“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2013, #05
Consitutional Court once again obliges Bypassing the Voters: on the Ousting of the Mayor of Cherkasy Politics and human rights
Dangerous “antifascist” card The right to life
Shameful ping-pong to block the truth in the Indylo case The right to a fair trial
Trial by Quota 10 times less acquittals now than in Stalin’s Soviet Union Privacy
Police State Freedom of expression
Stop Censorship vows to make the authorities investigate attack on journalists Journalists protest over „antifascist” assaults and police inaction IMI: 2012 record-breakingly awful for journalists 30 TVi journalists resign Access to information
Journalists demand transparency on public procurement President’s Administration pays rent to shadowy firm behind Mezhyhirya Those in power declare modest earnings, flaunt expensive watches Freedom of peaceful assembly
A modest first for Ukraine UHHRU On the events before and on 18 May On refugees
No safety for Russian opposition figures in Ukraine Deported peoples
Russian Consul resigns following scandalous defamation of Crimean Tatars Outrage over Russian Consul’s slander of Crimean Tatars Remembrance and Vigil
Consitutional Court once again obliges
The Constitutional Court has once again overturned a previous judgement and, in response from the Party of the Regions submission, stated that the Kyiv council and mayoral elections can be delayed until well after the next scheduled presidential elections
On Thursday Ukraine’s Constitutional Court issued a judgement stating that the Mayoral and council elections in Kyiv, as well as the council elections in Ternopil, can be delayed until October 2015. This means that there will be no chance of ousting the highly unpopular Kyiv Administration and its pro-President head Oleksandr Popov - until after the Presidential elections. As reported earlier, all efforts in parliament to set a date for these elections have been thwarted by the ruling Party of the Regions which claimed that the issue should be considered by the Constitutional Court. The latter’s judgement is therefore music to its ears.
The Court explained the fact that this present judgement differs from its previous judgement as being because the latter judgement was before the Law on Amendments to the Constitution on the holding of regular parliamentary, presidential and local elections came into force.
According to the Deputy Head of the Court, Serhiy Vinokurov, the Court deemed that the question of how often elections to state bodies and bodies of local self-government should be sensible and aimed at ensuring optimal succession and stability in the formation of the representative bodies”.
The Court thus asserts that it is admissible to (considerably) extend the term of the present Administration in order to have all elections at one time, i.e. October 2015.
Yury Yakimenko from the authoritative Razumkov Centre told Radio Svoboda that the decision was “political rather than law-based”. The opposition Batkivshchyna party has asserted that the Constitutional Court has helped the ruling party to further usurp power.
Over the last three years the Constitutional Court has passed a number of judgements which have overturned its own previous (recent) judgements, some of them with serious ramifications for citizens’ rights. It has also persistently refused to consider issues which would certainly seem part of its scope, for example, the constitutionality or otherwise of the Law on State Language Policy which allows whole oblasts to effectively run their affairs totally without the use of Ukrainian, the only State language according to Ukraine’s Constitution.
Bypassing the Voters: on the Ousting of the Mayor of Cherkasy
The following is an updated report on the worrying moves in Cherkasy where 40 members of the Cherkasy City Council voted to oust the elected Mayor, Serhiy Odarych.
An extraordinary session of the Cherkasy City Council on 24 April considered only one issue: deputies’ burning wish to oust the democratically elected Mayor, Serhiy Odarych (from the Party of Free Democrats).
The motion was put forward by the Party of the Regions but unusually, was supported by opposition deputies. On Thursday Arseny Yatsenyuk confirmed that the opposition deputies had voted for Wednesday’s motion, calling this the “political position of the faction” and saying that they had spoken against the Mayor for the last two years.
Now it is not at all unusual for deputies to be against the Mayor. It is less common for the latter to be ousted by vote.
The civic network OPORA has looked into both the grounds for Odarych’s dismissal and the vote Article 79 § 2 of the Law on Local Self-Government states that the Mayor’s powers can be terminated early if a Mayor “infringes the Constitution or laws; the rights and freedoms of citizens; does not ensure that the powers vested in him are carried out”. A Constitutional Court judgement from 9 February 2000 specifically stipulated that no other reasons were possible.
There does not appear to be any decision or court ruling confirming an infringement which could warrant Odarych’s removal.
What was achieved?
The practical result was that on Friday Serhiy Odarych was prevented from entering his office. Odarych asserts that the fact that the Council got in a private security firm to keep him out demonstrates that their moves were unlawful. He told the BBC that he would be turning to the Prosecutor and upholding his right to office in the courts.
In the meantime his powers have been assumed by the current Secretary of the City Council Viktor Horkun from the Party of the Regions.
Both national election watchdogs have had comments regarding the session on Wednesday, and neither is positive.
Yury Sas from the Cherkasy Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] told Radio Svoboda that even if Odarych has had his administrative levers of power removed, he has gained political dividends through the move and that his opponents have harmed themselves.
Sas points out that Odarych can now present himself as a politician brazenly removed by those in power and is publicly asserting that the move was ordered by Tulub, Head of the Cherkasy Oblast and others.
It is difficult to understand what the opposition has gained. Yes, if the ousting is upheld by the courts, then according to the law new elections need to be called within 60 days. However Yatsenyuk himself has acknowledged that the authorities may not call elections within 60 days and suggests that a new Mayor may not be elected until 2015. This situation has been seen most notoriously in Kyiv where the ruling majority in parliament is blocking all attempts to hold overdue elections.
This means that the opposition has helped to oust the elected Mayor and left his powers in the hands of the Party of the Regions Secretary of the Council – if not indefinitely, then conceivably for a long time.
As mentioned, the grounds for Odarych’s ousting can be challenged. There is also a problem regarding the vote which as mentioned was secret. 42 votes were cast: one was spoiled, leaving one against and 40 for the dismissal. A two-thirds majority is required, and 40 is less than two thirds of 61. The deputies decided to get by this through excluding the Mayor’s vote. While it is likely that his was the dissenting voice, this cannot be verified if the voting was secret. Also the actual vote should probably be invalidated since the Mayor did in fact take part in the vote, and was only excluded so as to get the result the deputies wanted.
What about the voters?
The events in Cherkasy are the latest in a number of moves which seem to totally bypass the wish of the voters. The High Administrative Court has stepped in and removed the mandates of elected MPs, including that of opposition MP and Yulia Tymoshenko’s defender, Serhiy Vlasenko, The Head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, Oleksandr Chernenko has stated that the already long-overdue re-runs for MPs in five particular scandal-marred constituencies will not take place before the autumn, a year after the elections. And that, he says, is if they happen at all.
It is galling that all political factions took part in this latest questionable move in Cherkasy, with the voters once again treated as incidental props, to be consulted when and if it suits.
Politics and human rights
Dangerous “antifascist” card
Unlike administrative resource, thugs and cynical rhetoric, imagination was in short supply with those who thought up the 18 May “antifascist demonstration” in Kyiv. Credibility was quite simply lacking. It wa difficult not to suspect that the police had received prior instructions when they estimated the number of “antifascists” brought out by the ruling Party of the Regions as 10 times higher than the participants in the opposition “Rise, Ukraine!” rally (44 thousand against 4 thousand). As well as when they watched on while an “antifascist” lout beat up a woman journalist and cameraman.
Even if those in power were not actively trying to provoke trouble in Kyiv - as well as at the remembrance events in Simferopol to mark the 69th anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars - they showed irresponsible indifference to people’s safety and inability to use democratic methods when faced with diverging views.
They also did it stupendously badly.
The “antifascist” card has been part of the current Administration’s line since Yanukovych came to power, but it really took off after the rightwing VO Svoboda party gained over 10% of the votes in the parliamentary elections. The obvious mileage the Party of the Regions has been extracting from that victory and from VO Svoboda’s coalition with the opposition Batkivshchyna and UDAR parties can only fuel suspicions that covert support may have been given VO Svoboda. There is a cynical logic to such support since, at very least, votes for VO Svoboda steal votes from other opposition parties, not from those in power. At best – for a ruling party doing hopelessly badly at holding on to ever-dwindling support – VO Svoboda’s popularity creates the only binary thinking where the Party of the Regions are cast as defenders of the good.
While VO Svoboda ideological consistency does not make its bigoted views any more palatable, the Party of the Regions is still onto a loser. The old Soviet rhetoric being regurgitated was once part of a need to concentrate on the War and “fight against fascism” because reality had stripped all communist myths of any credibility.
The Party of the Regions does not really have any ideology and even with near total monopoly of the media, the series of “anti-fascist” rallies around the country from 14 May ending with Saturday’s rally could not convince anybody. The slogan “Into Europe without fascism” is embarrassingly absurd since it is the ruling party’s insistence on politically motivated prosecution of the opposition and assault on other democratic rights that have placed European integration in jeopardy.
Nor do the words “without fascism” bear close scrutiny. The over-use of enforcement bodies and courts seen in the last three years in preventing peaceful assembly and repressive measures against dissent suggest a very specific understanding of “antifascism”. One of the most vocal “antifascists” – MP Vadim Kolesnychenko – is also the author of a bill prohibiting “promotion of homosexuality”. This latter term is as meaningless as the claptrap about antifascism while not making the initiative any less dangerous.
This danger was stressed in a statement issued by the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine [Vaad] and the Congress of National Communities. They write that the “anti-fascist” demonstrations are aimed exclusively at discrediting the political opposition by pushing associations between historical fascism and the party VO Svoboda as well as all parties in opposition to the current regime”. Their warning is unequivocal: the organizers of the “antifascist” events will bear responsibility for any provocation and escalation in tension..
Thankfully there was no major trouble however the authorities can take no credit for this. The above-mentioned assault by thugs on two journalists is highly indicative. Olha Snitsarchuk from TV Channel 5 and Vladyslav Sodel came under attack when trying to film around 10 burly louts beating up some VO Svoboda supporters. The police simply looked on despite calls for help.
The ruling party’s “antifascists”, judging from reports around the country included a very large number of public sector workers forced to attend for free and people offered money to be present. They also included the sort of thugs who gave fascism its deservedly bad press a long time ago.
It is perhaps well that the Party of the Regions have shown themselves to be so unconvincing since all such attempts to blur the real meaning of fascism and neo-Nazism for political gain are highly dangerous. Power, however, is in their hands at present and their total disregard for what – and who – can be placed at risk is immensely disturbing
The right to life
Shameful ping-pong to block the truth in the Indylo case
On the eve of the third anniversary of Ihor Indylo’s death in police custody, the Prosecutor has again succeeded in blocking proper examination into the young student’s death.
The Kyiv Court of Appeal has once again allowed an application from the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office. The latter had appealed against the ruling from the Desnyansky Distrct Court in Kyiv in March this year which sent the case for further investigation. The Prosecutor’s reresentative claimed that the case had been unwarrantedly sent back for further investigation, and pointed out that a previous ruling had been revoked in January.
Since the assumption is clearly that people will not understand what is happening, and will see the Prosecutor as trying to ensure a proper court examination, it should be noted that Ihor Indylo’s parents, together with the lawyer representing them, have consistently asked for further investigation.
Lawyer Oleksandr Zarutsky told journalists at the time of the last Desnyansky Court ruling, that the court had found that the criminal investigation had not established a number of circumstances nor had it rectified infringements, including those indicated by the court of appeal.
The Desnyansky Court has now passed such rulings three times, with the Kyiv Prosecutor blocking it on each occasion.
We have reported this case even more often, but must continue to do so however repetitive.
Ihor Indylo died during the early hours of what should have been his twentieth birthday. He had not committed any crime,
Despite the lies by the police, video footage shows a young man walking without any obvious inebriation into the police station. He died around 6 or 7 hours later of injuries which were not treated, and which the police claimed he sustained from falling in a drunken state from a bench in the cell (which is 50 cm from the ground).
The CCTV footage shows that at 21.49 police officers dragged Ihor to the cell and left him on the floor. Despite his extremely chaotic movements he was left until 4.51 when he was found dead.
The police officers informed Ihor’s parents of his death, asking them to collect his body. His parents were told that he had choked however they could see the multiple bruises on their son’s body.
It should be stressed that there was initially total silence over Ihor’s death, and any attempts to investigate came only after a TV report on 1 + 1 revealed information about the death, arousing public outrage.
The value of all the promises made from the Prosecutor’s Office and the President can be seen in:
the fact that neither of the two officers who faced criminal charges was accused of anything more than exceeding official powers;
neither of the two has thus far served any sentence. In December 2011, Serhiy Kovalenko was amnestied. He had been charged with “professional negligence without grave consequences” for not checking the grounds for detaining Ihor Indylo..
On 5 January 2012 Serhiy Prykhodko received a five year suspended sentence for “exceeding official powers accompanied by actions denigrating the personal dignity of the victim”.
The following questions put together by NGOs a year ago remain unanswered. Since the Prosecutor’s Office clearly hope they will remain so, they must at least be heard.
What caused Ihor to lose consciousness in the interview room?
If Ihor fell on his right side in the interview room, as stated in the testimony of Prykhodko and O. Khomenko (the young man with Ihor – translator), where are the bruises on his left side from?
What really happened in the interview room?
If Ihor was in a state of extreme inebriation, as the police and doctor assert, why was he not hospitalized?
Why was he not given adequate medical assistance in the police station? Why wasn’t an ambulance called a second time, including when he was in the cell since the video shows that he was in a bad state?
Why were all the events of that night not re-enacted bearing in mind the full video recording? It is important to view and analyze absolutely all recordings since this will help to establish the evens and also demonstrate discrepancies and contradictions in the testimony of witnesses and suspects, as well as their inability to provide answers to certain questions. It is clear, for example, from the video that doctors arrived at the police station at around 3 a.m. yet they did not come in to see Ihor. The police officers were unable to explain at the court hearings who these doctors were, who had called them and why.
Why did Ihor’s condition change so sharply for the worse when he was placed in the cell? According to the police officers, Ihor was in a state of extreme inebriation. Despite this he freely walked through the turnstile into the police station with his hands in his pockets. Yet in the cell his arms were moving about chaotically.
A large number of questions are elicited by the forensic examination. Why is their no x-ray of the injuries to Ihor’s scalp, and only written notes by the doctor; why was the direction of the fracture not investigated? This would help explain how he received the injuries.
Why did neither the examination nor the criminal investigation explain where the blood in Ihor’s stomach came from?
Why in the medical doctors is what the doctors did not in fact see recorded, as well as readings that the doctors did not take? For example, the examination protocol of the body is signed by the ambulance doctor, yet from the video footage it is clear that he didn’t even go near Ihor’s body.
How do you explain the numerous contradictions and discrepancies in the testimony of Oleksandr Khomenko, Ihor’s friend who was with him in the police station that night? Oleksandr even said himself during the hearing “I don’t know which of my witness statements that court should believe”, and that is recorded in the protocol.
The right to a fair trial
Trial by Quota
Four bomb blasts in the centre of Dnipropetrovsk on 27 April 2012 injured 15 people and made world headlines coming just months before Ukraine was to co-host the Euro 2012 Soccer Championship. A month later the enforcement bodies demonstrated their customary disregard for the presumption of innocence by informing the President and public that the culprits had been found and were now safely in custody. The media were just as swift in rendering the role of the judiciary unclear with headlines constantly calling the accused the “Dnipropetrovsk terrorists”.
A year later four men remain in custody with the trial ongoing. Two men – V. Sukachev and V. Fedoryak - are charged with the bomb blasts in Dnipropetrovsk, and others in 2011; the other two – L. Prosvirnin and D. Reva – with acting as accomplices. Very many questions remain unanswered, however the arrest and ongoing detention of one defendant is extraordinary even by Ukrainian standards.
No motive is provided or any proof as such and the impugned offence involves behaviour which would have been manifestly pointless. While it would be rash to suggest that this has not happened before, Ukrainian courts regularly ignore the flimsiest of cases because the accused has signed a “confession”, preferring not to worry about how it was obtained. Dmitry Reva has denied any involvement from the outset and been totally consistent in his testimony. The two men accused of planting the homemade explosive devices both say that neither of the alleged accomplices were involved, and Sukachev even declared a hunger strike in protest at their prosecution.
The investigators accuse Dmitry Reva of having gone to the centre of Dnipropetrovsk to “observe the reaction of the police and public to the explosions, and if necessary pass on information to Sukachev and Fedoryak, so that the latter could coordinate their further actions”.
The initial wording suggested that the two alleged “bombers” still had bombs to plant. In that case, at a pinch, you might just about understand the role attributed Reva. This had to change after it was established that the bombs had been planted well before Reva reached the centre. He was only near two of the bomb blasts which were instantly reported on all media sources in the city. What he could have seen and passed on to the alleged bombers is therefore entirely unclear. That the police had noticed? They could turn on their radios to find that out. Furthermore, journalists were much more in a position to provide information than a person standing on the street. That is, of course, if anyone can imagine what “further actions” this would prompt. There was no reason at all to expect the police to immediately identify suspects.
Reva had a legitimate reason for being in the centre, and there is video footage of him entering and leaving the bank where he paid some money outstanding. Explosive experts have confirmed that there was no way of knowing when exactly a specific bomb would go off. This makes pure nonsense of the alleged criminal intent given that the bombs were in different places, and Reva had to get back from his lunch break. He did not make any calls at all, and the investigators have not produced any evidence to suggest that he would have known how to contact Fedoryak whom all have testified he had never met. This is of particular relevance since the two locations Reva passed were where the bombs allegedly planted by Fedoryak exploded.
Reva and Sukachev studied together at university, and had common friends from those times. At 14.19 Sukachev sent a text message to Reva asking: “Are you OK? None of our lot hurt?”. Reva replied saying: “Yeah, I think so”, and received a second message from Sukachev with the words: “Hades Hell, everything at our end seems to be OK”. Reva has said that “Hades Hell” was typical of Sukachev’s style and that he assumed he was being asked if any of their mutual acquaintances had been hurt by the blasts. Sukachev in fact sent a number of such messages. The recipients were all questioned, only Reva arrested, with the message treated as some kind of coded (but never deciphered) communication.
The SBU from the beginning were looking for 4 people although there is no obvious reason why. The identikit pictures circulated were only sufficient to identify four males and nobody has ever asserted that the four defendants were in the same place at one time. It is, unfortunately, not inconceivable that having started out with four, four it had to be . It should also be noted that the motives suggested for the bomb blasts have kept changing. The investigators and prosecution have shown marked interest in Reva’s freelance work as a political campaign adviser to an opposition MP.
If this seems cynical, so too was the behaviour of the SBU officer who tried to fake evidence while a search was being made of Reva’s flat. Reva had been refused permission to make any calls and asked to hand over the two mobile telephones in the flat which he did. An SBU officer used one of the phones which had Sukachev’s number on the screen to dial that number. This was then presented as an attempt by Reva to contact another suspect and formed the grounds for his being remanded in custody. Reva and his lawyers made a formal complaint and forced a criminal investigation to be initiated into the forging of evidence.
None of the above, not even the fact that the grounds used to justify his initial arrest proved rigged, has had any impact on the court. The judge has now rejected seven applications for Dmitry Reva to be released on bail or on the security of Dnipropetrovsk human rights organizations. The pretexts vary, but one refrain is the “seriousness” of the crime.
Reva’s lawyers clearly demonstrated the lack of logic or indeed of any real element of a crime in the charges brought against him back in October 2012. Now daming confirmation has been received of the lack of any real crime, motive established or other evidence in an independent assessment carried out by a leading Ukrainian legal expert, Mykola Khavronyuk..
One other positive achievement is that a court has ordered the State-controlled TV channel UTV-1 to issue an apology over a scurrilous film with false information about Reva.
The showing on national TV of a film aimed at presenting the four defendants as obviously guilty as well as the prosecution and court’s behaviour suggest that there is strong pressure to convict four men “to plan”. Such quotas are reminiscent of the worst Soviet times and publicity is needed to help thwart a cynical mockery of justice.
10 times less acquittals now than in Stalin’s Soviet Union
As reported, the chances of being acquitted by a Ukrainian court are close to nil. Deutsche Welle reports the State Judicial Administration as saying that in 2012 there were 707 acquittals against 185 thousand convictions. That figure is higher than reported earlier, but is horrifyingly low nonetheless.
Deutsche Welle spoke with Arkady Bushchenko, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union who says that despite the new Criminal Procedure Code, the judiciary in Ukraine is so entrenched in its ways that it would be unwise to expect any radical shift. He notes that in the judicial system an acquittal is seen as an extraordinary event which could cause the judge problems. Judges themselves acknowledge that it’s easier for them to hand down convictions since they will be considered to be carrying out their duty.
Bushchenko says that almost all former Soviet republics have such a harsh judicial system, but notes that in the worst year of the Terror, 1937, 10% of court rulings were acquittals, whereas the rate now is less than one percent. In EU countries, the rate is between 5 and 10% and in the USA, for example, in Texas, it gets up to 50%.
Why have such an expensive system, he asks, if judges almost never acquit defendants?
Other factors are corruption and corporate loyalty. According to Andriy Didenko from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, while you can’t even pay for an acquittal in Ukraine, you can end up behind bars because judges have been bribed. He says that the position of the investigators, the Prosecutor and the judges is almost always the same.
He sees a major cause of this being the fact that while the police need to produce statistics of number of crimes “solved”, the courts also need to present statistics of effective work. They thus prop each other up.
The human rights workers agree that the new Criminal Procedure Code can improve the situation. The new CPC provides more guarantees for people accused of crimes and there are more demands for a conviction. Yet a lot of convictions are still handed down on the basis of unacceptable evidence. Arkady Bushchenko stresses that it would be foolish to pin ones hopes on the CPC alone and says that advocates and the public need to apply pressure to teach judges to acquit where appropriate. He does not expect changes to be noticed soon.
A police state is one which treats its own citizens as potential criminals. Ukraine has recently been taking on more and more features of such a state. The introduction of names on railway tickets, as we saw on the eve of 18 May, led to lists being drawn up of people heading to Kyiv for opposition demonstrations so as to remove them from the trains. The adoption of a law according to which SMS-cards can only be sold on the basis of a contract with the telecommunication provider will make it possible for law enforcement agents to instantly identify its owner. There were a number of occasions in the middle of April when the police summoned people for questioning who had been outside parliament on 2 April when some MPs were pelted with snowballs. “Give your full name. Your number was recorded during an opposition protest and you are summoned for questioning in connection with the initiating of a criminal investigation”. The media asserted that such calls were received by around 500 protesters. After SMS-cards begin being sold only on the basis of contracts, their owners will be identified automatically.
The law enforcement agencies are of course concerned in the first instance with making their work convenient, and not about observing Ukrainians’ right to privacy, this meaning that anyone can end up under secret surveillance. At present a considerable number of crimes are investigated through looking into conversations by mobile phone in a certain place and certain period of time.
Operational departments can obtain lists from telecommunications operators of numbers phoned from a list of all SMS cards which were at that place including even cards from telephones which are switched off, as well as recordings of all telephone conversations. The Law on Telecommunications obliges operators “at their own cost to install on their own networks technical means needed for allowing the authorized bodies to carry out investigative operations and ensure the functioning of those technical devices, as well as within the limits of their powers to facilitate the carrying out of investigative operations and to prevent the divulgence of organizational and tactical measures for carrying them out”
The scale of application of these activities is staggering: if previously telecommunications operators received up to 4 thousand requests from the law enforcement agencies per month, since the beginning of this year – up to 10-12 thousand requests.
Both the Law on Investigative Operations and the new Criminal Procedure Code [CPC] assert that such measures are only possible where grave or particularly grave crimes have been committed or are being planned, and if the information about the crime and person who allegedly committed or is planning it, cannot be received in another way. Permits for carrying out such actions are issued by the heads of appellate courts or judges whom they appoint.
Yet is information like a subscriber’s phone calls; the timing of such calls; the place where the subscriber is and his or her movements; as well as the log files of the Internet uses gathered on the basis of a court order? That’s hard to believe. The new CPC contains vague norms about interception of information from transport telecommunications networks; electronic information systems; and about establishing the whereabouts of a radio-electronic means, including a mobile terminal or communications system. And since 2005 statistical information about investigative operations have been classified secret.
How it should be
At present the main function of secret surveillance is not uncovering the criminal, but establishing that there is a crime. When operational divisions carry out investigative operations against organized crime, drug traffickers, etc, they work before a crime has been committed and the aim of those operational activities is to gather information about the person or criminal gang, or possible violent acts (terrorist acts, for example).
In other words at the stage where the application for a secret surveillance order is submitted to the court they can’t specify what they want to establish or indicate a person they need to collect information about. This is akin to the actions of a fisherman who throws out a net and sees what gets into it. In such cases operational divisions can effectively organize secret surveillance at their own discretion without the use of court control. The procedure for carrying out secret investigative actions must therefore comply with European Court of Human Rights practice, should be more clearly defined in law; be clear; detailed and encompass the operational actions of such a type, with the creation of guarantees against abuse becoming a central issue. It is not advisable to restrict the means available to operational divisions for investigating crimes, however it is vital to have the possibility for public monitoring over their actions.
The European Court would be unlikely to find that even after the considerable improvement in the new CPC Ukrainian legislation on intrusion by the State into privacy is “necessary in a democratic society” since the list of crimes for which it is allowed – grave and especially grave crimes is too broad. As the Court stated in the case of Klass v. Germany, the right to secret surveillance over citizens is typical of police states, and in democratic countries, in accordance with the Convention, such surveillance can be tolerated only in case of extreme necessity to protect democratic institutions. Moreover at the investigation stage it is quite often difficult to determine whether one is dealing with a grave or particularly grave crime. There should therefore be a clear list of crimes being planned or having been committed where secret investigative activities are permissible.
As the experience of western countries shows, one of the reliable safeguards against abuse is preparation and publication of annual reports by the law enforcement agencies about their use of investigative operations which infringe the right to privacy. Such reports can be freely accessed on the Internet in such cases as the USA, Canada, the UK and many others. The number of permits received is given; the number of refusals to issue them; the types of crimes where orders were issued; the average duration of interception of information; the number of criminal cases initiated on the basis of the surveillance; the number of convictions, etc.
Having such reports in Ukraine, comparing such data with court statistics, it would be possible to assess the effectiveness of secret investigative activities infringing the right to privacy and to minimize possible abuse.
Freedom of expression
Stop Censorship vows to make the authorities investigate attack on journalists
Olha Snitsarchuk and Vlad Sodel
10 days have elapsed since journalists Olha Snitsarchuk and Vlad Sodel were attacked by hired thugs while police watched. Members of the civic movement Stop Censorship note the authorities’ limp passiveness in (not) properly investigating the incident. They are taking away the tent they set up outside the Interior Ministry but promise that they will not give in and will force the authorities to respond.
Natalia Sokolenko reports that during these 10 days the authorities have done too little in the public sphere. The journalists involved had asked for a public meeting with Interior Minister Zakharchenko. Instead they were offered some kind of meetings between closed doors with various individuals. She particularly points to the President’s silence, saying that as the Guarantor of the Constitution he should have found the time, the strength and the intelligence to condemn the attack on the journalists.
The journalists decided to take down the tent erected on 27 May, saying that decisions regarding the attack on their colleagues are not taken in the Interior Ministry.
As reported, on 18 May an “antifascist” rally was organized by the ruling party to counter the planned opposition rally “Rise Ukraine”. While the two demonstrations passed peacefully, there were obvious attempts by hired thugs to provoke trouble.
During the afternoon Olha Snitsarchuk from TV Channel 5 and her husband, Vlad Sodel from Komersant Ukraine approached a group of VO Svoboda supporters coming under attack from around 50 athletic looking thugs. Some of the latter first turned on Vlad Sodel when they saw him taking photographs then one began attacking Olha Snitsarchuk. The police just stood and watched, ignoring requests for help (and the very obvious need to intervene).
Following outrage, Interior Minister spoke in parliament where he:
informed that the assailant had been arrested on a charge of “hooliganism”,
showed a video in which this same alleged assailant, Vadim Tytushko, supposedly while still at liberty gives his account of the situation and asserts that he was hired to “protect the opposition”. Zakharchenko claimed that the problems had been caused by athletic young men hired by the opposition.
As reported, this fails to explain why in that case the thugs were attacking members of the opposition VO Svoboda party. It is also worth noting that Tytushko was released on bail which is relatively uncommon in Ukraine. There have also been attempts to claim that the two journalists were “nationalists”, etc and not there carrying out their official duties.
Four days later
a group of journalists staged an entirely peaceful protest during the opening of the Cabinet of Ministers meeting. They had placards on their back with the following words:
Today it’s a (female) journalist
Tomorrow it’s your wife, sister, daughter
Prime Minister Azarov’s response was to throw them out and get them stripped of their accreditation. He claimed that they were turning the Cabinet of Ministers meeting into a “circus”.
He later backed down over the accreditation which caused outrage under the circumstances. The police and the authorities had taken no action when journalists and citizens were attacked, and then the Prime Minister tried to prevent others from expressing concern in a perfect peaceful manner.
Journalists protest over „antifascist” assaults and police inaction
Over 150 journalists held a protest on Monday following the attack on Olha Snitsarchuk and Vladyslav Sodel on Saturday by so-called antifascists beating up some members of the VO Svoboda Party. This took place in full view of police officers who did not intervene despite being asked for help (and clearly needing it).
The journalists gathered outside the Interior Ministry and demanded that the assailants be punished,
The protest, organized by the Independent Media Trade Union and the National Union of Journalists, was under the banner: “Minister: Investigate or Get Out!”.
The participants demanded a meeting with the Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko. They were told that he was with the Cabinet of Ministers and couldn’t meet with them. Later in the day it was reported that Zakharchenko had discussed the course of the examination with MPs. It was also asserted that the assailant was "in hiding".
As reported, on 18 May Olha Snitsarchuk from TV Channel 5 and her husband, Vladyslav Sodel a Kommersant Ukraine photographer were beaten by unidentified louts. The police did not intervene despite being asked for protection several times by the journalists. The incident took place near the opposition rally and the Central Police Department on Volodymyrska St.
The attack was serious with Olha Snitsarchuk left with a cut to her lip and bruised arms. The thugs also broke her telephone. Vladyslav Sodel who tried to defend her also received injuries. The journalists had stopped to photograph how unidentified individuals of a bodybuilder appearance were beating up members of the VO Svoboda Party. “The assailants were circled by police and there were no members of the media present. When they saw Vladyslav taking photos the louts in training gear fell on him, and then attacked Olha when she began videoing the assault.
After the thugs were allowed to run off, and the police themselves used foul language to the journalists, an ambulance sent Olha for a forensic medical examination. Vladislav Sodel says that an investigator drew up a protocol, though he doesn’t know what it said, and that around 15 minutes later he disappeared.
Apparently the louts hitting the VO Svoboda members had just spoken to a Channel 5 reporter who was covering the incident. The police did not use this material in order to detain the men who attacked the two journalists, Sodel says.
See also Dangerous „Antifascist” Card for more information about the assailants, the Party of the Regions organized “antifascist” events and why it is of particular concern that the police so brazenly stood on and watched.
IMI: 2012 record-breakingly awful for journalists
In a brief report to mark World Press Freedom Day, the Institute for Mass Information writes that 2012 saw a record 324 recorded violations of journalists’ rights, with this being the largest number over the last 10 years. IMI links this directly with the impunity of the authorities and political figures who apply all possible means of pressure, even physical force in order to prevent journalists from honestly and conscientiously carrying out their professional duties.
The most flagrant demonstration in 2012 was the draft libel law tabled by Party of the Regions MP Vitaly Zhuravsky (himself a member of the National Union of Journalists).
Besides this, the 2012 parliamentary elections (the election campaign and the period when the results were being established) showed that Ukraine’s political players, especially those who have the support of the regime, have total contempt for the right journalists have to receive and circulate information of importance to society. At the same time they corrupt the editors of publications by placing commissioned material purporting to be news stories.
IMI notes that even during the 2004 Presidential campaign and the Orange Revolution, there wasn’t such lawlessness in treatment of the media.
The shocking statistics in 2012:
324 violations of journalists’ rights;
6 arrests; detentions;
40 beatings, assaults, acts of intimidation;
180 cases of censorship; obstruction of journalists when carrying out their duties;
43 cases of economic; political or indirect pressure;
50 law suits against media publications or journalists;
5 civil suits from media publications and journalists
2012 saw a heightening of censorship in national and local publications; monitoring shows systematic one-sided coverage of events in the media with issues of public importance which are inconvenient to those in power being muffled.
In October scandal rocked the UNIAN information agency with editors accusing management of censorship
There were also a number of resignations, including from the national TV channel STB with journalists citing censorship as the reason.
2012 saw continued monopolization of the media by people close to those in power, and increasing tabloidization of television broadcasting.
IMI mentions previous cases of pressure on the then still independent TVi channel including pressure from the tax authorities and removal from air in many cities:
See http://khpg.org/1348611370 and the links below
A sharp increase in the number of violations of journalists’ rights was seen in the run-up to the parliamentary elections.
There were 39 such cases in August;
60 in September
85 in October
Most were directly linked with the elections or caused by candidates and or MPs.
Journalists were not admitted to meetings of candidates with voters; or not allowed to take photos or videos; or there were attempts to bring pressure on journalists. There were a good few cases where physical force was used.
Indirect pressure was also applied through searches to editorial offices; unscheduled visits from tax inspectors despite the moratorium agreed before the elections; powerful DDoS attacks blocking Internet publications; numerous law suits.
In 2012 for the first time journalists experience “trolling attacks” with their mobile telephones being blocked through calls coming from many telephone numbers.
One slightly more positive record was the fact that 6 cases were actually initiated under Article 171 of the Criminal Code (obstructing a journalist carrying out his or her professional duties).
On average only 5% of those who violate journalists’ rights are held to answer.
The amounts demanded in defamation suits increased as had been feared following the disastrous revoking of a differentiated scale of court duty (making it possible now to demand millions while paying a pitifully small amount in court duty).
2012 saw a serious attempt to re-criminalize libel
See http://khpg.org/1349205683 and the texts below
For a new and certainly no less dangerous move in that direction, see http://khpg.org/1364178250
Slightly abridged from the report here http://imi.org.ua/analytics/40730-svoboda-slova-v-ukrajini-u-2012-rotsi-korotkiy-zvit-do-vsesvitnogo-dnya-svobodi-presi.html
30 TVi journalists resign
The group of TVi journalists who on 23 April announced a strike over the apparent seizure of the last independent TV channel in Ukraine have now handed in their resignations. 30 journalists signed a statement explaining to TVi viewers that “for a week the Union of TVi Journalists awaited the beginning of negotiations, hoping for a constructive position from management and the people who present themselves as the owners of the channel. All this time we expressed our willingness to end the strike and immediately begin work if our main demands were met. “
The journalists say that there have been no moves towards meeting them halfway from either the new owners or the new management, and no guarantees have been given that they will be free to carry out their journalist duties.
The management has refused to recognize their trade union and the new manager – Artem Shevchenko – has told Radio Svoboda that the journalists’ resignations will be accepted. Shevchenko claimed that there were only about 20 journalists who have resigned. He also suggested that there would be changes to the format and content of the channel, although claiming that it would continue to take a critical approach of the government.
The journalists have called on western countries to note what is happening and to give their assessment of the effective censorship of journalists as well as the lack of transparency in the sudden change in ownership of the channel.
See below for comments from western media watchdogs about the events.
Access to information
Journalists demand transparency on public procurement
Journalists writing on corruption have begun collecting signatures to a petition calling for a return to transparency over public procurement,
It calls for transparency to be provided over how public funding is used and for basic principles of honest governance, particularly with regard to public procurement. “Every month the average Ukrainian pays the state around 2, 092 UAH, in a year – 25, 102 UAH. At present the government has made it totally impossible for us to monitor how the money we pay is being spent. “
The petition explains that on 5 August last year Law No. 5044-VI came into force. This removed the norm in the Economic Code which demanded that State enterprises use tender procedure for public procurement. The same law also removes communal enterprises and businesses from tender requirements if the State holds a controlling share.
In 2011 State enterprises held tenders worth 250 billion UAH, with the overall amount of procurement worth 325 billion. The amount is comparable to the size of the State budget and the authors say that not one law in Ukraine’s history has make it possible to move such amounts into a gray zone.
Within 6 months of the law coming into force half the amount of public funding earmarked for public procurement had disappeared into the shadows. In the first two months of the budget year alone, 66 billion UAH could not be accounted for.
A comparison of the scale of tenders published in the Public Procurement Herald in January – February 2012 and 2013 shows that the amount halved – from 133 billion to 66 billion UAH.
These two months are particularly indicative since last year during January and February tenders were held for a quarter of the year’s public procurement.
“We therefore insist on the urgent adoption of Draft bill No. 2207. Its point is simple – State enterprises may continue to not run tenders, but they should publish information about what they bought, who from and at what price. “
Citizens must be able to check what is being purchased with their money. “Draft Law No. 2207 is an agreement between the State and taxpayers: reduction of bureaucracy in exchange for transparency.
Public procurement must be transparent!
The petition is open for endorsement here and has been signed by prominent media journalists and others.
President’s Administration pays rent to shadowy firm behind Mezhyhirya
President Yanukovych’s office at Mezhyhirya - the table lamp apparently cost $10 thousand
During 2012 the President’s Administration paid 100 thousand UAH to Tantalit - a firm believed to have links with the Yanukovych family - for renting an office for Viktor Yanukovych in the latter’s sumptuous residence at Mezhyhirya.
The President’s Administration was responding to a formal information request from the Internet publication Ukrainska Pravda. The latter notes that just one table lamp in this office cost 10 thousand US dollars.
The amount confirmed is, in fact, 99 thousand 691 UAH. It should be noted that amounts under 100 thousand do not need to be put to tender.
The contract is to the end of 2012 but with the possibility of being extended to 2020. The money is paid from public funding.
The President’s Administration has refused to provide a copy of the contract itself, on the grounds that one of the parties is another legal entity and they don’t have permission from them to provide the contract. . They do, however, confirm that the contract is between the Director of the Tantalit Limited Liability Company and the head of the relevant department of the State Department of Affairs [“DUS”, the Ukrainian title is no better).
The Director of Tantalit is Pavlo Lytovchenko, a Party of the Regions Deputy of the Kyiv Regional Council. Ukrainsa Pravda says that according to their information, Lytovchenko is an authorized representative for the Yanukovych family. He has, for example, authority from Yanukovych’s younger son, and in recent years worked as a lawyer in firms owned by his elder son.
The real owner of Tantalit is hidden through all sorts of offshore intermediaries. The 90% founder of Tantalit was the Austrian firm Euro East Beteiligungs GmbH which was created by an Austrian broker company whose director is presently facing criminal investigation in Vienna and a British companies whose shares are hidden away in Lichtenstein.
Ukrainska Pravda reports that previously the shareholders of Tantalit included a company which last year leased the President’s Administration a helicopter and airplane for Yanukovych’s needs.
There has been considerable controversy over Mezhyhirya which was effectively privatized by Viktor Yanukovych at the end of his term as Prime Minister in 2007. The estate is originally a state residence.
Viktor Yanukovych publically promised to show journalists the heavily guarded estate back in June 2010. This promise has not been kept, and all efforts by, for example, Stop Censorship to organize peaceful protests outside the residence’s gates to remind him of the promise have been stopped by court bans.
This barricade mentality escalated earlier in April 2013, when activists from Democratic Alliance, together with TV journalists tried to check out the spring flood used in the latest court ban as pretext. There was no flood, just a large number of police and all activists were detained. Over the following two days, one – Maxim Panov – was imprisoned for 7 days, another – Vasyl Hatsko – for five. The latter had gone to protest – peacefully – at the jailing of Maxim Panov.
On 19 April a TVi crew were briefly detained outside Mezhyhirya.
It should be noted that at the time TVi provided virtually the only television coverage of this shocking course of events. Just days later this looked likely to change and not, unfortunately, because other television channels took up the story. On 23 April one of tTVi's presenters, Artem Shevchenko announced that he was the new General Director, and introduced Alexander Altman as the new owner. Although ownership is in dispute, over 30 journalists have left the channel and ifew expect the channel to continue its hard-hitting investigations and relatvely independent stand.
Those in power declare modest earnings, flaunt expensive watches
Some high-ranking Ukrainian officials’ income declarations for 2012 bear little relation to their actual possessions. Experts point to the impotence of anti-corruption legislation.
There were plenty of sardonic comments in the press about income declarations from the President’s branch of power.
These included photos posted on the Internet of the Minister for Energy and Coal Edward Stavytsky who at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers flaunted a watch worth 30 thousand EUR. This was with an income declaration of just over 123 thousand UAH for 2012 (1 EUR = 11 UAH).
Prime Minister Azarov declared over 614 thousand UAH income, this being 200 thousand less than in 2011. His wife drives a Lexus RX-400 crossover sport facility vehicle.
Deputy Prime Minister Yury Boiko declared over 345 thousand UAH, but gives his wife’s income as 4, 676 million UAH.
Oleksy Khmara, Head of Transparency International in Ukraine points out that those in power often register money and property in relatives’ names, front-men or hide them in offshore zones.
The President’s literary business
Some official declarations do show an increase.
The annual income of Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov who is considered close to President Yanukovych, declared income of 2.7 million UAH, with members of his family declared as receiving 13, 4 million UAH.
However the highest earnings were declared by President Yanukovych with earnings in 2012 at 20 million UAH. This is higher than the incomes of German Chancellor Merkel and President Obama and his wife.
15 million of this figure is given as “royalties” for books.
For more information about these royalties to a printing (not publishing) company for books neither published nor, seemingly written, see http://khpg.org/1366118665
Oleksy Khmara believes that this may be a scheme to legalize wealth. “There are suggestions that in two or three years Yanukovych will accumulate enough money to private Mezhyhirya (his highly controversial residence at what was once a State residence – translator). For that he nees legal income”.
The person who has become richest in Ukraine during the years of economic crisis is Yanukovych’s elder son Olexander. He declared an income for 2012 of over 579 million UAH.
Oleksy Khmara believes that Oleksander Yanukovych’s business is a way of legalizing the income of the entire presidential family.
One of the founders of the civic movement CHESNO, Oleh Rybachuk believes that the current concept of anti-corruption legislation makes a mockery of common sense. He points out that after signing the law, Yanukovych promised that public officials would declare not only their income but their spending, yet at the present time a third of MPs have refused to provide any declarations. Unlike Rybachuk, Oleksy Khmara believes that the current anti-corruption law can serve as a start for monitoring public officials and their income and spending. However he notes that one failing of the law lies in the difficulty of monitoring foreign capital and the property owned by public officials
From the report here http://ti-ukraine.org/news/2715.html
Freedom of peaceful assembly
A modest first for Ukraine
That Ukraine saw its first Gay Pride March on Saturday is something of an achievement. The event was much more peaceful than in Moscow where at least 30 people were detained, and there were scuffles.
This, however, was to a very large extent because the initial march – formally a March for Equality- was banned following an application from the Kyiv City State Administration. The latter had argued that the March would clash with events to mark Kyiv Day. A week earlier the same authorities had made no effort to ban an “antifascist” demonstration organized by the ruling Party of the Regions to compete with an opposition “Rise Ukraine” rally planned long in advice.
The authorities and police then showed shocking passiveness when two journalists were attacked, and the degree to which hired thugs had been enlisted for the events on 18 March could only exacerbate tension a week later. The fact that around 100 people joined the March is therefore cheering
The irony is that members of the right wing VO Svoboda Party who criticized police behaviour on 18 May and rightly condemn encroachments on freedom of peaceful assembly in general have no such respect for members of the LGBT community. They had promised to be out in force to ensure the court ban was implemented. Since their homophobic views and behaviour have been expressed in violence on many occasions, tension was high because of likely aggression from them and provocation from others.
Thankfully the March, whose route had been changed and not publicized, went fairly peacefully. A delegation from Munich, a city twinned with Kyiv, took part
Around 10 people were detained, but seemingly from those trying to disrupt the event.
There had also been legitimate concern after the organizers of the event last year were advised to cancel it. One of the reasons was a brutal attack on a prominent Gay Rights campaigner Sviatoslav Sheremet.
Over the last year Ukraine has also followed another dangerous initiative set by Russia with a number of bills tabled in parliament proposing to ban what their authors call “promotion of homosexuality”. With anti-discrimination in Ukraine woefully inadequate, adoption of any of the draft bills presently tabled would drag Ukraine back at very least to Soviet times and have the gravest implications for freedom of expression.
UHHRU On the events before and on 18 May
Over the last week the media has buzzed with reports of how in Luhansk, Zaporizhya, Dnipropetrovsk and other Ukrainian cities, the police and transport service have obstructed people from freely travelling to Kyiv.
There have also been detentions en masse; searches; people obstructed from getting onto trains, coaches and planes. The actions are “justified” as being because of supposedly incorrect transport documentation; suspicion of there being an explosive substance; or even totally absurd claims that a person is under the influence of drugs.
All of these large-scale and unlawful actions arranged in advance by the police and transport workers had only one aim – to impede the opposition protest “Rise Ukraine!” scheduled for 18 May in Kyiv and not banned by any court.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union points out that all these fragrant restrictions by the authorities of freedom of movement and of peaceful assembly, guaranteed by Ukraine’s Constitution for each person legally present on Ukrainian territory had no grounds in law and were pure lawlessness. The country effectively found itself during those days in an undeclared state of emergency with wide-scale repression against the political opposition.
These unlawful actions by the authorities were continued through the escalation of lawlessness and violation during the actual protest in Kyiv, with fights and assaults on journalists. The police units present did not protect people’s right to peaceful assembly and to safety.
It is indicative that during that same period there were so-called “antifascist” rallies in the country organized by the authorities with public sector workers pulled in to attend and primitive manipulation of public opinion. Here too the principle of freedom of peaceful assembly was infringed. The mass inclusion of students during their studies in these rallies was a direct infringement of the Law on Education.
In assessing these cases we cannot confine ourselves to only a formal statement regarding the violation of civil rights and liberties. The law does not exist in a vacuum. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that all these violations; the use of force instead of law; are merely a symptom of an extremely dangerous trend in the internal policy of the country, this being the wish of those in power to retain the existing economic and political order with the help of force and repression.
This trend reflects a serious crisis in the basic and interdependent institutions of the State – politics, economics and law. We would point out to the leaders of the country and its citizens that the source of this crisis is the fundamental contradiction which has emerged over recent years between a constitutional, political structure in the political sphere and the lack of any democracy in the economical life of the country. Monopolization of control over material resources in the hands of a small privileged group; restriction of freedom of business enterprise dictates the logic of monopolization and political institutions in the hands of one party, controlled by their people.
We observe that the Party of the Regions has already turned into a “ruling party” unforeseen by Ukraine’s Constitution. This party is copying the structure and functions of the Soviet Communist Party, just with ideology replaced by a grabbing institution and with all the consequences which follow: transformation of the elections into a farce; destruction of the people’s representation in parliament; reinstatement of the new-old nomenclatura as ruling class with its uncontrolled corruption, with increasing social inequality and public apathy.
We see on the other hand the determined efforts of those in power to marginalize the opposition using hate speech and “auxiliary” criminal elements as head-bangers for carrying out political and economic tasks.
In these conditions law-based institutions are rapidly corroded. The courts and law enforcement bodies have effectively turned into an obsequious service for the “ruling party”.
We turn to the leadership of the country; to all political and civic forces; and warn that the trends outlined above are extremely dangerous for the country. They are incompatible with Ukraine’s declared course towards European integration.
Political will and unity are needed for urgent dismantling of this short-sighted policy which is incompatible with Europe’s democratic values. The first step in this direction should be the immediate dismissal of the Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Kozak who are compromising the country.
Yevhen Zakharov, Head of the UHHRU Board
Arkady Bushchenko, UHHRU Executive Director
No safety for Russian opposition figures in Ukraine
Mikhail Maglov from the Russian movement Solidarity is reported on Ukrainsky Tyzhden as saying that the abduction from Ukraine of leftwing activist Leonid Razvozzhaev made it clear that Russian opposition figures cannot feel safe in Ukraine.
“Before the events with Razvozzhaev I felt safe in Ukraine. Here there’s a contrast – you don’t cross the street when you see a police officer. And there are less police in Ukraine….
However after that incident (the abduction) it became clear that the Russian Security Service are entirely freely at work on Ukrainian territory. And there are no borders if you need to abduct and take a person out”.
Even after a complaint was lodged over the abduction, no criminal proceedings were initiated, he notes.
“For me the question arises – is Ukraine an independent country? And if it has its own security service, who is it working for?”
Leonid Razvozzhaev was abducted in the middle of the day on 17 October 2012 when he stepped out for a break while completing his application for asylum at a Kyiv partner to the UNHCR partner. He was taken across the border into Russia, where on 19 October a Moscow court remanded him in custody for 2 months, with this later extended. He had supposedly “handed himself in” and “confessed”, however was able in court to shout out that he had been tortured. He has since retracted the “confession” he says was beaten, threatened and blackmailed out of him.
There had been no extradition request and Razvozzaev was in Ukraine legally. He was also, effectively, an asylum seeker and therefore under international protection.
The Ukrainian authorities said nothing at the time, and have largely given fob off statements or vague promises of investigations since. Valeria Lutkovska, Human Rights Ombudsperson, was reported as having asked the authorities for information but has since consistently ignored questions regarding their response. She was just as unforthcoming over the forced return of another asylum seeker to the Russian Federation in August 2012.
The response from the Interior Ministry was particularly memorable. On 24 October spokesperson Volodymyr Polishchuk announced that no criminal investigation would be initiated since a foreign national had been abducted by a foreign security service and the latter did not share their information.
The grounds for concern are serious.
Russian Consul resigns following scandalous defamation of Crimean Tatars
Protest in the Crimea calling for Andreev to go
Vladimir Andreev, Russian Federation Consul General in Simferopol, has apparently resigned following widespread anger over thoroughly offensive and defamatory statements about the Crimean Tatars.
His resignation is, however, in protest at criticism of him for his remarks from the Russian Foreign Ministry. The latter acknowledged that Andreev’s remarks had been “incorrect” and without “proper condition for the sensitivity of the issue”
Andreev told Interfax Ukraine on Friday that he held to every word of the opinion expressed, and called the Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement as a disgrace to the Russian Federation. Asked whether his (extremely critical) utterances about the Russian Ministry’s position did not place his post in jeopardy, he said that yes, and that he was leaving altogether, asserting that this was his “principled decision”.
Lenta.ru noted on Friday evening that the situation may be a little more complex. It pointed out that Konstantin Zatulin, currently Director of the Institute of CIS Countries, who has a very specific reputation in Ukraine due to various utterances made over the years about the status of Ukraine as a whole, ethnic Russians in it, and the status of the Crimea, had recently visited Ukraine. During the visit, he apparently predicted that Andreev would be replaced in June.
As reported, there was outrage from Crimean Tatars and many other Ukrainians over the shocking comments made by Andreev in an interview. There were calls for his dismissal and removal from the Crimea. Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on this occasion responded quite firmly.
Andreev basically regurgitated all the lies used by Stalin as pretext for the Deportation of 1944 about supposed collaboration as a people with the Nazis.
This is 47 years after the Soviet Decree which officially acknowledged that: ““After the liberation of the Crimea from Fascist occupation in 1944, accusations of active collaboration of a section of the Tatars resident in the Crimea with the German usurpers were groundlessly levelled at the whole Tatar population of the Crimea. These indiscriminate accusations in respect of all the citizens of Tatar nationality who lived in the Crimea must be withdrawn, the more so since a new generation of people has entered on its working and political life”. (The text in English can be found in full here)”
While the firm response from both the Ukrainian and Russian Foreign Ministries are unfortunately unusual enough to make the Lenta.ru comments seems plausible, the comments were undoubtedly deeply offensive, slanderous and would have made his continued tenure a positive affront.
Outrage over Russian Consul’s slander of Crimean Tatars
It is not only Crimean Tatars who have been angered by the extraordinary comments from Vladimir Andreev, Russian Federation Consul General in Simferopol, . Nearly fifty years since all accusations against the Crimean Tatars of collaboration as a people with the Nazis were officially retracted*, Andreev has dredged up the lie used by Stalin as pretext for the Deportation of the Crimean Tatar people from their homeland.
Andreev advised a delegation of fighter pilots and friends of Amat-Khan Sultan who had arrived for the premiere showing in Simferopol of the film “Khaitarma” not to see it. He asserted that it does not give the whole truth about what he called the collaboration of the Crimean Tatars and said that a Russian delegation could not be present at a film distorting the truth about the Great Patriotic War. He apparently also expressed the view that any events linked with the Deportation should include the subject of collaboration with the Nazi occupiers.
Crimean Tatars have, understandably, called for Andreev’s removal.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on 22 May issued a statement saying that V. Likhachov, the Senior Adviser to the Russian Embassy in Ukraine had been summoned to the Ministry and informed of Ukraine’s concern regarding the improper remarks made by the Russian Consul General in Simferopol V. Andreev. He was told that the Crimean Tatar People are an inalienable part of Ukraine’s multicultural society. The Agreement on issues linked with the restoration of people deported, national minorities and groups signed in Bishkek on 9 October 1992 remains in force. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry therefore presumes that the official position of the Russian Federation is articulated in the provisions of that Agreement and not the opinions expressed by a Russian consul.
The Ministry expressed “the hope that the Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation and the Russian authorities would give the appropriate assessment to Mr Andreev’s remarks, both with respect to articulation of Russia’s official position and with regard to correcting the subject of his professional activities. “
It is unlikely that Andreev and the Putin regime which is so assiduously trying to reinstate Soviet mythology and Soviet ways are unaware of the injustice of their allegations. The assumption is probably that others are not. The following Decree issued on 5 September 1967 by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR is well-worth noting:
“After the liberation of the Crimea from Fascist occupation in 1944, accusations of active collaboration of a section of the Tatars resident in the Crimea with the German usurpers were groundlessly levelled at the whole Tatar population of the Crimea. These indiscriminate accusations in respect of all the citizens of Tatar nationality who lived in the Crimea must be withdrawn, the more so since a new generation of people has entered on its working and political life”. (The text in English can be found in full here)
Remembrance and Vigil
On the 69th anniversary of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars from their homeland, we join Crimean Tatars in remembering the Victims of a terrible crime. This year, however, the cynical actions of the authorities make vigilance and attention from beyond the Crimea vital. As reported, over recent months the authorities of Simferopol refused to cooperate with the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People in organizing the huge gathering in Simferopol each year on 18 May; the head of the Crimean Parliament Anatoly Mohylyov made extremely confrontational statements and there have been fairs that attempts would be made to disrupt the main remembrance events and possibly cause trouble.
It is possible that the authorities understood that their actions were being watched. Certainly the groups in opposition to the Mejlis say that they will not be holding alternative meetings on 18 May.
Please see Engineering Conflict in the Crimea and the links below for information about the very destructive games being played by Mohylyov probably with backing from Ukraine’s leaders.
Today, however, should be a day of remembrance, not political maneuvers
During these days in May 1944, at Stalin’s direct order, the entire Crimean Tatar people were deported from the Crimea. It is believed that around 190 thousand men, women and children were forced to leave. Almost half perished on the way to their places of banishment in Siberia and Central Asia.
The return to the Crimea began at the end of the 1980s – beginning of the 1990s. At the present time the population of the Crimea is over 1.9 million, with 260 thousand - Crimean Tatars.