Galizen division, the confrontation between “pro-Russian” and “pro-western” forces being so closely connected with radical antagonism arising from the disasters of the twentieth century.”

  His text goes on to speak of the extermination of Jews and he makes the outrageous charge that

  “The genocide of the Jews which a significant part of Ukraine’s population took part in is that part of history which is subjected to constant rewriting at the level of the higher government institutions.”

Monsieur Prazan quotes the President of the Jerusalem branch of the Wiesenthal Centre as saying that Ukraine must “look into the face of its own past and recognize the truth” before joining NATO or the EU.  I will not quote in any more detail since the Wiesenthal Centre would surely not associate itself with a text so ridden with lies and inaccuracies. 

We all need to look truth in the eye and knowledge of our shared history, without distortions and embellishment, is simply vital. Repeating Soviet lies and pushing an image of Ukrainians as Nazi-supporters, anti-Semites and the like, are hardly ways of seeking the truth.  It is to be hoped that Michael Prazan did not recognize the familiar odour of the information he churned out.  As far as his source of information is concerned, coming only a month after an attempt by Russian-language media outlets and one Polish journalist to fabricate a “pogrom” in Lviv and just a few months after a number of western media outlets were obliged to issue apologies for lies about a “Hitler doll” supposedly produced and popular in Ukraine, it is increasingly difficult to believe that this suddenly spurt of interest and total distortion of another country’s history and present situation was entirely spontaneous. 

Ukrainian media in information special operations during the war in Georgia

This was the title of a study carried out by the company “pro mova” and the publication “Telekritika” and presented on 16 September. The study covered the period from 8 to 13 August and found lack of professionalism, infringements of the standards for presenting information, the lack of a position, deliberate or unintentional manipulation of the audience.

The main conclusions reached were:

  • lack of professionalism made it possible for propagandists to use Ukrainian channels for their own purposes. This was mainly seen by those on the Russian side, with the Georgians having considerably more limited opportunities;
  • lack of strategic (profile) capital in the Ukrainian media does not enable editorial boards to work at the appropriate professional level.
  • limited resources;
  • reactive rather than proactive decisions;
  • belated reactions to a crisis due to a lack of systematic management;
  • inability to systematically apply filters (checking information several times, for example);

The government did not cope with the task of “protecting information security”. It is clear that the criteria of compliance of news reports with modern international standards are not taken into consideration when issuing licences for the media in Ukraine.

Internet sites

The percentage of Russian sources during the first day ranged from 41 to 73%; on the second day from 44 to 86%; on the third – from 57 to 75%; on the fourth – from 30 to 66% and on the fifth – from 43 to 55%. It was only from 11 August that the use of western sources of information, albeit still inadequate, became noticeable – at 17%.

The analysts point out that this use of Russian sources gave a clear message to the Russian side that Ukrainian media outlets took an uncritical approach and was therefore fertile ground for propaganda purposes.

Even on 13 August when the focus turned towards discussing the significance of the war for Ukraine, Russian sources remained dominant.


8 television channels were monitored.

The arguments from the Russian side about “defending Russian nationals living in South Ossetia” were actively presented in the Ukrainian media unsystematically and uncritically. The analysts report that especially in the first days the view of Georgia as aggressor dominated.

In the first days of the war the Russian side had an almost total monopoly on information regarding the number of casualties and obviously used inflated figures to justify their actions. Due to the lack of alternative information, for several days, channels repeated the figures of 1500-2000 casualties in Tskhinvali. The Georgian side was unable to provide figures regarding the real number of casualties in South Ossetia.

Georgia for its part proved unable to counter this strong and systematic information campaign. Its arguments were not as clear and vivid  As far as Ukraine was concerned, neither the Ukrainian political elite, nor the media were prepared to adequately respond to such events. The media chose to concentrate on military action, without discussing the real reasons for the conflict and without criticizing Russian military action in Georgia. This was particularly noticeable during the first days when the situation was unpredictable.

Based on information at

Access to information

Access to information a real problem for Ukrainian journalists

At a roundtable organized by the Institute for Mass Information [IMI], its Director Victoria Sumar was blunt about the problems journalists confront. She said that in the majority of cases they either receive no response, or a formal fob-off, not addressing the issue. A major problem is that officials don’t understand that very often journalists need the information here and now.

Ms Syumar gave several examples where the authorities had failed to respond to requests for information in prominent cases.  When President Yushchenko bestowed a State award on the former Prosecutor General Potebenko, journalists addressed a request for information to the President’s Secretariat. They asked for explanation as to how a person who had stalled the investigation into Gongadze’s killing had deserved this honour. The answer came after 7 months (instead of the legally stipulated month): “He was given the award because the Prosecutor General’s Office applied for it”.

The Treasury chose not to reply at all to a request for information regarding where the money from the sale of “Kryvorizhstal” had been transferred to.  There was similarly no reaction to a question to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the lack of official reaction to the notorious scam over the “Hitler doll”.

Ms Syumar recommends filing suits with the court in such instances in order to create a precedent. After all the more journalists win court cases and have officials behaviour declared unlawful, the easier it will be to work further.

Maryana Demkova from the Centre for Political and Legal Reform believes that the new draft law “On access to public information” will provide a way of changing the situation. She points to the stipulation in the draft law of a much shorter timescale with officials being obliged to respond to information requests in 5 days. The draft law also envisages measures to protect those providing information and does not impose payment for providing information.

However Volodymyr Yavorsky, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union believes that this draft law could in fact worsen the situation. He points to the name of it: “On access to public information”, which could add yet another task for those wishing to receive information, that being to prove that it is “public”.

He also suggested following Slovakia in establishing liability for not providing information or not in timely manner. In Slovakia officials can be fined for this.

Social and economic rights

Legal assistance to victims of natural disasters not in the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s scope?

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Advice Centre in Ternopil is run with the assistance of two local civic organizations: the Environmental and Humanitarian Organization “Zeleny svit” [“Green World”] and “Helsinki Initiative – XXI”.

The catastrophic floods at the end of July 2008 wrought devastation to six regions of Western Ukraine.  In August representatives of the above-mentioned groups visited populated areas especially hard-hit in the Ternopil and Ivano-Frankivsk regions. As a result of their findings, various appeals were sent to the authorities and law enforcement bodies.

A letter was also sent to the Human Rights Ombudsperson asking her to send her own appeal to the Government in defence of the victims’ constitutional rights.  According to Article 50 of the Constitution, “Everyone has the right to an environment that is safe for life and health, and to compensation for damages inflicted through the violation of this right”. .In the cases over which we approached the Ombudsperson, the infringements were truly substantial.  One involved the death of a person during the flooding, two others – total loss of privatized plots of land.  Difficult to imagine, yet the land was totally swept away by the waters.

The problem is that the procedure for compensation in such cases has not yet been set down in acts from the President and Cabinet of Ministers, and therefore the victims and their representatives are now fruitlessly traipsing around the local authorities.

Our request of the Ombudsperson was modest: to ask the Cabinet of Ministers to adopt supplements and explanations to already existing normative acts which would regulate these issues. In order to finally get people placed on the register of victims of the disaster or so that their families could receive compensation.

In the last few days we received a response from the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat, signed by the Head Consultant V. Radko. The “response” is, unfortunately a mix of bureaucratic clichés and classic examples of legal concepts being twisted in order to refuse to send appeals to the Government.

The question arises of why the Secretariat of the Ombudsperson with its large staff cannot at least re-address an appeal from human rights defenders to the authorized State body. Is this just an unfortunate misunderstanding, or is it a primitive case of “revenge” against the Helsinki Union for well-deserved  criticism of Ms Karpachova who by no means always fulfils her duties?  Yet how are the victims of floods involved? Or does Ms Karpachova have a gut aversion to all “West Ukrainians” with their problems?

We are presently assuming that this is just a regrettable mistake by the Secretariat, but will obviously not be accepting such a rejection.

Oleksandr Stepanenko, Coordinator of the UHHRU Advice Centre  (very slightly adapted)

Stark warnings from Transparency International

Transparency International has just issued its 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI).  It states that “persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster”, and stresses the “fatal link between poverty, failed institutions and graft. But other notable backsliders in the 2008 CPI indicate that the strength of oversight mechanisms is also at risk among the wealthiest”

“Of all CIS countries only Georgia shows an improvement while the scores of Russia and Ukraine continue to slide. Most countries in Central Asia remain at the same low level or show a significant decrease in their CPI score as is the case with Kyrgyzstan which went from 2.1 in 2007 to 1.8 in 2008”

Ukraine stands at no. 134 out of 180 countries with a score of 2.5 (against the top countries Denmark and Sweden at 9.3).  in 2007 it had a score of 118, and has thus fallen considerably.

One major problem in Ukraine is political corruption with the prices of a place on parties’ candidate lists being quoted in millions of dollars.  According to a report on Radio Svoboda politicians speak of a vicious cycle of politics – money – politics, yet make little real effort to do anything about it.
Transparency International is convinced that the struggle against corruption needs the united efforts of legislators, the justice system, independent media outlets and strong civic society.

“Georgia with a score of 3.9 in 2008 up from 3.4 in 2007, shows that the current administration’s early reform efforts were highly effective in earning public confidence and improving the country’s international image. There is a general consensus among public officials and civil society organisations that petty corruption has fallen post-revolution. In spite of this, grand corruption remains a persistent concern and a common assessment is that the official anti-corruption campaign is too heavily focused on prosecution as opposed to prevention, and that it is rather adhoc and not systemic or participatory.”.

Of other post-Soviet republics Armenia and Moldova stand at no. 109 with a score of 2.9 each.

The others: Kazakhstan (145: 2.2), Russia (147: 2.1); Belarus (151: 2.0); Tajikistan (151: 2.0); Azerbaijan (158: 1.9); and all at 166 with a score of 1.8 are Turkmenistan, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan.

The Transparency International CPI measures the perceived levels of public-sector corruption in a given country and is a composite index, drawing on different expert and business surveys. The 2008 CPI scores 180 countries (the same number as the 2007 CPI) on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to ten (highly clean).

The TA Press Kit is available at:

On refugees

President’s Secretariat sees no problem in extraditing a refugee

A reply has been received from the President’s Secretariat to the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s letter regarding the extradition to the Russian Federation on 28 July of Oleg Kuznetsov, who had been granted refugee status in Ukraine in March this year.

Even if the letter never reached the President, it is disturbing that he should have a Head of his Secretariat (and it is Viktor Baloha’s name at the bottom of this letter) who can state that “According to information from the Prosecutor General’s Office, the extradition of O. Kuznetsov was carried out on lawful grounds”.  The problem is not even the fact that given the material presented by UHHRU, he should still think it sufficient to say that the Prosecutor General says that all is well.  It is that the details of this case are in fact secondary.  The situation is unequivocally clear: Kuznetsov had been granted refugee status, and it is against domestic and international law to extradite a recognized refugee.

Mr Baloha’s letter also states that a Prosecutor General can only be dismissed with the consent of the Verkhovna Rada.  This does not prevent the President from recognizing the damage done Ukrainians’ faith in the present Prosecutor General who also flouted a court ruling rejecting his appeal against Kuznetsov’s refugee status and Ukraine’s reputation in the world.

Sample letters, with addresses, can be found here 

We must repeat that while officials are allowed to show contempt for the law and Ukraine’s international commitments with impunity, such outrages will continue.

From information at

On the agenda

The war in Georgia has highlighted two fundamental points. Ukraine’s choice is and must remain firmly directed at the fullest possible European integration.  And secondly, Ukraine’s stability and development as a law-based democracy is crucial for the stability of Europe itself.  Put most crudely, we are all in it together and urgently need to support one another.

Ukraine’s hosting on 4-5 September of the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Council of Europe on Migration is therefore most opportune.  The fact that the war has pushed almost every other subject out of the limelight may have been seen as convenient by certain Ukrainian officials.  Disappoint them, however, we must, since the reasons for public outrage are no less real and if anything made more relevant by the events of August.

On 28 July 2008 the Prosecutor General issued instructions to extradite a recognized refugee Oleg Kuznetsov to Russia.  Human rights organizations, chiefly the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, stated categorically that such arrogant disregard for a court ruling, domestic legislation and international law could not be tolerated.  We called for the Prosecutor General to resign or be dismissed as having placed Ukraine’s commitment to the rule of law in question and yet again shamed the entire country.

In February 2008, almost exactly 2 years after 11 asylum seekers were handed over to the Uzbekistan authorities, 11 ethnic Tamils were deported to Sri Lanka.  The Security Service [SBU]. the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] and the Migration Service were all guilty of a number of infringements, but most fundamentally, showed wanton disregard for the principle of non-refoulement in returning people to a country where their lives could be in danger.

It is vital that the Ukrainian authorities understand once and for all that Ukraine’s laws and its international commitments must be observed scrupulously and that those responsible for such violations will be held to answer.  A demonstration of this would be the removal of Oleksandr Medvedko who, in ignoring a court ruling which had come into force and extraditing a refugee, has lost any right to hold the host of Prosecutor General

The conference this week will be focusing on economic migration.  Ukraine is, of course, both a country providing many migrant workers, as well as the destination, or very often, transit point for people from other countries trying to enter EU countries.  The reasons for the number of people from Ukraine seeking work abroad, and the need to ensure protection of their rights, do not need to be elaborated.

The role of Ukraine as a transit country, on the other hand, urgently requires attention from the EU which last year signed a readmission agreement with Ukraine according to which illegal migrants who entered the EU from Ukraine will be returned there. The agreement was reached despite the fact that Russia is in no hurry to sign a similar accord with Ukraine. Given the present strain in relations, movement in this direction seems even more unlikely, and since most of the people endeavouring to reach EU countries come via Russia, this problem is one Ukraine and the EU need to confront together. 

There is surely no EU country which has not experienced problems with xenophobia and general antagonism from those who view migrants as a potential threat to employment or their customary way of life.  These problems are now being confronted by Ukraine which for many historical and economic reasons is ill-equipped to deal with them.  It would be a tragedy if Ukraine, which for years had a relatively good record as far as pluralism and tolerance were concerned, should now be left to deal with rising racism and anti-migrant sentiments by itself.  The comments and advice made by international bodies and NGOs over the last year regarding increases in xenophobic attacks are justified.  However, it would be unwise to forget the considerable influence of racist gangs and ideology coming from other countries, most especially Russia (as if we don’t have enough of our own!).  When the reasons are clear and their consequences so bitterly predictable, then perhaps some more active assistance and support would be helpful.

One of the worrying symptoms of this rising intolerance has been the increasingly aggressive stand taken by high-ranking representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and some politicians. It is presumably true that the police see crimes being committed by gangs or individuals from certain countries. Difficult to check, since the statements or opinions expressed are usually vague. This does not unfortunately make them less frightening to the public, rather the contrary. The public statement made in the first week of the war by the Head of the Kyiv Police Force Vasyl Yarema regarding police readiness to ensure law and order in the light of a possible influx of migrants from the Caucuses due to the war were anything but constructive. Certain pronouncements by Gennady Moskal and to a lesser extent by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Yury Lutsenko, create the impression that all the problems confronting the country are caused by migrants. It should be stressed that such simplistic explanations do nothing towards solving the real problems while at the same time creating new and no less serious difficulties for an emerging democracy.

These problems and the need to break down pernicious stereotypes are not unique to Ukraine, but it is Ukraine which must confront them at a time of serious unrest and tension in the entire region.  Support for its efforts are vital, but so are harsh words where those in authority run roughshod over the rule of law and fundamental principles, in particular those regarding refugees. 

In times of trouble you stand together. Or you fall.

The rule of law is not just on paper!

The Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly violated both domestic law and the country’s international commitments with regard to refugees and asylum seekers

On 28 July 2008, the Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko issued instructions to extradite a recognized refugee Oleg Kuznetsov to Russia. In so doing, he ignored a court ruling, as well as the most fundamental principles of international law

In February 2008, 11 ethnic Tamils, all holding UNHCR documents and 6 of whom had already applied for refugee status in Ukraine, were sent back to Sri Lanka.  This was a serious violation of the principle of non-refoulement, and flagrantly ignored a recommendation from the European Court of Human Rights to not send Tamils back to Sri Lanka where they may be in danger

In February 2006, 11 Uzbek asylum seekers were handed over to the regime of Islam Karimov which is notorious for its systematic use of torture and persecution on political or religious grounds

These are only the most flagrant examples, there have been others.  These must stop.

Fine words about commitment to the rule of law and human rights must be matched by deeds!  Each time the Ukrainian authorities violate the rights of asylum seekers and refugees and we allow them to get away with it, we put other present and future asylum seekers at risk


We demand the dismissal of Oleksandr Medvedko, Prosecutor General of Ukraine whose action in sending back a recognized refugee is totally incompatible with his position.

We must send an unequivocal message to all members of the authorities, especially the Prosecutor’s Office, the Security Service [SBU] and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, that those who violate domestic and international legislation and shame the country will bear personal responsibility for their actions.

Please help to get this through to the authorities.  Join our picket of the Council of Europe’s Ministerial Conference on Migration

Thursday 4 September -  9 a.m.

Outside the International Exhibition Centre, Brovarsky Prospekt, 15, Kyiv (opposite the metro station “Livoberezhnaya”

If you can’t make the picket, please add your voice to ours in virtual mode!  Model letters to the President and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada can be found (and sent!) here:

Interethnic relations

Open Letter from KHPG regarding the organization “Patriot of Ukraine”

Open Letter from the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

To the Central Board of the All-Ukrainian Society “Prosvita”

The Chair of the Board, P.M. Movchan

Khreschatyk, 10, Kyiv


Dear Pavlo Mykhailovych,

Unfortunately over recent times there have been by no means isolated cases where xenophobic, racist and not infrequently neo-Nazi ideas have been propagated.

Despite clear differences in the political, social and cultural situation, the rate at which neo-Nazi ideology is spreading in today’s Ukraine is most reminiscent of similar processes in Russia 7-8 years ago. There are grounds for fearing that if this continues much longer, Ukraine will have the same consequences, such as the spread of xenophobic and ultra-rightwing ideas among certain groups of young people, an organized neo-Nazi milieu aimed at violence in big cities, systematic killings on racial grounds, and as a result an overall increase in the level of violence in society and damage to Ukraine’s international reputation.

According to information from law enforcement structures and human rights organizations, there are extremely close ties between the militarized radical rightwing organization “Patriot of Ukraine” and neo-Nazi circles mainly in the Kharkiv region and in Kyiv, as well as between the “Patriots” and Russian neo-fascists (for example, with the “Russian Orthodox National-Socialist Movement”).

According to the programme of “Patriot of Ukraine” posted on the official website of the organization, the latter “speaks out for a mono-racial and mono-national society”. Its leader A. Biletsky directly states that “Ukrainian racial social-nationalism is the ideology of “Patriot of Ukraine” (this is the title of his article published in a collection of ideological works and programme documents “Ukrainian Social-Nationalism”). While the organization’s ideologue O. Odnorozhenko openly writes that “Restriction and control will be imposed on all alien ethno-racial groups, with their subsequent deportation to their historical home. We Ukrainian social-nationalists view so-called “human races” as separate biological species and consider only the White European Human Being” to be intelligent in the biological understanding.”

So how does social-nationalism differ from National Socialism as espoused by demon-possessed Hitler? Everything suggests that the result is not affected by a change of place and that “Patriot of Ukraine” is taking up the banners of neo-fascism and racism.

And this, unfortunately, is no exaggeration, after all the term “neo-fascist” according to the definition given by the European Court of Human Rights means “support for the ideology of anti-Semitism and racial discord” (cf. the case of Karman v. Russia).

Against this background, it is baffling and shocking that such a respected organization as “Prosvita” should be providing premises and encouraging “Patriot of Ukraine” in Kharkiv. More precisely a part of “Prosvita” which supports the former head of the Kharkiv branch of the organization M. Kindratenko has ““taken it under its wing”.

Hiding behind fine slogans, the organization “Patriot of Ukraine” through its actions discredits and dishonours the very concept of patriotism . Its activities are seeped in racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism and leads to people in Eastern Ukraine beginning to see the concepts of nationalist and neo-Nazi as virtually synonymous.  Is it not this, in fact, that the “work” of the leaders of the organization is aimed at, is there not a basis in provocation?

For example, the “Patriots” flaunt the fact that they hold an annual “Patriot March” – a so-called anti-migrant procession. The specific feature of this is the fact that unlike other organizations, they are not just against illegal immigrants, but against immigration in Ukraine at all.  The “Patriot March” has been held twice in Kharkiv (in 2006 and 2008) and once in Kyiv (2007). For three years running, the organization has gained notoriety for its torch processions around student campuses in Kharkiv, Kyiv and Chernivtsi which fill foreign students studying in Ukraine with terror. And yet another “achievement” is that as the result of numerous pickets of the Ministry of Education and Science and its local offices, which the organization has held in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernivtsi, a course on “Tolerance” planned to be added to the school curriculum from September 2008 and was aimed at developing tolerance to ethnic and other minorities has been cancelled [or is under threat – it is still unclear – translator]/.  The organization “Patriot of Ukraine” has groupings organized on military lines and carries out regular “training” for its members. What kind of war are these youngsters being prepared for? Perhaps for a war with their own nation, with those people who in their anthropometric characteristics don’t fit their definition of “white race”?  “In order to affirm the right of the nation any methods from public to underground, from local to global, from parliamentary to armed force are acceptable”. Any useful and adequate violence and ferocity is justified”, these newly emerged “patriots” write in their booklet.

It was with such booklets and brochures that Hitler began his path to power almost 100 years ago. History remembers how that ended. The main thing is that today’s Ukrainians must remember.

It is of course for the members and leaders of “Prosvita” to decide who they work with side by side. At the same time we would like to warn you that the name of an organization which has a 125 year history of which it can be proud should not be profaned by the dirty stain of the brown neo-Nazi colours.


Yevhen Zakharov


Penal institutions

Public control wanting over penal institutions

According to the head of Donetsk Memorial Oleksandr Bukalov, there is virtually no public control over penal institutions, and what is being seen is a mere imitation of protection of prisoners’ rights.

At present legislation envisages only one mechanism for such control, this being the work of supervisory commissions, yet these work in a largely formal manner with members normally being employees of state bodies, roped in for extra duties, which they carry out without any great motivation.

Mr Bukalov stresses that public control is about representatives of civic society being able to check what goes on and the conditions in closed institutions, and to make public their findings.

At present it is difficult for the public to obtain such information. Formal information requests from Donetsk Memorial have received responses like “explain why you want the information?” and “send us your articles of association”. Officials in some regions have actually asked human rights groups to tell them what the supervisory commissions are.

As for the reasons for the lack of public control, the first is that the legislative and financial conditions for such control have not been provided.  There is no clear stipulation of who is entitled to carry out such control.

Another major problem is that there is little awareness in society or among the staff of penal institutions of the need for such control.  

Mr Bukalov believes that the State Department for the Execution of Sentences is happy with control being merely declared, and not carried out. The Department prefers an imitation of control which is effectively a way of deceiving society and foreign institutions wanting to know what is happening in Ukraine’s penal system.  Mr Bukalov stresses the need for more discussion in society of ways of creating public control in penal institutions.

Victims of political repression

US Congress House of Representatives Resolution on Holodomor

HRES 1314 EH

In the U.S. House of Representatives,

September 23, 2008.

Whereas in 1932 and 1933, an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainian people perished at the will of the totalitarian Stalinist government of the former Soviet Union, which perpetrated a premeditated famine in Ukraine in an effort to break the nation’s resistance to collectivization and communist occupation;

Whereas the Soviet Government deliberately confiscated grain harvests and starved millions of Ukrainian men, women, and children by a policy of forced collectivization that sought to destroy the nationally conscious movement for independence;

Whereas Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered the borders of Ukraine sealed to prevent anyone from escaping the man-made starvation and preventing any international food aid that would provide relief to the starving;

Whereas numerous scholars worldwide have worked to uncover the scale of the famine, including Canadian wheat expert Andrew Cairns who visited Ukraine in 1932 and was told that there was no grain ’because the government had collected so much grain and exported it to England and Italy,’ while simultaneously denying food aid to the people of Ukraine;

Whereas nearly a quarter of the rural population of Ukraine was eliminated due to forced starvation, while the entire nation suffered from the consequences of the prolonged lack of food;

Whereas the Soviet Government manipulated and censored foreign journalists, including New York Times correspondent Walter Duranty, who knowingly denied not only the scope and magnitude, but also the existence, of a deadly man-made famine in his reports from Ukraine;

Whereas noted correspondents of the time were castigated by the Soviet Union for their accuracy and courage in depicting and reporting the famine in Ukraine, including Gareth Jones, William Henry Chamberlin, and Malcolm Muggeridge, who wrote, ’[The farmers] will tell you that many have already died of famine and that many are dying every day; that thousands have been shot by the government and hundreds of thousands exiled’

Whereas in May 1934, former Congressman Hamilton Fish introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives (House Resolution 399 of the 73d Congress) which called for the condemnation of the Soviet Government for its acts of destruction against the Ukrainian people;

Whereas the United States Commission on the Ukraine Famine, formed on December 13, 1985, conducted a study with the goal of expanding the world’s knowledge and understanding of the Ukrainian Famine of 1932-1933, and concluded that the victims were ’starved to death in a man-made famine’ and that ’Joseph Stalin and those around him committed genocide against Ukrainians in 1932-1933’

Whereas on May 15, 2003, in a special session, the Ukrainian Parliament acknowledged that the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor ) was engineered by Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Government deliberately against the Ukrainian nation and called upon international recognition of the Holodomor ;

Whereas with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, archival documents became available that confirmed the deliberate and pre-meditated deadly nature of the famine, and that exposed the atrocities committed by the Soviet Government against the Ukrainian people; and

Whereas on October 13, 2006, the President of the United States signed into law Public Law 109-340 that authorized the Government of Ukraine ’to establish a memorial on Federal land in the District of Columbia to honor the victims of the Ukrainian famine-genocide of 1932-1933,’ in recognition of the upcoming 75th anniversary of the tragedy in 2008: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) solemnly remembers the 75th anniversary of the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor) of 1932-1933 and extends its deepest sympathies to the victims, survivors, and families of this tragedy;

(2) condemns the systematic violations of human rights, including the freedom of self-determination and freedom of speech, of the Ukrainian people by the Soviet Government;

(3) encourages dissemination of information regarding the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor) in order to expand the world’s knowledge of this man-made tragedy; and

(4) supports the continuing efforts of Ukraine to work toward ensuring democratic principles, a free-market economy, and full respect for human rights, in order to enable Ukraine to achieve its potential as an important strategic partner of the United States in that region of the world.

News from the CIS countries

No to electoral farce!

Protest actions against the rigging of the results of the “parliamentary election” were held in Minsk on Sunday. The Belarusian opposition called the elections a farce and urged the international community not to recognise the new “house of representatives” as legitimate.  Demonstrators demanded new free elections.

The demonstration began on October Square of Minsk at 8.00 pm after polling stations closed. Human rights activists had already reported numerous infringements of electoral law during the election campaign, advance voting and on voting day. Many candidates weren’t registered, there were no equal opportunities for campaigning and people were made to vote early. There were also arrests around the country of people circulating independent information, and also cases of ballot boxes being opened and ballot papers stuffed into them at polling stations. There was an extremely low number of representatives of the opposition parties in polling station election commissions, only 47 people out of 69.865 (0.07 per cent).

Charter 97 are adamant that the figures for the turnout are grossly inflated, and say that estimates from independent observers of the turnout in Minsk and other cities differed from the figures, “drawn up” by election commissions’ members.

October Square, where the protest rally began, was not cordoned off by the police as it usually is, however there were a lot of riot police officers in civilian clothing on the square, and vans with riot and spetsnaz (Special Forces] units waiting nearby. The presence of a large number of international observers and foreign journalists probably acted to restrain the authorities.

There were around 2,000 people at the rally, with many well-known opposition figures, including former political prisoner Alexander Kazulin who was only recently released.  The demonstrators demanded new, free and fair elections.

The demonstrators then marched along Independence Avenue to the building of the Central Election Commission. Apparently people joined the procession.  At the CEC the leader of the Youth Front Zmitser Dashkevich read a prayer for free and independent Belarus, with the participants joining in. .

From material at


No opposition candidates get into parliament in the Belarusian “elections”

It is difficult not to use inverted commas given the lack of alternative in 15 constituencies, with 40 in all not having democratic candidates (including 9 out of the 20 constituencies in Minsk). 

The Head of the Central Election Commission, Lidia Yermoshina told a press conference that there had been 75.3 per cent turnout and that there would be no second round.

 "There was no election in Belarus. It was an electoral farce for the West," Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the opposition United Civil Party, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

"We call on the EU and the US not to recognise the results of the election," Mr Lebedko said.

Opposition groups also say that they were not allowed to monitor voting properly.

They say that advance voting - which began on Tuesday - gave the government an opportunity to cheat. The authorities deny the accusation.

Observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are due to give their assessment of the election later on Monday

From material at and

The Situation in Ingushetia is a threat to the entire country

According to Ludmila Alexeeva, Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, what is presently happening in Ingushetia is comparable to what happened earlier in Chechnya and in the 1930s in the entire Soviet Union. Ludmila Alexeeva was speaking at a press conference in Moscow held on her return from a fact-finding mission to Ingushetia. Speaking of constant abductions and murders of those who annoy the authorities, she said that if such practices were not stopped, they could spread throughout the country.

She also said that the Republic’s President Murat Zyazikov considers the opposition to be linked with a terrorist underground, but that this is not the case. The authorities are pushing Ingushetians into the opposition and the underground. “Young people think it’s better to go to the forest then just sit and wait until they come for you.”

In response to her question about why civilians so often disappear in Ingushetia, Zyazikov replied that the Ingushetian enforcement agencies were not involved.  He claimed that the arrested people were being taken to Vladikavkaz after which all trace of them disappears.

Yesterday the site ( ) published a full list of the people it accuses of being implicated in the murder of the head of the opposition website Magomed Yevloev. The list of those who according to Ingush traditions are liable to “bloody revenge” is headed by the President Murat Zyazikov. Ludmila Alexeeva, however, maintains that the stories about such vengeance are exaggerated and believes that most people, including Yevloev’s family, are more interested in a proper investigation.

She also recounted how she directly witnessed a “purge”. They were phoned on the evening of 17 September and told the address where people in masks had just arrived. They went there and were even able to speak to the people. She says that  she is sure they were Russians, and judging by pronunciation, there were Muscovites among them. Their leader introduced himself as Vitaly Ivashov. They were not allowed into the building however none of the residents was arrested. Locals said that this was the fourth visit to that family, with the first involving theft of all valuables and money.

Based on information at and

The War: a month on

From 3-8 September 2008 members of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” and Human Rights Watch visited the military conflict zone in South Ossetia. They spoke with residents of Tskhinvali and villages, police officers, home guard soldiers and Russian soldiers, different representatives of the authorities and others. 

At a press conference on 11 September, Memorial made public the following conclusions

1.  “During the night of 7-8 August Georgia’s armed forces carried out an attack on South Ossetia.  A disproportionate amount of force was used. The city of Tskhinvali and villages which contained civilians were subjected to gunfire, with the use of indiscriminate weapons, in the first instance Grad missiles.

2.  This resulted in casualties among the population of South Ossetia. It is not possible at present to give an exact number. Some official structures are continuing to speak of thousands of casualties however it remains impossible to find the source for these assertions. Meanwhile Russia’s Investigation Committee speakers of 137 people killed. Only a publication of a list of those killed can clarify this. <>

3.  From conversations with residents of Ossetian villages and of the most affected districts of Tskhinvali, it was possible to ascertain that most of those killed were involved in the armed resistance. A considerable percentage of the civilian population had left the city during the previous week, and those remaining sheltered in basements. We recorded some cases where these buildings were subjected to gunfire at basement level,  however as a rule civilians died when they came out – to save their burning home, for water, or during attempts to leave the city via an allegedly announced “humanitarian corridor” during the night from 3 to 4 August. “

4. In Tskhinvali they saw one attempt to seize civilian hostages by the crew of a Georgian military vehicle and say that as they retreated from villages, Georgian military also took prisoners and hostages with them. Memorial reports that their conversations did not bring up any cases of torture, beatings or other forms of ill-treatment of women, children or the elderly by Georgian soldiers.  The latter “had told many inhabitants that they had strict orders not to touch those parts of the population. The inhabitants of the villages in which according to reports in the Russian media “people were burned alive in churches” did not confirm such information. Moreover, during the days of conflict some wounded or seriously wounded Ossetians were taken to hospitals in Georgia where they received treatment and care.  There are opposite examples: we saw Ossetians helping Georgian elderly people who had remained in their villages. “

5. Memorial speaks of severe damage to Tskhinvali and says that while Russian artillery may have inflicted some of this, residents of the city say that it was mainly inflicted during the night of 7-8 August and in the daytime on 8 August, when the Russian military were not near the city.

It says that on 13 August, two days after control had been established over Georgian enclaves, the Russian army took effective measures to protect the civilian population remaining there, and the looting and arson stopped. Forces from the Ministry for Emergencies also found and transported to Georgia 100 residents of villages who had not left their homes in time. “This successful attempt shows the fundamental possibility of effective resolution of such tasks. However about five days later the posts were removed, and the destruction of villages began again.”

7.  Memorial says that Georgian villages have been virtually entirely burned. They name seven villages which they themselves visited.

They note that there are villages with mixed Ossetian and Georgian populations which the latter did not leave, and are not in danger.

8.  <> The leadership in South Ossetia are not ensuring protection for the property of inhabitants of Georgian enclave villages nor the people remaining there. The Russian military have also ceased to fulfil this function. The situation in these villages is absolutely unacceptable”  <>

9.  Memorial say that the divisions of the Russian army remaining in Ossetia, at least those removed from their units, are falling apart having found themselves in a wine-making region.  The welcome they are receiving is making them not only unable to fight, but also a danger to themselves and those around them.

Based on the press release at  The text is abridged, mainly because HRW may well issue their version, however only removing details fairly readily available.

Memorial: On the killing of Magomed Yevloev

Russia’s Human Rights Centre “Memorial” considers the killing of Magomed Yevloev, the owner of the opposition website ( ) to be the latest act of State terror and a demonstrative and cynical crime.

One has the impression that after a “small victorious war” the authorities have rejected any mere semblance of lawfulness in their actions with regard to those whom they regard as their adversary.

We demand a swift and effective investigation into this crime and that those who both ordered it and carried it out are brought to justice.

Owner of Magomed Yevloev killed

Mr Yevloev was killed today after being detained at the Ingushetia Magas Airport. According to the website he owned, Yevloev  was taken away from the runway near the plane by law enforcement officers.  The head of the organizing committee for the Ingushetia Nationwide Political Rally Magomed Khazbiyev told the radio station Echo Moskvy that Yevloev had travelled on the same plane as the President of Ingushetia. After the latter was met by a cortege, a row of cars with the Minister of Internal Affairs drove up to the plane and took Yevloev away.

Khazbiyev says that when detaining him, guns were used with warning shots at the legs. After the detention, the row of cars separated into six parts and it was not therefore possible to say with any certainty where they took the owner of  A number of media outlets reported that Yevloev was only injured, however it is known definitely that he was killed. 

By this evening, the Russian media were reporting that the Prosecutor has initiated a criminal investigation under the article for causing death through carelessness. According to RIA Novosti, the Ministry of Internal Affairs are claiming that Yevloev tried to grab a rifle from one of the police officers and was shot in the head.  Another story suggests that shots rang out in the car he was travelling in.  He was supposedly being taken to be interrogated regarding an explosion in Nazran. It is not clear why a need was seen to question Mr Yevloev.

Echo Moskvy reports that Yevloev had received threats and those working on the website he owned believe that he was deliberately killed.

The editorial office of the website says that the wounded man was found by relatives who had come to meet him. They took him to hospital where he died on the operating table.

In July this year a Russian court closed the website “ “for spreading extremist material”.  The prosecutor’s office had sought the closure of the site in connection with the publication of an interview with the leader of the Ingush opposition Mysa Keligov which had previously been found extremist by the court.  The ruling was appealed, but had recently been upheld by the Moscow City Court.  The Chief Editor of the site has since asked for political asylum in the West.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2008, #09