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

If dismissed, then make it constitutional

The possibility of terminating the powers of the present government following the Presidential elections was actively discussed long before the official announcement of their results and has continued to be since.

The future fate of the government will be decided by parliament in the near future.  The authors stress that in order that any decision does not lead to political confrontation, it must comply with the Constitution.  They note dryly that experience shows that it is relatively easy to dismiss a government – much harder to do it constitutionally. They say that over the last five years there were three cases where the constitutionality of such dismissals can be questioned.

The first case: the dismissal of Yanukovych’s government (December 2004)

This came at the height of political confrontation between the second round of voting in the Presidential elections and the rerun.

On 1 December 2004 the Verkhovna Rada passed a “Resolution on stabilization of the political and socio-economic situation in Ukraine and prevention of anti-constitutional actions and demonstrations of separatism which threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”

This included in Item 7 the revoking of approval for the government’s action plan from March 2004 this leading, in accordance with Articles 87 and 115 § 4 of the Constitution, to a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet of Ministers this leading to the latter’s resignation.

At the end of 2004 a parliamentary majority viewed the dismissal of the government as a necessary measures aimed at stabilizing the political situation. It may have been justified within the context of political expediency however this does not remove the question of its constitutionality.

Article 87 § 2 of the Constitution imposes restrictions on the use of a vote of no confidence, these being important for ensuring political stability. One restriction is that the government’s powers cannot be questioned for a year after their action plan is approved.  The Constitution does not specify the type of parliamentary act which approves the government programme. Accordingly, parliament can revoke its previous decision approving the programme and in this way overcome the government’s “immunity”, as the Verkhovna Rada did in this case. Since Yanukovych’s government’s action plan had been approved on 16 March 2004, the issue of the government’s competence could only, according to the Constitution, been raised after 16 March 2005.  The equivocal nature of the decision on 1 December 2004 was not however challenged and came into force.

The authors state that there therefore remains no unequivocal answer as to whether a government can re-affirm their action plan, extending the force of the constitutional guarantee; whether parliament can cancel a prior decision to affirm such a plan, thus removing the government’s “immunity”, and generally whether a government is legitimate if it acts without a programme approved by parliament.

The second case: the dismissal of Tymoshenko’s government (September 2005)

On 8 September 2005 President Yushchenko issued a Decree on terminating the powers of the Prime Minister and dismissing the Cabinet of Ministers.  The Decree also appointed Yury Yekhanurov as Acting Prime Minister.

The last point for some reason did not attract the necessary attention although it is this which raises questions about constitutionality.

Item 9 of Article 106 of the Constitution before the changes made in December 2004, which the President refers to, envisage the President’s power to terminate the powers of the Prime Minister which resulted in the dismissal of the entire Cabinet of Ministers. However the Constitution said nothing about his right to appoint an acting prime minister. According to the “old” version of Article 115 § 5, the Cabinet of Ministers whose resignation was accepted by the President continued to carry out their duties until a newly formed Cabinet of Ministers took over.

One can assume that the Prime Minister, as member of the Cabinet of Ministers, should continue carrying out her / his duties until a successor is appointed, or that the First Deputy Prime Minister takes over. However it is unequivocal that the President did not have the authority to appoint an acting prime minister, and indeed there is nothing about such a position in the Constitution.

The Presidential Decree of 8 September 2005 was not reviewed by the Constitutional Court.

It should be noted that the issue of who takes over the powers of a member of the Cabinet of Ministers in the case of his resignation / dismissal has not been finally resolved.

There are three possible answers: firstly, an acting member of the Cabinet of Ministers is appointed at the same time as the decision on dismissal is taken; secondly, the minister or Prime Minister dismissed continues to carry out his or her duties until a successor is appointed; thirdly, the powers go to the person’s deputy.

Article 115 § 2 of the current version of the Constitution states that “The Cabinet of Ministers, whose resignation is accepted by the President of Ukraine, continues to exercise its powers by commission of the President, until a newly-formed Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine commences its operation”.  The question arises of what happens if the government has resigned as the result of a parliamentary vote of no confidence.

The third case: the dismissal of Yekhanurov’s government (January 2006)

The Verkhovna Rada Resolution “On the dismissal of the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet of Ministers” from 10 January 2006, which formalized a dismissal which did not actually take place is an example of an ill-considered decision taken in the interests of ephemeral political expediency. Six months later, on 26 July 2006, parliament cancelled this Resolution.

We would note that the Resolution was passed under the post-constitutional changes Constitution [the changes of December 2004 only came into force from 1 January 2006 – translator]. The new version gives parliament a new power, this being to decide whether to dismiss the government (Item 12 of Article 85) while retaining the old option of passing a vote of no confidence (Article 87).

The norms of Article 115 of the Constitution show that a decision on dismissal and the passing of a vote of no confidence are in essence different constitutional procedures despite having the same political consequences – the cessation of the powers of the government.  The first, for example, can follow the government’s own resignation. A resolution of no confidence envisages observance of a number of formalities set out in the Constitution and Regulations (the question must be raised by no less than one third of the constitutional makeup of parliament, the session on the vote of no confidence must be no earlier than 5 days after it’s submitted, and no later than 10 days, the Cabinet of Ministers must be given a change to express their point of view, the holding of the vote).

In the case with Yekhanurov’s government, parliament could not pass a decision on its dismissal since the government had not resigned, while the Resolution of 10 January was definitely not a resolution of no confidence since it had another name, and mainly was passed without observance of the relevant procedure. The legal nature of this Resolution is thus unclear.

These decisions regarding the “removal” of a government from power are telling. Their failings should be borne in mind by the Verkhovna Rada so that in the future any cessation of the powers of the Cabinet of Ministers is in full accordance with the Constitution.


Slightly abridged from the text by Oleksandr Yarmysh, Doctor of Law and Alina Chervyatsova, PhD in Law

Against torture and ill-treatment

On fighting torture and ill-treatment in the Kharkiv region

In an interview, Yury Chumak, Human Rights Aide to the Minister of Internal Affairs, spoke of certain improvements in the Kharkiv region and ongoing issues which need to be resolved.

He notes that there has been a considerable improvement in the conditions in temporary holding facilities [ITT], special detention centres and centres for the reception and distribution of vagrants.  Following a suggestion from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, all ITT have had UV bacteria-killing lights installed. There are water heaters so that detainees can take a shower at any time of the year, fridges have been bought where they can keep food products, and repairs have been carried out. Yury Chumak considers that the conditions now meet, if not European standards, then Ukrainian norms. He believes that the attitude of police officers has also changed, and says that earlier they were inclined to think that the worse the conditions, the better, that this would act as a deterrent.

The mobile units also help since monitoring of the conditions in ITT is now carried out not only by the colleagues of the police officers in those ITT, but together with representatives of the public.

Progress as far as actual torture is concerned, is less noticeable. Police officers’ work remains assessed in terms of the number of cases “solved” (thus increasing the temptation to “solve” a case by beating a confession out of somebody, etc.)  Yury Chumak says that this is an unwritten rule. He cites a prominent case from last year in Kharkiv in which a young woman was raped and murdered. Police officers, in trying to find the murderer, detained and held over the legally established period several dozen people. The crime was solved in the end however the rights of a number of innocent people were violated.

Asked about the role of the Prosecutor’s Office, Yury Chumak says that there has yet to be created an independent body overseeing observance of the law by police officers since the Prosecutor’s Office is in an ambiguous position, since it also supports the prosecution in court. If the case is prominent, then the Prosecutor also wants it solved as soon as possible. Although the Prosecutor’s Office is also supposed to supervise the police, they often turn a blind eye to infringements involving coercion. He says that the creation of their body, the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights Observance by the Police was linked with that problem. He mentions that at the present time a National Committee against Torture is being created and hopes it may organize work in this area.

He mentions another problem which is that officers now avoid beating and go for methods which do not leave traces or only those which are classified as light injuries. 

With regard to the case involving rape and murder, a woman who at first was questioned as a witness, alleges that she was beaten in order to force her to confess to the murder.  The Prosecutor’s Office has refused to initiate a criminal investigation. Presently KGPG lawyers are appealing this decision and seeking to have a criminal investigation launched.

The Case of Svitlana Pomilyaiko

[As reported earlier, two women were taken in for questioning after two computers went missing from their work.  According to the women’s testimony, the two officers questioned them separately, trying to force both to make confessions. Svitlana was kicked and had a bag put over her head. Natalya also had tweezers used to press her nipples. Svitlana could hear her friend’s screams, yet neither woman signed a “confession”. They were released, but only after both signed statements that they had no criticism against the police. Both have medical reports from the hospital which they went to following their release. Only Svitlana Pomilyaiko decided to make a formal complaint.]

Yury Chumak says that the police officers who took part in the alleged actions have been dismissed. In this case the Prosecutor’s Office did launch a criminal investigation, but the police got it revoked in court. Two appeals were lodged, by the victim’s lawyers and by the Prosecutor’ Office of the Ordzhonikidze District. At appeal level, the court found that there were grounds for initiating a criminal investigation and this was done, though there seems little movement on the investigation. Mr Chumak was told by the victim that the case isn’t going anywhere: they don’t terminate it, but they don’t do anything either.

He was asked about the case of Petro Bushmanov who was detained by police in July, allegedly beaten in the Dzherzhynsky District Police Station, had drugs planted on him and money demanded. The Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal investigation, and the police officer allegedly involved has been remanded in custody. The investigation is continuing.

Asked whether some people who have confessed to a crime and later deny it make up stories of being beaten in order to escape punishment, Mr Chumak says that there may be such cases. On the other hand, if there were no real cases of beating out confessions, there would be no grounds for trying this on.

Asked about measures that really counter torture, these are, in the first place, making sure that all procedural measures are carried out in special rooms with video recording facilities. At present there is a catastrophic shortage of these, with only one per police station.  The number must be increased, but this involves major financial outlay.

Secondly, any person being questioned by the police must have access to a lawyer. On 30 September 2009 the Constitutional Court found that everybody is entitled to legal aid at any time, dealing with any State body.

On 30 December 2009 the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal investigation under Article 127 § 2 of the Criminal Code (torture) against officers of the Department for Fighting Organized Crime over alleged torture of a businessman from whom they tried to extort money. Yury Chumak sees a degree of progress in the fact that the investigation is over torture, not as usually exceeding official powers through violent means (Article 365 § 2).

From an interview taken by Volodymyr Batsunov and published at

Law enforcement terror

In the Sumy region relatives of people serving sentences for murder have decided to join forces for united battle. According to one of its initiators, Tetyana Prokhoda, the association “Against Law Enforcement Terror” “is aimed at uniting relatives and friends of victims of arbitrary law and those who no longer wish to tolerate the unlawful actions of police, Prosecutor’s office and the courts.

In May several families from different cities in the Sumy region, organized by journalist Andriy Shulha, held a press conference at which they asserted that their relatives had been imprisoned for murders that they didn’t commit. The son of Yefrosyniya Voskoboinyk, Oleksandr, got 10 years. He was detained, they beat a confession out of him, and that’s how he ended up behind bars. The verdict was based on his confession that he made after being beaten. No other evidence of his guilt was provided. Serhiy Romchanin was at the time of the murder at work. His lawyer says that there is proof of this. The case was scrappily put together and the Konotop court sent it back for further investigation several times. The lawyer is convinced that this is a puppet court which will issue the ruling the investigators want. Nina Moiseyenko says that they beat testimony out of her son, Ruslan, with a bat. They beat him on the hands, chest and legs. He couldn’t endure it and testified against himself. The investigators have no other evidence against him. They found a hair in the hands of the murdered woman which is different from Ruslan’s hair, yet they didn’t send it away for testing.

The relatives of those convicted have held hunger strikes outside Prosecutor’s offices, written to various bodies, yet to no avail. Such details were made public at the press conference. I have not checked them and cannot guarantee total objectivity from those defending the prisoners however I have carried out a number of journalist investigations of similar cases in other regions of Ukraine, and must say that the picture is extremely standard. With certain variations, it all happens as follows. When a murder is committed and they can’t arrest somebody immediately, they lay it on anybody who had the misfortune to be near the crime. The person detained is beaten, and other well-known methods of influence are also applied, like putting a gas mask on them and closing off the air pipe. Or they apply a weak electric shock to their genitals. There are plenty of such methods. When they resort to them, the person won’t just admit to a crime, but to being a Japanese spy like in the 1930s.

Unlike those years, a confession these days is not enough, you need objective confirmation, for example, fingerprints, bloodstains on clothes, etc. However our law enforcement system doesn’t pay much heed to this.

The police, prosecutor’s office and courts act like one joint stock company – they are focused not on searching for the truth, but on definitely imprisoning the person detained. The roots of this unity are certainly in Soviet times. Then those structures were mainly located in one building, their staff were members of one common party organization and so their tasks they carried out jointly.

The most flagrant case was that of the so-called Polohy maniac. Serhij Tkach, from Polohy in the Zaporizhya region from the beginning of the 1980s raped and killed girls and young women. He was recently convicted in the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Court of Appeal. He was proud of having killed more women than the “great” maniacs Chikatilo and Onoprienko. In very many cases instead of Tkach other people were imprisoned. According to Zaporizhya lawyer Iryna Derevyanko, as many as 25 people. One of them killed himself, another served his entire sentence. The rest were lucky that the real killer was found and they were released. Human rights activist Tetyana Yablonska believes that over 50 % of those convicted of murder are innocent.

They say that the system is to blame for it all when law enforcement officers’ work is assessed by the percentage of cases solved. The more uncovered, the better you work. Therefore they want the figures to be good and fiddle them. Supposedly it would be enough to abolish that rule and all would be in its place. Somehow we’ve got used to apparently correct things leading to absurd consequences. If you take away that criterion for evaluating work, where’s the guarantee that they won’t stop trying to catch criminals altogether?

The initiative of the people in Sumy has not come from above and is a real grassroots initiative. As they say, an element of civic society. You could be pleased, though it’s somehow not easy since the grounds for the initiative are very depressing.

Freedom of expression

CPJ Report: Attacks on the Press 2009: Ukraine

Top Developments
• Broadcast media face strong political pressure.
• Ex-Interior Ministry official arrested in Gongadze murder.
Key Statistic
5: Years since the Orange Revolution. Optimism has since dimmed.
A deep recession, tensions with neighboring Russia, and a coming presidential election placed greater stress on the country’s already weak and fractured political leadership. While the media remained freer and more pluralistic than in most post-Soviet countries, journalists struggled to report on widespread government corruption and other abuses. A chaotic and sometimes dangerous environment for journalists increased the prevalence of self-censorship.

Long evaporated—and almost forgotten—was the elation that had swept through the capital, Kyiv, and much of the country after the Orange Revolution led to the election of reformist President Viktor Yushchenko. While Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko halted censorship of the national media and tolerated pluralism in news reporting after being propelled to office, internal rivalries created political deadlock and doomed their broader plans for reform. A field of 18 candidates was expected to be on the ballot for the first round of presidential voting in January, with Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych among the contenders.

Despite relatively strong laws to guarantee press freedom, the bitter political squabbling in Kyiv left the country’s justice system dysfunctional and politicized. Police failed to act in several cases of attacks on journalists. Officers in Kyiv ignored the pleas of photojournalist Kirill Stremousov in June when three security guards attacked him, breaking his hand and destroying his camera, according to local press reports. Stremousov had apparently angered the guards by taking photos of a car accident. In September, officers failed to intervene when several assailants attacked a television crew from ATV in front of a courthouse in Odessa, smashing their camera, slashing the hand of cameraman Dmitry Dokunov, and striking reporter Olesya Klintsova on the head with a heavy object, according to local press reports.

Authorities made progress in their investigation into the 2000 murder of Georgy Gongadze, editor of the muckraking news Web site Ukrainska Pravda. Aleksei Pukach, a former Interior Ministry general who was named a suspect in 2003, was finally arrested in the northeastern region of Zhytomyr on July 21, according to press reports. Pukach, head of the Interior Ministry’s surveillance department at the time of Gongadze’s murder, was charged with murder and was jailed pending trial.

Authorities allege that Pukach strangled the journalist, and Interior Ministry subordinates then decapitated the body. The other officers were convicted in 2008 of participating in Gongadze’s abduction and murder; they were sentenced to 12 to 13 years to prison. The head was not found, although news reports said Pukach had provided new information about its location. Authorities were testing fragments found outside Kyiv in late year to determine whether they could be matched to Gongadze.

The arrest of the former high-ranking official, made while U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden was visiting Ukraine, came as the government aggressively courted U.S. and European support as a counterweight against Russia. The Kremlin has sought to reassert influence in the former Soviet state, in part by leveraging oil and gas supplies.

While Gongadze’s family and press freedom advocates praised authorities for arresting Pukach, they criticized prosecutors for not investigating credible allegations that former President Leonid Kuchma had ordered the killing. “Hasty justice will only harm the investigation,” said Myroslava Gongadze, the journalist’s widow, according to Ukraine General Newswire. She urged investigators to continue questioning Pukach and others about the plot.

With much of the country’s influential broadcast media owned by politicians and business people aligned with one of the country’s feuding political clans, journalists faced growing pressure from managers to censor themselves ahead of the presidential election, according to news accounts. In June, the Kyiv-based Novy Kanal television station dismissed Volodymyr Pavlyuk, editor of the news program “Reporter,” after he aired a clip that was politically embarrassing to Tymoshenko, according to local press reports. In the clip, Tymoshenko cried out “All is lost!” when the text of her speech disappeared from a teleprompter. The clip became an online sensation because it was seen as a metaphor for the country’s political crisis. Novy Kanal executives said the editor was dismissed not in response to political pressure, but because the use of Internet video clips violated policy, Ukrainska Pravda reported.

Ownership of the country’s six private, national television channels was often effectively hidden by principals who registered the outlets under companies based abroad, according to research by the International Research and Exchanges Board. Given the bitter arguments between the country’s political factions, such tightly held ownership prevented the public from understanding the motivations behind much of the televised political coverage.

Journalists faced problems covering government agencies, a number of which denied access to public information and official meetings. In many instances, the low level of transparency reflected an effort by politicians to hide conflicts of interest. On February 17, reporters from the local newspaper Rovenkovskiye Vesti and the television station RTV in the northwestern city of Rivne were barred from a city council meeting about the appropriation of local land, even though the council was required to hold meetings that were open to the public, according to local press reports.

The political squabbling in Kyiv and jockeying ahead of the 2010 presidential election left media regulatory agencies unreformed. Media analysts and lawyers reported that the National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council’s process for issuing broadcast licenses and inspecting broadcast facilities was politicized and secretive.

Politicians around the country demanded loyalty from the local affiliates of the state-run National Television and Radio Company of Ukraine (NTU), retaliating against them if they tried to report the news in an independent manner. In September, local authorities cut off funding for the Dnepropetrovsk branch of NTU in southeastern Ukraine  in retaliation for a perceived failure to sufficiently praise the work of Gov. Viktor Bondar, according to local press reports.

The years of political gridlock in Kyiv exacerbated the cultural divisions between the pro-European, Ukrainian-speaking population in the northern and western regions, and the pro-Moscow sympathies of the Russian-speaking population in the southern and eastern regions. Political leaders in Moscow exploited the tension by using Russia’s powerful state media to flood eastern Ukraine with propaganda vilifying pro-Western politicians in Kyiv. Ukrainian authorities responded by making stricter checks of Russian journalists entering the country and conducting closer monitoring of Russian-language television rebroadcasting within the country.

Ukraine’s economy, which had been growing rapidly, was hit hard by the global recession. The economic free fall led to a drop in the value of the national currency and layoffs in the country’s steel and chemical industries. A significant drop in advertising raised fears that media pluralism would decline because financial pressures and greater competition would force more of the country’s private media outlets to seek government subsidies or come under the ownership of the country’s dominant political and business clans. 

Stepan Khmara loses civil suit against Ternopil newspaper

The Ternopil City-District Court has rejected a defamation suit brought by Stepan Khmara against the editorial board of the newspaper “Svoboda” [“Freedom”]. He had accused the newspaper of publishing untruthful and defamatory information about him, and demanded compensation for moral damages of 100 thousand UAH.

The specific point about this case is that there was indeed a serious error in the text which had claimed that Stepan Khmara was imprisoned for taking bribes, whereas he is a former political prisoner. In 1980 he was sentenced to 7 years labour camp and 5 years exile mainly for what went by the name ““Anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”.  In his case this meant the publishing of the Samizdat “Ukrainsky visnyk” [“Ukrainian Herald”]  writing the work “Etnotsid ukraintsiv v SSSR”, as well as “holding conversations for the purpose of undermining the Soviet regime” [more details can be found at

The newspaper was represented in court by Olha Kushneryk, a lawyer from the Ternopil Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Public Advice Centre. She explained that after the newspaper came out, the editorial board realized that the article in question contained information which had not been properly checked and which was false. In the issue from 2 September 2009 a text was published with the heading “We apologize to Stepan Khmara” in which the editorial board apologized both to Mr Khmara and to their readers for the wrong information in the article “Brodivsky Azef”.  That same day a copy of the issue and letter of apology were sent to Mr Khmara. The letter offered to provide a retraction or the right of response in any form.

However Mr Khmara categorically refused and told the newspaper that he would be taking legal action and seeking compensation.

The editorial office decided to themselves provide information balancing that in the offending article. On 19 November an article in the section “Prisoners of conscience” was published entitled “What Stepan Khmara spent seven years in the camps and was in a cell for death-row prisoners for” Using reliable printed sources, detailed information as above was given about Mr Khmara’s sentence.

The newspaper’s editorial staff therefore believe that they used all possible means to eliminate the adverse consequences from the incomplete and therefore misleading information in the original article.

The Ternopil City-District Court, referring in its ruling to the European Convention on Human Rights and case law of the European Court of Human Rights, rejected Stepan Khmara’s claim.

Access to information

Absolute majority of Ukrainian cities unlawfully classify their general plans

At a press conference on 29 January, the Luhansk based East Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives [the Centre] reported on the results of their investigation into the accessibility (or lack of such) to the public of the general plans for 70 cities in Ukraine – regional centres and tourist cities.

The absolute majority of urban dwellers – almost 32 million people – are being unlawfully deprived of information about the general plans for their cities. The Centre chose for its monitoring 46 of the biggest cities in Ukraine with a population of over 100 thousand, and 22 towns and town-like settlements conveniently placed, with a lot of recreational resources and where land was therefore of high value.

68 local councils were sent requests for information about public access to the cities’ general plans. 38 replied stating that their general plans were stamped “For official use only” or “Secret” (including Kyiv and Kharkiv). 13 city and settlement councils, in breach of the law, simply ignored the information request.

15 local councils reported that their general plans were posted on the official websites of their bodies of local self-government. A check of this found that only 3 sites had reasonably full information (Odessa, Lutsk and Donetsk), while 7 gave only fragmentary information, while on those of Berdyansk, Mariupol, Mykolaev, Kirovohrad and Sevastopol it proved impossible to find them.

The documents which local councils most often cited in justifying their classifying the general plans were the Order of the Head of the Security Service [SBU] from 01.03.2001 No. 52 “List of items of information constituting a state secret” [List] and the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution from 27.11.1998 No. 1893 “Instruction on the procedure for recording, holding and using documents, files, publications and other forms of information containing confidential information in the possession of the State”.

However back in November 2009, the SBU excluded from its List topographical maps and plans on the scale 1:50000, with the relevant SBU Order coming into force on 16 December. Since that time the drawn part of general plans may not be classified.

The Centre is concerned that the process of declassifying these plans could drag on for years and have called on civic activists and the media to demand that local authorities declassify such material immediately.

This situation is not only in breach of Ukrainian legislation and international practice, but also creates fertile ground for corrupt practices and violations of people’s civil rights. The Centre is calling for the immediate removal of all stamps restricting access which it believes can only exacerbate negative trends in the economic development of the cities. The Centre offers civic activists and organizations method and legal assistance in seeking the declassifying of general plans in their cities.

The East Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives was registered in 2003 in Luhansk. Its objective is to promote aware and active participation of citizens in public life through educational and human rights programmes. One of the main areas of its work is in promoting the establishment of transparent and lawful procedure for planning and construction in Ukraine.

Freedom of peaceful assembly

A toughening experience for NGOs

In an article about the trials and tribulations of civic organizations in Ukraine, Tetyana Yatskiv, Head of the Legal Support Programme for Civic Organizations “Community Centre”, notes that for all the apparent movement with legislative acts passed, revoked, lobbied for, there is a sense that nothing is moving forward.
There has been a great deal of speculation about when the draft law “On civic organizations” [No. 3371] drawn up by the Ministry of Justice, discussed, supplemented and assessed by NGOs, and put forward from the Cabinet of Ministers will finally be adopted. Civic organizations are adamant that this is needed.
See, for example, their call to the Prime Minister to keep her commitments
So what needs to be improved?
Ms Yatskiv points out that registering a civic, charitable or religious organization for the first time is difficult. There are huge numbers of such organizations in the country, confronting a medley of problems: creating and registering an organization; organizing its activities, reporting, relations with the authorities, defending the rights of its members or other legal issues. However 70%, she says, of appeals pertain to issues of legalization and State registration.
Hardly surprising, she says, since the process begins with legalization (registration), which for a local organization involves providing seven to ten documents, then registration in the single register and being placed on the records.
A telling detail is seen in the prices charged by law firms for help in registration. These in Kyiv are from 2 thousand UAH for commercial enterprises, and from 4-7 thousand for civic organizations and charities. There are even offers, for a considerable supplement to this fee, to organize legalization between 3 and 5 working days (whereas the maximum period is 2 months).
Ukrainian legislation has long been recognized as not in keeping with international standards, and as restricting the development of civic organizations. This was, as reported at the time, confirmed by a European Court of Human Rights judgment in the Case of Koretskyy and others v. Ukraine.
The Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe state that “The rules governing the acquisition of legal personality should, where this is not an automatic consequence of the establishment of an NGO, be objectively framed and should not be subject to the exercise of a free discretion by the relevant authority.
Territorial status remain a separate problem when these even have to be included in the name of the organizations, as well as the restriction of activities to ones own members, the large number of documents demanded, interference in the creation of management bodies, checks on the wording of acts of association beyond that demanded by the law.
In April 2008, in its Judgment in the Case of Koretskyy and others v. Ukraine, the European Court found that Ukraine had violated Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, including over territorial restrictions on the organization’s activities. The Court also stressed that the authorities had too broad discretionary powers as to whether or not to register an organization.
It also stated in 48 that “according to section 16 of the Associations of Citizens Act “the registration of an association may be refused if its articles of association or other documents submitted for the registration contravene the legislation of Ukraine”. The Act does not specify whether that provision refers only the substantive incompatibility of the aim and activities of an association with the requirements of the law, in particular with regard to the grounds for the restrictions on the establishment and activities of associations contained in section 4 of the same Act, or also to the textual incompatibility of the articles of association with the relevant legal provisions. Given the changes to the text of the Civic Committee’s articles on which the authorities were insisting in the present case, the Court notes that the provision at issue allowed a particularly broad interpretation and could be read as prohibiting any departure from the relevant domestic regulations of associations’ activities. Thus, the Court finds that the provisions of the Associations of Citizens Act regulating the registration of associations are too vague to be sufficiently “foreseeable” for the persons concerned and grant an excessively wide margin of discretion to the authorities in deciding whether a particular association may be registered. In such a situation, the judicial review procedure available to the applicants could not prevent arbitrary refusals of registration”.
It is thus not only the legislation that is in question, but its application.
The author expresses doubts as to whether the authorities really are willing to support civic society. One particularly worrying occasion giving rise to such doubts was following their latest approach to the Ministry of Justice, asking for explanation as to whether it was compulsory to indicate territorial location in the name of the organization. In response they received an approach from the Department of Legalization and Regulation of the work of credit history bureaux of the Ministry of Justice. This Department asked for copies of the acts of association confirming that the organization has the right to carry out consultations for organizations. They even ended up doubting the fact that the organization was registered since it’s not in the electronic register (which is still just starting up) and a stamp and the relevant code from the single State register are still not proof. So how do you prove that the sky is blue?

Tetyana Yatskiv reiterates that the problems are not only in flawed legislation, but in its interpretation, application and the degree of discretion given specific officials.
She stresses that the law does not oblige a civic organization to have a supervisory body, it does not require territorial status to be in the name, and does not envisage refusals to legalize an organization via the latter’s notifying of its existence. Yet various initiative groups of activists prepare their documents for legalization and registration because they can’t wait about for the draft law to be passed. They become hardened though this first encounter with administrative – registration obstructions.
From information in an article by Tetyana Yatskiv at

Environmental rights

Environmental organizations outraged over attempts to hijack public participation

A number of environmental organizations have signed an open statement regarding threats to civic society in Ukraine. They point out that the environmental situation is at crisis level, with water sources contaminated, over 35 billion tonnes of wastes accumulated, over 18 % of the country’s territory suffering from erosion. Since independence the amount of natural reserve land has doubled, yet remains only 4.95% of Ukraine’s territory which is considerably lower than the average for Europe of 15%.

The authors point out that given the number of urgent issues, decisive measures are needed from the government, politicians and the public. The future President should understand his or her responsibility for the environmental state of the country’s territory, yet environmental issues were scarcely present in the pre-election programmes of any of the candidates, and is not in those of the two leading candidates at all. There is also no mention of civic society and its role in forming and implementing State policy, including on environmental issues.

Yet in independent Ukraine, with its political instability and inability of the authorities to effectively manage protection of the environment and natural resources, it has been civic environmental organizations which have played a significant role in resolving environmental problems. They have been involved in drawing up and adopting normative legal acts, the Concept Framework on Environmental Policy and other strategic documents, protecting and creating nature reserves, etc, stopping environmentally dangerous activities, environmental education and awareness-raising, reducing infringements of environmental legislation and much more.

One of the most important aspects of our organizations’ activations has been implementing the principles of environmental democracy via compliance with the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters (ratified in 1999). It was on the basis of provisions of the Aarhus Convention that the Cabinet of Ministers [CMU] Resolution No. 1378 from 15 October 2004 (“Some issues on ensuring public participation in formation and implementation of State policy”) was prepared and passed, after wide public discussion.

“Yet the cancellation of this Resolution No. 1378, and its replacement without public participation by two CMU Resolutions: No. 1302 from 26 November 2009 “On additional measures for ensuring public participation in formation and implementation of State policy” and No. 10 from 6 January 2010 “On approving Rules of Procedure for involving the public in formation and implementation of State policy” have restricted the right to self-organization of civic organizations and created conditions for their manipulation through the new procedures. For example, Resolution No. 1302 was approved on 26 November 2009.  The Association of Fishermen of Ukraine was registered on 30 December 2009, yet already on 29 January 2010 this newly created organization, whose environmental activities remain a mystery to the public, is planning to create a National Civic Environmental Council. The requirement of mandatory registration of participations, the quota of 5-10 people per organization, the location in the centre of the capital, the aggressive rhetoric of the leader of the fishermen, unwarranted expropriating of a broad spectrum of environmental issues outside their competence, all force us to the conclusion that the event is a commissioned form of manipulation.

We must express our deep concern over attempts by certain political structures and pseudo-civic organizations created by them to substitute efficient independent institutions of civic society with imitations.

In view of the above, we demand the immediate cancellation of CMU Resolutions No. 1302 and No. 10 as creating conditions for falsifying the activities of organizations of civic society.

The appeal is signed by


The All-Ukrainian Environmental League

The National Ecological Centre of Ukraine


“Zeleny Svit” [“Green World”]

“Environmental Watch”

“Clean Wave”


“Living Planet”

the Ukrainian section of “Ecology of Man”

and “Environmental Initiatives”

Interethnic relations

MIA moves on combating ethnic profiling

According to Yury Belousov, Aide to the Minister of Internal Affairs, the Ministry has drawn up a draft normative act aimed at combating a selective ethnic approach in the work of the MIA.

Mr Belousov said that the draft had been prepared as part of a joint project with the British Council in Ukraine aimed at observance of human rights in police practice. The project is funded by the British Governments Strategic Programmes Fund via the UK Embassy in Ukraine. The Kharkiv Institute for Social Research and international specialists were also involved in the work.

Mr Belousov explained that the specialists had examined the normative legal base within the MIA from the point of view of its compliance with international standards on combating racism and discrimination. They analyzed the procedures which regulate the work of Internal Affairs workers and gave recommendations on how to better adhere to human rights standards.

He also mentioned that within the project an international human rights specialist had drawn up a training module on ethnic tolerance and had carried out a series of training seminars for 50 police officers who in future will share this approach with their subordinates.

The Second Secretary to the British Embassy in Ukraine, Jonathon Bateson stressed that the British objective was to help Ukrainian police become more European, effective and contemporary in their work. “The United Kingdom has always been and remains a strong supporter of Ukraine’s desire to move closer to the European Union. We believe that this aspiration is best achieved through practical steps”. He added that practical steps on reforming specific areas of life can achieve much more with regard to integration than political rhetoric.

The British Council’s Press Release quotes the views of Boiko Todorov regarding the fact that ethnic profiling is not just discriminatory, but also ineffective. His article “Nationalism and Crime: an artificial link” can be found here:

The project ‘Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Discrimination from Ukrainian Police Investigation documents’ ran from September 2009 till February 2010.

Law enforcement agencies

Worrying visit to human rights group

The Vinnytsa Human Rights Group has reported a bizarre and disturbing visit from an officer of the Central Department for Fighting Organized Crime [UBOZ] in the Vinnytsa region. The officer informed the Head of VHG, Dmytro Groisman, that UBOZ had received instructions from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to check the lawfulness of the group’s activities, including their circulation of statements which could harm Ukraine’s international image.

Copies were provided on request of all acts of association. VHG also states that they were asked for a written explanation regarding the statement the group issued over the detention in Uzzhorod of refugee Akhmed Chataev, which would seem to have been the statement deemed damaging to the country’s reputation. Without going into details about the statement, we would remind our readers that Mr Chataev, a Chechen, has refugee status in Austria and was only visiting Ukraine when the police detained him in response to a request for his extradition to Russia. We would respectfully point out that extraditing a recognized refugee would do immeasurably more damage to Ukraine’s reputation than any statement from a human rights group.

During the day efforts have been made by various human rights groups to learn what is going on. From sources in the MIA we have been told that the MIA received an official appeal from a human rights organization, possibly known beyond Ukraine, asking that the police carry out a check. It is not yet clear whether we are talking about actions which could “undermine the country’s safety by carrying out activities helping foreign countries, inciting enmity and other things” or about a request to check if a crime was committed. Under the circumstances, especially given the questions and information sought during the visit, maximum openness, including over the name of the organization which apparently asked for the check would seem called for. We will report any information coming to light.

Human rights protection

Property issues, patients’ rights, fighting sexual harassment – all in a day’s work

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These are just some of the issues the KHPG Advice Centre deals with in its work. Ludmila Klochko recently gave an interview in which she spoke of the work of the Public Advice Centre in 2009. She mentions that the year brought one major change – they finally moved into comfortable premises.

During the year there were 1,735 approaches from members of the public for advice. She explains that there are some variations connected with specific directions in KHPG work, though these are not very significant. For example, KHPG has taken a prominent position on patients’ rights and there were 53 requests for advice in this area (3.5% of the total), as against 1% previously.

She notes that their Advice Centre is in a better position that those in many other cities. That’s both because Kharkiv is a big city and there are plenty of high-quality lawyers, and because it is one of the few cities where there are Legal Aid Centres for Criminal Cases. Such centres exist in seven districts of the city, with lawyers able to provide legal aid to those failing criminal prosecution. Whereas before when relatives came to us and we were only able to give the most general consultation (we simply don’t have the resources to support all such cases), we can now refer them to our colleagues. About 100 cases were referred on after initial consultation with us.

The KHPG Advice Centre cooperates with several specialized centres, for example, with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s Strategic Litigations Fund. There have been some 10-15 cases where people received qualified assistance there, not only regarding criminal, but also civil, cases. There is also the Centre for Legal Support for Victims of Torture. If a person has been ill-treated by the police, we send them there, and if the case is likely to succeed, then it can go to the European Court of Human Rights. She explains that it is by no means always possible to prove that torture was used.

How do people find out about the Advice Centre?

30.4% - from the media. There was a lot of media coverage last year, and newspapers constant get in touch, quoting us as specialists.

8% (130 people) learned of the Advice Centre via the website. 23% learned about them from people they know. They are their best clients, she says, since they understand what they can do and don’t come expecting miracles.

Another 23% have approached them before over other issues, some over the last 10 years. Then 5.3% are advised to approach them by official bodies. Some official, for example, tells them they need to lodge a claim and should see a lawyer and they reply that they can’t afford a lawyer, and get sent to KHPG for help. 54 people, or 3.4% were referred to the Centre by other organizations.

Ludmila Klochko says that the Centres refer people depending where they live. So, for example, if somebody rings from Lviv because they’ve seen Arkady Bushchenko or Yevhen Zakharov on television, they’re given numbers of people to contact locally. People also see advertisements about the Centre’s work. And there have been travelling consultations to various populated areas.

New areas of work

Since September a specialist on housing and communal services has been working at the Centre, and there have been a huge number of approaches. On the day he sees people there is always a queue and the consultations are done so that everybody can hear since many have similar problems.

Ms Klochko explains that it’s hard to use simple terms like “winning” or “losing” a court case. You can win at one level, lose at the next two.

There are also, of course, a lot of consultations which do not result in court cases being launched. She mentions the case of a man who received his disability through an industrial accident yet had tried fruitlessly for years to prove this since there were no documents and the company he had been working for at the time had disappeared. KHPG took on the case and the court did in fact establish that the injuries had been caused at the workplace. It was quite incredible that in the end it was resolved in 20 minutes. The KHPG representatives had masses of substantiating evidence, but the judge stopped them saying it was obvious anyway. Yet all that was needed for the authorities, not because they begrudged the money but because the paperwork had to be in place.

There were also a fair number of people who approached the Advice Centre over resignations or dismissals. Last year a law was passed which allowed employment centres to not pay unemployment benefit to those who left by mutual consent. In April the Constitutional Court found this to be unconstitutional, and questions arose as to whether they would pay for the months in between or not. There were also a lot of requests for advice linked with dismissals or resignations from small or middle-level businesses which were not in a position to pay the money legally required, or simply went bankrupt. KHPG carried out mediation, and often succeeded in getting agreement without involving the court. Though in same brazen cases, court cases were needed.

She mentions that Svitlana Pomilyaiko was reinstated at work last year. Another aspect of the case involving Ms Pomilyaiko was covered here earlier. Two women, one of them Svitlana Pomilyaiko, were taken in for questioning after two computers went missing from their work. According to the women’s testimony, the two officers questioned them separately, trying to force both to make confessions. Svitlana was kicked and had a bag put over her head. Natalya also had tweezers used to press her nipples. Svitlana could hear her friend’s screams, yet neither woman signed a “confession”. They were released, but only after both signed statements that they had no criticism against the police. Both have medical reports from the hospital which they went to following their release. Only Svitlana Pomilyaiko decided to make a formal complaint. A criminal investigation was initiated only to be revoked by the Ordzhonikidze District Court in Kharkiv. This court ruling, however, was, on 7 May overturned by the Kharkiv Regional Court of Appeal, and the case has been sent back to a first instance court to be examined again.

Ludmila Klochko explains that the case was supported by two funds – the UHHRU Strategic Litigations Fund and the KHPG Fund for the Defence of Victims of Torture, and some of the work was done by lawyers free of charge. In court over her dismissal, she was represented by Oksana Stanislavska, one of the KHPG lawyers.

She mentions that with the same case they began a new area of work, regarding sexual harassment. She says that this is a difficult area and one that they need more practice on. They lost that part of the case, but believes it was a positive thing that the subject was raised and got attention in the media. At present there is a cassation appeal underway over the case.

Almost half of the KHPG cases are linked with property, inheritance and similar. These are problems normally between relatives. Ludmila explains the increase in such cases as being linked to the fact that previously people didn’t have property, and therefore didn’t experience the problems, whereas now virtually everybody has property. She says there is a huge divide between the Housing Code which has existed since Soviet times and the legal relations in society. This concerns ones own flats, flats jointly owned following privatization, flats bought, flats bought on a mortgage, etc. She mentions that three similar cases ended up with entirely different outcomes in the court. There are also terrible frauds involving housing, and people also fall victim due to folly or false economy.

The Centre is also approached by victims of crimes complaining of ineffective investigation or that the cases have long not been investigated. These made up about 10.4% of the approaches last year. There are ones linked with the right to life which are promising and it is very likely that there will be new judgments on them from the European Court of Human Rights. There has already been a judgment over the case of Muravskaya v. Ukraine, over a murder not investigated.

She mentions also the ones that are absolutely standard, such as non-payment of wages. On 18 September the European Court of Human Rights issued a pilot judgment over “Ivanov v. Ukraine”, which came into force two months later. The Government has been given a year to enforce all court judgments, otherwise all cases pertaining to the issue will be positively considered according to accelerated procedure, including the issue of compensation.

For four months a travelling Centre working in the Temnivska penal colony. Then they were refused access and went to court over it.

She mentions that businesspeople have started coming to them and says that they do not know these problems, but also stresses that they do not give people advice on circumventing the law. Last year they turned away 33 people, 2% of the overall number.

The number of appeals for assistance from military conscripts and their relatives has fallen considerably. Previously it was up to 5% of all appeals, whereas last year there were only 2 appeals, and 4 people in total. In one case a mother said her son was being subjected to hazing, but was not prepared to give any details at all, while in the second, conscripts said they were being forced to give testimony against their boss, but the level of coercion seemed unclear and did not involve beatings. Ludmila Klochko attributes this, in the first place, to the fact that the period of service has been reduced, and secondly that cases of abuse are treated seriously.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, with participation from KHPG, has issued booklets providing advice on what to do if you’re unlawfully dismissed, if they don’t pay wages, as well as information on various stages of criminal proceedings.

Abridged from an interview taken by Volodymyr Batsunov

Victims of political repression

Memorial: On Portraits of Stalin for the anniversary of Victory Day

Officials from the Moscow Mayor’s Office have stated their intention to put up portraits of Stalin in the city for the 65th anniversary of Victory Day. As usual, it is not known who exactly, and at what level, took this decision, however it is clear that the portraits will be paid for out of the pockets of taxpayers, including those who lost their relatives because of the dictator. Yet it is not a question of money nor is it that some of those invited to the festivities will not wish to come to a city decorated in such dubious fashion.

The appearance of portraits of Stalin on Victory Day is an insult to the memory of the fallen.

Soviet soldiers went into battle not because they were ordered to by the country’s leader, and not in order to defend the Politburo with its General Secretary in the Kremlin. They defended their homeland from a foreign invader, defended the country which the communist leaders had brought to the brink of catastrophe.

The fortitude, courage and valiant deeds of people defending their country in the years of War have been and remain a spiritual legacy for the entire nation, and nobody has the right to make use of this legacy at their will. Any attempt to rewrite this legacy in Stalin’s name is nothing more than pillage and blasphemy.

What is doubly blasphemous is the intention to hang portraits of Stalin at Home Guard assembly points. The history of these Home Guard units, civilians, virtually unarmed and mercilessly hurled into the killing machine outside Moscow, Kyiv, Leningrad, almost all of whom died, is in itself another indictment of the “great military commander of all time and peoples”. Are the apologists for Stalin in the Moscow Mayor’s Office seriously assuming that Muscovites don’t remember how it was that their fathers and grandfathers died?

Thanks to the efforts of Moscow officialdom, Stalin’s name already adorns the Kurskaya Metro Station. None of the officials remembered, of course, either about the fate of the First Head of the Metro, Petrikovsky, shot with Stalin’s sanction, or about the fate of hundreds of those who built the metro, executed or sent to the camps.

This portrait undertaking is a continuation of the insidious rehabilitation of Stalinism.

Those in the advertising committee who came up with it have no intention of remembering what truly was entirely Stalin’s doing – the mass terror in the army in 1937-1938, which killed tens of thousands of military men, from rank and file soldiers to marshals, or the pre-War union with Hitler, directly resulting in the tragedy of summer and autumn 1941, or the millions of lives sacrificed for the crimes and mistakes of the Leader.

The people won the War despite Stalin’s crimes.

Victory was achieved at an incredible price which to this day has never been fully calculated.

The main sense behind celebration of Victory Day is to express words of gratitude to those who really achieved this Victory. Very few of them unfortunately remain. They and only they must be the centre of attention on this day.

If the portraits of Stalin really do appear on the streets of Moscow, we will do all in our power to make sure that at the same time other posters, stands and placards appear, recounting the crimes of the tyrant and his real place in the history of the Great Patriotic War. We are convinced that hundreds of Muscovites – the children and grandchildren of those who fought on the Front, those to whom we really owe Victory - will help us in this.

The International Memorial Society

Moscow Memorial

2 March 2010

On the proposed amendments to the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression

As reported already, on 9 February the Verkhovna Rada passed as base a draft law, submitted by the President, on amendments to the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression (regarding the status of people who suffered in childhood from political repression). The National Society of Former Political Prisoners and Victims of Repression estimates the number of people who suffered in childhood as the result of political repression at 14.5 thousand.

The draft law (reg. №5040 ) proposes adding provisions which define the legal status of people who in childhood suffered from repression (as children of victims of repression) and guarantees of their social defence.

According to the draft law, victim of political repression status would be given to people born of women who were at the time serving terms of imprisonment or held against their will in medical establishments and later rehabilitated; those who up to the age of 18 were together with their parents, one of whom was serving a term of imprisonment, exile, resettlement or in a special settlement, and later rehabilitated; or who had before the age of 18 been left without parental care, where one or both parents had been repressed and later rehabilitated in accordance with the law.

The draft law also proposes extending the list of benefits envisaged by the Law “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression in Ukraine” for those rehabilitated to people recognized as having suffered political repression.  These include housing benefits, the opportunity to receive concessionary trips to sanatoriums for those who are disabled or pensioners, free use of public transport and some medical benefits, including a 50 % discount on prescription drugs.

The draft law was opposed by representative of the Communists in parliament, Adam Martynyuk whose justification for his faction’s opposition was that “yet more benefits were being introduced for those who in the past were punished by the Soviet regime for committing crimes.” The worth of such arguments, especially given that it was the children of victims that were in question, was well-challenged by National Deputies from other factions.

The draft law received 228 votes. Neither the Communists nor the Party of the Regions voted for it.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group has on a number of occasions approached the Verkhovna Rada with an analysis of the flaws in the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression.

Unlike Russia where more or less the same problems arose but were dealt with by introducing the appropriate amendments, in Ukraine the Law from 17.04.91 has never been reviewed, although no less than 10 versions of amendments or new versions of the Law were submitted to parliament from various organizations or individuals.

There would seem some hope of improvement now, however in our view the draft law needs some clarification and amendments. It only establishes status of victim of political repression with regard to the children of victims of repression. This is illogical and unjust in relation to their parents, mainly their mothers, who suffered enormously because of their arrested spouse, being driven out of their work, homes, and prevented from providing for those children whom the law would protect. According to the logic of this draft law, for example, the son of former dissident and political prisoner Viacheslav Chornovil Taras Chornovil would gain victim status, while his mother Atena Pashko would not.

We are also convinced that people born in places of deprivation of liberty or who were held them when under 18, together with their parents, should be recognized as victims of political repression.

We would also note that the draft law should entitle benefits to all victims regardless of the grounds for the unlawful repression, whether this be articles of the Criminal Code, administrative forced resettlement, forced treatment, etc.

There are ever fewer victims remaining from the repressions and it is vital that they live to receive justice and acknowledgement of the State’s debt to them.

Over recent years in Kharkiv there has been a programme to protect retirement age members of families – widows and children of victims of political repression, who were rehabilitated in accordance with this law. In Kharkiv with its population of 1.5 million there are around 300 people who receive a 25% discount in communal charges, which together with benefits for children of the War (and almost all of the 300 fall into this category), this constitutes a 50% concession on such communal charges.

Unique book on Holodomor presented in Warsaw

At the Polish Institute of National Remembrance a presentation took place on Tuesday of a book in English entitled «HOLODOMOR. The Great Famine in Ukraine 1932-1933». This is the seventh volume from the Institute’s series “Poland and Ukraine in the 1930s and 1940s”. The staff of the Institute of National Remembrance see this publication as unique and would like to present it in Western Europe and the USA. The new volume contains over 230 previously unpublished archival documents: material from Polish Intelligence, the police and local administration in pre-War Poland. There are also letters from diplomats about Holodomor, directives and interrogation protocols. Specialists believe that the documents reflect the real situation in Ukraine during Holodomor and give the reader some idea of the real scale of the tragedy of the Ukrainian people. Most of the documents in the book are published for the first time. The book’s author, Dr Jerzy Bednarek, from the Institute of National Remembrance, explained to Radio Svoboda why the book is unique “The published documents come from the Soviet OGPU then later the NKVD. An interesting point here is that many archival documents pertain to agent information about the work of foreign diplomatic offices working on the territory engulfed by famine. The Soviet security service watched carefully to make sure that no information about the famine reached the West. To some extent they succeeded. The documents are direct proof that the Soviet authorities tried at all cost to keep information about Holodomor secret”. Lech Kachynsky, Poland’s President writes in the foreword that “the published archival documents show that Holodomor must be called genocide of the Ukrainian people. Holodomor will remain an unprecedented tragedy in the history of Ukraine and of Europe.” Dr Bednarek is convinced that the English language publication has immeasurable significance for ensuring that truthful information about Holodomor as genocide against the Ukrainian people perpetrated by the communist regime becomes more widespread. He adds that the international community needs a clear signal to ensure that such a crime can never be repeated. “The book will be presented first in April in the European Parliament, then similar events will take place in Germany, then in London. We also want to present the book about Holodomor in the USA. During a recent visit to Washington by members of the Institute of National Remembrance, representatives of the US Administration asked on several occasions about the book. A certain number have been issued to the Ukrainian Embassy in the USA. There is thus interest in the book in the USA”. Work on the many volume series “Poland and Ukraine in the 1930s and 1940s” has been carried out over several years jointly by the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] Central Archive, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration and the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Political and Ethno-national Research.

News from the CIS countries

Add your voice against glorification of Stalin

 Glorification of the tyrant is an attempt to split society

We have learned that the Moscow authorities are planning from April to place as social advertisements, i.e. using public funding, numerous images of Joseph Stalin, linking this with the 65th anniversary of Victory.  We consider this to be not only an affront to the memory of the millions of victims of Stalin’s tyranny, but also an act aimed at creating a schism in society.

We can see that more and more often people of very different views are uniting against violations of their rights, against injustice and straight out banditry of the authorities. Thousands of protesters come out on rallies in different parts of the country.

There are ever increasing numbers of people outraged by the insane increase in tariffs, fraudulent dealings with housing and communal reform, not to mention the scandal over the demolition of the Moscow region settlement of “Rechnik”. People with rightwing and leftwing views are uniting in defence of their rights.

We are convinced that, confronted with the true face of the capital’s authorities, Muscovites will not buy such a cheap gimmick as glamorous advertisements of the Generalissimus of the Soviet Union.

Despite half a century of exposing the crimes of Stalin and his regime, literally everyday historians uncover new details of the monstrous crimes of Stalinism.

The truth of what has been exposed has recently been recognized by the courts.

Glorification of Stalin in today’s Moscow is as absurd as trying to imagine the glorification of Nazi leaders in Germany. As for the assertion that unlike Nuremberg, the Stalin regime was not legally condemned, we should recall the following legal norms directly accusing the Stalin regime of genocide and mass-scale terror.

In the first place, there are excerpts from the Judgment of the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of the RF Presidential Decrees from 23 August 1991 No. 79 “On suspending the activities of the Communist Party of the RSFSR”; from 25 August 1991 No. 90 “On the property of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union [CPSU] and of the Communist Party of the RSFSR”; and from 6 November 1991 No. 169 “On the activities of the CPSU and the CP RSFSR”, as well as on the constitutionality of the CPSU and the CP RSFSR. The case was examined on 26 May; 6-15 June; 20 July – 4 August; 14 September – 23 October; 28 October – 30 November 1992. “…3. For a long period in the country there was a regime of unlimited power based on violence of a small group of communist functionaries united in the Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, headed by that body’s General Secretary. … The material of the case, including testimony of witnesses, confirm that the leading bodies of the CPSU were the initiators, and the structures at local level often the implementers of political repression against millions of Soviet people, including deported peoples. This continued for decades …”

Secondly, the Law of RSFSR from 26 April 1991 No. 1107-1 “On the rehabilitation of repressed peoples” (with amendments from 1 July 1993) … Article 1. Rehabilitate all repressed peoples of the RSFSR, recognize as unlawful and criminal repressive acts against these peoples; Article 2. By repressed are meant peoples (nations, nationalities or ethnic groups and other historically formed cultural and ethnic groups of people, for example, the Cossacks) against whom a policy at state level of defamation and genocide was carried out on the basis of their ethnic or other group. This was accompanied by their forced resettlement, the abolition of national State structures, the redefining of national territory borders, and established of a regime of territory and violence in special settlements.”

This is, thirdly, the Law from 18 October 1991 “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression” (with amendments from 26 June, 22 December 1992, 3 September 1993, 4 November 1995). During the years of Soviet rule millions of people fell victim to the arbitrary rule of the totalitarian State, were subjected to repression for their political and religious convictions, on social, ethnic or other grounds. Condemning the terror over many years and mass persecution of their people as incompatible with the idea of truth and justice, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation expresses its deep sympathy to the victims of unwarranted repression, their family and close ones and affirms its unyielding commitment to seeking real guarantees for ensuring lawfulness and human rights. This Law’s aim is to rehabilitate all victims of political repression who suffered such repression from 25 October (7 November) 1917, restore their civil rights and remove other consequences of arbitrary rule, while ensuring compensation for moral and material damages which is feasible at the present time. … Article 1: By political repression are understood various forms of coercion, applied by the State for political motives, in the form of deprivation of life or liberty, forced treatment in a psychiatric institution, expulsion from the country and being stripped of ones citizenship, resettlement of groups of the population from their homes, sending people into exile, deporting them or sending them to special settlements, forced labour in conditions of restriction of liberty, as well as other deprivation or restriction of the rights and freedoms of people declared socially dangerous to the State or political system on class, social, ethnic, religious or other grounds, carried out by court rulings and other bodies, given court functions, or according to administrative procedure by executive bodies and their officials and public organizations or their bodies given administrative powers”.

By Federal Law from 4 November 1995 No. 166-F3 this Law was supplemented by Article 1.1 which reads: “Children who were together with their parents in places of deprivation of liberty, in exile, deportation, at special settlements are also deemed to have been subjected to political repression and are entitled to rehabilitation”.


This is what will happen if we remain silent!  The poster from the Great Patriotic War with Joseph Stalin towering over the spires of Soviet cities is to be one of the glaring images adorning the capital during the days celebrating the 65th anniversary of Victory.

 The list of well-known human rights defenders, writers, journalists, political figures, economists and many concerned individuals is too long to translate. Part of it can be seen under the appeal here:

You can add your name by writing to info @


“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2010, #02