war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.



The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (hereafter KHRG), in conjunction with the Institute of Mass Information and the International Centre Against Censorship «Article 19» are carrying out monitoring of the media and of the election campaign. We present here the first public statement of the Kharkiv Group.

The first stage of the Ukrainian Presidential election campaign is behind us: the nomination and registration of candidates, the formation of electoral districts and district electoral commissions. Voter lists are currently being compiled, the election campaign, and the collections of signatures in support of candidates are under way.

Taking stock of events during the first six weeks of the campaign in Kharkiv, it seems safe to predict that the elections of 2004 are likely to break all records in a whole range of indicators: the amounts spent on the election campaign, the use of State powers to exert all kinds of pressure on voters to support «the single State candidate» – Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the use of «dirty electoral technology» against main opponents, the unequal access of candidates to the mass media. The scale of combined actions aimed at securing the victory of the «single State candidate» is staggering. The city and region are flooded with billboards and huge posters with slogans like: «Kharkiv and its regions for Yanukovych». The same slogans can be found in minibus- taxis, cars, shops, etc. One has the impression that whole districts are for Yanu­kovych, as if they had held some kind of referendum. There are endless public events with petitions being signed in support of Yanukovych. «Sportsmen for Yanukovych», «Scientists for Yanukovych», «Educationalists for Yanukovych» – one can’t but recall that Comrade Stalin also held the title of «Best Friend» to al groups in the population.

Going around flats has also taken on a mass character: one has the impression that the set aim is to visit every home in Kharkiv and the registers, to ascertain whether residents plan to vote for Yanukovych and to collect as many signatures in his favor as possible.

We have observed the following activities.

1. The conducting of a «sociological survey» as to who people are planning to vote for. Such «surveys» are supposedly being taken by the district executive committee, but the women collecting the information ask people to give their surnames, name and patronymic, explaining that they will lose their jobs if they don’t give the district executive committee the relevant lists.

2. Signatures in support of Yanukovych from city residents in their own homes are being collected on petition sheets[1] where the name of the person gathering the signature is not given. Sometimes these sheets carry a number for the district or institution, for example, we saw a sheet with a hand-written ‘cap’ «district 1B, Academy of Municipal Economics». Very often these signatures are collected by employees of municipal housing offices or by teachers.

3. Signatures are collected in business enterprises, institutions and organizations, in particular, those of the state sector. The heads of factory workshops and of departments simply demand that their employees add their signatures. Doctors do the same of patients who have made appointments to see them, etc.

Clearly, the organization of such «surveys» and collections of petitions would be impossible without the use of State executive powers, despite the fact that this is specifically prohibited in the law on Presidential Elections. This is especially clear to see during public events, such as the political rally and concert in support of Yanukovych on Wednesday 14 July at 5 p.m. on the central square of the city which gathered, according to various estimates, from 50 to 100 thousand people. The latter did not hide the fact that they had been told to attend by their immediate bosses. Similar political rallies were held in several district centres of the region.

At the same time one observes activities consistently carried out on a mass level and aimed at discrediting the main opponents of the «single State candidate», in particular, Viktor Yushchenko.

We can confirm that the following took place.

1. Distribution on a massive scale to people’s letterboxes of leaflets, giving no indication of their source, but with offensive content about Yushchenko and members of his team, accusing them of corruption, pro-nazi convictions, Russophobia, antisemitism, etc, as well as of fake campaigning material with details apparently indicated, for example a letter, supposedly from Oleksandr Moroz[2] to voters suggesting that Yushchenko was selling out Ukraine to Russia.

2. Provocative invitations calling people in Kharkiv to non-existent meetings with Yushchenko – these were noted in Dergachy and Valki districts. It is typical that, according to the press service of the Kharkiv regional headquarters of «Our Ukraine»[3], no local newspapers nor television channel have been prepared to provide information about such provocations, citing as their reason a verbal order; our monitoring of local media has also not found any mention of such instances, except from the party press of «Our Ukraine».

3. Campaigners from «Our Ukraine» have been regularly threatened or detained while distributing campaign material. Some of them have lodged complaints about unlawful activity with the Prosecutor’s office or the court.

Looking at the local mass media, one can draw the conclusion that the mass media are either totally supporting «the single State candidate», presenting all his activity in a positive light, or do not want to touch the election campaign at all. Thus, on the television channel «Simon», after a direct report about the political rally of 14 July, for about three weeks there has been no subject related to the elections at all. At the same time, any criticism whatsoever of members of Viktor Yanukovych’s team is extremely risky. After publication in the newspaper «News from Chuguyev», № 32 from 7 August of an article by a local council deputy, Viktoria Tokar, about campaigning for Yanukovych by officials of the district executive committee during working hours, the editor of the newspaper, Yury Chumak, was removed from his post, and later asked to resign «at his own request».

Thus, all promises from the State powers to hold honest and open elections have, as expected, proved empty. The beginning of the election campaign already shows flagrant violations. Unfortunately, there is little opposition to these violations, the approaches to law enforcement bodies are few, rather than on a mass scale, and the lack of media coverage of these violations leaves those responsible unpunished. If this situation does not change, we can expect a further escalation of administrative pressure on voters and on the teams of opposition candidates.

10 August 2004

[1] These lists of signatures were required in the first instance to provide the number of supporters needed to register a presidential candidate, however their role in influencing voters was doubtless also a consideration (translator’s note)

[2] Oleksandr Moroz, from the Socialist Party, at that time, also a Presidential candidate (translator’s note)

[3] «Our Ukraine» is the election bloc of Victor Yushchenko (translator’s note)

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