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

“Case” of writer Maria Matios returned to the Prosecutor

Writer Maria Matios informs that she has received a letter from the Minister of the Interior, Anatoly Mohylyov, dated 21 January, regarding the checks carried out in response to an appeal from Communist Party National Deputy Petro Tsybenko.

The Minister states that the law enforcement bodies acted in accordance with material sent by the Prosecutor General’s Office. He says that a letter was sent “to the Prosecutor General V. Pshonka signed by the Head of the Council of the Organization of Veterans of Ukraine, National Deputy Petro Tsybenk, asking that a check be organized and decision taken in accordance with legislation regarding the “shameful comparisons of the obelisk on the Grave of the Unknown Soldier of the Memorial Complex “Park of Eternal Glory” in Kyiv, and on other issues in M. Matios’ book “Pages taken from an autobiography”.

The letter says that all material taken has been sent to the Prosecutor of the Pechersky District in Kyiv “since the facts established do not require reaction or intervention by the law enforcement agencies”.

At the end of November 2010 Communist Party National Deputy Petro Tsybenko sent a Deputy requiest to the Prosecutor General asking for a legal assessment of Maria Matios’ statements in the above-mentioned book.  The Kyiv Police deny placing any pressure on the writer and say that they were carrying out the instructions of the Prosecutor General.

As reported here, in early January Maria Matios addressed an open letter to the Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka in which she complained of having been the object of political harassment following the publication of her last books. She writes that in December the police searched for her at the Lviv publishing house Pyramida, and at the beginning of January the police looked for her at a Kyiv address where she and her family had once rented accommodation.

Maria Matios said that such actions “bear all the hallmarks of blackmail and unwarranted psychological pressure”.

The “statements” which Tsybenko and veterans have objected to would seem to be the “comparison by the author of the Victory memorial in the capital to a phallus”.

New information reported by Radio Svoboda

KHPG: On the arrest of a number of members of VO Tryzub

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group is disturbed by a number of arrests of the leaders and other members of the organization “Tryzub” named after Stepan Bandera in connection with a criminal case initiated by the Zaporizhya SBU [Security Service].  The criminal investigation is under Article 258 of the Criminal Code (act of terrorism) which is how the Zaporizhya Prosecutor and SBU have classified the explosion which destroyed the bust of Stalin in Zaporizhya on 31 December 2010.

This bust was erected on land owned by the regional committee (obkom) of the Ukrainian Communist Party, has the status of a small architectural form and is not under State protection. Nonetheless, the explosion could have endangered the life and health of people who happened to be nearby. According to the guard on duty in the obkom premises in the evening, the explosion was set off by one person. Yet there have been arrests now for three days throughout Ukraine, and according to media reports over 15 members of “Tryzub” have been detained. It is extraordinary that they should be detaining people who on that New Year evening were hundreds of kilometres away from Zaporizhya.

In our opinion, this is extremely dangerous and is reminiscent of the deliberately hyped up trials of the 1930s – 1950s, aimed at intimidating the population and undermining the law in the country.

This looks like repression directed at inciting ideological enmity between the East and West of the country. Such behaviour without any explanation or justification from the State could provoke the public, especially young people, to unforeseeable actions.

Against the background of recent events with the arrests of former ministers from Yulia Tymoshenko’s government and of participants in the Tax Code protests on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square], the criminal charges against members of “Tryzub” cannot fail to cause concern.  

On the detention in custody of lawyer Yevhen Korniychuk

Serhiy Konkov, President of the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine has issued a statement regarding the arrest on 22 December 2010 and remand in custody of Yevhen Korniychuk, lawyer and former First Deputy Minister of Justice in Yulia Tymoshenko’s Government. 

The statement explains that the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv allowed the application from the Prosecutor General’s Investigator on Particularly Serious Cases and remanded Yevhen Korniychuk in custody. This followed the initiating on 22 December by the First Deputy Prosecutor General of a criminal investigation against Yevhen Korniychuk on charges under Article 365 § 3 of the Criminal Code (Exceeding power or official authority).

“Yevhen Korniychuk is a well-known lawyer, and since 2000 – bar lawyer. He was one of the partners in the leader law firm “Magister and Partners” (“Magisters”) was twice National Deputy [MP] and worked as First Deputy Minister of Justice and in other posts as a public official.

Yevhen Korniychuk is working, has a permanent home in Kyiv, is married and the father of three underage children, one an infant, born on the day that Mr Korniychuk was arrested.

On 22 December 2010 Yevhen Korniychuk responded to the first summons from the investigator and arrived for questioning at the Prosecutor General’s Office where he was arrested during the interrogation.”

Serhiy Konkov states that under such circumstances he considers wrongful the ruling from 30 December remanding Korniychuk in custody, with it not taking into account the conditions which should be assessed when deciding whether remand in custody is appropriate.

He stresses that preventive measures, in accordance with Article 148 of the Criminal Procedure Code, are applied to prevent a person absconding, impeding the course of justice, continuing their criminal activities, as well as to ensure the enforcement of procedural decisions.

They are applied where there are sufficient grounds to believe that the person will try to hide from the investigators or court, avoid enforcing procedural decisions, obstruct the establishment of the truth or continue criminal activities.

If there are insufficient grounds, then a written undertaking is obtained that the person will appear when summoned and will inform if he changes his whereabouts.

Since Yevhen Korniychuk went at first summons to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the choice of preventive measure was clearly made without taking into account the requirements of Article 150 of the Criminal Procedure Code which envisages that when deciding on the preventive measure, as well as the circumstances outlined in Article 148, the gravity of the impugned crime is considered, as well as the state of health, family and material condition, the type of activity, the place of residence and other circumstances which characterize this.

Article 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code envisages several types of preventive measure with remand in custody not being the first. They are: 1) an undertaking not to leave the place; 2) personal surety; 3) guarantee from a civic organization or labour collective; 3-1) bail; 4) remand in custody; 5) supervision by the command of a military unit.

The author stresses that Yevhen Korniychuk’s guilt has not been established by the court and therefore the application of the most extreme preventive measures where many others were available is in contravention of the constitutional principle of the rule of law stating that the rights and freedoms of the citizen are of the highest value.

The Association of Lawyers of Ukraine has consistently upheld the observance of human rights and civil liberties, including in criminal proceedings.

The Association officially states that it considers it unacceptable to remand in custody people accused of certain official crimes and crimes linked with business activities, since in many cases such a preventive measure is an unlawful level of influence on a person only suspected of committed such a crime.  In 2010 the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine made a submission to the President regarding appropriate amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code.

Serhiy Konkov is convinced that the ruling of the Pechersky Court to remand Yevhen Korniychuk in custody should be revoked without delay.

He says that if the court should not deem it possible to apply Article 148 § 3 of the Criminal Procedure Code and not order any preventive measure, he will be approaching the Kyiv Court of Appeal stating his willingness to provide a personal written guarantee of the behaviour and appear of the accused whom he has known personally for a long term, and with whom he has had professional dealings.  He undertakes if necessary to bring him to the investigation unit or court at their first summons. He says that if necessary, a second guarantor can be provided immediately.

“I am also ready to offer bail for Yevhen Korniychuk if the Kyiv Court of Appeal decides to choose such a preventive measure.

As President of the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine, I consider it my civic and public duty to continue to react appropriately to each case of misuse by the investigative bodies of their procedural rights leading to violations of citizens’ rights and freedoms.”

Serhiy Konkov

President of the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine


(Abridged only to avoid repetition of names, terms etc)

Undermining the Tax Code Protesters’ Maidan?

In my opinion, the Tax Code Protesters’ Maidan [the protest on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, Independence Square – translator] was the most important event in Ukraine in 2010. For the first time since the Orange Revolution tens of thousands of people, outraged by the government’s actions, came out onto the main square of the capital to stand up for their freedom, rights and interests. They were supported in most regions of Ukraine. And the people won, the most offensive norms of the draft Tax Code were revoked, the simplified taxation system for small business owners remains for now in force.

Yet, is this state lasting? Where are the guarantees that the government will not hastily pass laws directed against the interests of ordinary Ukrainians for the benefit of oligarch clans? For example, taking away a certain part of the times of activities eligible for the simplified system? And gathering up potential organizers so that they don’t protest. Such thoughts arise when you look at the actions of the law enforcement bodies with regard to November’s Maidan Protest.

It had only just begun when on 23 November a criminal investigation was initiated over group infringement of public order (Article 293 of the Criminal Code). “Within the framework of the investigation into this criminal case, investigative activities are underway, including establishing the identify of people who took part in these events in order to receive the relevant testimony from them. Today indeed two participants of these events were brought to the investigation unit of the Kyiv Police with whom the necessary investigative activities were undertaken. They were questioned as witnesses in the case and released, the Public Liaison Department of the Central Kyiv Police Department informed on 16 December.

On 25 December Oleksandr Mandych and Ihor Harkavenko were detained and charged with committing the crime under Article 193 § 2 of the Criminal Code “deliberate destruction or damage to others’ property which caused large-scale damage”.  As the Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda reported, the detained are accused of damaging the marble tiles on the square when driving 132 metal stakes in to hold up tents.  On 28 December Harkavenko was remanded in custody and he is in the SIZO [remand unit].  Mandych was made to sign an undertaking not to abscond, however the Prosecutor is rumoured to be planning to appeal against this decision and demand that he is remanded in custody. In the same report in Ukrainska Pravda and other sources there is talk of the detention of two other protesters – O. Zaplatkin and V. Hruzinov, however the police deny their involvement in this case.

Oleksandr Mandych told a “Svidomo” journalist that the investigator had threatened that all Maidan protesters who had been in the tent camp would be summoned, and “all would end up inside”. On 29 December the investigators actively summoned witnesses for questioning and an additional assessment was made by the Ministry of Justice as to the cost of the damage to the slab determined by the Kyiv Administration at 212 thousand UAH. Interesting that the damage from the 2007 tent camp during the political confrontation was estimated by the same Kyiv City Administration at around 3 million UAH. And where is the person responsible for those damages? A rhetorical question.

One notices that the police are detaining those who appeared on Maidan by chance and were neither organizers or active participants, yet all those who were called in the last days of 2010 and detained or remanded in custody have a criminal record. None of the small business owners active in the protest were able to identify the detained. It is clear that neither Mandych nor Harkavenko could have put up the tents and damaged the slabs on the square. Why was it specifically them who were detained?

You get the impression that they either want to show ordinary citizens that the protesters were exclusively former criminals, or to receive testimony from people who are completely dependent on the law enforcement bodies, using them to persecute real activists.

On the same day, 29 December, according to Ukrainska Pravda, the police tried to detain one of the organizers of the business owners protest, Serhiy Melnychenko, who before that had been in hospital following neurosurgery, and was discharged on 28 December, and also searched for two of his colleagues, Petro Mykhailenko and Oleksandr Misyura. Both of the latter were Maidan coordinators, and Mykhailenko submitted the application regarding the protest action on 16 November.

It would seem that the authorities are planning to prosecute Maidan activists and are trying to scare people off, forcing them to shun protests. They are for the nth time shooting themselves in the foot, and seem incapable of grasping that methods of force against ones own people are doomed to crashing defeat.

Political repression

Being interested in the history of the human rights movement in Ukraine during Soviet times, I have read masses of sentences passed under the “political” articles of the UkrSSR Criminal Code – Articles 56, 62 and 187.

All were similar, like twin brothers, and all have the same features: a) stubborn disregard for obvious facts; b) primitive and flawed interpretation of natural actions as criminal (like “I wrote some poems and gave them to friends to read” – “No, you prepared a defamatory text which slanders our social and state system and circulated it in order to undermine the Soviet regime”!; c) overt lies; d) the absurdity of the court’s conclusions, and others.

In the ruling passed by the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv on the choice of a preventive measure for Yury Lutsenko (former Minister of Internal Affairs – translator), all those features are pronounced (with it not even being during the examination of the case on its merits and assessment of the evidence!) which gives yet more grounds for classifying his remand in custody as political persecution.

Disregard of things that are obvious

The court ruling spells out in black and white that “The term of remand in custody is to be counted from 27 December 2010.”  Does this means that on Sunday, 26 December Lutsenko was not deprived of his liberty? He went voluntarily with 11 Alpha Special Force officers and two representatives of the Prosecutor ‘s Office to the SBU [Security Service] remand unit [SIZO], voluntarily spent the day, evening and night, in the morning voluntarily went in handcuffs to the court and voluntarily entered the cage… The court clearly ignored this detention, obviously not wishing to link their hearing with a new charge.

The only grounds for changing the preventive measures from a signed undertaking not to abscond to remand in custody is moving “from the registered place where a person lives, is staying or is temporarily at without the investigator’s permission” (Article 151 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code). The court ignored the absence of such facts.

The court gave the first grounds for remand in custody as being avoidance of procedural actions and the decisions of the investigator, clearly meaning the assertion of the investigator that Lutsenko was deliberately avoiding reading the case material.

The court ignored the fact that Lutsenko had read the case material on 15, 21, 22 and 23 December, and did not appear when called by the investigator on 14, 16, 17, 20 and 24 December, explaining that his lawyer was busy on other criminal cases.

The court also ignored Article 218 of the Criminal Procedure Code according to which the reading of the material of a criminal case is not a procedural act of the investigator, but the indisputable right of the accused which he exercises independently, or with a lawyer at his own discretion.

Remand in custody changes nothing in this situation and will in no way expedite familiarization with the case material.

Interpretation of natural actions as criminal

The grounds for remanding Lutsenko in custody were, for example, his denial of guilt and refusal to testify against himself. The court thus deprived him or his liberty for exercising his constitutional rights which guarantee the right to a fair trial.

The accused is effectively being forced to reject the right to retain silence guaranteed by the Constitution, the European Convention and other international agreements.

By justifying remand in custody as required by influence on witnesses, the court agreed with the investigators who consider the public statements of his point of view regarding the criminal case in the media, for example, in an interview to Dzerkalo Tyzhnya [the Weekly Mirror] and the UNIAN information agency, as pressure on them. We are once again seeing the Soviet practice where people answered for their words through arrest.

Overt lies

The court ruling states that the court has taken into account “the accused, Y.V. Lutsenko, his material and family state, his place of residence, whether he has children, his state of health which does not exclude or prevent the latter’s remand in custody”.

In fact no document relating to this was examined during the court hearing since the court rejected the application from the lawyer for the examination to be adjourned so that such documents could be prepared and submitted.

The absurdity of the court’s conclusions

In my opinion the court ruling looks quite absurd. Lutsenko was arrested on 26 December in connection with a new criminal case. Yet the court examined change of preventive measure within the framework of the criminal case already investigated and deemed Lutsenko guilty of having avoided reading the material of that case. At the same time it transpired during the court hearing that on 24 December the investigation into this case had been restarted!  That, as far as I can see, makes the reason given for remanding him in custody absurd.

Possible reasons for the prosecution

Most observers believe that the main reason for Lutsenko’s criminal prosecution, like that of other formal government officials, is the desire to stop them taking part in political activities because of a criminal record. This once again highlights the political motivation behind the criminal cases.

In my opinion, an element involved is the active part which Lutsenko played in the arrest of Boris Kolesnikov and Yevhen Kushnaryov in 2005.  Those were also unlawful and politically motivated as I said five years ago.  These ended in their release from custody. Can one hope for such magnanimity from the heads of the present regime?

Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Group


One more step towards secrecy and restriction of freedom of speech

As of 1 January 2010, the Law on Personal Data Protection, adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on 1 June 2010, has come into force and human rights groups continue to warn of its grave consequences for freedom of speech and of access to information.

President Yanukovych ignored calls from media, human rights and business organizations and signed the bill into law.  Nor have later calls from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union for amendments to be made been heeded. 

The law gives a definition of personal information which is dangerously broad and cannot be considered to fulfil Ukraine’s international obligations to the Council of Europe and EU.   Despite European standards which divide personal data into data of a general nature (name, address, etc) and sensitive personal data (health, financial records, etc), the Law deems as personal data any data about a person enabling them to be identified. That is, even their name with the number of a mobile telephone.

This means that the gathering, processing or circulating of any such data is possible only with the consent of the person or in cases envisaged by law.  An exception is made only for first category public officials: National Deputies, the heads of State committees who aren’t members of the Cabinet of Ministers; the heads of other central bodies of power under the Cabinet of Ministers; the Permanent Representative of the President in the Crimea; the President’s Representatives in the regions, Kyiv and Sevastopol; the first deputy ministers; first deputy heads of State committees which are part of the Cabinet of Ministers; the Heads of the President’s Administration; the Secretariat of the Verkhovna Rada and other equivalent positions.

The Law claims to not cover the activities of journalists in creating and processing personal databases, yet it fully covers the rules for circulating personal data about a person who is not in any database, or is in, for example, State databases.

As warned back in June 2010, this means that in practice the media will be prohibited from circulating any personal data (as per the very wide definition of this) without the person’s consent if they are not in the categories above-listed.  Since the circulation of such information can be deemed unlawful, the most innocuous coverage could carry criminal liability under Article 182 of the Criminal Code.

What is also incredible is that the President also ignored a call from the Association of Ukrainian Banks to use his power of veto over the law which they stressed did not comply with international standards and would have extremely negative consequences for the country’s economy.

The consequences of this ill-conceived law are indeed wide-reaching and extremely seriously. As Dmytro Chopovsky from the Institute for Mass Information wrote back in July, even school textbooks could “need to be written more or less as “A held talks with B”, “the flag over the Reichstag was raised by A, B and C”, since the law states that “the use of personal data for historical, statistical or academic purposes can only be in depersonalized form”. 

Very disturbingly, the Law does not contain the concept of “public figure” which is an “axiom” of European democratic standards with more scope being given for permissible intrusion in a person’s private life. This means that it is possible to collect and circulate information of a personal nature about such people without their consent if it is of public importance. Instead, the Law makes an exception only for people standing for or in positions of electoral office or first category public officials.

Dmytro Chopovsky stresses that this means that publication of any personal data, as per the definition above, by a journalist can be considered an infringement of this law and result in civil or criminal liability. “The restriction to freedom of speech is thus entirely disproporitionate, and there could be problems for advertising, publishing, the postal services and others”.

The new law also requires the creation of a State Register of Personal Databases by all enterprises and organizations regardless of their form of ownership. They effectively all have to establish and register personal databases. There are over one million such entities and the demand for all to do this is considered impossible by many experts. They also assure that registration will be on a fee bases. The law also envisages the creation of an authorized state body on protection of personal data which will have the right of free access to any premises where personal data is stored or processed. There are fears that such a State body could be used as a means of pressure on businesses.

New information from the BBC  See also the UHHRU appeal to the President, the Bank Association’s appeal

Freedom of expression

Regarding the new Law on Information

One of the co-authors of the Law on Information, Roman Holovenko from the Institute for Mass Information, has responded to criticism of the new version of the Law in his article: “Now interference by the media owner in the creative process will also count as censorship”.  In it he sets out the new opportunities that he believes the new version provides and why it is not as flawed as sceptics are suggesting.

“The proposal to produce a new version of the Law on Information (draft No. 7321) came from two Party of the Regions Deputies, Olena Bondarenko and Volodymyr Landik, with Our Ukraine Deputy Yury Stets soon joining them.

At first No. 7321 was essentially an alternative to the draft law on access to information, however after a compromise was reached regarding combined efforts on the two draft laws by the representatives of the government, the opposition and of NGOs, the draft law was significantly reworked. This made it possible to agree the two draft laws, and to seriously revise the Law on Information in general. “

Positive changes in the new version of the Law on Information

The Law now provides a list of journalists’ rights

The current version of the Law on Television and Radio Broadcasting does not contain such a list, with it giving only the duties of television and radio journalists. The same applies to journalists of Internet publications, freelancers who do not have special laws for their segment of activity.

Journalists’ rights are now fixed in Article 25 of the new version of the Law on Information. These can be loosely divided into those common not only to journalists, and journalists’ rights.

The first include:

the right to take photos / make recordings, circulate their material under their own name or a pseudonym; visit the premises of representatives of the authorities.

They are included in the law since the exercising of these rights specifically by journalists can arouse objections. A fair number of journalists receive threats from people they are photographing during ambiguous or conflict-fraught events;

The right of a journalist to use a pseudonym may also be disputed due to the problem of holding them to answer for material they published.

While these are specifically set out for journalists, the author stresses that according to Article 19 § 2 of the Constitution there must be direct indication in law for the legal denial of such rights.

Journalists’ rights include the right:

to receive an individual audience from a public official or civil servant;

to keep their sources secret;

to gather information in areas of natural disaster, catastrophe, accidents, mass riots, military action;

to refuse to accept authorship of material which has been changed through editorial corrections.

The author explains that the right of a journalist to be received by an official differs in that a reasonable timeframe may be a day or two, while the times when members of the public are seen are likely to be more regulated, at certain times during working hours.

He notes that the principle established in European Court of Human Rights case law that journalists may only be forced to reveal their sources by court order is now set down in the Law on Information.

“It would be desirable to also make the relevant amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code since this in some cases allows for the issue to be decided by the Prosecutor, and not the court”.

The right of journalists to circulate information of public significance on limited access even against the wish of those holding it was set down in amendments from 2003 and is retained in the new version. In the 2011 version, Article 29 § 2 there is also an approximate list of items of information which are of public interest: information which suggests a threat to State sovereignty or territorial integrity; which safeguards the enjoyment of constitutional rights, freedoms and duties; which suggests the possibility of human rights abuse, of the public’s being misled; which indicates harmful environmental and other adverse consequences from the actions (inaction) of individuals or legal entities, etc.

Updating of norms regulating accreditation

At present legal regulation for accreditation of journalists from printed press outlets (the Law on the Press) does not comply with the general norms on regulating accreditation (in the Law on the Rules of Procedure for Coverage of the Activities of the Authorities and Bodies of Local Self-government by the Media).

This is to be rectified by removing the norms from the Law on the Press which could be seen as allowing the authorities to provide accreditation or withdraw it at their own discretion.

The author stresses that the absence of accreditation cannot be grounds for refusing to admit journalists to open events run by those in authority.

Removal of the concept of “right of ownership of information”

This concept was introduced in the 1992 version of the Law on Information.  The author stresses that the nature of information means that property rights cannot be applied, except, obviously, where intellectual property rights apply. 

He mentions that this fundamental change may seem revolutionary to lawyers, not to mention deputies, many of whom may be alarmed at the disappearance of property rights to information. He says that they therefore retained mention of information production and information services, replacing the norms on the right of ownership of property.  This mention does not specify legal regulation of the relations regarding information production and services, but refers to the Civil Code and the Law on Authorial and Related Rights.

Updated definition of censorship

The new definition states: “Censorship is any demand aimed, for example, at a journalist, media outlet, its founder (co-founder), publisher, head, distributor, to agree information before its circulation or prohibition or obstruction in any other form of publication or circulation of information” (Article 24 § 1). “For example” here is crucial since in the previous version censorship could only apply to journalists and media outlets.

The previous mention that censorship comes from the authorities, from public officials, has been removed, acknowledging that censorship can come from interference by the media owner). A court ban on circulation of information (in connection with a law suit in accordance with Article 278 of the Civil Code) is not deemed to be censorship.

Similarly, in Article 24 § 2 of the Law which prohibits interference in the professional activities of journalists, there is no list of those from whom such interference may originate. The author points out that it is not only the authorities, but also media owners, who can impose censorship.

Refinement of the definition of value judgments

The 2011 version reads that “Value judgments, with the exception of defamation, are statements not containing factual data, criticism, evaluation of actions, as well as statements which cannot be interpreted as containing factual data, for example, due to the nature of the use of language and stylistic means (the use of hyperbole, allegory, satire) ”

The previous version had been criticized, including by the IMI, for establishing unwarranted exceptions to the concept of value judgments (offence and defamation), the formal need to have used language means. Thus in the new version, “for example” means that language and stylistic means are a possible, but not obligatory, element of a value judgment, while offence is now considered a value judgment, with those feeling “insulted” having the right in law to a response.

Roman Holovenko writes that there has been criticism of the norm in the new version allowing the right to demand moral compensation “if the subjective opinion is expressed in a brutal, degrading or indecent form denigrating dignity, honour and professional reputation”.  Well-known media journalists have predicted that this norm could be abused. The author, however, points out that the norm has been in legislation since the beginning of 2009 (in Item 19.5 of the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada Plenum No. 1 from 27.02.2009 on Court practice in cases involving defence of honour and dignity of individuals, as well as the professional reputation of an individual or legal entity. He says that this has had no negative consequences, but suggests that the unwarranted statements of critics predicting attempts to extract money from a norm already in existence could lead to an increase in the amounts demanded in compensation claims.

The astronomical amounts that had been demanded have only been seen in a few cases over the last two years. The author notes, however, that with influence and money, any norm of the law can be interpreted “as needed”, with the root of the problem in no way in the text of the law.   He considers that Ukrainian legislation does contain sufficient safeguards against excessive court suits against journalists from those in power.  The same Resolution stipulates that the limits of acceptable criticism of a political figure or other public figure are considerably wider than for the average person.  A Cabinet of Ministers’ Decree on State Excise establishes a progressive scale for the size of court fees from defamation suits, while Article 17 of the Law on State Support for the Mass Media and Social Protection of Journalists obliges claimants to prove the journalist’s intent in order to get moral compensation.

What they did not succeed in rectifying

The term “Ukraine’s information security”

The new version is with justification criticized for fixing among the directions of State information policy “ensuring Ukraine’s information security” which can be interpreted in favour of restricting the movement of information across borders. However, he says, the argument that the Constitution in Article 17 § 1 speaks of the duty of the State to protect information security proved impossible to budge. Given the norm in the Constitution, he suggests that it would be simpler to change the interpretation of the concept from restriction of circulation of information to safeguarding information balance and pluralism.

Too many theoretical definitions and classifications

This failing is typical also of the 1992 version. The classification of information into types and their definitions have been retained since their removal would not have been appreciated by a part of officialdom and lawyers. For example, the Tax Service would have worried where the definition of tax information, just introduced in the new Tax Code, had gone to. 

Roman Holovenko concludes by saying that as co-author of the new Law, he cannot agree that the Law on Information is not entirely unflawed, and believes there are more advantages than disadvantages. He points out that in today’s Ukraine, flaws in application of laws arises not from their inadequacies, but from the indifference of members of the public and the government to their duty to implement them. Problems arising from the new version of the Law will be generated by the lack of will to enforce the law at all.

Roman Holovenko, Deputy Executive Director on Legal Issues of the Institute for Mass Information and one of the co-authors of the new version of the Law on Information

From the article at

Ukrainian PEN Club speaks out on the harassment of writer Maria Matios

In her Open Letter to the Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, the well-known Ukrainian writer Maria Matios drew open the curtain immediately exposing the defenceless position of Ukrainian writers. Despite the human rights guarantees enshrined in Section II of the Constitution, the present Ukrainian regime has again seen fit to encroach upon the very heart of the democratic system – freedom of speech and creative self-expression. This encroachment is incompatible with the principles which form the basis of a civilized order.

We share the conclusion of our colleague that in this situation “the actions of the law enforcement agencies bear all the hallmarks of blackmail and unwarranted psychological pressure”. We uphold the right of Maria Matios and every other writer to express any convictions and believes (obviously excluding those which propagate violate and incite enmity) in the symbolic manner natural to a master. This right is guaranteed, for example, by Article 15 § 2 of the Constitution.

We strongly protest against any attempts to remove from sale the fruits of a writer’s work. Attempts to do this in the case of Maria Matios arouse associations which bring shame to the regime and are a slap in the face to all who value the creative word and writers’ work.

We would warn the present Ukrainian regime that it is they who bear responsibility for the assault on the territory of freedom taking place in Ukraine. We would remind them that the regime’s victory over writers has always proven pyrrhic and ignominious.

The Ukrainian Centre of the International PEN Club

Ukrainian writer Maria Matios alleges political harassment

Maria Matios has addressed an open letter to the Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka in which she complains of having been the object of political harassment following the publication of her last books.

She writes that in December the police searched for her at the Lviv publishing house Pyramida. When asked for the reason for their search, the officers refused to show the documents they had with them however from a distance these appeared to be an instruction together with a photocopy of papers from her book. 

At the beginning of January the police looked for the writer at a Kyiv address where she and her family had once rented accommodation.

Maria Matios says that such actions “bear all the hallmarks of blackmail and unwarranted psychological pressure”.

Approached by the BBC Ukrainian Service, the Kyiv police denied any pressure and said that they have no intention of detaining her. They say they were acting on instructions from the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The police assert that at the end of November 2010 the Head of the Council of Veterans’ Organizations, Deputy from the Communist Party Petro Tsybenko sent a Deputy Information request to the Prosecutor General’s Office, asking for a “legal assessment of the remarks made by the author in her book “Pages taken from an autobiography” about memorials to Soviet soldiers.

Veterans had previously demanded that the book be removed from sale because of the “comparison by the author of the Victory memorial in the capital to a phallus”.

In 2008 the Lviv Prosecutor’s Office briefly took an interest in another book of Maria Matios – “Moskalytsa”, with the same publishing agency having its activities temporarily suspended.

Are the authorities now going for writers?

Serhiy Pantyuk has asserted on the Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda that the writers, Maryna Bratsylo and Yury V. Nohy had their flat searched on 10 January 2011.  They were, he writes, told that they could be accused of involvement in organizing the destruction of the bust to Stalin in Zaporizhya.  He says that the reason for the search is “very interesting” – the couple had been visiting Ms Bratsylo’s family in Zaporizhya over New Year.

From a copy of Maria Matios’ own letter and report at the BBC Ukrainian Service

Freedom of peaceful assembly

Some thoughts regarding criminal cases against Tax Code Protesters

The “Small business owners’ Maidan”* had only just begun when the Shevchenkivsky Department of the Kyiv Police on 23 November initiated a criminal investigation under Article 293 of the Criminal Code, over group infringement of public order on 22 November: the blocking of vehicle transport on Khreshchatyk St.

Nobody has yet been charged in this case.

However the Minister of the Interior Anatoly Mohylyov stated in parliament on 14 January that the people who committed this crime are known and an investigation is presently underway against them, He also stressed that responsibility for the crime committed was borne by the heads of four civic organizations which were the organizers of the protest.

Mohylyov also stated that the protest’s initiators had not informed that they were erecting tentsm yet despite this “they had hammered into the marble covering of Maidan Nezaleznosti more than one hundred metal spikes, in his words, 132.  Any conscious individual is clear that that is also a crime, the damaging of property not belonging to you. Thus the organizers did not take sufficient measures to prevent offences, and promoted its being first committed during the protest”.

Under this fact on 3 December a criminal case was initiated under Articles 28-I § 2 and 194-I § 1 of the Criminal Code. On 23 December Ihor Harkavenko was detained, on 25 December – Oleksandr Mandych, both of whom are charged with committing this offence.

Harkavenko was remanded by the court in custody, while Mandych on 28 December was released under a signed undertaking not to abscond.

The decision to initiate a criminal case against Serhiy Melnychenko is dated 23 December, but this has not thus far been handed to him since he was first in hospital then left Kyiv for the New Year holiday.

On 6 January a similar criminal case was initiated against Oleh Altyrsky and on 14 January against Roman Fedchuk. Both have had to give signed undertakings not to leave the place.

There have also been reports on the Internet of the involvement in this case of Oleksy Zaplatkin and Vitaly Hruzynov. The Press Secretary of the Central Police Department in Kyiv, Volodymyr Polishchuk reported that they were not suspects, and could be simply witnesses. Yet the Minister of the Interior stated that they were on the wanted list.

From one formal decision on initiating a criminal case to another we find the same sacramental phrase: such and such and such and such who “acted according to prior conspiracy with persons not identified by the detective inquiry investigators, deliberately damaged the marble covering of Maidan”.

Only this list of “such and such” is increasing.

In the decision presented to Harkavenko, such and such are Harkavenko, Zaplatkin and Hruzynov. While in the decision initiating a case against Fedchuk, - already all 7 of the above-named.

The problem is only that Harkavenko, according to his lawyer Oleh Levytsky, has no idea who Zaplatkin, Hruzynov and Mandych are, he simply doesn’t know them.

None of the Maidan activists know Zaplatkin and Hruzynov at all, cannot identify them, and have no contact with them. Pure phantoms!

These people who are not acquainted can clear not have come to a “prior conspiracy” and therefore paragraph 2 of Article 28-I cannot be applied.

It is also improbable that Harkavenko, Mandych, Zaplatkin and Hruzynov hammered stakes into the marble covering on Maidan.

Firstly, they were neither organizers nor members of any civic associations or trade unions, nor activists who stood out in any way, Nobody remembers their having participated in any protests. Only Mandych is recalled by some of the residents of the tent camp as having spent the night there once or twice.

Harkavenko came once or twice and expressed his disagreement with the protesters.

Secondly, all know that the tents were erected by National Deputies [MPs] during the night from 23 to 24 November. This is not known only to the investigators who write of “persons not identified by the detective inquiry investigators”. For this reason the charges of putting spikes into the granite on Maidan by the real participants – Vasylchenko, Fedchuk and Akhtyrsky – are extremely dubious.

Why did the police initiate a criminal case against four chance individuals who weren’t involved in Maidan-2 at all?

In my opinion, the answer is simple – all four have previous convictions.

And everyone can see how the Minister of the Interior in parliament lists their past sins. That, supposedly, is your “face of the protest” – purely criminal.

It turns out that it’s all the other way around: the criminal case is made up.

Does the Ministry of the Interior really think that nobody sees that? They would be better to terminate the cases, and not shame themselves before the whole world.

Let’s turn to the other criminal case – under Article 293.

Undoubtedly blocking traffic is bad. Yet who is responsible for it?  In the statement of notification against the planned protest, the organizers named a figure of 100 thousand participants. It would have been quite sensible to assume that with such a number of people on Maidan Nezalezhnosti that there could not be traffic on Khreschatyk, and to close it at least for the first hours of the protest.

Why did the Ministry not do this?

There are, moreover, no grounds at all for asserting that the blocking of traffic was deliberate, and that it was not the result of a large number of people gathered and badly organized measures by the police.

And in general, is it really those who took part in the Tax Code Protest Maidan who should bear liability, and criminal at that, when they were forced to extreme measures?

They were placed in conditions when they lost the ability to work freely. That led them out onto Maidan. In my opinion, the moral liability for this conflict lies with the authors of the Tax Code who insisted on passing unacceptable norms and refused to discuss the draft code with business owners.

The criminal cases against the participants of Maidan 2 are therefore immoral!

They are also simply stupid after the President and Prime Minister acceded to the demands of the business owners.

The Interior Minister does not want to recognize this, continuing the investigation, expanding the circle of those accused.

They are in this way provoking people to new protests.

It is time to stop this campaign of intimidation!


 “ Maidan refers in the first instance to he mass protest on Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square in Kyiv, but more broadly symbolizes the willingness of ordinary people to come out onto the streets to uphold their rights.

Assembly of Small and Medium Level Business Civic Organizations speak out against repression

The Assembly of Small and Medium Level Business Civic Organizations of Ukraine has issued an appeal regarding repressive measures taken against the Tax Code protesters on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square – called by many Maidan 2, it being the most widespread and determined civic protest following the events on Maidan in autumn 2004 – translator).  It is addressed to the President, Prosecutor General and to Ukraine’s political parties.

In 2010 radical changes took place in Ukraine. Unfortunately, the proclaimed stability and reforms became the deliberate reduction in the rights and democratic values of civic society, the destruction of small and medium-level business, the transformation of the Ukrainian people into hostages of big business, stripped of their rights, and the country itself – into a raw material appendage to transnational corporations.

The Assembly of Small and Medium Level Business Civic Organizations of Ukraine has since spring 2010 warned the authorities on a number of occasions about such threats and tendencies. Unfortunately our warnings were ignored and we were forced to rise up I defence of our rights over opposition to the Tax Code passed by the government.  We established a clear and to this day unchanged position regarding its unacceptability”

The appeal states that those factions in parliament that supported the new Tax Code are part of the ruling coalition. They had the possibility of keeping their pre-election promises, but failed to use it.

The Assembly stresses that all political parties bear responsibility for the political and economic state of the country, which is why it announced protest actions without involving political forces. This it says, as well as it total rejection of the Tax Code, made it possible to unite entrepreneurs from all over Ukraine.

The protests were by means allowed for in Ukraine’s Constitution and legislation. “The coordinated actions of the entrepreneur community were a certain step for all parties of the legislative process and prevented the “accelerated” passing of Housing, Customs and Labour Codes.

Nonetheless, in breach of the Constitution, a campaign was initiated and continues or repression against our activists and partners which the Association has already brought to the attention of the authorities. We are witnessing the escalation of overt provocations generated by people who, in stirring up inter-regional, inter-denominational and language issues, are endeavouring to divert people’s attention away from urgent issues of corruption, harassment of dissidents, attempts to destroy small and medium level business, inflation and rising prices on all things, from food items to communal charges, gas and electricity.

We are also outraged that certain political forces are not abandoning their efforts to use small and medium-level business, the ideas of the “business owners’ Maidan” for cheap personal PR and political points.”

The appeal states that it is because of interference from puppets and adventurers from various political parties that the business owners have not defeated a Tax Code which is against the people. It is through such methods that attempts are being made to divide them and ferment dissent. It is these people who have unlimited access to the media and have discredited Maidan activists, including members of the Assembly”.

The appeal calls on the President and Prosecutor’s Office to defend the people and the Law and to instruct the authorities to stop attempts which are doomed to intimidate the public, Maidan activists and carry out investigations, punishing the real culprits, those who drew up the Tax Code, the Verkhovna Rada deputies who voted for it, despite flagrant violations of legislation in its adoption, the people who authorized the dismantling of the tent city which violated people’s rights and endangered the health of those who were in the tent camp, for example, by bringing them into direct contact with heating devices which could cause burns or a fire, and who destroyed people’s personal belongings.

We demand a stop to persecution of members of the Coordination Council, of activists from the Assembly from Khmelnytski, Luhansk, Lviv, our partners from the Coalition of Participants in the Orange Revolution and Confederation of Free Trade Unions.

We hope that on this occasion high-ranking officials will hear us and that there will be no need to call a new Maidan. We will continue to uphold our rights by any means set down in the Constitution and adequate for the actions of the authorities.

Any encroachments on the individual rights and civil freedoms of Ukrainian citizens will receive adequate assessment and a worthy response from the Assembly of Small and Medium Level Business Civic Organizations of Ukraine

Slightly abridged from the original appeal

A Regime that increasingly violates human rights is doomed

On 13 January I received an Interior Ministry Instruction which filled me with outrage. Here is the text:

Interior Ministry Instruction from 10.01.2011 No. 266

In Kyiv on 17 January at the initiative of political parties, movements, civic organizations a protest is planned demanding a termination of the criminal cases against activists of the Tax Code Maidan [i.e. the protest against the new Tax Code on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square - translator] in Kyiv.

On 22 January the Day of Ukrainian Sobornist [Reunion] is celebrated. At the same time, at the initiative of Batkivshchyna and other political organizations alternative events are planned.


1.  Control to be assumed of obtaining information regarding the departure of organized groups and individuals to the capital city;

2.  Measures to be taken to prevent the departure of technically deficient vehicles intended for transporting participants in the events;

3.  Based on reconnaissance of the places where the events are to take place, the territory around them, in cooperation with other law enforcement bodies, executive bodies and bodies of local self-government , that interested organizations draw up plans for safeguarding protection of public order and transport safety. Develop general plans as well as those for each place, calculating forces and measures. Particular attention should be paid to heightened law and order efforts in places where mass events are to take place;

4.  To ensure immediate response to changes in the operational situation that investigative operational groups, groups for documenting and recording possible offences, and necessary personnel reserves be reinforced;

5.  That personnel are carefully instructed, and engaged in protecting pubic order in the places of the events, that each member of staff receives specific tasks and that proper monitoring is ensured over their fulfilment of their work;

6.  That information about the organized trips (indicating the names of those in charge, contact telephones, the time of departure and arrival, the type of transport, the number of people and mass events planned on the territory served to be provided to the Department of Public Security by 14.01.2011 and by 21.01.2011.

Deputy Minister           V, Ratushniak


I consider this to have been an unlawful order since it flagrantly violates freedom of assembly (Items 1 and 2 of the Instruction) and the right to privacy (Item 6). Items 3, 4 and 5 are aimed at organizing the protection of public order during the events of 17 and 22 January.  Items 1 and 6 demand unlawful actions since they are effectively instructing measures for preventing members of the public from coming to Kyiv and for gathering information about those who want to come – law-abiding citizens who are not involved in the committing or planning of offences.  One can expect that, as we saw on many occasions in 2010, all vehicles will suddenly prove “technically deficient”, and the lists of those wishing to reach Kyiv will be handed to the Department of Public Security.

On 14 January I sent this Instruction to the information agency UNIAN and Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda which reported the content of this document. This material was reprinted by other Internet publications also.

On the same day the Minister of the Interior Anatoly Mohylyov passed to UNIAN a statement on this matter which was reported by numerous Internet and media outlets. The Minister explained that the instruction about heightening the safety of citizens during the protests announced by the opposition on 17 and 22 January was issued in order to avoid possible provocation and asserted that the police would not obstruct people trying to get to these events.

“The tasks and duties of the police are to concern themselves with maintaining public order during large-scale events and to avoid possible provocation. Due to the fact that the Ministry of the Interior received information about possible provocations during the civic protests planned for 17 and 22 January, our duty is to do everything to protect citizens’ safety”, the Minister maintained. It was for that purpose, he explained, the instruction was issued which has only one aim, that being to protect citizens’ safety.”

“Treating this instruction as though it was supposed to obstruct citizens from coming to any large-scale protest is provocation, deliberate twisting of the facts and efforts to artificially raise a stir around the topic of the protests planned by the opposition. I consider such statements irresponsible and against the public”, the Minister of the Interior stated.

In my view the Minister has yet again demonstrated his lack of understanding of human rights. However the reader can see it all for him or herself.

On the same day, addressing the Verkhovna Rada, Anatoly Mohylyov stated that on 22 January in Kyiv “bloodshed” is being planned by certain opposition groups. As far as I am concerned, this statement is irresponsible. To inform of possible violent confrontation means to provoke it. If the Ministry of the Interior has such information, it must take preventive measures to prevent excesses, and the police knows how to do that if necessary. Whereas such statements in parliament only stir up emotions still further and heighten conflict between the ruling political force and the opposition. Furthermore, such statements are clearly aimed at intimidating people – don’t go, people, don’t protest, there could be bloodshed.

How long will the use of the police as a means of exerting political pressure on opponents continue? When will the new Ukrainian Administration understand that total lack of respect for people, talking with the public in the language of force, intimidation only intensify antagonism to the State and its agents? That a regime which increasingly violates human rights is doomed?


P.S. Just after I finished this text, I received the following information issued by the MIA Public Liaison Department:

            The MIA is considering the question of bringing to answer people who deliberately falsify departmental documents of the MIA.

Over recent days there have been statements on Internet publications which present a distorted image of the actions of the police in ensuring public order during large-scale events. False information is published with twisting of facts, while value judgements are added to the text of departmental documents which are quoted. Attempts are made to present the actions of the police in organizing protection of public order in connection with the planned mass events as something extraordinary thus artificially creating a stir over the planned law enforcement actions. 

In order to prevent further provocations of this kind with the use of the media regarding the deliberate reporting to the public of false information, the MIA is forced to take adequate and lawful measures of response.

At present the MIA is considering the question of defending through the courts the professional reputation of the law enforcement ministry. It is important in the legal field to demonstrate the twisting of facts by certain individuals who call themselves human rights activists and mislead the public by deliberately falsifying MIA documents regarding police measures on maintaining public order. The MIA regards such actions as inadmissible.

The MIA once again calls on all citizens to be tolerant of one another, to respect the Law and observe its demands. Exercising their rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, do not forget that it is unacceptable to violate the rights of other citizens, and do not commit actions which carry administrative or criminal liability.

The MIA Public Liaison Department


Interesting to know which published information the Department considers false. I hope that this is not quotes from the instruction, yet if not, then which? And where do they see deliberate falsification? In the assertion that the requirement in Item 2 of the Instruction “active measures are used to prevent the departure of technically deficient vehicles intended for transporting participants in the events to Kyiv? Yet we saw this many times already in 2010, the last time being during the Tax Code Protest on Maidan.

If Instruction No. 266 is changed and the police really don’t prevent people from reaching Kyiv on 17 and 22 January, I will be only too delighted. There isn’t long to wait.


The right to health care

Appeal against State interference in anti-AIDS/HIV programmes

The International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine and the All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV have issued an open appeal to the President over systematic interference by State bodies in the implementation of anti- HIV/AIDS programmes supported by international donors. They stress that the situation is disrupting efforts to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic, violating patients’ rights and seriously undermining the country's reputation in the world.

In their appeal they welcome the signing and entry into force on 15 January 2011 of a new version of the profile Law on Countering HIV/AIDS, and say that this is the most progressive among analogous laws in post-Soviet countries.

They point out that Article 4.8 of this Law guarantees implementation of harm reduction programmes including programmes for exchange of syringes and replacement therapy for drug addicts.

However law enforcement and control bodies are presently effectively destroying what has been achieved over many years by civic organizations and medical specialists on HIV/AIDS preventive programmes at local level. Thanks to international donors, damage reduction programmes have been reaching over 240 thousand people among the most vulnerable groups in society, with over 6 thousand drug dependent patients receiving substitution maintenance treatment in 125 treatment facilities. .

“The work of our partner organizations has been effectively paralyzed over recent months by endless checks initiated by the Prosecutor General, the Ministry of the Interior and numerous State inspectorates. Instead of productive work aimed at supporting people's health specialists have to give explanations in Prosecutor’s Offices and in law enforcement bodies as well as participate in proceedings. Programme documents are being seized from NGOs, with pretexts regarding supposed infringements of sanitary, ecological and other regulations being used to impose sanctions.  The programmes are therefore under constant threat of termination.

In 10 years of successful and recognized experience in the relevant area, in particular, as co-implementers of the National Program on HIV Prevention, Treatment, Care and Support for HIV-infected Persons and AIDS Patients in 2009-2013, the Alliance and the Network are for the first time encountering such systematic resistance to implementation of programmes supported and funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

In 2009-2010, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance in Ukraine and local NGOs informed the Ministry of the Interior, the General Prosecutor Office and their regional offices on numerous occasions of systematic violations of the rights of substitution maintenance treatment patients, medical staff and prevention programs participants. Practically in all cases, formal replies have been received not leading to any change in the situation.

The last straw was the order of the Drug Enforcement Department to provide information on drug users being patients of SMT programmes including their personal data and information on their health status. This demand is in clear breach of the law.

“As it turned out, currently in all regions of Ukraine law enforcement officers are urgently collecting his information, sending illegal requests to treatment facilities, arranging the so called "surveying" or "interviewing" of patients and their relatives in drug treatment clinics at the places of residence using moral pressure and threats. Such actions lead to undermining reputation and security of medical aid as well as trust to HIV/AIDS prevention programs.

In December 2010, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria made a decision to support the proposal of Ukraine and to provide irrevocable funding of the program to fight HIV/AIDS up to 2017 with the total scope of funding amounting to USD 305 million. In March, we expect a visit of the official delegation of the Global Fund headed by its Executive Director Michel Kazatchkine to Ukraine to discuss the terms of potential funding provision. Exactly the programs aimed at HIV prevention among vulnerable groups, harm reduction and substitution maintenance treatment programs are focused on by the Global Fund. In the situation when the state provides only 45% of the funding required for the National HIV/AIDS Program, financial support of international donors is almost the only possibility to save the situation, for Ukraine, which is the leader in HIV transmission on the European continent, not to fall into the abyss from which there will be no way back.

In order to prevent the negative scenario, we encourage you to make a relevant order to the competent state bodies to stop destabilization of AIDS treatment and prevention programs implemented with the international donors' support in Ukraine. We also ask you to initiate carrying out inspections of the legality of law-enforcement and regulatory bodies' actions as to receiving confidential information on program patients and their HIV status.

We genuinely hope that you will have an opportunity to hold a cross-cutting meeting for discussing urgent problems in this area before arrival of the Global Fund delegation to Ukraine. We believe that health of our citizens will be the basis for cooperation between state structures and NGOs.

We also inform you that copies of the letter have been sent to Mr.Pshonka, General Public Prosecutor of Ukraine, Olivier Adam, UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine, Janina Yaruzelski, Director of USAID Regional Mission in Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, and Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

This is an open letter and we urge mass media to help giving coverage to this issue as well as the relevant actions of government authorities.”

Interethnic relations

Mustafa Dzhemiliev: Pogroms against the Crimean Tatars likely in the near future

Vitaly Chervonenko from the Internet publication Glavkom writes that after his victory in February last year, President Yanukovych made promises on all fronts, including that he would established constructive dialogue with the Crimean Tatars.  In May 2010 he met with the Head of the Mejlis, Mustafa Dzhemiliev and promised a new stage of cooperation.

By summer things were already going less smoothly with the Crimean Tatars first being squeezed out of power, then a real rift emerging in August. Yanukovych destroyed the monopoly of the Mejlis on the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People and brought in a large number of organizations, some of whom the Mejlis calls extremist. 

Against this background, the Crimean authorities are widely initiating criminal proceedings over the squatting of land by Crimean Tatars, and, as reported, the Prime Minister of the Crimea, Vasyl Dzharty has called on Mustafa Dzhemiliev to voluntarily “hand over” all squatted land.

In short, conflict is brewing yet officials in Kyiv are clearly not interested. The author writes that it is indicative that on Monday, when Glavkom wanted Dzemiliev to read through the text of the interview, he was not in Ukraine, but meeting with Turkey’s leaders. “It would seem they are more aware who the Crimean Tatars are and how to communicate with them.  We would hope that Viktor Yanukovych will also understand, as long as it’s not too late.”

The first question to Mustafa Dzhemiliev was about the report to the Verkhovna Rada on his first year in office by the Minister of the Interior, Anatoly Mohylyov, who once spoke out in favour of a new deportation of the Crimean Tatars.  (Mohylyov’s claim to fame or notoriety in the Crimea includes his involvement in the violent events on Ai Petri in 2006 and an article in Krymskaya Pravda in early 2008 - translator).

Mustafa Dzhemiliev says the speech was predictable, and reminiscent of the old Soviet style, with only breathtaking successes and move towards the building of communism.

He does not, however, see a return to the Soviet Union in developments over the last year. “Unfortunately, we are confidently moving in the direction of the Putin and Lukashenko regime. Power is being concentrated in the hands of a particular circle of people and the President. And Mohylyov and the police are simply implementers of the President’s will.”

Mustafa Dzhemiliev expresses regret that people are being appointed to high positions who would have no chance of such posts in European countries. For his xenophobic remarks alone, he says, Mohylyov could expect no future, and stresses that this is not his view alone, but expressed also by a group of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [PACE] Deputies.

Asked about problems over the last year, Mustafa Dzhemiliev turns to what he says is a difficult problem for the Crimean Tatars – land. “The land issue in the Crimea is an outrageous injustice to those returning to their Homeland. They are not only not returned what was illegally taken away during the Deportation, but they are deprived of the opportunity of taking part in the privatization of agricultural land. The land, in accordance with the Land Code, was given only to those who had worked in kolkhozes. This obviously did not apply to the Crimean Tatars.  A particularly problematic area is the distribution of land plots for housing, especially in the areas considered prestigious. There the authorities prefer for a certain amount of money to bypass the law and hand the land over to commercial structures.

Therefore the Crimean Tatars are forced to squat land plots. They now say that overall Crimean Tatars have been allocated around 49 thousand land sites. Of these around 46 thousand have been as the result of squatting land which is later legalized. If they strictly followed what was allowed, the Crimean Tatars would be without land altogether.

At the present time all seems peaceful, but in the near future pogroms of the Crimean Tatars are expected.

What are your grounds for such statements?

They’ve recently initiated many criminal cases against dozens of people who have already received summonses. They are accused of seizing land and it’s therefore not difficult to guess that they will soon start taking the land away.

Under Tymoshenko a commission was created which prepared recommendations for legalizing these land plots. However the results of the work of that commission have been annulled, they’ve created a new one. And it’s all begun again.

We are talking about approximately 1300 hectares around all of the Crimea. In effect, one kolkhoz. At the same time high-ranking officials have seized for themselves tens or hundreds of times more. For example, there is a seized area near Simferopol, in the region of Levadki – 38 hectares, occupied by Crimean Tatars. But they belong to one man – the former head of the Simferopol District Executive Committee, Zakoretsky. Obviously via front men. He also has a State act and other documents saying that the land belongs to him. The Crimean Tatars who squatted the land have no acts. Now this man will legally vacate the land. Presumably they’ll bring in spetsnaz [Special Forces] to enforce the court rulings and throw all the Crimean Tatars outs.”

Mustafa Dzhemiliev does not know when this is planned, but stresses that it can only end badly, perhaps in bloodshed. This is particularly realistic where people have already built on the land spending all that they had on the construction, since the buildings will all be taken down.

There has also been a criminal investigation initiated against the Secretary of the Mejlis. “Many years ago, during the trial of our compatriots, we organized a protest.  This is not about legality, there are clear repressive actions against the Crimean Tatars. They are clearly attempting to intimidate us.”

“There is virtually no dialogue with the President. In 1999, following demands by the Mejlis to be recognized the representative body of the Crimean Tatars, a compromise decision was receached with the creation of a Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People under the President. The entire Mejlis joined it. This gave a legal possibility for official meetings between the President and representatives of the people. Under Kuchma this Council worked fairly efficiently, under Yushchenko worse, but under Yanukovych there is no cooperation at all. He’s reformed this body, bringing in people who call themselves “opposition to the Mejlis”. In fact these are people very far from our movement, known for statements about how the Crimean Tatars must be saved from Ukraine’s genocide. They’ve even turned to Putin with this. These are effectively members of groups like vakkhabites, not tradition for Islam. “

He says that they cannot understand why these people were chosen, and stresses that if you’re looking for representatives of the people, then don’t appoint, but have representatives elected. Without this, they were certain that with such members, the Council could not work, and indeed, since summer there has been no serious contact.  The Head of the President’s Administration is adamant that no meetings can be organized with the President unless with the Council which, with its present contingent, the Mejlis is not prepared to work.

Mustafa Dzhemiliev believes the Yanukovych has simply instructed people to deal with the issue who are not in command of the situation.

He sees a particular role as having been set for Vasyl Dzharty. The latter told him that dialogue was needed specifically with the Mejlis, but that was before the elections. The Party of the Regions and various businessmen, he says, actively supported those groups of Crimean Tatars alternative to the Mejlis, counting on them “beating” the Mejlis. He notes that this did not happen, that the Mejlis gained even more votes, and one might have expected them to draw conclusions. They clearly have not considered that the Crimean Tatars have already fought, with varying success, with the most power totalitarian regime – the Soviet regime. Trying to “create order” in a fell swoop among the Crimean Tatars did not work.

He thinks that Dzharty was told by Kyiv to have meetings of the Council of Representatives of the Crimean Tatar People in the makeup approved by Yanukovych. The Mejlis is not participating and the others have all quarrelled among themselves as to who will be leader.  Yet even if they do gather, he believes, it won’t result in anything.

He mentions the reports that Dzharty addressed him on television, calling on him to get his compatriots to vacate the land. He suggests that Dzharty turn to the members of the Council whom they appointed. Then they’ll see how the Crimean Tatars listen to them.

With regard to the squatting, Mustafa Dzhemiliev stresses that the problem is pretty complex. It was not organized by the Mejlis, but done against their decisions. They tried to resolve the issue by negotiating with the authorities. However they promised, didn’t deliver and he says that the squatters, with justification, want deeds not empty words – then they’ll give up squatting land.

The actions were motivated, and the land seized vacant. In cases where the authorities were handing the land to commercial structures and taking bribes for it, the Mejlis supported the squatting. However sometimes people at local level did not agree their actions with the bodies of local self-government of the Crimean Tatars.  For this reason there are strained relations with some of the leaders of the communities at local level, “field commanders”. .

Asked what will happen if some of these “field commanders” organize self-defence units, whether the situation could get out of control, Dzhemiliev said that then they would not be able to do anything.

With regard to the supposed fight against corruption, Dzhemiliev says that it’s clear to everybody that the arrests and criminal cases are selective, even where there may well be grounds for the accusations.

The full interview is available in Russian at

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2011, #01