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

Police action incompatible with democracy

 Photo: Radio Svoboda

The violent dispersal of EuroMaidan came almost 3 years to the day that similar action was taken against the Tax Code Maidan.  There are other worrying parallels, including people remanded in custody on dubious grounds in a clear attempt to warn others of likely consequences of peaceful protest.  Judging by the outrage this time, Ukraine’s leaders have badly miscalculated.  A rally is planned for Sunday, Dec 1 and it is likely to be huge. 

According to the Kyiv emergency medical centre 35 people have sought medical treatment following the violent offensive by the police against peaceful protesters on Maidan Nezalezhnosti at 4 a.m. on Saturday morning.  7 were hospitalized.  

These figures may well not represent the real number of people injured.  Witnesses and the photos now available indicate that the police stormed the square, brutally beating people with their truncheons.  They were confronting entirely peaceful demonstrators, the hundreds who had remained on the square after the huge demonstrations in support of European integration.  Many sought refuge from Berkut in the Mykhailivsky (St Michael) Monastery and Cathedral

At least 33 people were detained.  Civic organizations are presently mobilizing to provide those detained or who suffered as a result of the gratuitous violence with legal assistance.  The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has demanded the president’s impeachment and dismissal of the government.  The International Renaissance Foundation has announced that it is stopping all collaboration with the president, his administration and the cabinet of ministers.  In a joint statement, the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine and Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities [VAAD] speak of the "Real Prospect of a return to totalitarian days"

The expressions of "shock" and "outrage" from prime minister Azarov and others are impossible to take seriously.  So too are police attempts at justifying the actions.  A police spokesperson, Olha Bilyk asserted on Channel 5 that municipal workers had “asked the police to provide unimpeded access with technology for further preparations for New Year festivities.  As already reported, the New Year tree was erected after Berkut riot police dispersed the protesters and surrounded the square.

Bilyk claimed that despite repeated warnings, protesters “began throwing rubbish and some kind of burning items at police officers" and that they therefore decided to move the protesters from Maidan Nezalezhnosti”

None of this explains:

the huge contingents of Berkut riot police being brought into the centre of Kyiv throughout Friday;

the thousands of individuals, likely to have been paid thugs, who were lined up in, for example, Mariyinsky Park from Friday morning, and who attacked journalists from and Channel 5;

It was the clear preparations underway which prompted the warning on Friday evening by US Ambassador Pyatt of the adverse consequences for US-Ukrainian relations if the peaceful protest was dispersed by force.  

The warning, as well as statements from the EU, was ignored, and pretence that protesters were somehow obstructing New Year preparations will not wash.  

They have also been tried before.  The violent measures taken against peaceful protesters have shocked people coming immediately after the Vilnius Summit. 

They should not have surprised anybody, since they are eerily similar to the violent dispersal almost exactly three years ago of Tax Code Maidan protesters from the same square, and on the same pretext of erecting a New Year tree.

Over the following year a number of the protesters (as well as one or two people who were provably not there) were remanded in custody for long periods and faced grotesquely absurd criminal charges.  

Another protester from Nov 24 was detained last night before the dispersal.  There are already two other protesters remanded in custody.  The police spokeswoman claimed that the 35 people detained will be released after questioning.  This remains to be seen.

Three years ago, the law enforcement bodies used violent measures to disperse peaceful protesters, and then far-fetched criminal charges (including of damaging the granite stone on Maidan Nezalezhnosti).  The aim then was clearly to crush peaceful protest and send a clear message of what protesters could face.

The same tactics were applied through the use of unidentified athletic types both on Nov 24, and on Nov 28.  Such huge contingents of thugs, and later of riot police did not happen without prior planning.  There was, in fact, no attempt at secrecy at all, suggesting that a major objective has been to intimidate and silence protest.

The attempt may have backfired however the wave of anger now may not be enough if firm measures, including sanctions, are not taken now. 

Former ECHR judge leaves Constitutional Assembly in protest at about-face on EU integration

Volodymyr Butkevych, Ukraine’s first judge at the European Court of Human Rights, has resigned from the Constitutional Assembly in protest at the Government’s decision announced on Nov. 21 to suspend preparations for signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. 

Judge Butkevych notes that Article 85 § 5 of Ukraine’s Constitution empowers parliament to determine the principles of national and foreign policy.  According to the laws on the principles of foreign policy and on European integration, changes in foreign policy priorities are solely within the competence of parliament and not of the Cabinet of Ministers.  Since parliament passed no such decision, the Cabinet of Ministers’ actions were in breach of Ukraine’s Constitution and laws.

Volodymyr Butkevych’s resignation is dated 22 November, but was only announced at a meeting of the 20 members of the Assembly on 28 November.  The head of the Assembly, Leonid Kravchuk and its secretary Maria Stavnichuk tried to dissuade him, but to no avail.

The former ECHR Judge was a member of the group preparing a concept framework for a new Constitution, and also chaired one of the commissions which was preparing the section of the Constitution on human rights. 

UCU: The Fate of 46 million Ukrainians is at stake

   The Ukrainian Catholic University has issued a statement expressing deep concern over the announcement on Thursday that Ukraine’s government is suspending the country’s European integration process.

UCU states that that the future of all 46 million Ukrainians is at stake but especially that of young people who are being deprived of a proper future. It stresses that Ukraine’s national interest lies in joining a European realm in which there is rule of rule of law, respect for human dignity and human rights, civil, religious, and academic freedom, free enterprise, social justice, where the government is accountable to the people, where private property is respected, etc.

UCU acknowledges that Ukraine’s economic stability has to be a factor, but stresses that the economy is threatened not by the Association agreement, but by the fact that the current legal framework does not comply with European standards.

UCU stresses that the future of Ukrainian education lies with closer association with the European educational and cultural spheres. Students are unequivocal in their support for Ukraine’s European choice and UCU warns that rejection of this choice will inevitably lead to young people emigrating. This, they point out is as much of a threat to the country’s security as temporary economy difficulties.

For the sake of Ukraine’s young people, UCU therefore calls on the university community to publically express their position and support for Ukraine’s European future. 

EU issues ’urgent appeal’ to Yanukovych

EU foreign ministers have called on Kyiv to take action over jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko as they gathered in Brussels to discuss Ukraine ahead of an EU summit in Vilnius later this month. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meanwhile said it remained unclear whether Ukraine was "willing" to meet the criteria needed for a key free-trade deal with the European Union.

Speaking to the German parliament, Merkel added that if Kyiv met the criteria needed to sign the agreement, the EU could help Kyiv ward off economic pressure from Russia, who wants Ukraine to join its own Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan.

"We know that reforms cannot completely be carried out in a day, " Merkel said on November 18. "We also want to support Ukraine in its reforms with offers of cooperation, with financial means from the European Neighborhood Policy. But the conditions for this must be achieved by Ukraine itself and not just sometime, but rather now."

The EU has conditioned the signing of an Association Agreement with Kyiv on democratic reforms and permission for Tymoshenko, whose conviction for abuse of office is seen by Brussels as "selective justice, " to travel abroad for medical treatment.

The Ukrainian parliament is due to debate a bill on November 19 that would allow Tymoshenko, who suffers from back pain, to travel to Germany.The debate in the Verkhovna Rada was scheduled last week after legislators failed to discuss the bill.

EU envoys will continue their discussions with their Ukrainian counterparts this week.

"The ambition is to move forward to the [EU Eastern Partnership] Vilnius summit in a very successful way, " High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton said at a news briefing about Ukraine after the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels. "I imagine that conversation that President Yanukovych would wish to have is to discuss with [EU Enlargement] Commissioner [Stefan] Fuele how we achieve that and vice versa. And I really hope that it is a very good an successful conversation."

Ahead of the meeting in Brussels on November 18, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle issued an urgent appeal to Ukraine to act.

"We want Ukraine to orientate itself toward the EU, but the conditions have to be right, he said. "That is, above all, the rule of law and for that the Tymoshenko case surely has a particular significance. I urgently call on Ukraine to act and to unify in a practicable way toward the rule of law, and notplay for time. The clock is ticking, time is running out, and everyone in Ukraine should be aware of this."

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, whose country holds the rotating EU Presidency, indicated that Yanukovych has to show decisiveness and said that the "moment of truth" has arrived for Ukraine.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that "everything is in the hands" of Yanukovych.
Ukraine’s signing of an Association Agreement has been held up by the 2011 jailing of Tymoshenko on abuse-of-power charges largely seen as political revenge by Yanukovych.  Yanukovych narrowly defeated Tymoshenko in a presidential runoff in February 2010.
Yanukovych has been criticized by the opposition after it emerged that he traveled to Moscow for secret talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 9.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

Vlasenko and the President’s Prosecutor General

News on Monday that Serhiy Vlasenko, Tymoshenko’s lawyer, had been detained proved exaggerated, fears for the fate of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement probably not. 

Vlasenko spent hours on Monday in the Prosecutor General’s Office before being allowed to leave in the evening.  He has been summoned on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for further interrogation. He told journalists that the plan had been to detain him, but that they backed down because of opposition reaction.  He now expects bail and to have to give a signed undertaking not to leave Kyiv.  Since Tymoshenko is in custody in Kharkiv, this will likely remove him from her defence team.  He believes the schedule of interrogations to be aimed at preventing him from communicating with Pat Cox and Alexandr Kwaśniewski who are due to report to the European Parliament in two days on the results of their mission. 

Mission unaccomplished

What Yanukovych discussed with Putin during a previously unannounced visit to Moscow on Nov. 9 has not been revealed, and may, unfortunately, become clear only when the last date for releasing the president’s political opponent and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko has passed.  Thus far the Party of the Regions is continuing to block all attempts to pass a bill enabling Tymoshenko to leave for medical treatment in Germany. 

What Vlasenko might have told Cox and Kwaśniewski is probably less important than the message given by this new criminal case brought against him. 

Vlasenko is formally suspected of causing bodily injury to his ex-wife, Natalya Okunska.  The former model who is currently standing for parliament in one of the election re-runs has lodged the complaint against Vlasenko.  As she has done with respect to previous criminal charges against him of which there have been a suspicious number this year. 

Lest anybody imagine that Ukraine is demonstrating a strong stand against domestic violence, it is not, and this is certainly the only time when the Prosecutor General’s Office has taken an interest in a case so clearly not within its jurisdiction.   It is also difficult to understand why four days of interrogation should be required for charges which appear to be based on Okunska’s allegations alone.

This is not the first time that the Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO] has shown an unhealthy interest in one member of the opposition.

As reported, in February Vlasenko, then a long-time Batkivshchyna party MP, informed that criminal cases had been lodged against him and that he expected attempts to strip him of his mandate and arrest him.  The charges were all based on allegations made by his ex-wife, and included non-enforcement of a court ruling, wiping messages from her mobile phone and “robbery”, with the latter seemingly connected with a car whose ownership was disputed.  These complaints were dealt with by the PGO Department for Investigating Particularly Important Cases.

Towards the end of February parliamentary speaker Rybak applied to the High Administrative Court for Vlasenko’s parliamentary mandate to be revoked.  Not because of these particularly important cases, however.  No, the line was that the parliamentary regulations committee was concerned by two MPs’ combining professional activities with their parliamentary role, this being prohibited.  The other MP, for the purposes of symmetry, was from the ruling Party of the Regions.  The opposition was adamant that no such committee meeting had taken place.  This however pales before the more important reasons.  A large number of MPs could have their mandate withdrawn for the same reason, with most business roles actively bringing the MPs profit.  Even the court did not suggest that Vlasenko had taken money for his role as Tymoshenko’s defender. Furthermore, although he himself is a defence lawyer, the position he held was one which under the previous Criminal Procedure Code could be held by a relative of a defendant without any legal training. The Central Election Commission had seen no difficulty in re-registering Vlasenko as candidate or confirming his election. Yet on March 6, the High Administrative Court stripped Vlasenko of his mandate.  

The previous day the Prosecutor General’s Office had announced that one of the cases against Vlasenko – for non-enforcement of a court ruling - had been terminated “for lack of a crime”.  In June, this apparently identical criminal investigation, again at Okunska’s instigation was again opened.

And now Vlasenko is again facing prosecution over alleged violence against his former wife.

The EU statement issued on March 5 calling “on the Ukrainian authorities to address this situation so as to avoid creating any perception of misuse of the judiciary for political purposes” is surely just as relevant now with only weeks to go before the Vilnius Summit.   With little to be said that is positive about Kyiv’s readiness to combat selective justice, a lot has been made of certain draft laws including that on the public prosecutor.  One of the steps proposed in a bill which was broadly welcomed by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission would be to appoint Prosecutor Generals for indefinite tenure.  The present Prosecutor General, Viktor Pshonka is likely to be the first to be appointed effectively for life.  Pshonka has openly stated that he serves the president.  

With the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement on the line, the latest measures against Serhiy Vlasenko are most certainly not serving Ukraine’s interests. 

Against torture and ill-treatment

Kharkiv prison torture victim awarded damages in Strasbourg

Ukraine has been ordered to pay former prisoner Sergey Savenko  7 thousand EUR over torture and ill-treatment at the Temnivka no. 100 Prison (Kharkiv Region).  Savenko was represented at the European Court of Human Rights by Arkady Bushchenko, advocate and now the Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

Savenko is 36 and shudders when he recalls his time in prison. He says it was customary for prisoners to be made to pass through a “corridor” of officers in helmets and with sticks, with each beating them. 

In July 2008 he was placed in a disciplinary cell together with another prison, both for disciplinary offences.  Savenko says that the first deputy governor of the prison demanded that he give information about alleged unlawful activities on the part of other prisoners. He refused and the deputy governor pulled his hands behind his back, pushed him onto a mattress and put a plastic bag over his head. When he chewed a hole in the bag, the deputy governor threw several mattresses on top of him and, presumably, jumped on them. Savenko lost consciousness.  When he came to, he noticed injuries on his forearms caused by the handcuffs.

This was effectively the only proof of the torture he had been subjected to. 

The court judgment makes shocking reading, with it clear how the prison forced Savenko to assert that he had inflicted the injuries on himself, that he had made up his allegations, etc.

This was enough for the prosecutor to find the original allegations unsubstantiated, however Savenko managed to get a letter to his lawyer stating that he had made these statements under pressure.

Bushchenko challenged the Prosecutor’s decision arguing that Savenko had retracted his compliant involuntarily and that the evidence supporting the decision was unreliable.

This was rejected first by the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office then in the Kyivskyy District Court of Kharkiv.

Bushchenko succeeded in getting an independent forensic examination.  This found that Savenko’s injuries could not have been inflicted by yarn or rope; there was no indication that salt had been applied to the affected areas of skin; and the applicant’s initial statements that the injuries had been caused by metal handcuffs corresponded to the objective medical information.

This did not help in domestic courts, and the case ended up in Strasbourg.

ECHR found violations of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibition of torture) both in that torture had been applied, and because the allegations of torture had not received proper investigation.

Human rights workers are not optimistic that those responsible will be punished. Yevhen Zakharov, KHPG Director told journalists that he does not know of a single case where as the result of an ECHR judgment the public prosecutor initiated a criminal investigation and investigated the case again. 

The right to a fair trial

Spy Catching the Ukrainian Way

Volodymyr Chumakov in whose radio electronics textbook the Security Service believe they found state secrets  - or questions, the answers to which WILL contain state secrets

A university professor and two young men are on trial in Ukraine for alleged state treason over material freely available on the Internet.  In a case ominously reminiscent of notorious spying trials in Putin’s Russia, the SBU have accused the men of trying to pass this material which they claim contains state secrets to China.  The investigators have not established when the supposed spying took place, nor have they provided any evidence that the Chinese colleague of the two young men was in fact an intelligence agent.  

A Chinese connection does not make for a spying story, and this one lacks any credibility. However the two young men have been held in detention now for close on two years, with almost nothing known of the trial which is taking place behind closed doors.  The 60-year-old radio electronics professor remains at liberty thanks to two prominent scientists who interceded on his behalf, but is facing the same 15 year sentence if convicted.

The tale of security service vigilance descends at times into pure farce however this is Ukraine where the lack of any evidence and nonsensical charges are seldom impediments to long sentences and where the rate of acquittals stands at close to zero.

Ukrainian reality

The story began in 2008 when two young men – a former radio electronics student Oleksy Rud and Serhiy Chychotka met Hao Xichen, a Chinese national who had just graduated from a St. Petersburg institute.  Science in Ukraine is hopelessly under-funded, and they decided to create a firm - Top Science Ukraine – which would seek Chinese investors to support scientific initiatives in Ukraine. 

All of this was entirely legal and the facts are not disputed by the SBU.  The latter, however, insists that this was all a front for providing “intelligence” to China. 

This is where Rud’s former professor, Volodymyr Chumakov comes in – and the Internet.  The Web provided a rich source of information, mainly foreign, on railguns which Chumakov used in a textbook for students.  The prospect of funding for various projects from Chinese investors was agreed with his university which actively encouraged academic staff to seek outside financing.  A potential investor had asked for a report, and Chumakov intended to provide the book based largely on lectures to students.  That was when the SBU stepped in and prevented it being passed to the Chinese investor. 

Unmapped territory

From now on the story becomes quite incomprehensible.  According to the SBU, Chumakov disclosed classified information, otherwise known as state secrets, in the book. 

There was some material on railguns which for unknown reasons was classified until 2006.  Chumakov says that he never set eyes on that material and independent experts have not found the match which the SBU claim is there.  Even if it were there, the material ceased to be classified in 2006.

There has never been any attempt to use railguns for military purposes in Ukraine and next to no research in the area at all.  Why Chinese intelligence bodies would send a spy to Ukraine under cover to extract information which is available on the Internet remains a mystery. 

One possible explanation for the trials, however, is that the SBU decided their statistics on uncovering espionage were poor.  This is grotesque yet by no means uncommon in Ukraine.. 

According to the indictment against Chumakov, an expert assessment examined a list of 12 questions in the book and concluded that the answers to these questions “will contain a state secret”.   The entire indictment creates a surreal impression with other phrases no less startling.  The investigators constantly repeat that they were unable to establish when this or that happened, how the alleged secrets were passed on, or which intelligence services in China were involved. 

Hao Xichen is back in China but has made an official application to testify by skype in the trial of Rud and Chychotka.  This form of communication is allowed by law, and Hao Xichen’s testimony is surely vital in the case, yet his application was rejected.  Why such reluctance to question the key player who, according to the SBU, recruited three Ukrainians to serve Chinese intelligence?

What is there to conceal?

Two men have been in custody since 2011.  Chumakov remains at liberty, however all research work has effectively stopped, and he has been subjected to a number of searches.  He learned by chance during one of those searches that his textbook has now been classified as secret and filed a suit against the SBU over this decision. This was rejected by the Kharkiv Administrative Court on Nov. 7 over a formality.

Chumakov asserts that the description of a railgun which the SBU decided was the technology for creating a secret weapon is widely available in open resources with diagrams and instructions on how to make it.  A simple check of Google confirms this.  Physicist Yury Lonin from the Kharkiv Physics and Technology Institute says that three physicists carried out their own assessment of the passages which the SBU deem criminal.  They agree entirely that none of the material is secret and that material on railguns has been on open access since 1986.  A translation of the extracts which the SBU point to in their accusations can be found here: Where the SBU found “state secrets”

Ominous analogies

Any apparent similarities to slapstick comedy are misleading.  This case has its antecedents in Soviet, and specifically Stalin’s day.  We see the same suspicion of foreigners and surreal charges sometimes of spying for different regimes at the same time, with plausibility the last thing on anybody’s mind.  Then and now spies were “uncovered”, people’s lives destroyed according to quota.  The tradition has been reinstated under Putin in Russia.  22 years into Ukraine’s independence, it is a legacy which should be rejected. 

Where the SBU found "state secrets"

Two young men - Oleksy Rud and Serhiy Chychotka - have been held in custody for almost two years, Professor Volodymyr Chumakov is facing the same charges of state treason through spying for China.  What Ukraine’s SBU [Security Service] believe to be incriminating evidence is all presented below.  These are the excerpts from Chumakov’s textbook, largely compiled from open resources, on the subject of railguns.

pp. 35-36

Conclusions regarding possible application of ordinary configuration railguns

1) Analysis of the results of theoretical modelling of the acceleration process of a projectile with 3 kilogram mass to the speed of 3, 000 metres per second at the railgun acceleration channel output (diagram 2.1) in erosion-free conditions showed that the electrode length exceeded 50 m. Such sizes make them unsuitable for practical use. 2) Increase in velocity given a particular barrel length can be achieved in a railgun with distributed electrodes. Analysis demonstrated that for a projectile with 2 kilogram mass to achieve a speed of 3 km/s, there need to be at least 6 rails in the accelerating system.

pp. 37-38

The experimental research was aimed at checking whether erosion-free acceleration of projectiles is possible. It was found that with initial velocity of around 10 m/s for linear density of a current under 6 kA/mm, no surface electrode erosion was observed.  This result corresponds well with theoretical calculations. Low-mass projectiles can gain this initial velocity through the formation of a gas-dynamic mixture with an electric blast of a plasma insert given the closed opening of the trunk from the breech side.  In the experimental railgun setup on diagram 2.6, with barrel length of 50 cm., a projectile with 2.5 g. mass was accelerated to 1 km/s.  Theoretically, in erosion-free conditions, such a mass could reach 2 km/s at a length of 50 cm.

A number of experimental studies in laboratory conditions have been carried out on propulsion of projectiles in a rail accelerator with a long acceleration channel. The functional layout of the experimental stand can be found at diagram 2.7a.

Diagram 2.7  - Structural layout and general appearance of a railgun  (the images can be seen here:  (p. 38)

The following elements can be seen:  1- accelerated projectile; 2 – armature (plasma piston); 3 – accelerator electrodes; 4 – dielectric inlay isolating the rail contacts; 5 – dielectric filler; 6 – external shell (casing) safeguarding the stability of the system;  7 – electricity supply to the accelerator.

p. 54

Theoretical modelling was carried out of the acceleration of a projectile with 3 kg mass, taking friction and head resistance into account [formulae (2.6), (2.8), (2.10), (2.12)].  The acceleration length chosen corresponds to L = 15 m. projectile velocity at barrel channel output v  3000 m/s.  Solution of the task shows that to ensure the chosen characteristics, the projectile needs preliminary acceleration with an initial velocity of no less than v 0 = 400 m/s; distance between the electrodes of no less than d = 150 mm.  The section of the channel for d = 150 mm is in the form of a square; linear induction constitutes L=6·10-7 gega newtons per metre.  The strength of the current in the main circuit is equal to I =360 kA, the strength of the forcing current is around I Ф = 3, 6 МА,  the time for the acceleration of the projectile is approximately 8.5 ms. The co-efficient for the transformation of electrical energy in the railgun into kinetic energy of the propelled projectile of 35%.  Consistency of linear inductiveness is ensured through the profile of the electrodes, the cut of which changes along the barrel according to a particular law (diagram 2.4.c)

p. 62


Analysis shows that the main directions in studying systems for electro-dynamic acceleration of masses will include modelling a process for acceleration of masses in order to determine the optimum conditions for acceleration and to coordinate the work of the energy accumulator and load.  Studies are being carried out of the optimum constructions for accelerating systems, form and materials of the accelerated projectiles.

The results of theoretical and experimental research and achievements in creating rail electro-dynamic mass accelerators demonstrate that with a given barrel length for accelerating projectiles of a given mass to supersonic speed, the most promising type of accelerators are the following systems:

1) magnetoplasmic railgun developed according to a multi-rail setup with no less than 6 rails.  In this kind of system the condition of erosion resistance is ensured, as well as the possibility of reaching a speed of around 3000 m/s at acceleration channel length of up to 15 m.

2.  magnetoplasmic railgun with the forcing of a magnetic field according to this or that setup.  The conditions for erosion resistance and the requirements for system durability are provided for. Optimization of temperature conditions and heat stability of the system is ensured through the profiling of the accelerator rails in accordance with the given law and through the formation of the relevant time dependence of the current impulse.

In the Prosecutor’s Line of Fire

With the Deputy Prosecutor General seeking the dismissal of a Kyiv judge guilty of a  number of acquittals, you might wonder if the latter had ignored conclusive evidence and set serial killers at large.  Not in Ukraine where the Prosecutor regularly goes on the offensive when judges have the temerity to find the prosecution’s case unconvincing. Since Ukraine’s acquittal rate has fallen to below one percent, such methods are clearly having the desired effect, with judges preferring not to ask too many questions.

At the latest session of the High Council of Justice on Oct. 22, Judge S. Nozdryakov stood his ground.  He possibly had little to lose by now after two years under siege.  His 5-year- initial term has ended but the “check” initiated after he aroused the Prosecutor’s wrath is stopping parliament from voting for his indefinite tenure.  At the meeting Nozdryakov defended his rulings and said that he would make them again.  Accused of having unwarrantedly released a defendant from custody back in 2010, he pointed out that if he hadn’t, the man who is facing charges of taking a bribe would now be spending a fourth year in detention with the court proceedings still ongoing.

With respect to a case where he acquitted the person, he asked: “what is the court to do: let itself be led on a leash by the Prosecutor or hand down an innocent verdict?”

The Prosecutor’s answer to this has unfortunately long been clear and since Yanukovych’s “judicial reform” in July 2010, pressure on judges to conform has only increased.  Deputy Prosecutor General and member of the High Council of Justice,  Mykhailo Havrylyuk has been on the warpath for a long time and his complaints that the Kyiv judge had issued “unlawful” court rulings are nothing new.  In June 2011 he proposed that the High Council of Justice dismiss three judges of the Kyiv Court of Appeal for releasing a person from custody. The judges’ decision had been in full compliance with Ukraine’s Constitution and European Court of Human Rights case law.  In November 2011 both Havrylyuk and the then First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin tried to get judges of the Supreme Court dismissed for alleged “breach of oath”.  This vague term has been severely criticized by the Venice Commission as giving wide scope for abuse.  In November 2011 it was widely believed that the actions against Supreme Court judges were part of concentrated measures,   included politically motivated detention, aimed at removing the then President of the Court, Onopenko and bringing this last bastion of judicial independence under control (see Supreme Orchestration).  Havrylyuk received one of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s 2011 Thistle of the Year worst human rights offenders anti-awards for his pressure on judges and contempt for the justice system

Writing of the session of the High Council of Justice on Oct. 22, Hryhory Abramov notes that it highlighted a longstanding problem: the prosecutor’s office uses all available means to put pressure on judges and on the rulings they issue.   Judges know that they can expect trouble if they disagree with the prosecution’s view of the situation and all too often go along with this. 

Despite certain improvements since the introduction of the new Criminal Procedure Code, there is little evidence that the police have stopped using torture and other illegal methods of influence to extract confessions and other testimony.  These methods mean that investigators can provide statistical indicators for the number of crimes “solved” without necessarily meaning that the actual perpetrators of the crimes have been caught.  The prosecutor who, according to Ukrainian legislation is supposed to oversee police observance of the law and human rights requirements effectively works closely with the investigators with the priority being on obtaining a conviction. If judges are then threatened and intimidated and avoid passing sentences which will be appealed by the Prosecutor and also cause them difficulties, the ramifications for justice are grave.  

Freedom of expression journalists beaten up in centre of Kyiv

Two journalists from the public broadcasting initiative, Dmytro Hnap and Yaviv Lyubych, were assaulted on Friday morning near the Mariyinsky Palace.  Their video recorder was also smashed and a flash drive containing material taken away.

Dmytro Hnap explained live, his face still bloodied, that the two were attacked by around 20 people after they began filming those who were going to the pro-government anti-EuroMaidan rally. He explains that after the first assault when they lost the video camera, they approached the police.  When some of the officers refused to intervene, they made a formal call out.  Then two officers went with them, with the journalists filming this on their mobiles.  They walked up to the leaders of the athletic thugs (Hnap calls them “titushki” after the name of the hired thug who beat up a woman journalist while “guarding” the pro-government “antifascist” event on May 18).  They didn’t even attempt to hide, Hnap notes.

He adds that their leader shouted out “get the cops and grab the video camera” after which the young thugs began attacking both the journalists and the two officers.

Lyuchych says that after this one of the thugs took a picture of the assaulted police officers and asked “Why did you go with them, tomorrow you’ll get the sack”.

The thugs also stole a mobile telephone. The journalists decided not to await the police and ambulance and made their way to the studio from where they called the police.

Ukrainska Pravda reports that people brought in by the Party of the Regions are gathering on European Square for an organized rally in support of the president and government.  There are a large number of these bodybuilding types near Mariynsky Park.

From the IMI report

Access to information

Ongoing assault on “Open Access”

Yet another showing of the documentary film collection “Open Access” has been deliberately sabotaged, this time in Donetsk.  A man spilt some stinking substance and the room had to be evacuated.

Natalya Sokolenko from Stop Censorship, one of the organizers of the event, explains that the location now has to be concealed due to the constant attempts to sabotage the showings.  People were asked to gather at a certain place and only then told where the film would be shown. Yet this didn’t help since 10 or 15 minutes into the film, they began noticing a foul smell and realized that some substance had been spilled auditorium.  There were about 30 people in the room, and two needed medical treatment for poisoning symptoms.

The collection of short documentaries “Open Access” is made up of 5 video features on Mezhyhirya; Afghanistan war veterans; “School”; and two others and addresses problems arising in implementation of the Public Information Act. 

In the film “Mezhyhirya” Serhiy Leshchenko tries to find out the circumstances which enabled the former State residence to be privatized and where Yanukovych is living.

In September the Open Access viewings were disrupted in 8 out of 20 cities.  (See Access Denied for more details). 

Freedom of peaceful assembly

UHHRU calls for President’s Impeachment and Dismissal of Government

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is appalled by the cynical and senseless violence demonstrated during the unlawful dispersing of the peaceful protest on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv and other acts of violence throughout the country.

The bad faith demonstrated recently by those in power, the cynical lies in claiming that they did not plan to disperse EuroMaidan, the violence planned and organized by police against peaceful citizens, set against the background of the demonstrative rejection of European integration, leaves no room for doubt.  The regime headed by Viktor Yanukovych has decided to move towards a totalitarian model for Ukraine.

The context of the events leaves no doubt that the order to commit crimes against peaceful citizens came from the highest echelons of power.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union considers that last night Yanukovych’s regime openly positioned itself in confrontation to Ukraine’s civil society. The events of the last weeks have showed that the ruling regime has lost any link with the people, and they can remain in power after this last night only through the use of lies and violence.

We demand from all Ukraine’s members of parliament that they initiate impeachment proceedings against the president and that they dismiss the government.

We insist that an investigation be carried out as soon as possible into the crimes carried out by people wearing the uniforms of police special units during the breaking-up of the peaceful gathering on Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv and that those responsible face criminal charges.

We demand that the Human Rights Ombudsperson initiate proceedings regarding these events publish a report on the results.


Applauded and Banned

On Tuesday evening President Yanukovych stated on Ukrainian TV that he “applauded” those who had come out in support of European integration.  He even clapped his hands. 

Such respect for freedom of peaceful assembly is indeed laudable, making it all the more imperative that the president – and the EU – give their attention to the rapidly increasing number of cities in Ukraine which have banned all protest actions.  Since these bans are expanding with each new court order, the need is urgent. 

As of Nov 26, bans have been imposed, with varying pretexts, in Cherkasy; Luhansk; Dnipropetrovsk; Mykolaiv; Odessa and, if Mayor Gennady Kernes had his way, in Kharkiv.  Since the Kharkiv courts have seldom failed to oblige when asked, it may just be a matter of time before Kharkiv also has a fully-fledged ban.  At present there is a legally meaningless “directive” from Kernes banning all mass events, supposedly because of the number of flu cases in the city. 

Kernes’ concern for the public’s health is something new.  Over the last three years Kharkiv has closed down a dangerously large number of its anti-tuberculosis clinics, forcing patients with highly contagious illnesses to travel long distances.  Unlike Kernes and his political allies, tuberculosis patients are unlikely to have their own chauffeurs and have to use public transport.

The authorities wisely did not attempt to ban protests altogether in Kyiv and Lviv where tens of thousands are protesting against the suspension of preparations for signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement,   In an attempt, however, to minimize the chances of a repetition of the Orange Revolution, courts obliged the city authorities by banning the use of tents.   These have long been a part of Ukrainian protest actions and there is no especial justification for the ban which has been repeated in other cities.

It is not clear whether the authorities fear that the wave of protest will continue, but there has been a noticeable increase in the duration of such court bans.   If the Odessa court order, issued at 2 a.m. on Nov. 25 only banned all peaceful protest until the New Year, the Cherkasy City Council managed to get themselves a whole extra month, with the ban on all demonstrations running until January 25, 2014. 

The date is curious for another reason.  In justifying the application to the courts for a ban, acting mayor of Cherkasy, Viktor Bilousov claimed that there was a serious risk of provocation and that these could obstruct the course of the election re-run in the 2 Cherkasy oblast problem constituencies.  Bilousov may have been taken with his own eloquence, but someone should have checked the calendar.  The elections are scheduled for Dec. 15, 2013;  the ban extends to Jan. 25 next year.

The president would also be well-advised to see how peaceful protesters have been treated around the country.  In Dnipropetrovsk, for example, there were clear signs of close coordination between the police, the city authorities and a gang of thugs probably paid to beat up the European integration supporters.  The thugs appeared at the site of the Dnipropetrovsk EuroMaidan in the early hours of Tuesday morning just after the remaining 25 protesters were informed by an official of a blanket ban on such protests.  The police, present throughout the protest, drove off just before the court order was read out.  They appeared again only after around 40 athletic thugs attacked, knocking down and kicking the protesters and destroying the tents.  Five of the protesters were beaten unconscious and taken by ambulance to hospital.  A similar degree of questionable coordination and violence was seen a day earlier in Odessa.

There have already been scuffles and confrontations during the Kyiv EuroMaidan, and the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office has initiated various criminal investigations.  Responsibility for such instances may well be shared, and any situation involving crowds of people carries the risk of getting out of control.  The potential human cost of a real escalation is huge, and for that reason investigation into the strange activities outside the President’s Administration on Nov 24 seems particularly warranted.   Radio Svoboda reported then that people were being lined up and sent off in the direction of Independence Square where a massive demonstration was taking place in support of European integration.  The people gathered, many of them of an interesting appearance, all refused to say what they were doing, while those forming the groups responded very aggressively to the Radio Svoboda journalist’s questions.

The European Court of Human Rights has twice this year found violation by Ukraine of the right to peaceful assembly and has pointed to an almost total lack of legislative regulation.  It is, put most bluntly, a free for all, with the courts in the vast majority of cases allowing applications from the authorities to ban peaceful protest.  Words about applauding people’s right to freely express their views on European integration are manifestly not enough.  

European Court again points to need for Ukraine to regulate peaceful assembly

Ukraine has lost a second case in the European Court of Human Rights this year highlighting the urgent need for legislative regulation of the right to peaceful assembly.  Both cases were successfully represented in Strasbourg by Volodymyr Yavorskyy, member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Board.

Case of Shmushkovych v. Ukraine

In March 2009 Mykhaylo Shmushkovych, vice-president of a youth NGO called Zelyonka and member of the City Council, informed the Odessa Mayor and the police of plans to hold a picket outside the Odessa City Council on March 19.  

He was informed by the City Council that holding a picket within such short notice was liable to be considered unlawful. The letter cited the notorious 1988 Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on the procedure for organisation and holding of meetings, rallies, street marches and demonstrations in the USSR.  This Soviet document is frequently used by authorities and the courts in independent Ukraine and requires 10 days notification.  

The picket took place, peacefully and without any disturbances. However on April 4 an administrative offence report was drawn up on the grounds that the picket had been in violation of Article 185-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences.

Both a district and the appeal courts found that Shmushkovych had violated public order by failing to give the Odessa City Council 10 days notice of the picket. He was fined 170 UAH (17 EUR.  The fine was never paid.

The Court cited the case of Vyerentsov v. Ukraine in which it noted a structural problem, namely a legislative lacuna concerning freedom of assembly which has remained in Ukraine since the end of the Soviet Union.  It called on Ukraine to urgently reform its legislation and administrative practice to establish the requirements for the organisation and holding of peaceful demonstrations, as well as the grounds for their restriction”.

It found that there had been a violation of Article 11 (the right to peaceful assembly) and ordered Ukraine to pay him 2 thousand EUR in non-pecuniary damages.

The right to health care

Positive Decisions In Favor of AIDS Positive People.

International AIDS Day, December 1 - is not just an occasion to emphasize the living conditions and the prevalence of the AIDS epidemic in Ukraine. The necessarily is arising to ask more critical question – how do HIV-positive people feel and whether are their rights protected? 

Analysis conducted by the advocates of the Ukrainian Network of free legal assistance  to HIV-infected and drug users argues: these categories of people are among the most discriminated groups of people in the Ukrainian society. They have no access to such basic rights as the right to education, right to health care, even to the right to life.

For today, pursuant to statistic data, Ukraine reserves the first position in Europe on spreading of HIV-infection, officially, according to the data of State Service of Ukraine on counteracting of HIV-infection/AIDS since 1987 more than 241 thousand cases of infection have been registered. Unofficially, this number is larger. According to the experts UNAIDS the estimated number of HIV-infected people in Ukraine is 270 thousand.

For more than a year the Ukrainian Network of free legal aid to HIV-infected and drug users is functioning. More than 4500 people have applied to it. Only this year 116 HIV-infected persons (of general amount of 3764) have applied, 46 of them have been represented before the courts.  Currently, the advocates are extending the network of the provision of legal assistance to people with HIV and drug users among the regions in order this discriminated category of people will be able to protect their rights.

Despite of the existence of the national legislation which protects the rights of HIV-infected people for work and activity of non-government organizations in this sphere, people still remain vulnerable both to the threat of infection and after the period when they  become aware of their status. Their right for privacy is violated; they face negative attitudes and discrimination in employment, in health care facilities, especially in places of deprivation of liberty.

The lawyers and advocates of the Ukrainian Network of free legal assistance of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group work for the protection of the violated rights of HIV-positive people and drug users.   The main part of violations are disclosure of the diagnosis, refusal to provide medical care or provision of medical care of poor quality, lack of access to the SMT in places of temporary deprivation of liberty.

             “In Ukraine HIV-infected people are considered outcasts. They lack even the rights the value of which we often do not appreciate, do not notice their presence, - says the coordinator of the Network of provision of free legal assistance to HIV-positive people and drug users Gennady Tokarev - everything starts with a kindergarten, school, when HIV - positive children are deprived of the right to education, to a normal existence, their diagnosis is disclosed. HIV-positive people are often denied of medical treatment. Because of the state of their health they simply needto be in the hospital, but without professional legal assistance they are deprived even of this right, they are simply denied of treatment. However, the most illustrative cases are HIV-positive persons in the places of deprivation of liberty. The law permits to release convicted persons which are in a terminal state, for HIV it is the fourth, clinical stage. However, without the intervention of a lawyer without collecting documents only with good will that does not happen. We have a number of decisions in which we could obtain the release of mortally ailing people. In this case the assistance of a lawyer is the chance to live as a human at least for short period of time.

Thus, the lawyers of the Network in Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Nikolaev and Kiev succeeded in obtaining of decisions about the release of terminally ill people with AIDS from prisons and replacement of imprisonment with punishments not related to the imprisonment for HIV-positive persons. Among them are several cases where seriously ill women were in detention.

Moreover, for the first time in the history of Ukraine the advocate Oleg Nesinov has achieved financial compensation for the infection of the child in the hospital during manipulation after birth. And it happened when the child was already 16 years old.

In Nikolaev it was achieved the restoration of the rights of HIV-positive people to be drivers with the legal assistance of the advocate Igor Skalko. The advocate has won three cases in which patients were tried to be brought to administrative responsibility for driving under the influence of drugs. Because of their drug tests showed that it seemed they were smoking marijuana. Although they were not taking any medications other than antiretroviral therapy, which supported a state of the person with HIV, and that needs to be continuous. False test results were made by the medicament efarynez, which is part of antiretroviral therapy. The lawyer proved that the patients were driving quite sober and they shall be eligible for driving.

And there are only separate cases that characterize the work of lawyers who help people living with HIV to protect their rights and obtain decisions in their favor.

The project " Legal aid networking for vulnerable groups " of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group is funded by the International Foundation "Renaissance".


For obtaining additional information, contacts of the lawyers you shall reply to Marina Nikolaeva, tel. 0677846974, email: [email protected]

Kharkiv: Gravely ill tuberculosis patients left without treatment

In Kharkiv the only unit for patients with a severe form of tuberculosis has been closed for repairs.  The Kharkiv Human Rights Group warns that there will soon be no anti-tuberculosis units left.

The unit for patients with the most dangerous – multi-resistant – form of tuberculosis has been closed now for two weeks.  The Health Ministry Order gave only five days in which to move the 50 patients of the unit to other anti-tuberculosis units. 30 patients have signed an appeal to the regional authorities asking for the repairs to be stopped, and for them to be allowed to remain where they are.  One patient, who wished to remain unnamed, explained to Deutsche Welle that they were pushed out and offered places in other hospitals.  There’s no sense, he says, since the conditions in other hospitals are much worse.

Aigul Mukanova, KHPG lawyer, calls the transfer of patients from a specialized unit to one less specialised a direct infringement of the constitutional right to decent medical care.

Anna Moskalenko who heads a Kharkiv NGO for protecting patients’ rights believes that the transfer is in breach of the Healthcare Act.  She points out that nobody discussed the move with the patients and the decision was taken unilaterally, although each patient has the right to choose the hospital they’re treated in.

She also mentions the likely danger to other patients, suffering from less severe forms of tuberculosis if patients with multi-resistant tuberculosis are placed in the same wards with them.

She notes that the World Health Organization which has found that Ukraine is suffering a tuberculosis epidemic says that anti-tuberculosis units can only be reduced or closed where there are no more than 20 tuberculosis patients and 10 tuberculosis-related deaths per 100 thousand head of population. According to statistics for Ukraine in 2012, there were 68.1 cases per 100 thousand population, and 15.2 tuberculosis-linked deaths.

KHPG reports that over the last 5 years due to restructuring and money-saving measures, 5 anti-tuberculosis units have been closed. Each was supposedly closed “for repairs” but never opened again. Although this is denied by the authorities, human rights groups believe that the same could happen with the present unit.

Some of the patients have refused to move to other units and plan to visit a daily outpatients’ unit, meaning that they will be coming into contact with people not infected with the disease everyday.

The above-mentioned appeal was also signed by some of the staff of the unit being “closed for repairs”.  One nurse stressed that the authorities need to confront the fact that the number of people suffering from a serious form of tuberculosis is on the increase. They need to open new units, not close existing facilities, otherwise, she says, “this is a crime against society”.

From a report by the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service

News from the CIS countries

Russia: Foreign agent mania could spread to the media

Exactly one year since the adoption of the foreign agents law which Amnesty International says is choking independent NGOs, ruling party MPs want to equate media with foreign funding to “foreign agents”.  The draft law, reports, is analogous to that passed on NGOs.

Echo Moskvy explains that the media in question are those that receive more than 50% of their funding or other property from foreign sources and that take part in covering political activities in the Russian Federation. The authors of this legislative creation suggest that such media should carry something indicating that they have been created and are circulated by “a foreign agent”.

Cheeringly, this may simply be some MPs endeavouring to show their zeal since the profile committee of the State Duman apparently recommended rejecting the said initiative.  They felt that unlike NGOs, the media have a different regulatory system and are subject to more restrictions under present laws.

The following is Wednesday’s Amnesty International press release

Russia: A year on, Putin’s ‘foreign agents law’ choking freedom

A restrictive “foreign agents law” adopted a year ago is choking independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, Amnesty International said today.
“One year after came into force, the record of the foreign agents law is a grim one. More than a thousand NGOs have been inspected and dozens have received warnings. Several of the most prominent human rights groups have been fined and some forced to close, ” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

The “foreign agents law” is at the centre of a raft of repressive legislation that has been brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.
Enacted by the Russian authorities on 21 November 2012, it requires any NGO receiving foreign funding and engaging in what it defines very loosely as “political activity” to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”. 

It has a wide reach affecting NGOs working on civil and political, social and economic rights, as well as environmental issues and discrimination, including against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

As the Winter Olympic Games to be held in the Russian city of Sochi approach, Amnesty International’s members and supporters from around the world are campaigning to highlight Russia’s increasingly deplorable human rights record. 

“The “foreign agents law” was designed to stigmatise and discredit NGOs engaged in human rights, election monitoring and other critical work. It is providing a perfect pretext for fining and closing critical organisations and will cut often vital funding streams, ” said John Dalhuisen.

Russian NGOs have unanimously and vocally refused to be branded “foreign agents”. The unannounced mass “inspections” of some 1, 000 organizations during the spring and autumn of 2013 were widely publicized by media aligned with the Russian authorities. 

The “inspections” were followed by persecution of several NGOs and their leaders through administrative proceedings and the courts, and more cases are expected to follow.

The team of election watchdog Golos (“Voice”) decided to disband their organization after the law was used to impose hefty fines on them and suspend their work for several months. They tried in vain to challenge the punitive measure in court before giving up. 

The Kostroma Centre for Support of Public Initiatives suffered the same fate and closed because it could not pay the huge fine imposed on it. 

The LGBTI film festival Bok o Bok (“Side by side”) paid the fine and closed down. It had officially ceased to exist by the time it won its appeal and could no longer claim the money back. 

This week alone, five Moscow-based NGOs, Memorial, Public Verdict, “For Human Rights” movement, Jurix and Golos, were in court trying to fend off the pressure exerted on them by the authorities’ under the so-called “foreign agents law”. Court hearings on their cases have been postponed; numerous other NGOs across Russia have been in court since April for the same reason.

Since the “foreign agents law” came into being: 
•    At least 10 NGOs have been taken to court by the Russian authorities for failing to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”. 
•    At least five other NGOs across Russia have been taken to court following the “inspections” for purported administrative violations such as the failure to present requested documents. 
•    At least 10 Russian NGO leaders have been ordered to comply with the “foreign agents law”.
•    And at least 37 NGOs have been officially warned that they will be in violation of the law if they continue to receive foreign funding and engage in arbitrarily defined “political activities”. This includes publishing online materials on human rights in Russia and not registering as “foreign agents”.

Russian NGO leaders have told Amnesty International about their frustrations with the law.

The rights group “Alliance of Women of the Don” advises local people on issues affecting their everyday lives – family, labour, housing, pensions. The organisation is facing a court case next week for refusing to register as a “foreign agent”.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of and we have nothing to feel guilty for. We are proud of our work. The closure of our organization will affect so many people, ” said Valentina Cherevatenko, leader of the Alliance.

Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the Russia-wide movement “For Human Rights” told Amnesty International: “If we have to close down, thousands of people across Russia will suffer. If other NGOs are forced to close down – tens of thousands will suffer. Civil society will be doomed.” 

“The ‘foreign agents law’ violates Russia’s national and international obligations to safeguard the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.  It should be repealed immediately, ” said John Dalhuisen.

Image from


Critics call new Russian counter-terror law a return to collective justice

Critics say a new law designed to quell the insurgency in Russia’s restive North Caucasus region revives the Stalin-era principles of collective guilt and collective justice. 

President Vladimir Putin signed the legislation on November 3, requiring "close relatives and acquaintances" of those who commit acts of "terrorism" to pay damages -- both material and moral -- resulting from those acts.

It also empowers authorities to seize property from friends and relatives of suspected militants and provides for prison sentences of up to 10 years for those convicted of receiving training "aimed at carrying out terrorist activity."

"This is absolutely not normal. It’s a return to the 1930s, when Stalin advocated collective responsibility for crimes which were carried out, " Mairbek Vatchagayev, a North Caucasus analyst for the Jamestown Foundation and head of the Paris-based Center for Caucasus Research, says. "Once again, we’ve ended up there when Putin regards himself a supporter of Stalin and the Stalin period."

The legislation comes just four months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, just a few hundred kilometers from the restive North Caucasus.

Fears that terrorism could mar the Sochi Olympics heightened last month after a female suicide bomber from Daghestan detonated explosives on a bus in Volgograd, killing six people and injuring 30 others.

Analysts say the law, which was entered into parliament before the Volgograd bombing and was passed rapidly in its wake, is part of the Kremlin’s hardening line in the North Caucasus. The authorities are also testing the DNA of conservative Muslim women in the region so as to identify them rapidly if they become suicide bombers, Reuters reports. 

The law signed by Putin effectively mimics at a national level the tactic of persecuting relatives that has long been in place in Chechnya under its pro-Kremlin leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. Vatchagayev said the tactic has made Chechnya "the most peaceful republic in the region" and in stark contrast to Daghestan and Ingushetia.  

Vatchagayev says the Kremlin is hoping to emulate this success regionwide.  "Vladimir Putin has decided to implement the experience of the Chechen Republic across the whole North Caucasus, " Vatchagayev says. "The law is almost entirely aimed at the North Caucasus against armed fighters."

Vatchagayev adds that the law is ambiguous because "relatives" and "close acquaintances" can denote a "whole clan" in predominantly Muslim republics like Chechnya.

Analysts say the law fits a hardening shift in how security forces are dealing with the insurgency ahead of the Olympics.

Andrei Soldatov, the founder of investigative website, which tracks the security services, says it signals an ongoing shift away from using incentives to get insurgents to lay down their arms.

"The tactics of the security services now are quite different than they were a year ago, " Soldatov says. "A year ago, they combined special operations with non-special operations -- like encouraging people to come [in] from the forest and all these commissions of rehabilitations. It seems now that these kinds of activities have stopped in almost every North Caucasus republic and they [use] only this hard approach."

Soldatov was nonetheless unsure the measure would yield the intended result across the North Caucasus because of varying local conditions.

"I think it depends on which republic we are talking about, " Soldatov says. "One thing is that in Chechnya everybody is scared by Kadyrov and his people. In this case, maybe the tactics would be effective in the short term. But I think the situation in Dagestan is completely different. There, the security services are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the population. And this kind of measure might only add to the sense of disappointment."

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2013, #11