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.

The right to a fair trial

Monitoring of Judicial Independence in Ukraine: 2008

The Centre for Judicial Studies has published their study “Monitoring of Judicial Independence in Ukraine: 2008” which was undertaken as part of a Ukrainian – Swiss Project “Support for Judicial Reform in Ukraine, Promoting the strengthening of judges’ independence”. The surveying of judges, prosecutors and bar lawyers took place in August and September this year before the beginning of the active phase of the latest political confrontation. The latter did not therefore impact upon the results of the monitoring and makes it possible to conclude that the monitoring showed a fairly high level of objectivity. An analogous study was carried out in 2007. The results of the studies have made it possible to follow the state of independence of judges in Ukraine, in accordance with international standards.

Institutional independence of judges

With regard to guarantees of independence provided by domestic legislation, the majority of respondents consider that constitutional norms on the whole comply with international standards for judicial independence with the exception of the norm on the makeup of the High Council of Justice (Article 131 of the Constitution) in which at least half of the members should be judges elected by their colleagues.

The constitutional norm stating that “The independence and immunity of judges are guaranteed by the Constitution and the laws of Ukraine. Influencing judges in any manner is prohibited” has not been positively reflected in Ukrainian legislation on the judicial system and the status of judges and provides insufficient guarantees for judicial independence.  The laws “On the High Council of Justice”, “On the procedure for the election and dismissal of professional judges of the Supreme Court of Ukraine” and current procedural legislation are rated negatively by the overwhelming majority of judges.

In their assessment of the level of respect for judges’ independence, compared with the monitoring in 2007 one notes a reduced level of respect for the court from the President (2007 – 50%, 2008- 55%); representatives of big business (2007 – 47%, 2008- 56%);  journalists (2007 – 40%, 2008- 45%); people running business (2007 – 28%, 2008- 36%) and members of the public (2007 – 20%, 2008- 45%).

The results of both surveys showed that only one fifth of the respondents consider that they have sufficient powers to uphold the authority of judges and respect for the court, and the possibility of having influence on these processes.

Functional (procedural) independence of judges

Results indicate a continuing high level of attempts at influencing the court’s position during examination of cases. 71% (against 77% in 2007) of judges, 54% (against 67%) and 81% (against 89%) of bar lawyers confirmed awareness of such instances. Some decrease in the level of influence can be explained by positive internal changes in the judicial system itself since over the last year there has been a reduction in influence from the heads of the courts.

According to the answers from judges, the most active in trying to wield unlawful influence on the court are: the parties to the case and their representatives – 55% (against 48% in 2007); Representatives of the media (41% (against 28%); participants in political rallies and pickets – 41% (35%); National Deputies (MPs) 40% (against 39%) and representatives of political parties – 34% (against 35%). The answers from the respondents (judges, prosecutors and lawyers) suggest that there is considerable pressure on judges and heads of the courts from a large number of people during judicial examination of cases.  The following forms of influence are most often used: threats to do damage to somebody’s career, to have them dismissed or have disciplinary proceedings brought against them; bribery; friendly advice.

Non-enforcement or enforcement but with considerable delay of court rulings remains one of the main reasons for lack of faith by members of the public in the court and in the state as a whole. And although judges do not have at their disposal levers for improving this situation, since the process of enforcement is under the control of the executive branch of power, the main complaints are levelled at the judiciary.

Social protection for judges

Of concern is the low level of pay of judges of local courts. Only half of the judges surveyed believe that they receive pay close to that of the district prosecutor. In comparison with the pay of the head of the district state administration, only one fifth of the respondents said that they received the same remuneration.  The level of pay of local court judges is not commensurate with their level of responsibility.

The assessment of the independence of local court judges according to the criteria of the present level of pay is of deep concern. Only 11% (against 10% in 2007) of the judges surveyed say that their level of pay enables them to be independent. This begs the conclusion that the independence of almost 90% of judges is at risk.

Disciplinary liability of judges

Of greatest concern is the increase in the number of respondents (62% in 2008 against 58% in 2007) who believe that international standards for bringing disciplinary proceedings against judges are not being observed. A judge who is facing disciplinary proceedings should have the right to an examination of the issue by a fair and independent body on an adversarial basis. Current legislation does not contain regulations entitling the judge to provide evidence to refute the charges against him or her, or where the judgment is disputed to appeal against it.

Furthermore, there has been an increase – 72% against 65% - in the number of respondents who consider most complaints against judges to be unwarranted. In the absence of clear and objective criteria for assessing judges’ work, this can significantly affect judges’ independence in carrying out disciplinary proceedings.  This issue is important also given that the High Council of Justice, one of the bodies responsible for disciplinary proceedings against judges, does not have a majority of judges on it.  This is despite the fact that European standards call for an independent institution with such a majority in cases where judges are facing disciplinary charges. 

Judges’ career

According to the results of the survey in both 2007 and 2008 one can conclude that in the present socio-political conditions the current model for providing judges with their powers (a professional judge is first appointed by the President for 5 years and then by the Verkhovna Rada indefinitely) is the optimum model for them.

On the other hand there is a clear lack of trust among judges of the public, a fear of direct answerability to the public on the results of their activities and professional behaviour. In answering the question: “Do you consider that judges’ positions should be filled on a competitive basis?” the position of judges did not significantly change during the year, with this being supported by 60% in 2008 against 58% in 2007, with the other 40% and 42% respectively against.

Initial appointment of a judge

There were considerable changes in responses to the question as to which official figures most influence the decision as to whether a judge is appointed for the first time. In 2007 the most influential figures were deemed to be representatives of the judicial administration (management) – the head of the local court – 34% (in 2008 – 28%); the head of the appellate court of the relevant region – 52% (2008 – 39%).

In the middle of 2007 the procedure for administrative posts in local and appellate courts of general jurisdiction changed. Administrative judges’ posts came under the direct political influence of the executive branch of power and became subordinate to bodies of judges’ self-government (the Council of Judges of Ukraine).  This significantly weakened, if not broke, the negative chain of executive power – head of the court – judge. At the same time, the transfer of influence on initial appointments to representatives of the High Council of Justice and members of the qualifying commissions of judges will have a positive impact on the independence of domestic judges only on condition of their own independence and political impartiality.

Indefinite tenure

The survey showed that the process by which judges receive indefinite tenure was the most subject to political and administrative influence. The judges considered the decisive influence to be wielded by National Deputies (56%) and members of the relevant parliamentary committee (50%).

In 2008 18% of the respondents said that there was unlawful influence during the procedure for filling judges’ posts. This high figure points to a significant violation of the principle of independence of judges specifically in the process of forming the judge corps.

One thus sees that over the last year there has been a trend towards a reduction in the influence in forming the judge corps of representatives of the judicial administration (management), with this influence to a large extent shifting to the qualifying commissions of judges and the High Council of Justice. However unlike the qualifying commissions, the level of confidence in the independence of the High Council of Justice remains low. Furthermore a continuing negative trend in the mechanism for forming the judge corps remains unlimited political dependence.

General assessment of judicial independence in Ukraine

The results of the study demonstrate dangerous tendencies with infringements of judicial independence, with the institutional independence of the judiciary under constant threat from individual high-ranking public officials and state bodies.


The study “Monitoring of Judicial Independence in Ukraine: 2008” was carried out by the Centre for Judicial Studies with the support of the Council of Judges of Ukraine, the All-Ukrainian Independent Judges’ Association, the Union of Bar Lawyers of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Association of Prosecutors in August – September 2008 in 8 regions of the country. 1,072 judges of appellate and local courts were surveyed, together with 630 regional and district-level prosecutors and 590 bar lawyers.

Centre for Judicial Studies

Freedom of expression

“Ratusza” newspaper wins suit against the Mayor of Lviv

The Lviv City Council newspaper “Ratusza” has won a law suit against the Mayor of Lviv Andriy Sadovy. The Chief Editor of the newspaper Mykola Savelyev informed journalists of the details of the case. In October 2007, he said, at one of the sessions of the Lviv City Council, Mr Sadovy had said: “Why are you worried about your pay in the newspaper “Ratusza”?  They’ll get It, but in envelopes. This Is work for the law enforcement agencies.”

Deeming this to be a direct insult against their business reputation, the newspaper lodged a suit against the Mayor which was allowed on 26 November. The judge of the Halytsky District Court ordered the Mayor to retract the false information at a session of the Council.

Conflict has raged between the Mayor and the newspaper since the present Mayor came to office. In October last year Mykola Savelyev and two journalists began a hunger strike in the Mayor’s reception office of Mayor Andriy Sadovy.  They were protesting at the lack of financing for the newspaper and failure to pay salaries over the previous four months.

New information at

How to lose the information war

No one would deny the considerable attention paid to Ukraine by both Russian and the world media since the beginning of the military conflict over South Ossetia.  What is in dispute is the reason for so much attention.  Implications arising from Russia’s assertion of its right to “protect its nationals” anywhere in the world, its lavishness in issuing passports to South Ossetians, and apparent parallels with the situation in the Crimea do not need to be spelled out.  Ukraine has, however, also been repeatedly accused by the Kremlin and in the Russian media of providing weapons to Georgia and there have been allegations that members of a Ukrainian nationalist organization took part in the conflict.

  We doubtless need more information, however would repeat the statement made by John Dalhuisen, author of Amnesty International’s report “Civilians in the line of fire: The Georgia-Russia conflict”, in an interview to Radio Svoboda.  Asked about the allegations of Ukrainian involvement, he said that neither he, nor AI, had any evidence which could confirm or refute such claims.  

Russia’s allegations against Ukraine have been reiterated by a National Deputy from the Party of the Regions Valery Konovalyuk who rather curiously is heading the supposedly independent parliamentary committee formed to investigate the claims.  He has on many occasions made public statements reported in both Ukrainian and Russian media.  One of these reports has led, as we will explain, to a worrying reaction from Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU].

The first reaction, however, was to a film. Now if there are any rules in the information war, they are not surprisingly hidden from the uninitiated. There remain rules of diplomacy and the film in question and intended showing were at very least entirely devoid of diplomatic finesse.  Not a crime, of course, but difficult not to note.

The film lasting around 50 minutes is entitled “The War 08.08.08: Art of Betrayal” and claims that Georgia treacherously began the war with the support of the USA and that the war was advantageous to the Republican presidential candidate Senator McCain. It also alleges that Ukraine was involved in the war not only by providing weapons, but through the supposed participation in the conflict of supporters of the radical rightwing organization UNA-UNS0.  No proof is provided, unless one counts the statement made by a UNA-UNSO activist before the war began that the organization’s members would be prepared to go the Caucuses to support Georgia.

Given later events it is difficult to say what is most staggering: the total lack of what makes the news worthy of its name, that is, new information, or a detail which due to the row unleashed we can easily forget. Such supplies are not necessarily unlawful and the participation of some Ukrainian nationals in the conflict, even should this be confirmed, proves – forgive the banality – no more and no less than the participation of some Ukrainian nationals in the conflict,  Not exactly breaking news.

The film can be downloaded from the site (together with information about special projects “For Putin”, individuals “For Putin” and other stirring material)  What aroused the fury of Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was the planned premiere viewing of the film in the Hyatt Hotel in Kyiv on 12 November with the support of the Russian Embassy and the presence of Valery Konovalyuk.  Unfortunately, as well as official protest from Ukraine’s Ministry to the Russian MFA regarding what it called anti-Ukrainian provocation, the SBU also approached the hotel in question.  There was nothing as vulgar as a ban, of course, just a letter warning of possible provocation over the showing of the film.  No ban, and yet the hotel cancelled the event.

Before any action, it is always wise to weigh the likely damage of the action against the harm from doing nothing. The film makes serious allegations without providing proof, which is much the same as what most Russian television and other media outlets have been doing since the conflict began.  Whatever we call the letter from the SBU, it led to the cancellation of the viewing which, given the lack of any hard evidence, ran every chance of being, albeit galling, a crashing non-event.  Instead it became an example of SBU interference.  Too late now, of course, but surely a public request to the Russian Embassy to allow an alternative point of view to be expressed would have been a more constructive exercise in damage limitation?

  If that was merely inept, the events of the last two days are positively disturbing.  On 18 November SBU officers removed servers from the office of the provider firm for the website Daily-UA as part of their criminal investigation launched over alleged disclosure of a State secret.  This was what the newspaper Komersant-Ukraine reports the SBU Press Service as having stated as grounds for the action. The criminal investigation was initiated on 22 October in response to the publication in the Internet of a letter from the company “Ukrspetsexport” classified as secret, together with commentary from the Head of the Investigative Committee into allegations that Ukraine provided military technology to Georgia, Valery Konovalyuk.  Experts have concluded that the material contained secret information.  Mr Konovalyuk was summoned for questioning over the case last week after which he showed journalists a photocopy of a letter from the Director of the state company “Ukrspetsexport” Serhiy Bondarchuk to President Yushchenko from 4 October 2005.  From the letter it follows that “Ukrspetsexport”, on the instruction of the President, “investigated the possibility of supplying one zenit rocket complex “Buk-M1” to Georgia” through removing it from military service.  The letter asks that “in the event of a positive decision” the relevant instructions be passed to Military Headquarters and the Cabinet of Ministers to make the necessary amendments for “Buk-M1” to be placed on the list of surplus Ministry of Defence property. 

  This is not the first time the authorities have focused on the media of late when investigating charges which cannot possibly be laid against journalists who simply reported information given them.  Quite recently the Prosecutor General interrogated a journalist for hours over an interview he had taken of David Zhvania with regard to the poison attempt against Viktor Yushchenko.  If these are heavy-handed attempts to intimidate journalists, then they are entirely reprehensible, but one can just about see some twisted logic. 

In fact though, it is difficult to associate the behaviour of those in authority with mental activity at all.  The press is now full of information about what it was that Konovalyuk made public and about the totally excessive and repressive response of the SBU.  This has all highlighted the shameful fact that very many documents of public importance continue to be classified as secret.  And of course, despite well-deserved scepticism given the relentless barrage of Russian allegations on all subjects, and the statement from Amnesty International, a considerable number of people are now repeating the old cliché that there’s no smoke without fire.

If the suggestion that an information war is raging is correct then we are talking of a formidable opponent and some weapons are absolutely vital.  I would name but the two which seem lacking of late: total commitment to the principles of a law-based society and some good old-fashioned use of ones mental faculties.

Access to information

Luhansk Region breaks all records in failure to provide information

A study carried out by two coalitions of civic organizations working in 9 regions of the country has found that the Luhansk region is firmly in the lead as regards the number of violations of the right to information.  As part of an anti-corruption programme “Decent Ukraine”, the organizations are investigating the level of transparency of procedure and accessibility of information in the area of land relations and city construction.  During August and September ten organizations from nine regions sent information requests to the authorities and bodies of local self-government. It was in the Luhansk region that the researchers received the most idiotic answers from the authorities. The authors stress that the examples given are merely the tip of the iceberg.

First case: Svativsky District Department of Land Resources

In September volunteers from the “Luhansk Archaeological Union sent this department a number of information requests. They asked for information about land sites in reserve and in the State Reserve Fund and for copies of the plans for land use showing the layout of the above-mentioned land sites.

Reaction was not slow in coming – within two days of sending the letters one of the volunteers received a phone call from the Head of the Department Mr Kosohor. Instead of providing answers, Mr Kosohor began threatening that he would approach the Security Service [SBU] since he claimed the information was a state secret.

After the coordinators of the project circulated a press release to the media speaking of the pressure being brought to bear against civic activists, together with an explanation of how lawyers from the Department were twisting the law, the bureaucratic arbitrary rule stopped. The requests for information were, however, turned down.

Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group stresses that the information sought should have been made available since it falls into none of the exceptions listed in Article 34 of the Constitution.

Second case: The Starobilsk City Council and the District Prosecutor’s Office

Much the same scenario was played out here after activists asked deputies to provide information about their activities within the council regarding approving construction, about speeches, deputy information requests and appeals on this theme, as well as information about how often reports are presented to voters and about any ensuing public discussion.

The reaction here too was verbal with one of the City Council deputies trying to put pressure on the volunteer via his relatives. The deputy claimed that such a quantity of information requests at one time was an infringement and that the person could face administrative liability. 

The Prosecutor’s Office which has held first place in the rating for the most secretive public authority retains its position. In response to an information request regarding how surveillance is carried out of observance of land and city construction legislation, the District Prosecutor claimed that the information was confidential. The activists have asked the Regional Prosecutor’s Office and the Prosecutor General’s Office for an explanation of the term confidential.

Yevhen Zakharov points out with regret that the situation with the prosecutor’s office has not improved with them continuing to not register their normative legal acts with the Ministry of Justice. This means that they are simply not known to the public. Item 3 of the Order passed by the Prosecutor General on 18 March 2005 establishing a list of documents on restricted access can if the will is there be interpreted so broadly that almost all analytical material regarding prosecutor’s response can be included. This however is in violation of the Law “On the prosecutor’s office”.

Third case: the Luhansk City Council

Out of the information requests sent to the 75 deputies of the Luhansk City Council only response was received but it was a classic. The deputy when asked for information about what a report of his activities should contain answered as follows: “Your request has been examined and turned down due to the fact that in accordance with Article 9 of the Law “On information” “.. each citizen is guaranteed access to information which concerns him or her personally.”  The deputy thus indicated unambiguously that information about his activities is no business of those who entrusted him with his powers.

Head of the Lviv Regional Charitable Foundation “Resonance” Olena Hrabovska believes that the examples cited clearly show the inadequacy of Ukrainian legislation for regulation access to information. She points out that the law provides no clear definition of confidential information. Furthermore, according to international standards, only the actual information deemed confidential should be restricted and not the entire document.  There is a clear list of what can constitute a state secret in the law “On State secrets”, and it is difficult to fathom how information about land sites held in reserve and in the State Reserve Fund could jeopardize state security.

A summary of a report by Kostyantyn Reutsky on

Interethnic relations

Crimean Tatars restart work at the site planned for a Soborna [Assembly] Mosque in Simferopol

On Sunday 23 November around 250 people took part in constructing a fence around the land on Yaltynska St (over 2.5 hectares) where it is hoped that the Mosque Dzhuma-Dzhami will stand. Among those involved were representatives of the Mufti and the leaders of the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatars. The fence, a metre high, is made up of the stone gathered since 12 February when Crimean Tatars launched an initiative to gather stones for the building. They called on Muslims and other residents of the Crimea to bring one stone each

According to Refat Chubarov, Deputy Head of the Mejilis: “The boundaries of the land site have already been added to the land cadastre, and yet they don’t give us a permit. We therefore marked out the boundaries of the fence from the stone which we gathered and will later go on to other work to facilitate the building of the Soborna Mosque.”

As already reported here, the struggle to gain land for this Mosque has been continuing for many years. 

In 2004 the Spiritual Directorate submitted all applications and documents for permission to build on Yaltynska St, this entailing considerable expense and effort.  At that time the Simferopol City Council gave permission to build the Soborna Mosque, yet on 10 January this year, it took the decision to change the location, allocating a different site.

The Crimean Prosecutor registered a protest in support of the Spiritual Directorate’s claim for the site on Yaltynska St. 

On 7 February the Crimean Economic Court ordered the Simferopol City Council to conclude a lease agreement within ten days with the Spiritual Directorate of the Muslims of the Crimea for the landsite on Yaltynska St.  This ruling has now come into effect, yet the delay tactics continue.

Crimean police reluctant to learn about European experience of working in a multicultural region

On 6 November in Simferopol a conference was held on principles of work of Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] bodies in a multicultural society. It was on the initiative and with the participation of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebek.  Despite the high level of the conference and prior arrangements, the event was ignored by the first heads of the MIA, although the participation had been expected of the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and the Head of the Ministry’s Human Rights Department. Nor did the Head of the Crimean Police come and the hall where the event took place was half empty.

Why the Crimean law enforcement bodies responded so coolly to the proposals of European partners to share experience of law enforcement work in a multi-cultural society remains a mystery. After all, this subject remains highly relevant for the Crimea. Experts point to a high level of inter-ethnic intolerance in Crimean society and an increase in the number of cases of xenophobia from the Crimean authorities.

The idea of such a conference, to be followed up by a series of seminars for Crimean enforcement officers, arose last year after the Crimean police used excessive force on Ai-Petri, deploying over a thousand men from the Internal Forces and the Special Forces Unit “Berkut”, special devices and arms against four dozen Crimean Tatars.  The MIA management supported the idea of the conference however when the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities carried it through, involving leading European experts, interest from the law enforcement body waned.

Head of the Simferopol Research Centre “Integration and development” Oleh Smirnov told Radio Svoboda that it has been particularly noticeable over recent years that the Crimean Police “have reacted inadequately, from the point of view of European experience, to ethnically charged conflict”. He says that the next step should be to organize a series of seminars for Crimean law enforcement officers.

The police and the public should speak one language

At the conference, the publication “Recommendations on Police Work in a Multicultural Society” produced in 2006 by the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities was presented.

Knut Vollebek pointed out that these recommendations include proposals to draw more representatives of different ethnic groups into the police force. “It’s very important that the ethnic makeup of the police reflects the makeup of the population of the region. A second fundamental issue is the situation with language and culture. If I am detained by the police, it’s important that the police officer speaks the same language, that we understand one another.”

According to information from the Leader of the Mejilis Mustafa Dzhemilyev, only 4% of the staff of the Crimean Police Force are Crimean Tatars whereas the latter make up almost 14% of the Crimean population. In the SBU [Security Service] there is not one Crimean Tatar. Local observers assume that it was after reading these recommendations that the management of the Ukrainian police lost interest in the conference although the problem of xenophobia among the Crimean law enforcement bodies remains real.

Ethnic origin of offenders as hate speech

Yury Chumak, Human Rights Assistant to the Minister of Internal Affairs, has written a critical article on how the law enforcement agencies talk about offenders, especially those from particular ethnic groups, and the negative impact this has.

He was prompted to address the issue by an article in the newspaper “In the Name of the Law”. The author there bewails the fact that people continue to be conned by people engaging in certain types of trickery.  The problem is that the people he is referring to are Roma people, and the general effect is to warn against them, and not against those dishonest people deceiving people.

“A very simple, primitive method for creating the image of an ideal enemy is to select facts which demonstrate the ill deeds of members of a particular ethnic group, present it as a pronounced trend and also produce some kind of “advice sheet” on how not to fall into the traps which these “criminal ethnic minorities” supposedly set at each step.”  The author believes the newspaper article to be an example of hate speech in the way that it foists ethnic stereotypes upon the reader

The author notes that there have been a number of cases in the Ukrainian media where stereotypes regarding criminal behaviour of certain ethnic groups are repeated from carelessly prepared Police Public Liaison Centre reports.

“Unfortunately the view is firmly entrenched among some employees of the law enforcement agencies,  that there are so-called “ethnic crimes” typical of certain ethnic groups living in Ukraine. Most often in police circles they mention gypsies (Roma), Crimean Tatars, people from the Caucuses, as well as from Africa and Asia, as groups “accustomed to committing crimes.

  As if it weren’t enough that such faulty stereotypes are typical for many police employees, they also reach the mass consciousness through reports from the Police Public Liaison Centre and various media outlets”

After a report from the Kharkiv Region Police Public Liaison Centre regarding “two women of gypsy nationality” who had alleged conned people out of their money and possessions was widely circulated in the press, the Human Rights Assistant to the Minister spoke with the heads of the Liaison Centre. A verbal commitment was made to not mention ethnic origin in such reporting, and it is now planned to formalize that legally at least for the Kharkiv region. The question has been passed for consideration to the Ministry of Internal Affairs Public Council for the Kharkiv region.

The newspaper “New Style” in March this year published an article with the telling title “Ukrainian tour of “the proud sons of the Caucuses” in which the author claims that “the large number of crimes committed by members of various nationalities of the Caucuses .. give grounds to residents of Kharkiv and the region, and especially law enforcement officers, to treat with entirely understandable and forgivable wariness people with features typical of those born in the south” (

One can cite dozens, even hundreds, of articles of this type. There are not, however, such articles written about ethnic groups which are in the majority in the country or a particular region, for example, Ukrainians, Russians (who are in the majority in the Crimea). “Such twisted presentation of information is nothing but the application of a certain discriminatory approach.”

Given the popularity of such criminal topics, the foisting of negative ethnic stereotypes and forming of a one-sided prejudiced attitude to migrants are of great concern. The authorities, politicians and the media concentrate on the negative consequences of immigration. According to a study by Parkhomenko and Starodub, “The Ukrainian media are more often likely to fuel the xenophobic superstitions, racial, national or religious prejudice of their readers than to try to orientate themselves in the situation and direct socio-political discourse in a realistic direction”.

Article 161 of the Criminal Code punishes for deliberate actions aimed at inciting ethnic, racial or religious enmity and hatred, at denigrating a person’s ethnic honour and dignity or causing offence with regard to religious beliefs.  The author considers the possibility of applying this law, however states that in the majority of cases it is a question more of inability to predict the effect the words will have on their audience. He stresses the need to bear in mind how unintentional action with elements of xenophobia or which provoke the public to such attitudes, incorrect use of words or attaching labels to ethnic groups, can be harmful.

In Russia where there has been a wave of racially-motivated crime, the Moscow police decided last year not to mention the nationality of offenders in their news releases which can intensify racial tension and prejudice. They are now supposed to say only Russian national or non-Russian national.

According to the Rotterdam Charter Policing for a multi-ethnic society: “The police should acknowledge that inaccurate reporting and stereotyping by the media has a harmful effect on community relations. Therefore particular care must be taken by police in interactions with the press to avoid perpetuating stereotypes in descriptions of minority ethnic communities. <> The danger of merely focusing on the crime rate in minority ethnic communities needs to be addressed. One must question whether such a focus is necessary and what its purpose is. There is a risk of stigmatisation of the whole ethnic community. Also, criminalised stereotypes are likely to be given publicity in the popular press and other mass media”

Recommendations on avoiding stressing the ethnic origin of offenders in police reporting for the media are also found in the Recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe No. R (97).

  The Ukrainian journalist community has its own experience in drawing up preventive measures against hate speech. For example, in April 2001 the “Declaration of Main Principles for Journalists’ Work in Multi-ethnic societies” was passed at a meeting of journalists from southern regions of Ukraine in Yalta.

This states: “A journalist is not entitled to focus attention on racial, ethnic origin, political and religious convictions of the subject of the information. Exceptions are possible only in cases where this has independent significance as part of preparing the information. This principle particularly applies to material on crimes where mention of the suspect or criminal’s belonging to an ethnic, religious or other minority could lead to a negative attitude to those groups.”

  “Why then in the Ukrainian media do we quite frequently see material which does not, to put it mildly, do credit to those who, enjoying freedom of speech, themselves place the rights and freedoms of others in question? What is that – legal ignorance of police officers who provide the information and of the journalists who pass it on, or pandering to the so-called “mood of the masses”?  Or is it the conscious use of hate speech by those who inherited a totalitarian mentality from Stalinist times when they punished (sometimes for imagined faults) not specific individuals, but whole peoples and social classes?

  We need to understand that if in society xenophobia, and a variation of this – immigrant-phobia become stronger, this can lead to undesirable consequences and destabilization of the situation in the country. An analysis of the problem shows that at present in Ukraine there is no effective system for countering hatred, aggression, escalation of extremism and destructive processes are on the increase in society. There are the foundations for confrontations on political, social, ethnic and religious grounds. Preventive measures against the spread of extremist moods need therefore to be viewed in the general context of ensuring unwavering adherence to human rights and the safety of citizens”.

  The author hopes that mere commonsense and human conscience will make law enforcement officers and the media understand the need to not circulate material which gives negative assessments of members of certain ethnic groups.

Abridged from the article by Yury Chumak, Human Rights Assistant to the Minister of Internal Affairs

Point of view

Chekist determination to spread misinformation

Opening address given by Ukrainian poet Moisei Fishbein at a Ministry of Foreign Affairs briefing on 3 November 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen!

In ancient times they said “De mortuis aut bene, aut nihil” (Of the dead speak well or not at all”). Over recent years Russian politicians, diplomats, political analysts, journalists, even popular music celebrities, would seem to be following a different saying: “De Ukraina aut bene, aut nihil” (“About Ukraine speak well or not at all”). And this is not dependent on logic or commonsense, honesty or decency. With them Ukraine is like the daughter-in-law of a vicious mother-in-law, like a Jew to the anti-Semites, to blame for everything. In their imperialist madness, fused with a chronic inferiority complex, the Russian leadership are trying to zombify with their own Ukraine-phobia both the world community and the Russian public, as well, through media outlets under their control and agents of influence, a certain part of Ukraine’s population.

 At present an ever-increasing number of Russian citizens consider Stalin the most outstanding figure. An icon of Stalin has appeared in a church on the outskirts of St Petersburg.

Well-known Russian journalist and editor of the newspaper “Zavtra” [“Tomorrow”] Alexander Prokhanov, about whom they say “what Putin has on his mind, Prokhanov has on the tip of his tongue” openly calls himself an imperialist. On 17 September he said in an interview to the radio station “Echo Moskvy”: “Stalin is becoming the face of Russia”. During the same interview he stated: “Russia is a potential superpower. Otherwise it will fall apart.”  And then “We’ve achieved this crisis in Ukraine”, and when asked by a journalist what needed to be done, he answered “neutralize Yushchenko”.

Russian top officials are openly expressing territorial claims against Ukraine. Provocateurs, cultivated and welcomed by the Russian leadership, desecrate what is of national significance for Ukrainians on our Mount Hoverlia, rip up and stamp on the Ukrainian flag near one Ukrainian embassy. Then the Russian Federation’s Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin speaking at a press conference on 28 October about Holodomor 1932-1933 stated that “.. the Ukrainian government is using this issue in order to divide our two brotherly nations, sow the seeds of international enmity (…) whatever repressions or actions were carried out by the Stalinist regime, it cannot be called the primary reason for the Famine (…) and to say that the Stalinist regime was against the Ukrainian people is not correct”. I don’t know if Russian diplomat Churkin has read the book “Forever flowing” – the book about Holodomor written by the outstanding Russian writer Vasily Grossman  I don’t know if Mr Churkin has read anything at all aside from “instructions from the Centre”. However this statement of his is shameless blasphemy. Other statements from that press conference in the UN Headquarters are also shameless blasphemy and impudent lies.  I quote: “The second issue, (…) which in my view has a definite political link with the first is the issue of glorifying Nazism (…) The Ukrainian President in his order on awarding honours named as hero one of the odious members of the Ukrainian Nazi movement Mr Shukhevych who was a Nazi (…) Do you remember that in Kyiv thousands of Jews were murdered? The majority of those people who killed Jews at Babi Yar were Ukrainian Nazis” 

“Ukrainian Nazis?”

So it was some Ukrainians, supposedly members of Hitler’s National Socialist Party, and not Germans from the “Einsatsgruppen” who murdered Jews at Babi Yar? “Shukhevych who was a Nazi?” That is, Shukhevych, who was supposedly a member of the National Socialist Party, being in Halychyna, was somehow involved in the executions at Babi Yar? Only an ignoramus could say such a thing, or somebody deliberately misinforming people. I hope at least Mr Churkin is no ignoramus.

We would remind Mr Churkin that it was the USSR, which the Russian Federation is successor to, which from 1939 to 1941 was ally of Nazi Germany. Just recall the shots from film footage with joint Soviet – German military parades!  We would also remind people of how the special operation of misinformation about the Chief Commander of the UPA [Ukrainian Resistance Army] General Roman Shukhevych is being carried out. They first fed the press with the version that Roman Shukhevych was an “SS Captain”. The spreaders of misinformation received the response that there was no such rank. Then they turned Roman Shukhevych into such kind of “Obersturmfuhrer”. They had it explained to them that in order, before 1944, to get into the SS, it was necessary to long prove your “Arian origin” which Roman Shukhevych of course didn’t have. Then the spreaders of misinformation fed the press another story, that Shukhevych had received a military honour from Hitler himself. They were reminded that only Himmler had received a military honour from Hitler’s own hands. As for the Chief Commander of the UPA Roman Shukhevych, according to information from the German Military Archives in Freiburg, Roman Shukhevych did not receive any German honour at all.

Yet the spreaders of misinformation just have to discredit both General Shukhevych and the UPA, and the entire Ukrainian national liberation movement, and Ukraine’s President Viktor Yushchenko.

So they resorted to long-standing Chekist provocation and pulled out the “Jewish card”. They accused some of exterminating the Jews, and others of “glorifying” those who had supposedly killed them.  The ploy is familiar – to turn Jews away from the Ukrainian national revival, to turn Jews and the entire civilized world away from those who want to revive a true Ukrainian Ukraine, Ukrainian in its spirit, in its language, in its memory of its geniuses and heroes. Ukrainian for all that is essential in it, regardless of their ethnic origin.

I respect the Russia of Boris Pasternak, Andrei Sakharov, Andrei and Arseny Tarkovsky, Vasily Grossman. The Russia of Putin and Medvedev is alien to me.

And one last thing, in 1942-1943 the wife of the Chief Commander of the UPA pani Natalya Shukhevych hid a Jewish child Ira Raikhenberg. General Shukhevych had a false passport made for the little girl under the name Ira Ryzhko. When the Gestapo arrested Natalya Shukhevych, the little girl was sent to an orphanage attached to a women’s monastery in the village of Kulykiv which is in the Lviv region. There the child survived the Nazi occupation, survived the War. I have her photograph here. A typical Jewish face. Last year Irina Ryzhko died in Kyiv. Her son Volodymyr is here in this hall tonight.

Moisei Fishbein is a renowned Ukrainian poet and translator, laureate of the Vasyl Stus Prize as well as other State honours. He is a member of the Ukrainian Centre of the International PEN Club and the National Union of Writers of Ukraine, and known worldwide.  The academician Ivan Dzyuba called him a Poet blessed by God.

Victims of political repression

Author of the term “genocide” used it about Holodomor

During the commemoration events to mark the 75th anniversary of Holodomor, the researcher Rafael Lemkin, who first used the term “genocide”, received much mention. Despite his repeated efforts, the final text of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide [the Convention] did not include the crime when committed against social groups, which could be seen as encompassing the Ukrainian peasantry. However Professor Lemkin did not see this as an obstacle since he considered Holodomor to have been a “classic example of Soviet genocide”. 

The following text by Rafael Lemkin was recently uncovered by Professor Roman Serbyn in archival material. It is presented together with Professor Serbyn’s footnotes.



Sosyura “Love Ukraine”

You cannot love other peoples

Unless you love Ukraine.[i]

The mass murder of peoples and of nations that has characterized the advance of the Soviet Union into Europe is not a new feature of their policy of expansionism, it is not an innovation devised simply to bring uniformity out of the diversity of Poles, Hungarians, Balts, Romanians – presently disappearing into the fringes of their empire. Instead, it has been a long-term characteristic even of the internal policy of the Kremlin – one which the present masters had ample precedent for in the operations of Tsarist Russia. It is indeed an indispensable step in the process of “union” that the Soviet leaders fondly hope will produce the “Soviet Man,” the “Soviet Nation”, and to achieve that goal, that unified nation, the leaders of the Kremlin will gladly destroy the nations and the cultures that have long inhabited Eastern Europe.

What I want to speak about is perhaps the classic example of Soviet genocide, its longest and broadest experiment in Russification – the destruction of the Ukrainian nation. This is, as I have said, only the logical successor of such Tsarist crimes as the drowning of 10,000 Crimean Tatars by order of Catherine the Great, the mass murders of Ivan the Terrible’s “SS troops” – the Oprichnina; the extermination of National Polish leaders and Ukrainian Catholics by Nicholas I; and the series of Jewish pogroms that have stained Russian history periodically. And it has had its matches within the Soviet Union in the annihilation of the Ingerian nation, the Don and Kuban Cossacks, the Crimean Tatar Republics, the Baltic Nations of Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia. Each is a case in the long-term policy of liquidation of non-Russian peoples by the removal of select parts.

Ukraine constitutes a slice of Southeastern USSR equal in area to France and Italy, and inhabited by some 30 million people.[ii] Itself the Russian bread basket, geography has made it a strategic key to the oil of the Caucasus and Iran, and to the entire Arab world. In the north, it borders Russia proper. As long as Ukraine retains its national unity, as long as its people continue to think of themselves as Ukrainians and to seek independence, so long Ukraine poses a serious threat to the very heart of Sovietism. It is no wonder that the Communist leaders have attached the greatest importance to the Russification of this independent[-minded] member of their “Union of Republics,” have determined to remake it to fit their pattern of one Russian nation. For the Ukrainian is not and has never been, a Russian. His culture, his temperament, his language, his religion – all are different. At the side door to Moscow, he has refused to be collectivized, accepting deportation, even death. And so it is peculiarly important that the Ukrainian be fitted into the procrustean pattern of the ideal Soviet man.

Ukraine is highly susceptible to racial murder by select parts and so the Communist tactics there have not followed the pattern taken by the German attacks against the Jews. The nation is too populous to be exterminated completely with any efficiency. However, its leadership, religious, intellectual, political, its select and determining parts, are quite small and therefore easily eliminated, and so it is upon these groups particularly that the full force of the Soviet axe has fallen, with its familiar tools of mass murder, deportation and forced labor, exile and starvation.

The attack has manifested a systematic pattern, with the whole process repeated again and again to meet fresh outburst of national spirit. The first blow is aimed at the intelligentsia, the national brain, so as to paralyze the rest of the body. In 1920, 1926 and again in 1930-33, teachers, writers, artists, thinkers, political leaders, were liquidated, imprisoned or deported. According to the Ukrainian Quarterly of Autumn 1948, 51,713 intellectuals were sent to Siberia in 1931 alone. At least 114 major poets, writers and artists, the most prominent cultural leaders of the nation, have met the same fate. It is conservatively estimated that at least 75 percent of the Ukrainian intellectuals and professional men in Western Ukraine, Carpatho-Ukraine and Bukovina have been brutally exterminated by the Russians. (Ibid. [Ukrainian Quarterly], Summer 1949).

Going along with this attack on the intelligentsia was an offensive against the churches, priests and hierarchy, the “soul” of Ukraine. Between 1926 and 1932, the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church, its Metropolitan (Lypkivsky) and 10,000 clergy were liquidated. In 1945, when the Soviets established themselves in Western Ukraine, a similar fate was meted out to the Ukrainian Catholic Church. That Russification was the only issue involved is clearly demonstrated by the fact that before its liquidation, the Church was offered the opportunity to join the Russian Patriarch[ate] at Moscow, the Kremlin’s political tool.

Only two weeks before the San Francisco conference, on April 11, 1945, a detachment of NKVD troops surrounded the St. George Cathedral in Lviv and arrested Metropolitan Slipyj, 2 bishops, 2 prelates and several priests.[iii] All the students in the city’s theological seminary were driven from the school, while their professors were told that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church had ceased to exist, that its Metropolitan was arrested and his place was to be take by a Soviet-appointed bishop. These acts were repeated all over Western Ukraine and across the Curzon Line in Poland.[iv] At least seven bishops were arrested or were never heard from again. There is no Bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church still free in the area. Five hundred clergy who met to protest the action of the Soviets, were shot or arrested. Throughout the entire region, clergy and laity were killed by hundreds, while the number sent to forced labor camps ran into the thousands. Whole villages were depopulated. In the deportation, families were deliberately separated, fathers to Siberia, mothers to the brickworks of Turkestan, and the children to Communist homes to be “educated”. For the crime of being Ukrainian, the Church itself was declared a society detrimental to the welfare of the Soviet state, its members were marked down in the Soviet police files as potential “enemies of the people.” As a matter of fact, with the exception of 150,000 members in Slovakia, the Ukrainian Catholic Church has been officially liquidated, its hierarchy imprisoned, its clergy dispersed and deported.

These attacks on the Soul have had and will continue to have a serious effect on the Brain of Ukraine, for it is the families of the clergy that have traditionally supplied a large part of the intellectuals, while the priests themselves have been the leaders of the villages, their wives the heads of the charitable organizations. The religious orders ran schools, took care of much of the organized charities.

The third prong of the Soviet plan was aimed at the farmers, the large mass of independent peasants who are the repository of the tradition, folk lore and music, the national language and literature, the national spirit, of Ukraine. The weapon used against this body is perhaps the most terrible of all – starvation. Between 1932 and 1933, 5,000,000 Ukrainians starved to death, an inhumanity which the 73rd Congress decried on May 28, 1934. There has been an attempt to dismiss this highpoint of Soviet cruelty as an economic policy connected with the collectivization of the wheatlands, and the elimination of the kulaks, the independent farmers, that was therefore necessary. The fact is, however, that large-scale farmers in Ukraine were few and far-between. As a Soviet writer Kossior[v] declared in Izvestiia on December 2, 1933, “Ukrainian nationalism is our chief danger,” and it was to eliminate that nationalism, to establish the horrifying uniformity of the Soviet state that the Ukrainian peasantry was sacrificed. The method used in this part of the plan was not at all restricted to any particular group. All suffered – men, women, children. The crop that year was ample to feed the people and livestock of Ukraine, though it had fallen off somewhat from the previous year, a decrease probably due in large measure to the struggle over collectivization. But a famine was necessary for the Soviet[s] and so they got one to order, by plan, through an unusually high grain allotment to the state as taxes. To add to this, thousands of acres of wheat were never harvested, were left to rot in the fields. The rest was sent to government granaries to be stored there until the authorities had decided how to allocate it. Much of this crop, so vital to the lives of the Ukrainian people, ended up as exports for the creation of credits abroad

In the face of famine on the farms, thousands abandoned the rural areas and moved into the towns to beg [for] food. Caught there and sent back to the country, they abandoned their children in the hope that they at least might survive. In this way, 18,000 children were abandoned in Kharkiv alone. Villages of a thousand had a surviving population of a hundred; in others, half the populace was gone, and deaths in these towns ranged from 20 to 30 per day. Cannibalism became commonplace.

As C. Henry Chamberlain, the Moscow correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor, wrote in 1933:

The Communists saw in this apathy and discouragement, sabotage and counter-revolution, and, with the ruthlessness peculiar to self-righteous idealists, they decided to let the famine run its course with the idea that it would teach the peasants a lesson.

Relief was doled out to the collective farms, but on an inadequate scale and so late that many lives had already been lost. The individual peasants were left to shift for themselves; and much higher mortality rate among the individual peasants proved a most potent argument in favor of joining collective farms.

The fourth step in the process consisted in the fragmentation of the Ukrainian people at once by the addition to the Ukraine of foreign peoples and by the dispersion of the Ukrainians throughout Eastern Europe. In this way, ethnic unity would be destroyed and nationalities mixed. Between 1920 and 1939, the population of Ukraine changed from 80 percent Ukrainian to only 63 percent.[vi] In the face of famine and deportation, the Ukrainian population had declined absolutely from 23.2 million to 19.6 million, while the non-Ukrainian population had increased by 5.6 million. When we consider that Ukraine once had the highest rate of population increase in Europe, around 800,000 per year, it is easy to see that the Russian policy has been accomplished.

These have been the chief steps in the systematic destruction of the Ukrainian nation. Notably, there have been no attempts at complete annihilation, such as was the method of the German attack on the Jews. And yet, if the Soviet program succeeds completely, if the intelligentsia, the priests and the peasants can be eliminated, Ukraine will be as dead as if every Ukrainian were killed, for it will have lost that part of it which has kept and developed its culture, its beliefs, its common ideas, which have guided it and given it a soul, which, in short, made it a nation rather than a mass of people.

The mass, indiscriminate murders have not, however, been lacking – they have simply not been integral parts of the plan, but only chance variations. Thousands have been executed, untold thousands have disappeared into the certain death of Siberian labor camps.

The city of Vinnitsa might well be called the Ukrainian Dachau. In 91 graves there lie the bodies of 9,432 victims of Soviet tyranny, shot by the NKVD in about 1937 or 1938. Among the gravestones of real cemeteries, in woods, with awful irony, under a dance floor, the bodies lay from 1937 until their discovery by the Germans in 1943. Many of the victims had been reported by the Soviets as exiled to Siberia.

Ukraine has its Lidice too, in the town of Zavadka, destroyed by the Polish satellites of the Kremlin in 1946.[vii] Three times, troops of the Polish Second Division attacked the town, killing men, women and children, burning houses and stealing farm animals. During the second raid, the Red commander told what was left of the town’s populace: “The same fate will be met by everyone who refuses to go to Ukraine. I therefore order that within three days the village be vacated; otherwise, I shall execute every one of you.”


  CURZON LINE by Walter Dushnyck

When the town was finally evacuated by force, there remained only 4 men among the 78 survivors. During March of the same year, 2 other Ukrainian towns were attacked by the same Red unit and received more or less similar treatment.

What we have seen here is not confined to Ukraine. The plan that the Soviets used there has been and is being repeated. It is an essential part of the Soviet program for expansion, for it offers the quick way of bringing unity out of the diversity of cultures and nations that constitute the Soviet Empire. That this method brings with it indescribable suffering for millions of people has not turned them from their path. If for no other reason than this human suffering, we would have to condemn this road to unity as criminal. But there is more to it than that. This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation. Were it possible to do this even without suffering we would still be driven to condemn it, for the family of minds, the unity of ideas, of language and customs that forms what we call a nation constitutes one of the most important of all our means of civilization and progress. It is true that nations blend together and form new nations – we have an example of this process in our own country, – but this blending consists in the pooling of benefits of superiorities that each culture possesses.[viii] And it is in this way that the world advances. What then, apart from the very important question of human suffering and human rights that we find wrong with Soviet plans is the criminal waste of civilization and of culture. For the Soviet national unity is being created, not by any union of ideas and of cultures, but by the complete destruction of all cultures and of all ideas save one – the Soviet.

[i]. Verse by Volodymyr Sosiura added in pencil. Sosiura wrote the patriotic poem in 1944, during the German-Soviet war. At first it was praised by the authorities, but in 1948 it was condemned for Ukrainian nationalism. The two verses in the Ukrainian original:

не можна любити народів других,
коли ти не любиш Вкраїну!..]

[ii] At the time of Lemkin’s writing (1950s) it was about 40 million.

[iii] The Charter creating the United Nations was signed by the delegates of 50 countries, including the USSR and the Ukrainian SSR, at the Conference held on 25-26 April 1945.

[iv] The Curzon Line proposed by the British as a border between Poland and the Soviet state after the First World War eventually served as the basis for the post-WWII border between Poland and the USSR. The border left a large Ukrainian minority in the Polish state.

[v] In the MS the name appears as Kossies, an obvious misspelling. Stanislav Kossior was not a writer but the General Secretary of Central Committee of the Communiste Party (Bolsheviks) of Ukraine — the political boss of the republic.

[vi] There was no census in 1920. The official figures from the 1926 and 1939 census are somewhat different. In 1926 there were 22.9 million ethnic Ukrainians in Ukr.SSR and the falsified 1939 figure was 23.3 million, or an increase of 435,000 ethnic Ukrainians. However, the rise in over-all population of Ukr.SSR by 3.3 milllion reduced the ethnically Ukrainian portion from 80% to 73%.

[vii]. 10 June 1942, 172 males over age of 16 were liquidated, the women and children deported and the village of Lidice razed to the ground in reprisal for the assassination of the Nazi dictator of Moravia, Reinhard Heydrich. Zavadka Morokhivs’ka, Sianits’kyi povit, Lemkivshchyna, now Zawadka-Morochowska, in Poland.

[viii]. Lemkin has in mind the United States.

Open Letter to the President of the Russian Federation

To the President of the Russian Federation, D.A. Medvedev

Dear Mr President,

Your address, the Kremlin, Moscow, is famous to Ukrainians from back in the times of five-year plans and socialist realism. Everybody wrote there and waited for justice and mercy since any higher authorities had been abolished by the Kremlin.

Thank God we have returned to the Highest Authority before whom man, and that includes you, should confess their sins. We are returning to the Bible where on the very first pages a double sin is described: the first being that of Cain in murdering his brother and the second – lying to God and proud refusal to admit the deed committed.

In your letter to Ukraine’s President Yushchenko you refuse to take part in remembering those killed by Holodomor. This is profoundly regrettable since there could be no more favourable opportunity to express sympathy to the Ukrainian people from the present-day Kremlin and clearly articulate that truth that the Russian people were not implicated in the organization of Holodomor since Stalin did not consult them, just as Hitler did not consult with the German people regarding the Holocaust.  Moreover, both leaders left no direct evidence and therefore history works with the testimony of living victims.

It is strange that in denying the well-known truth about which free journalists passed on information to foreign consulates back in 1933 and books have been written by authoritative researchers, you are effectively repeating Stalin’s lie about political dividends for the moment, about political gain and even about cynical slander.

At the same time you speak of somebody’s intention to divide our peoples. It is well-known that people and nations are united by respect for the truth and for the law. And by mutual sympathy. We have grounds for sympathising with other peoples and hope for the same from them. After all they all understood that at the foundation of the 91% vote for Ukraine’s independence lay the memory of Holodomor.

It is historians who should write about the suffering of the peoples of the “free republics”. Yet conscientious historians will not generalize the tragedy but will honestly gather and research the facts which trace how Ukraine ended up on the “black board”.

It is ones duty before humanity to tell the truth and a cultured world will always be grateful to those who, in spite of political benefits, make public crimes against humanity.

Without this database, without the foundation of truth, Mr President, post-communists remain bankrupts and the heirs to moral bankrupts.

Yours sincerely,

Yevhen Sverstyuk

President of the Ukrainian PEN Club

Dissidents and their time

Myroslav Marynovych asks to not be put forward for “Hero of Ukraine” award

Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, human rights defender and, former political prisoner, Myroslav Marynovych has published an open letter in which he asks his univeristy and the heads of the Lviv Regional Authorities to halt submission of the documents for proposing his candidacy for the State honour of “Hero of Ukraine”. 

The letter reads:

“The Internet brought me the news that at the submission of the Ukrainian Catholic University community, the Lviv Regional Council and the Lviv Regional Administration were preparing a submission to President Yushchenko asking that I receive the highest State award – the title of “Hero of Ukraine”. Since I knew nothing of this initiative earlier, I am now forced to express my thoughts more widely and publicly.

I would first and foremost like to express my sincere gratitude to the Ukrainian Catholic University community for their initiative, as well as for adhering to the highest standards of procedure in putting forward my candidacy. I am no less grateful to deputies of the the Lviv Regional Council and the Lviv Regional Administration for their willingness to ask the President to honour me with this State award. I would say in full sincerity that people’s good will towards me and recognition of the achievements I was capable of have always been extremely important and dear to me.

I would be a hypocrite if I tried to convince you that I am indifferent to the possibility of receiving the highest honour of my country. No, for me, it would be a great honour and give pleasure.

Two years ago, receiving the Order “For Courage” First Grade, I said that I was accepting the honour since I was receiving it from the hands of a President who had ensured an atmosphere of freedom in our country, which for example, envisaged the right of a person to criticize the President himself. Viktor Andriyovych can be criticized for mistakes, however nobody can reproach him for flagrant encroachments on human liberty. I thus saw no reason that would preclude my expecting a State award from him.

And yet, despite all three arguments – my gratitude to the initiators of this idea, the honour for me of this award and my due respect for the President of Ukraine – I would not be able to accept it today.

The main reason for this is the serious mistake made by Viktor Andriyovych in his interpretation of state awards as an instrument for achieving political compromise. I do fully realize  that throughout his term of office, it has not been easy for the President, and compromise was probably obtained at the cost of great personal pain. However all of those who have before me refused to receive a State award, for example, figures of the dissident past  - Leonid Plushch, Lina Kostenko and Yevhen Sverstyuk – made it clear to the President that State awards were incompatible with political bargaining. After all, as a result of such bargaining those whom the President wishes to honour are forced to make an additional moral choice which turns into a new and clearly undeserved trauma. As we see from the subsequent honours awarded, the President has unfortunately not heeded their warnings. Well, that is his prerogative, however it is mine to not place myself together with people who I am deeply convinced are unworthy of such recognition. State awards should be given for courage and self-sacrifice for the sake of the country, and not only for successful business projects whose creators have ample enough reward as it is.

Furthermore, during a time of political, financial and spiritual crisis which have set Ukraine before a mammoth test, I would suggest that the Ukrainian President place a moratorium altogether on any State awards. Let us consolidate our strength around the main objective, with dignity overcoming difficulty, and then reward those who bring Ukraine out of this dead end of problems.

As far as I personally am concerned, for my past and present endeavours to counter evil, the Lord has long graced me with His blessing – with those highest rewards which a human being can achieve in his or her life.

In view of all of the above, I would ask you to halt the process for submitting the award submission documents.

With deep respect and sincere gratitude,

Myroslav Marynovych

Published in Ukrainian at

News from the CIS countries

Scandal in the Politkovskaya case: the judge may be removed and jury dissolved

On Monday Judge Yevgeny Zubov announced unexpectedly that the trial of those accused of involvement in the murder of journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya would be open to the public.  On Wednesday he reversed this decision, claiming that the jury had refused to appear in front of journalists.

But on Thursday a member of the jury called Moscow radio station Echo Moskvy and denied that any of them had made such a request.  The juror said they had objected to having TV cameras in court, but not text journalists.

Now the judge has suspended the case, saying defence lawyers are too busy - but they, too, are denying that is true.

The Head of the Moscow Bar Lawyers’ Chamber Genrykh Reznyk considers that there is a real chance that the judge could lose his judge’s status.

Judge Zubov is already well-known over the murder trial of those suspected of killing Moscow Komsomolets journalist Dmitry Kholodov.  The judge acquitted all those charged.

Politkovskaya’s supporters believe state security agents were involved in her murder - and for that reason, they say, there will never be a fair and open trial.

Three men are on trial - former policeman Sergey Khadzhikurbanov and two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim Makhmudov. They are, however, only charged with involvement in the plot - not with either carrying out the murder or ordering it.

Based on reports on the BBC and

„Memorial” appeals over Katyń allowed

The Presidium of the Moscow City Court has allowed eight nadzornaya appeals [these are appeals over rulings which have come into force] put forward by „Memorial”.  They were against the rulings by the Khamovnychesky District Court in Moscow of 15, 16 and 19 February 2007 and the Civil Proceedings Court Pannel of the same Moscow City Court from 22 May 2007 to refuse to examine eight applications. In these „Memorial” asked that the court order the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office to carry out the law of the Russian Federation “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression”. 

Since May 2006 the International Society “Memorial” has been seeking recognition that the Polish prisoners of war and prisoners executed without trial by the NKVD in April and May 1940 on the decision of the Soviet Politburo on 5 March 1940 were victims of political repression.

At the first stage applications were sent to the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office calling for the rehabilitation of 16 people – Polish prisoners of the Kozielsk and Ostashkovsk Prisoner of War Camps, shot in Katyń, near Smolensk and in Kalinin (now Tver).

In ten letters from 7 November 2006 the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office [CMPO] refused to consider the substance of these applications. On 6 February “Memorial” filed ten applications to have the answers from the CMPO declared unlawful with the Khamovnychesky District Court in Moscow. “Memorial” asked that the court order CMPO to comply with the Law of the RF “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression”, by either issuing rehabilitation documentation or drawing up a conclusion on their refusal to grant this and to send it to the court, as required by Article 8 of the Law.

Over three days on 15, 16 and 19 February 2007, the Khamovnychesky District Court turned down these applications..

On 9 March 2007 “Memorial” lodged ten private appeals against this ruling with the Moscow City Court.

On 22 May 2007 the court panel on civil cases of the cassation section of the Moscow City Court, rejected “Memorial”’s appeals.

The Moscow City Court judges thus confirmed the position taken by the Khamovnychesky District Court, this being that the International Society “Memorial”, being a civic organization, while having the right to apply to State bodies to have individuals declared victims of political repression, does not have the right to appeal through the courts against refusals to grant such applications!

The Khamovnychesky District Court must now accept the applications from „Memorial” to have the responses of the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office in refusing to consider the appeals to rehabilitate 16 people of the Katyń Massacre declared illegal.

New information from

Public admitted to Politkovskaya murder trial with no mastermind or hit-man among the defendants

“Allowing the public and press to attend the trial is a good decision, given the importance of the case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The murder victim was an outspoken and independent journalist who dedicated her professional life to making the public aware of aspects of reality that many people would have liked to cover up. We have a debt towards here. We owe her transparency in the investigation and in the trial of her murderers.”

The press freedom organisation added : “Regardless of the outcome of this trial, this case will not be over until those who ordered Politkovskaya’s murder and the gunman who carried it out have been identified and brought to justice.”

When Reporters Without Borders hosted a news conference by Politkovskaya’s son, Ilya Politkovski, in Paris on 3 October, he urged Politkovskaya’s fellow journalists not to forget her. “It is important that the media attention does not let up,” he said.

He also reported that the family had brought a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights accusing the Russian state of “violating the right to life” under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The four men on trial are Pavel Ryaguzov, a lieutenant-colonel in the Federal Security Service (FSB), Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, a former police officer specialised in combating organised crime, and two Chechen brothers, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Ibrahim Makhmudov. Khadzhikurbanov is accused of helping to organise the contract killing. The Makhmudov brothers are regarded as accomplices.

When today’s hearing began, the judges ruled in favour of allowing the public and press to attend. The fact that one of the defendants is an FSB officer and that, according to one of the defence lawyers, the evidence includes classified documents were not deemed to be sufficient grounds for holding the trial behind closed doors.

Jury selection is to be decided in tomorrow’s hearing. It is not known how long the trial will last.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2008, #11