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

What Russian TV won’t show about the events in Odessa

The desperate efforts to save those trapped in Trade Union House which Russian TV channels prefer not to show

A lot has been reported about the events in Odessa on May 2, and the following is no attempt to repeat reliable chronicles of witnesses, just to add certain points – and certain images - that either get forgotten or which Russian TV channels are assiduously muffling or distorting.

Viewers of Russia Today can easily switch channels – to BBC, CNN, others - and find a markedly different version of events.  This is not the case for the majority of television viewers in Russia and, at present, in some parts of Ukraine, including the Crimea. 

They hear only about the fire in the Trade Union House which they are told was set alight by “radicals”, that those who died had tried to escape into the building, and those who survived the fire were then arrested. 

They hear next to nothing or a distorted version of the run-up to the fire: the fact that a group of well-armed pro-Russian militants attacked a peaceful pro-unity procession.  Although the procession preceded a scheduled soccer match, there were very many people present of different ages, and levels of interest – or none – in soccer (see the photo).

The first person to die of a gunshot wound was one of the pro-Ukrainian soccer fans.  That, according to Serhiy Dibrov, a civic activist from Odessa was when the violence exploded, with people on both sides fighting.   Most of the deaths however were due to the fire in the Trade Union House and that is where a worrying number of questions remain unanswered.

It is not clear why the pro-Russians returned to their protest tent camp outside the Trade Union House.  They were outnumbered by the pro-Ukrainian protesters, but could surely have fled.  Instead they barricaded themselves in the building.  With the exception of Russian TV channels all reports suggest that Molotov cocktails were thrown by both sides.  There are also numerous reports that pro-Russian protesters were shooting at the pro-Ukrainian protesters from the Alpha Shopping Centre roof.  None of the shooting on the pro-Russian side is mentioned at all, but Russia Today presents proof – it claims – of one pro-Ukrainian protester apparently shooting at the pro-Russian protesters in the building. The title is “Radicals shooting at people in Odessa’s burning building caught on tape

The fire which led to the deaths was on the third floor and contrary to Russian media reports, there is no clarity as to how it began. Nor is there certainty about why the people in the building did not escape and how they died.  The answers offered are  at best speculative.  Russian media have already suggested that some of those who died were actually murdered by the “radicals”.  Others point to the strange positions that some of the dead were lying in and the number of victims. During the fire in the Trade Union House in Kyiv a far larger number were able to escape.  Suspicion is inevitable if only because this second fire in a Trade Union House is apparently a mirror image of the first during the EuroMaidan conflict.  Moscow has been actively trying to present the current disturbances as equivalent to EuroMaidan.  With the pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine armed, aggressive and not averse to plundering and other crimes, such arguments have not been persuasive.  This has now changed in the most tragic way possible.  The deaths came in a city which had until May 2 seen little real trouble, and the need for a full and transparent investigation is obvious.  

Russian TV channels effectively show victims and "radicals"

They have no interest in the scenes which Olena Tregub points to on her facebook page:  "When young guys speaking Russian tried to beat a pro-Russian separatist crawling out of the fire  a Ukrainian-speaker, [the "fascist"], was yelling "We are Ukrainians, don’t touch him, he;s been punished enough".

They entirely ignore the video footage and photos which make it quite plain that those outside the building tried desperately to save the people trapped.  This was in the absence of the fire brigade which did not appear. 

The behaviour of the police at crucial points in the day was even more reprehensible.  No attempts were made to stop the pro-Russian militants from amassing and attacking the pro-Ukrainian protest.  There is also video footage showing a pro-Russian protesters standing behind the police to shoot at people.

None of the above details are in any way aimed at justifying  either side in a conflict that claimed the lives of a large number of people. 

However deliberate omission and distortion of the facts are manifestly aimed at stirring up hatred and division.  Attempts to gain mileage out of real human tragedy are profoundly offensive. 

Why Odessa? 

On a day when Ukrainian troops were trying to clear the east Ukrainian city of Slovyansk of pro-Russian militants who have terrorised the city and taken a large number of hostages, the focus both in Ukraine and in the world suddenly switched to Odessa. 

Odessa would, very clearly, be another “trophy” for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and is viewed by many Russians as a Russian city.

The weekend’s tragedy, and the Russian media use of it to try to stir up anti-Ukrainian sentiments, also add the south of Ukraine to regions which have been so destabilized that the holding of the presidential elections is jeopardized.

The reasons for Moscow finding the events convenient are not necessarily sinister, but they do make scrutiny of the situation important.

Unlike the Crimea, or even Donbas, Odessa is very much a Ukrainian city.  None of the numerous surveys carried out over recent months found any strong support for “joining Russia” etc.  Nor had any attempts to seize official buildings succeeded.

One of the witnesses to the events, whose account is backed by photos, points out at the beginning of his account that before May 2 there had been no serious conflict between the opposing camps.  Even the day before, he says, a pro-Russian march had not been obstructed at all.  

On the other hand, he notes there had been a split within the pro-Russian camp with some moving away from Kulikovo Pole (in front of Trade Union House).  Where he derives his information from is not clear, however something did change and it seems at least possible that this was connected with obvious plans, announced on social networks and, unfortunately coordinated with at least some police officers, to violently disrupt the pro-Ukrainian march.

Disrupt, it should be said, in a very specific manner since at least some of the pro-Russian camp had – and used – firearms,  

Investigations into the horrific tragedy of May 2 must find those whose actions directly or indirectly caused loss of life.  That includes those who organized the shift in behaviour of the pro-Russian camp.  With multiple questions remaining about the fire, and obvious attempts underway to use human tragedy for geopolitical ends, answers are critically needed.  

Top 8 “separatist” contradictions

In talking with the supporters of federalization and regional republics in the east of Ukraine who call themselves separatists, you often hear similar reasons given for their protest. Further discussion often highlights significant contradictions in the separatists’ arguments. There are the top 8 of those most often cited.

1. Nobody has brought Donbas to its knees and nobody will.

Yet Kyiv residents and western Ukrainians should not have started EuroMaidan, but accepted total corruption, officials’ impunity, pillaging and repression under Yanukovych and meekly awaited new presidential elections.

2.  An armed junta has seized power in Kyiv

In response to this we will take up arms, storm the arms supplies of the Interior Ministry and Security Service, set up armed checkpoints around the city and region, and also seize television channels, the prosecutor’s office, the mayor’s office and regional administration.

3.  Yanukovych is legitimate even in Rostov on the Don, whereas the new Kyiv authorities are illegal

Therefore, without any elections we will appoint our own “people’s” governors, mayors, ministers, heads of police and leaders of the south-eastern army. No problem that some of them are wanted by the police – after all we’ve already seized the police and prosecutor’s office.

4.  Berkut and the police demonstrated heroism during Maidan. They are the foundation of peace and order in the country.

However we demand that the police in Donbas lay down their arms and don’t obstruct the seizure of official buildings so that we can block the work of the local authorities, plunder their offices and walk around the city with automatic rifles and other firearms for the peace of other city residents.

5. EuroMaidan should have been decisively crushed from the outset in order to maintain calm in the country.

However the armed separatists with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and seized armoured vehicles must not under any circumstances be dispersed – this is a peaceful protest by ordinary citizens!

6.  Fascism will not succeed in Donbas! Bandera supporters and Right Sector are a threat to the Russian-speaking citizens of eastern Ukraine

To ensure this, we will beat up, maim and kill all our Russian-speaking compatriots if they speak in Ukrainian or carry Ukrainian symbols.

7.  America and the EU are using Ukraine to obtain shale gas in the east of Ukraine which will probably destroy the local ecosystem.

We will therefore ask for defence and military assistance from Russia which, although the gas monopoly holder in Europe, clearly has no interest in shale gas fields in Donbas and in the Crimea.

8. Donbas needs autonomy so that residents’ taxes and the profits of  businesses stay there to develop the region

For this we will organize a referendum on federalization and after that join Russia in order to pay taxes to Moscow.  We will definitely live better and simply don’t believe that Donbas mines are loss-making and work for Ukrainian business at the expensive of subsidies from public funding.

Maksym Vasin, lawyer (Kyiv – Donetsk)  The original:

Real, Russian and Neo-Nazi

Russian Nazis in St Petersburg Photo:  

It is undoubtedly correct that the neo-Nazis who marched through many Russian cities on May 1 should not be given a chance to advertise themselves on Russian television, They are however real, unlike the “Ukrainian fascist” spectres used on those very channels to frighten viewers and raise anti-Kyiv sentiments

Cursorinfo reports that Russian nationalists held May First rallies in many Russian cities, including Moscow and St Petersburg.  The list of over 20 cities where such rallies were agreed with the authorities and announced in advance can be found on the “Russians Ethnopolitical Association” website. 

The Slavic Union [SS] site states that “On May 1 2014 a procession will be held of Russians, all of those who are willing to proclaim that in Russia there are not only Russian nationals [rossiyanye] , but also ethnic Russians [russkiye] who are proud of being ethnic Russians and are not ashamed to say so.”

Cursorinfo notes that despite Russia’s Law on Extremism, the SS site freely promotes anti-Semitic literature in its section “Revisionism of the Holocaust”.  This asserts that “in order to avoid intellectual terrorism, lies and bias, history, like any other science, requires uninterrupted “revision”. Either it’s a “revisionist” or masked propaganda”.

There is a note from the administrator informing that the site is not on Russian territory and claiming that this means that it can’t be touched.  There is no such disclaimer on the other, equally far-right, site, nor in fact would such arguments have any weight on Russia’s Federal Security Service [FSB] were the latter to feel any concern about organizations openly promoting neo-Nazi ideology.  They appear to show no concern either about their publications or their public rallies.

Both the FSB and Russian courts have already proven willing to prosecute a person over a forum discussion on a Ukrainian website ( Taras Zelenyak, a 36-year-old of Ukrainian origin from Novosibirsk was prosecuted back in 2007 for what Russia’s security service deemed incitement to enmity against Russians.

There are no grounds for concluding that the FSB has since become more liberal in its attitude towards freedom of expression on the Internet. As reported, Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal committee supervising the media and IT just last week blocked access to a number of Siberian websites on which, it claimed, “Ukrainian nationalists have called for mass protest actions in Russia”.  Since mass protests against, say, the Russian annexation of the Crimea have been held without difficulty in all democratic countries, it would be helpful to know what made these mass protests different.  No further information is, unfortunately, forthcoming.   The Russian authorities earlier applied similar measures against the information agency,;; and Alexei Navalny’s blog, all of which publish material critical of the Russian regime. The offensive against was connected with an interview taken of a member of the Ukrainian nationalist movement, Right Sector.

It is undoubtedly correct that the neo-Nazis striding through Russian cities and declaring their pride at being ethnic Russians should not be given a chance to advertise themselves on Russian television,   They are however real, unlike the “Ukrainian fascist” spectres used to frighten viewers and raise anti-Kyiv sentiments on Rossiya 24; NTV; Russia Today and other TV channels.  It is no accident that the Kremlin-backed pro-Russian militants in Donetsk and Luhansk who have seized television towers do so in order to immediately change the programmes to Russian TV channels. This was exactly the pattern followed in the Crimea after Russia’s intervention on Feb 27.

The effect is being seen in the number of journalists from Ukrainian and western media who have been abducted or attacked.  The two Radio Svoboda journalists attacked in Kharkiv on Thursday were initially abused and called “fascists”. 

The confusion would be comical were it not so deliberately promoted and dangerous.  A number of the “Donetsk Republic” pro-Russian activists involved in storming official buildings and proclaiming a “Donetsk People’s Republic” are people with neo-Nazi leanings.  This includes Pavel Gubarev, the self-styled “people’s mayor” whom Russian media are calling Ukraine’s “political prisoner No. 1.

None of this stops their supporters, or others, from holding pro-Russian protests under banners like “No to fascism” and repeating the claims that they are fighting the “fascists” and “anti-Semites” who have taken over in Kyiv.  

The Russian channels have been caught any number of times doctoring their material and making demonstrably false claims.  Long-term researchers of xenophobia and anti-Semitism in Ukraine have established a National Minority Rights Monitoring Group whose first reports demonstrate clearly that in comparison with Russia, Ukraine’s problems with anti-Semitism and xenophobia are minor.

When forced to acknowledge objections from Jewish organizations about the Kremlin’s line on Maidan and anti-Semitism, Russian TV viewers heard the suggestion that such organizations were “bringing on a second Holocaust”.  As they had the first, the presenter added.

The bulk of Russian military and tanks may still be on the other side of the border, but nobody should be in any doubt that a fully-fledged offensive is underway, with Russian TV channels playing a major role.  


Evidence mounts that Russia supplied Buk missiles to Ukraine separatists

More and more evidence is emerging that seems to document a large Russian military convoy that traveled to eastern Ukraine in June 2014 and brought Buk antiaircraft systems to Russia-backed separatists fighting against Kyiv.

On May 13, a group of pro-Ukrainian citizen activists published a report purportedly identifying a Russian soldier who was a driver in that convoy and showing photographs of Buk systems apparently being escorted across Russia to Ukraine.

A few weeks later -- on July 17, 2014 -- Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine’s Donetsk region. All 298 people on board were killed.

Although the investigation into the MH17 downing is ongoing, many believe the aircraft was shot down by the separatists using a Russian-provided Buk system. 

The separatists and Russia have blamed Kyiv for the downing of MH17, and Moscow denies providing Buks -- or any other weapons -- to the separatists.

However, the activist group InformNapalm has found photographs on the VKontakte page of a Russian soldier named Dmitry Zubov that seem to detail the convoy’s June 2014 journey.

According to Zubov’s posts on VKontakte -- his account on the Russian social-media site has subsequently been closed down, but InformNapalm saved cached copies -- he was serving with the 147th Automotive Logistic Support Battalion, Unit 83466, based just outside of Moscow. At the time, he was serving his last few days before being demobilized.

One of the photographs (above) shows a Buk system with the identifying number 232. The same Buk bearing the same number was photographed in the Russian town of Stary Oskol, not far from the Ukrainian border. In an Instagram post from June 2014, a user identified as "rokersson" said the Buk was part of a convoy of 80 to 100 vehicles moving toward Ukraine.

Other photos show the convoy as it crosses Russia and the soldiers who were traveling with it. An additional photo shows Zubov on a train returning to his unit in Russia, where he was demobilized a few days later.

Eliot Higgins is the founder of the citizen’s journalism website Bellingcat, which occasionally cooperates with investigators from InformNapalm. He said the information released by InformNapalm jibes well with Bellingcat’s own probes into the convoy that allegedly brought the Buk systems to eastern Ukraine, including the one he believes was used to shoot down MH17.

"We’ve been looking at this same convoy and there’s quite a lot of interesting information, " Higgins told RFE/RL. "InformNapalm has found one piece, one profile. We’ve found much, much more additional material. We’ve got the names of the people who were in the convoy. We’ve got a good idea of which vehicles they were driving. In fact, the guy who they feature in the article was actually almost certainly driving just one vehicle in front of the actual missile launcher that [we believe] shot down MH17."

"There was a big, massive movement of equipment between June 23 and June 25, including the missile launcher that [we believe] shot down MH17, and a few weeks later we see it in Ukraine on July 17, " Higgins said.

Bellingcat has been sharing its findings with investigators in the Netherlands who are looking into the downing of MH17 and plans to issue its own report on the convoy on May 28.

The InformNapalm information comes one day after the release of a report based on research by slain Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov documenting Russia’s alleged involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. The Nemtsov report also makes extensive use of social media to document its claims that Russian soldiers and Russian-paid mercenaries have been fighting with the separatists.

Chapter Eight of that report argues that MH17 was shot down by separatists using a Buk antiaircraft system.

Against torture and ill-treatment

Ukraine: Overwhelming new evidence of prisoners being tortured and killed amid conflict

Overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes, including torture and summary killings of prisoners, serve as a stark reminder of the brutal practices being committed on a near-daily basis in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

The 36-page report - Breaking Bodies: Torture and summary killings in eastern Ukraine - provides compelling evidence of frequent and widespread prisoner abuse by a broad range of captors on both sides of the conflict.

Former prisoners described being beaten until their bones broke, tortured with electric shocks, kicked, stabbed, hung from the ceiling, deprived of sleep for days, threatened with death, denied urgent medical care and subjected to mock executions.

John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International, said:

“In the shadow of eastern Ukraine’s still smouldering conflict, our on-the-ground research shows that accounts of detainee torture are as commonplace as they are shocking. More than 30 former prisoners held by both sides gave us consistent and harrowing accounts of their captors’ abuse.

“Prisoners on both sides have been beaten and subjected to mock executions. We have also documented summary killings of those held by separatist groups. It is a war crime to torture or deliberately kill captives taken during conflict.

“Pro-Kiev and separatist forces alike must put an end to these crimes and ensure that all fighters under their control are aware of the consequences under international law of abusing prisoners amid an armed conflict. The Ukrainian authorities must investigate all allegations of war crimes and other abuses, open files and collect evidence of abuses by separatist forces and bring to justice all those responsible for perpetrating such heinous acts.”

Out of 33 former prisoners interviewed by Amnesty, 32 described severe beatings or other serious abuse being meted out by separatist and pro-Kiev groups. All of them were held captive at some point between July last year and April this year. Amnesty conducted most of the interviews in March, April and May of this year.

Amnesty corroborated the victims’ testimonies against additional evidence, including x-rays of broken bones, hospital records, photographs of bruises and other injuries, scars, and missing teeth. Two of the victims were still nursing their wounds in hospital at the time of their interviews.

Of the former prisoners Amnesty interviewed, 17 had been held by separatists and 16 by pro-Kiev military and law enforcement officials, including the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU).

Amnesty has also identified at least three recent incidents where separatist fighters summarily killed at least eight pro-Kiev fighters. This is based on eyewitness testimony, hospital records, evidence posted on social networks and media reports. In an interview with a journalist, one separatist armed group leader openly admitted to killing captive Ukrainian soldiers, which is a war crime.

Most of the worst abuses take place in informal places of detention. This typically occurs during the initial days of captivity, and groups outside the official or de facto chain of command tend to be especially violent and lawless.

The situation on the separatist side is particularly chaotic, with a variety of different groups holding captives in at least a dozen known locations.

On the pro-Kiev side, a report by a former prisoner held by Right Sector, a nationalist militia, was especially disturbing. Using an abandoned youth camp as an ad hoc prison, Right Sector has reportedly held dozens of civilian prisoners as hostages, brutally torturing them and extorting large amounts of money from them and their families. Amnesty has alerted the Ukrainian authorities to these specific allegations but has not received a response.

Amnesty has found that both sides are arbitrarily holding civilians who have not committed any crime, but who sympathize with the opposing side. The organisation spoke to civilians who were detained and beaten merely for having photographs from the EuroMaydan protests on their mobile phones, or for having telephone numbers of separatist contacts.

John Dalhuisen said:

“In some cases, these civilians are detained as currency for prisoner exchanges, but it also may be simply to punish them for their views. This is a disturbing and illegal practice that must be stopped immediately.”

Amnesty is calling on relevant UN agencies and experts to undertake an urgent mission to Ukraine to visit all detention sites for prisoners held in connection with the conflict – including unofficial places of detention. Those that should take part include the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Working Groups on arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances, and the Special Rapporteur on torture. 

The report can be downloaded here

Freedom of conscience and religion

‘Russian World’ and Religious Persecution in Donbas

  Nikolai Kozitsyn from the Most Glorious Legion of Don

A recent report highlights widespread and systematic persecution of all religious groups except believers linked to the  Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate in Donbas, and the role of Russia and its armed criminal ‘crusaders’ in mounting crimes against humanity in the region.

In parliament on May 8 three representatives of the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate, including Primate Onufriy, remained seated when President Petro Poroshenko read out the names of 21 soldiers awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine, 10 posthumously.  The soldiers were being honoured for their role in the military action against Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas and all others present, including foreign guests, rose to their feet.  

Bishop Clement later asserted that the Primate had in no way wished to express his disrespect for the soldiers, only his opposition to any military conflict. 

Perhaps that was the case, but the moment highlighted a growing divide between all other religious faiths in Ukraine, and the Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate  

This is nowhere more pronounced than in Donbas where religious persecution has become a grave problem since the armed conflict began in April 2014.

A study entitled ‘When God becomes the weapon’ has recently been published by the Centre for Civil Liberties and International Partnership for Human Rights.  The authors hope that the evidence they have gathered will serve to ensure that the perpetrators of human rights abuses answer for their deeds and that their victims can seek legal redress in domestic or international courts. 

They identify systematic and widespread religious persecution, and also note that religion is one of the key motivating factors and justification cited for criminal activities by unlawful paramilitary groups within the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’ [hereafter ‘DNR’, ‘LNR’]. 

Ukraine has a fairly high percentage of believers (67%).  While members of Orthodox Churches are in the majority, many identified themselves as being ‘simply Orthodox’, rather than members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate [OUC KP], the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate [OUC MP] or Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church (UAOC).  There are also members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church [UGCC], Roman Catholics and members of a large number of Protestant churches, as well as Muslims and religious Jews.

It is worth noting that nearly 75% of Ukrainians believe that all religions should be respected.  This is in stark contrast to developments under Russian occupation in Crimea, as well as the ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’.

Fighting for the ‘Russian World’

The report clearly identifies the major role played by unlawful armed groups who “under the banners of the Russian Orthodox Army and the Cossack Army, openly manifest their adherence to orthodoxy and have begun a ‘crusade’ across the Donbas region’.

While conflicts have arisen between differing armed formations, especially in ‘LNR’, this adherence to a specific form of Orthodoxy and political ideas around this is largely shared by all pro-Russian militants. 

According to the ‘DNR’ ‘constitution’, issued on May 16, 2014 “the leading and dominant faith is the Orthodox faith ... as professed by the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate). The historical heritage and role of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) are recognized and respected, including as a main pillar of the Russian World doctrine ".

This concept of a supposed ‘Russian World’ – encompassing Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, as well as Russia itself – has been repeatedly endorsed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill. The latter stated in November 2009, that “if we consider the Russian Federation with its present boundaries, then we have sinned against the historical truth and artificially cut off millions of people who are aware of their role in the fate of the Russian World and consider its creation their main deed.

Many of the fighters from Russia clearly consider their ‘crusade’ in Ukraine to be part of that patriarch-blessed ‘main deed’. 

These armed fighters, and the position of the militants in general, as seen in their ‘constitution’ have had a profound impact on the areas under militant control, with attacks on churches, abductions and torture of representatives of other churches, and the report notes, prohibition of religious practice other than that linked with the Moscow Patriarchate.

Many of the abductions were reported at the time, with the authors of this report having interviewed the victims and heard quite harrowing accounts of their treatment. 

Four members of the Sloviansk Evangelical Church of the Transformation were abducted after a Trinity Sunday service on June 8, brutally beaten and killed.  The bodies of the two adult sons of Pastor Alexander – Reuben and Albert Pavenko – and of two deacons – Viktor Brodarsky and Volodymyr Velychko – were later found in a mass grave after the militants fled the city.  Despite all the evidence being against them, Russian propaganda had tried to claim that the men had been murdered by the Ukrainian army for helping ‘insurgents’. 

The political nature of the involvement of Russian formations, especially the Cossacks, is highlighted by the account of their other activities.  The report notes that “for several decades Cossacks have been involved in armed conflicts in the post-Soviet areas of Transdniestria, Abkhazia and Serbia.  Nikolai Mitrokhin, a leading researcher on radical movements, calls them right-wing extremists.

The Russian Orthodox Army has as its motto: ““Warriors of the faith, brothers of the Great Russia, we will unite the whole Southeast”,   It was formed in February 2014, under the proclaimed leadership of Igor Girkin (nom de guerre Strelkov), identified by US officials as working for Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. 

Position of the Church

The authors of the report note that the Russian Orthodox Church, like the Kremlin, denies any role in stirring up the conflict in Ukraine.  They point however to increasing “evidence of close ties between the Moscow Patriarchate and the pro-Russian cause”.

“Open sources and witness testimony indicate that these armed groups also have local support from the clergy of UOC-MP and the Russian Orthodox Church”.  Examples are provided of some Moscow Patriarchate priests who “have, to varying degree,  supported these illegal paramilitary groups in their campaign against representatives of Protestant, Evangelical and Catholic Churches, and Orthodox believers who do not recognize the Moscow Patriarchate.”

There are individuals in any church or religion and their behaviour cannot necessarily be viewed as representative.

On the other hand, UOC MP has stood apart from all other faiths in Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict.  In March 2014, heads of all faiths except UOC MP, issued a joint statement denouncing the claims in the Russian media of harassment in Ukraine on the basis of language, nationality or religion.  UOC MP also refused to sign a response from the Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations to Putin’s request for permission to use Russian troops abroad.  The statement called the deployment of foreign military forces in Ukraine “a threat not only for our country, but for the peace and tranquillity of Europe as a whole”. 

If Patriarch Onufriy and his colleagues from UOC MP failed to honour soldiers, including ten who were killed in fighting, on May 8 out of opposition to military conflict, it is quite unclear why the Church under the Moscow Patriarchate refused to sign a statement trying to avoid the use of armed forces.

The reports finds that only believers from Orthodox churches under the Moscow Patriarchate are free from persecution in Donbas, and able to practise their religion.  All others living in the area affected by conflict “are subject to widespread and systematic attack by the rebel groups”.  This is often, but not always, linked with the belief that people of other faiths are pro-Ukrainian.  The Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate is not only viewed, but even formally established as the ideological foundation and only recognized religion of the militant’s self-proclaimed ‘republic’.   So too is Russian nationalism with ‘Russian World’ mentioned repeatedly in the same ‘constitution’.

The authors of the report consider that the scale and magnitude of the attacks on non-Orthodox believers qualify them as crimes against humanity.  With evidence mounting of Russia’s direct involvement in the conflict, they point out that Russia bears responsibility for both preventing and investigating such crimes.  Since Russia’s involvement at the present time would simply hamper investigation, they call on the Ukrainian authorities to formalize the procedure for giving the International Criminal Court jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against humanity committed on Ukrainian territory.  This, they say, will not only help the victims, but will also help put an end to rampant impunity in the region.

Access to information

Those in power declare modest earnings, flaunt expensive watches

Oleksy Khmara

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

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


Social and economic rights

Fighting Corruption the Ukrainian Way

For three and a half months I took part in the selection of candidates for the post of Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine [NABU]. I had previously avoided the fight against corruption seeing it as totally artificial and manipulative although I put a lot of effort into improving access to information and increasing the state’s transparency. Only that, in my opinion, could be done in our conditions to reduce corruption.  However participation in the first competitive selection by civic figures of the head of an elite law enforcement body interested me, first and foremost as a test of both the state’s maturity and that of civil society, and I therefore agreed. The results were interesting in all ways and I hope that my reflections on this will be useful for future analogous competitions.

Specific features of Ukrainian corruption

Most unfortunately corruption has become the cornerstone of Ukraine’s state. On the eve of 2005 I wrote in an article entitled “Plus the deKuchmization of the entire country” that “the new laws will not work if the foul, semi-feudal social system remains, when only closeness to those in power ensures benefits and privileges, and if fiscal pleasure does not make it possible to work, not stealing, then each is vulnerable for the entire state might, and thus each has to pay their tithes”.

Over the last 10 days this system has only developed still further and reached its culmination during the rule of Viktor Yanukovych. However we have not moved very far at all from that a year after the Revolution of Dignity. Money is still laundered through various means, through a corrupt component in tenders; money and property of state monopolists taken out via subsidiary companies; the use of funding not as intended, etc. criminal business is given protection mainly by the law enforcement bodies; smuggling, state extortion rackets, tax evasion are rampant; positions sold, and so on. Against the background of the military aggression in the east of the country with all its consequences this is particularly revolting.

Hatred towards bigtime corrupt dealers gets along fine with widespread everyday corruption. Ukrainians think that it’s necessary to thank anybody (officials, doctors, teachers, plumbers, etc.) for services providing without fully understanding the difference between a gift and a bribe. At the same time many hope that you only need to put corrupt dealers behind bars, as many of them and for as long as possible, and corruption will be overcome.

These views are flawed and are based on an understanding of corruption as a primarily moral issue. Yet in fact this is a political-economic issues. The biggest is corruption at the highest echelons of power. Corrupt relations are a substitute for market relations, and without the emergence of a real market, with division of business and power, the fight against corruption only through punitive measures cannot be successful. There also need to be various administrative measures aimed at introducing new information technology in the system of state governance; reduction in state control over business; the introduction of anti-corruption barriers, for example, officials’ income and spending declarations, etc.  However neither the new laws, nor the creation of new institutions – the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Agency on Countering Corruption will help if the system of relations between business and state is not radically changed. There have recently been cheering signs of specifically such changes.

For example, the Cabinet of Ministers is aiming for significant reduction in regulatory acts, in particular, permit procedures, and introduction of electronic management and electronic services which will remove the human factor in decision making. Draft bills have been drawn up which introduce mandatory declaration of income and expenditure, as well of monitoring of officials’ declarations; a tax amnesty; reduction in payments by cash; and incentives for lawful behaviour by civil servants.  There has been a noticeable increase in the number of criminal proceedings regarding corruption offences by officials of different ranks. The President has declared a course aimed at reducing the power of oligarchs which is directly linked with separating major business interests from the state. Evidence of this course being followed was seen in the recent situation with the Privat financial – industrial group and the resignation of Ihor Kolomoisky from his post as head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional State Administration. Time will show how permanent this trend is.

Selection of candidates for the post of Director of NABU: the facts

However let’s return to the competition. NABU is a law enforcement body given the responsibility to prevent, identify, stop, investigate and solve corruption crimes committed at the highest echelons of state power, specifically state officials of the first and second ranks. According to the Law on NABU, the selection commission should be made up of 9 members: three from the President; three from the Cabinet of Ministers; and three from parliament.  Those appointed were: Refat Chubarov, historian and Head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People; Yaroslav Hrytsak, historian and professor of the Ukrainian Catholic University; and myself, human rights activist and Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group; Yury Butusov, journalist and Chief Editor of the Internet publication; Josif Zissels, human rights activist and President of the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine; and Oleksandra Yanovska, lawyer and Professor of the Academy of Advocacy, ad hoc judge for the European Court of Human Rights;  Giovanni Kessler, lawyer and Director of the European Anti-Fraud Office; Viktor Musiyaka, Professor of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy; and Yevhen Nishchuk, actor from the Ivan Franko National Theatre and former culture minister.

The Director of NABU should be a Ukrainian national with a higher law education; should have worked in the law sphere for at least 10 years;  should have experience of working in managerial posts of at least 5 years; be under 65; speak the State language and be capable, in terms of his or her professional and moral qualities; educational and professional level and state of health to carry out the relevant duties. It is prohibited to appoint a person who has for two years held a leading post in political parties or had contractual relations with them, or those who over the last two years worked in special anti-corruption units of the law enforcement bodies.

The selection commission met for the first time on Jan 9 and spent quite a lot of time putting together an announcement of the competition due to the unclear wording in the law of the qualification requirements.  The main discussion was over the issue of whether foreign nationals can apply for the post. The law gave grounds for two interpretations. As a result, foreign nationals were allow to apply on condition that effectively excluded the possibility of their participation – that before the deadline for applications they receive Ukrainian citizenship. As a result only one foreign national took part in the competition – the former Georgian Deputy Prosecutor General David Sakvarelidze.

From Jan 12 when the advertisement was published, we didn’t lose a single day. A month was given for preparing and submitting documents. On Feb 11 the applications of 176 applicants were opened. From Feb 11 to 21 the documents of 176 applicants were posted on the President’s website.  The Commission studied these documents and kept the 106 candidates who met the competition requirements for the post of director in accordance with the law. From Feb 23 to 26 Feb, the commission held interviews with these 106 candidates and shortlisted 21 for the second stage of the selection process – those who gained the support of three or more members of the commission.  From March 2 to 6, the Commission held more detailed interviews with them and on March 6 selected the four best candidates for the final selection of two or three to be submitted to the President.

On March 10 their documents were sent by the President’s Administration for special and lustration checks. Those checks took longer than we had expected. One of the four candidates, Yakiv Varichev did not pass the SBU test, leaving three candidates – Artem Sytnyk; Mykola Siryi and Viktor Chumak. On April 6 the commission interviewed all three candidates again and chose two of them – Sytnyk and Siry – to be presented to the President. On April 16 President Petro Poroshenko appointed as Director of NABU 35-year-old lawyer Artem Sytnyk who from 2001 – 2011 worked as an investigator for the prosecutor’s office. All meetings of the commission were broadcast live on the Internet.


I’ve been pursued by the question: “What do you need this for?” for over 25 years. I hear it constantly when I’m lodging requests for information with the Interior Ministry or SBU, or I propose changes to some kind of administrative procedure or try to defend a person. It was the same with the competition. A fair number of people thought that the commission should look through the documents, choose the 10 best candidates, hold half-hour interviews with them, choose the three best and submit their names to the President, that’s all.

I however insisted that each person who submitted applications and met the relevant requirements for the post should at least have the right to meet with the commission and explain why they wanted to be NABU Director. If we refused them this, we were discriminating against them.

Another problem was getting a quorum. We constantly experienced this at the stage of studying the documents and the first round of interviews when each day we had to find time when six members of the commission could be present to take decisions. Giovanni Kessler did not take part in these stages, Yaroslav Hrytsak was ill and also had important trips abroad. Josif Zissels twice had to go abroad.  Yevhen Nishchuk and Yury Butusov were in Kyiv but their work did not make it possible for them to attend meetings. Yevhen had two performances and rehearsals each day, while for Yury events in the east of the country were clearly more important and it was hard for him to pull himself away.

Since all members of the commission worked on a voluntary basis, you couldn’t complain: each volunteer gives as much time as he or she can since they’re working in time free from their main job.  On the other hand, having agreed to take part in the work of the selection commission, each person takes on certain responsibility and if there is no chance of taking part, it’s better to refuse. Let those who have more flexibility over their working time take part.  I think it would be advisable in future to envisage written consent from volunteers to membership in the commission.

A dry description of the course of the competition would not convey all the hurdles and the public attention to its running. And there was a huge amount of attention. The course of the completion, the candidates for the post, their qualities, income and abilities were constantly discussed on television, in the printed media, Internet and social media. Many considered that it was all fixed, that there was no real competition, and the director would be – here a name was given, either David Sakvarelidze, or Viktor Chumak, or Anatoly Matios. Some made up scenarios in which the President’s Administration was pushing ‘its’ candidate, fought against those scenarios and then triumphed over their victory. This looked pretty comical since there were simply no such scenarios. Of course the President’s Administration, like everybody else, had their idea about good and bad candidates, however I can confirm that there was no pressure, advice or recommendations from the President’s Administration.  Such advice and recommendations were heard from individual MPs, civic organizations and their members who, besides ordinary articles in the media, actively corresponded with the commission informing of their assessment of candidates, trying to influence our choice. However such behaviour can also not be called pressure.

With respect to the qualities needed by the director, two views dominated among the public.  The first, pragmatic view, which was supported by noticeably less people and which is close to mine, is that we needed to look for a strong individual, a decent, principled, experienced professional with experience of successful investigation of criminal offences. The second, much more popular, was that in no way could we elect a former or current law enforcement person, that they’re all corrupt, and that with such a director the new institution will itself be doomed to become corrupt. Therefore it’s necessary to choose either a foreign national who doesn’t have friends in, contacts, fellow countrymen here, or a well-known figure with an impeccable reputation who well understands the phenomenon of Ukrainian corruption. Often the supporters of this view considered that it is not at all necessary to appoint a lawyer to this post. They didn’t give any thought to how such a person will be in charge of investigating corruption offences. Both positions were also represented in the commission.

Candidates for the post can also be divided into two groups. The first was made up of current or former law enforcement officers from the Interior Ministry, the SBU, prosecutor’s office, etc., from majors to generals. The second – businesspeople, lawyers, academics, tax officials, some of whom had previously had some experience of work in the law enforcement bodies. The commission saw a lot of interesting people whose ambition to hold the post of NABU Director was well-founded. There were a number of memorable individuals. However the commission proved to be in the position of Agafiya Tikhonovna from Gogol’s ‘Marriage’: “If we put Nikanor Ivanovych’s lips with Ivan Kuzmich’s nose, and take some of the swagger which Baltazar Baltazarych shows, and perhaps add to that some of Ivan Pavlovych’s portliness, I’d make up my mind immediately”.  There was no candidate whom the members of the commission didn’t have some hesitation regarding, with different issues about all of them.  There was also a problem in the fact that the commission members’ assessments did not coincide with respect to candidates’ advantages.

For example, it remains a mystery to me why the members of the commission did not support Halyna Klymovych at the second stage.  She is a former Prosecutor General’s Office investigator on particularly important cases, is well-known for being independent, principled, unable to be bribed, and for her successful investigations of many crimes. It seemed like here was the future director! She holds considerable authority in her professional milieu. Maybe what was involved here was that the majority of members of the commission are far from that milieu? Or maybe that Halyna Ivanivna did not do anything to demonstrate her qualities, did not talk about her successes. One way or another she did not end up at the stage of carrying out checks.

The same happened with another, in my view potentially very strong candidate, Hennady Vasyukov whom I would have appointed director. At not quite 40 he has managed to make a career in the tax service and tax police, gain three higher educations, defend his PhD thesis, and over the last four years be successful in business. He demonstrated a deep understanding of the phenomenon of corruption and proposed original methods of avoiding it. However only two members of the commission voted for him. Maybe the stereotype of tax officials as bribe takers was instrumental in this? Or the argument put by Yury Butusov who said: “How will the public view our choice if we support the former head of the supervisory board of the alcohol producer Khortytsya?”

There were other strong candidates whom I, nonetheless, did not support. The extremely profession Anatoly Matios and Dmytro Horyachev who stood out sharply with their varied knowledge and abilities, worked during the Yanukovych regime, in the President’s Administration and the SBU, respectively, and that was the reason I rejected them.  David Sakvarelidze and Yury Sukhov, also very professional, were largely focused on the punitive function of NABU, and I consider that large numbers of criminal prosecutions will not reap a positive result. You mustn’t mix up an axe and a scalpel.

I also did not support Mykola Siry and Viktor Chumak. Both are known for their principle stand and independence, but they have almost no experience of investigating crimes which for me is a key requirement.

Yakiv Varichev and Artem Sytnyk have such experience. Varichev looked more convincing and stood out generally with an unusual biography. As an investigator on particularly important cases for the Soviet Prosecutor General, back at the end of the 1980s he had great success in fighting corruption in Central Asia and Azerbajan, as head of large investigative operation groups. Later he returned to Ukraine, although after the collapse of the USSR he was offered high posts in the Russian prosecutor’s office. For family reasons (his son’s illness) he was forced to move to Spain Having returned from there he was one of the few defence lawyers who worked both in Ukraine and in Russia. This cultured, professional and open person who has clearly formulated his views was liked by the majority of members of the commission, however he did not pass the special SBU test.

What is more, the opinion, in breach of legislation, came with the stamp “secret”, meaning that neither the members of the commission who do not have access to state secrets, nor Barichev himself, could even look at it. Nonetheless, as I understand it, the SBU found the fact that Barichev has his own lawyer’s firm in Russia and goes there often suspicious. I think that this is a mistake and as a result a person who could have been of great use to the state is removed from working in state institutions.

The commission also liked Artem Sytnyk for his competence, principles. You could see a strong character. You got the impression that 10 years of work as an investigator had not spoiled him, that he was capable of resisting unlawful influences.

I think that the removal of Varichev from the competition had a negative impact on those members of the commission who were planning to vote for him. The fate of the commission was hanging by a threat, with several members of the commission, irritated that their choice was restricted, discussing the advisability of a new competition. Nonetheless, the collective intelligence won out, and the commission voted for two candidates out of the three and the competition ended successfully.

I hope that the National Anti-Corruption Bureau will work. Today everybody understands that corruption is really very dangerous for the country, together with the war, and is a threat to statehood. The public will support the Bureau as soon as it can demonstrate good results, and does not let itself be turned into a fiction should any of those in high positions ever have such a wish.

Law enforcement agencies

On Police Reform

In conditions of military conflict it is pointless to hope for sufficient funding for reforms. This applies also to the budget for the Interior Ministry where profound reform should now be taking place. The need for it is more than evident.

Last year the author of these words wrote about the Strategy for Police Reform which was passed by the Cabinet of Ministers on Oct 22, 2014, but was only made public at the beginning of December due to lengthy efforts to change it. It was asserted that the Strategy could launch long-awaited reforms of the police and Interior Ministry.

So how is the process of implementation coming on?

With difficulty, due to insufficient funding. And with the average pay in the Interior Ministry from 2.5 to 3.5 thousand UAH [per month] what serious changes could there be?

According to an anonymous survey of the staff of police stations in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odesa oblasts, 53% said that their income is enough only to eat, while another 22% said that it is not enough.

Asked what would be an adequate salary, 42% gave a figure for between 6, 500 and 13 thousand UAH, while almost one in three said from 13 to 19, 5 thousand UAH. Only 12% of those surveyed are able to work less than 50 hours a week, the others said that they work more, with 5% answering that they work more than 98 hours a week. 

Nonetheless, changes are not just due, but overdue. Criminal behaviour from police officers were one of the reasons for two Ukrainian revolutions – in 2004 and 2014.

Everybody is stressing the need for reform – the government, the public, and the law enforcement officers themselves.

At a time when there is a total shortage of resources, the Interior Ministry has adopted a policy of managerial staff reductions through introduction of new IT technology, removal of divisions which duplicate functions; restructuring of police stations; inclusion of expert and technical aid from the USA, European Commission, EU countries and other donors.

The National public platform: «Reform of police: transparency and responsibility» has been created.  Its 9 working groups, each made up of police officers; civic and foreign experts, are creating different parts of an action plan to implement the Strategy.

These include: optimization of the structure of the Interior Ministry and police stations; a new system for protecting public order; reorganization of the service of local police officers; division of the police into national and local; creation of a new system for assessment of a police station’s effectiveness; orientation of the work of police stations on communities, through introduction of models of community policing; development of procedures for internal and public monitoring and countering of corruption; change in staffing procedures; reform of departmental education; legislative provisions for all these changes.

The National Platform’s work is supported by the International Renaissance Foundation and the EU Consultative Mission.

The Action Plan should be considered by the Cabinet of Ministers in the Autumn. In parallel those parts of it which can be implemented already are being introduced.

For example, last year numbered safe-packages were introduced to keep the personal belongings of people detained, and detainees were given the opportunity to be informed of their rights and to approach the Legal Aid Centre to ask for a lawyer.

The practice is being drawn up for inclusion in the relevant normative document for engaging human rights activists in internal investigations into allegations of rights infringements by police officers. 

Pay for the staff of restructured divisions is being increased through the saving of public funding.  This principle has been adopted by the Ministry as basis on issues of pay.

For example, officers of the new patrol police created on the basis of the existing patrol-post service and the traffic police should receive 9-12 thousand UAH per month.

The new patrols will appear in Kyiv from June 1 if in May parliament passes the package of draft bills envisaging their creation and radical changes in the traffic police.

Since the beginning of this year on the basis of a competition and interviews, 2 thousand people have been selected from 33 thousand candidates. They are currently finishing their training.

In April the document gathering process began for such a competition in Odesa, Lviv and Kharkiv. If the legislative base is created, then the new patrols will begin working by the end of the year in those three cities and Dnipropetrovsk.

The joining of the patrol service and police was tried out as an experiment in Khmelnytsky from December 2014 – February 2015.  This made it possible to assess the need for cars, petrol, the number of staff, to work out patterns for patrolling, etc.

The main problem for the patrol service is known – the failure to react in good time to reports of crimes. As a result of this some members of the public do not even turn to the police, not believing in their ability to provide assistance.

In the first instance this applies to administrative offences and cases of domestic violence.

In order to change the situation, the time spent by a patrol at the place of an offence needs to be significantly reduced. To achieve this as part of the Lviv pilot project, an automated system for managing the patrols is being introduced.

This envisages the inputting by the 102 operator or person on duty in a police station of a single database for reports from the public, classification of the event and visualization on an electronic map, linked with the address and the time, as well as the sending of the nearest patrol to that place.

An electronic map of events linked with crimes or offences for a given area will thus be created.

This system should start in the Lviv oblast in June, and then after its check and approval, be extended to the entire country.  On the basis of this system the plan is to create a future nationwide 112 emergency service as part of the European 112 emergency service.

There will also be a nationwide child search service 116000 as part of the single European child search hot line 116000.

However under the existing police station structure, when there are one or two patrols over the area of the station, and the district inspector, and even investigators with operations staff, are involved in patrolling, the problem of effective protection of public order cannot be resolved.

In Lviv a new structure of Interior Ministry bodies has been drawn up according to which the number of police station employees involved in protection of public order is increased to 70% of the staff of the station, as envisaged by the Strategy.

In the police stations on average there will be 7 patrol officers covering the entire 24 hours, and patrol officers will have an 8-hour working day with two days off. In order to check these ideas, a normative base has been prepared and an experience begun in the Sambir city Interior Ministry department.

New procedures for control over road safety have been drawn up with these based on the use of video surveillance and radars.  In order to get used to these procedures, it is planned that each driver will receive 150 credit points as a beginning package. 

If offences are recorded by video or radar, these credit points will be removed. When they have run out, the person receives a fine.  The fine is doubled if not paid within 30 days, and if not paid within 60 days, the case is passed to State bailiffs.

Administrative penalties are imposed through an automated system and sent to the address where the car owner lives. This means that the owner is fined, not the driver who can lodge a claim to get the fine returned if it was another person to committed the offence.

Text messages notifying of administrative penalties are also envisaged. The offender will receive a link to the video where the offence is recorded and the password for access to it.

A person by giving personal data and the password can look up the short video clip with his or her own offence. After that the person either pays the fine or appeals against the penalty.

They have 10 days to appeal from the date when they were notified of the offence. They can either appeal to a higher-ranking administrative body or to the court, with the appeal stopping the clock from ticking as regards the fine.

The procedure is somewhat different if the patrol officers fine for the offence on the spot. If the person does not dispute the fine, the patrol officers’ car will have an electronic printer which allows the person to pay the fine by credit card, immediately receiving an electronic receipt, i.e. an electronic protocol of the offence.

It should be noted that the draft bill does not envisage a choice of fines, with one fine per offence proposed with this being the minimum fine at present.

In order to carry out these changes, the Interior Ministry has drawn up a package of four draft bills which have been tabled in parliament. The haste with which the draft bills were prepared is understandable: the window of possibilities is narrow and short.

However one cannot leave failings in the draft bills which contradict the principles of police reform. For example, it is difficult to accept the retention in the draft bill on the national police of a military system of ranks from lieutenant to colonel-general, or with the rejection of a competition procedure for appointments to some posts and the lack of innovation in the system of police education and professional training.

Nonetheless the draft bills can be passed in their first reading with subsequent rectification of the failings that are inevitable given the short amount of time spent on drawing them up.

We would finally point out that reform of police bodies depends not so much on drawing up and passing new laws, as on institutional changes and innovations which must be brought in and checked. Changes to legislation are needed for the legal provision of these changes and innovations. 

News from the CIS countries

Slain Kremlin whistle-blower’s book banned in Russia as ‘extremist’

Russia has placed a book written by former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko on its list of extremist materials and forced an Internet library to remove it.  This comes 3 months after Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded a state honour to the man suspected of killing London-based Litvinenko with radioactive polonium.  Putin’s award was “for courage and daring demonstrated in carrying out work duties in conditions linked with risk to life”. 

The book now banned in Russia was written by Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinksy and certainly has a shocking title, in the original English version, namely: “Blowing up Russia: Terror from Within”.  This is no manual for aspiring terrorists however, as becomes clear from the Russian title:  "ФСБ взрывает Россию" [“The FSB blows up Russia”].  The book accuses the FSB or Security Service of being behind the Russian apartment block bombings in Moscow, Buynaksk and Volgodonsk in September 1999 which killed 307 people.  The official version was that the bombings were the work of an armed group from the Northern Caucasus, however there were rumours at the time that the bombings had been carried out by the FSB.  The authors allege that this was in order to raise Putin’s popularity after Boris Yeltsin’s handover of power to him.  According to open sources,  Felshtinksy, a US national,  decided to investigate the bombings and persuaded Litvinenko to join him, presumably because of the latter’s insider knowledge of the FSB.  Litvinenko had fled to the UK in 2000 and received political asylum after attempts to prosecute him over allegations he made about an FSB plot to murder Boris Berezovsky. 

Russians have now been prevented from assessing the merits of the authors’ investigation for themselves  The work is now No. 2791 on the List of Extremist Materials with people facing prosecution if they try to circulate or publish it.

This is the most open ban, however efforts previously to bring copies of the book into Russia, and a film based on the book "Покушение на Россию". have always run into problems.  Copies of the film, which was sponsored by Berezovsky, were stopped at customs. reports that in December 2011, during a wave of protests in Russia over Putin’s plan to stand for a third term as President, a permit was initially issued to show the film, but was then withdrawn. 

Alexander Litvinenko died in hospital on Nov 23, 2006, after falling ill on Nov 1 with what the bemused doctors finally understood to be radioactive polonium-210-induced acute radiation syndrome. 

He had met with two Russian nationals – Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun – in the Millennium Hotel on Nov 1, and it is they who are alleged to have put the polonium in his tea.  Scotland Yard had plenty to go by, all of it deadly and “linked with risk to life”, since radioactive polonium was found in all the places the men had visited, and even the seats they occupied on the BA plane back to Moscow.  Lugovoi was mentioned as key suspect very soon, but Britain’s request for his extradition was rejected, and in September 2007, Lugovoi became an MP in Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s LDPR Party.  In March 2015, Putin honoured Lugovoi, described as the deputy head of the State Duma Committee on Security and Countering Corruption.  Since no other information was provided for a highly provocative award, it is worth reiterating that we are told only that it was “for courage and daring demonstrated in carrying out work duties in conditions linked with risk to life”. 

Despite the enormous weight of evidence against Lugovoi and Russia’s unwillingness to cooperate with the British investigators, Britain long avoided the damaging effect, particularly to its economic interests, of giving the case too much publicity and a full inquiry into Litvinenko’s murder only began in January this year.  By February the Guardian’s Luke Harding was reporting that “the case against Lugovoi and Kovtun looks unassailable”

Another of Harding’s reports is entitled “Litvinenko report on Putin ally was motive enough for murder, inquiry told”.  The inquiry was told that in the months before his murder, Litvinenko had been investigating a number of top-ranking Russian politicians including Viktor Ivanov, one of Putin’s closest allies and now the head of the Russian Federal Narcotics Agency.  The report which Litvinenko helped to write accused Ivanov of involvement in cocaine-smuggling.  The High Court was read an excerpt from the report stating that “When Ivanov was cooperating with gangsters he was protected by Vladimir Putin, who was responsible for foreign economic relations … Putin himself was not Mr Clean at that time.”

The use of polonium-210 precluded any possibility that the murderers could have obtained the poison on the black market.  The way the trail seemed to clearly lead to FSB and those in high positions in Russia was doubtless one of the reasons why the British government spent years avoiding this crucial inquiry. 

All national media have avoided mentioning the report made public by slain politician Boris Nemtsov’s associates on May 12.  “Putin. War” makes very serious allegations about Putin’s invasion of Crimea and aggression against Ukraine.  The authors were able to find only one publisher in Moscow willing to publish this absolutely damning indictment of the Putin regime, and thus far only 2 thousand copies have been published. 

It is frustrating that the US payment service Pay-Pal has blocked the Russian account for donations to publish the report.  Whatever pressure they are under from the Russian authorities can be nothing to that faced by the courageous authors of “Putin. War”.  Or the tragically real danger faced by Boris Nemtsov, Alexander Litvinenko, Anna Politkovskaya and many others. 

Nemtsov report exposes Kremlin lies and western pretence on Donbas

Every word of the report that Boris Nemtsov was gunned down before he could write is damning of Vladimir Putin and his regime, but relatively little of it is new as such, and the key accusations regarding Russia’s direct involvement in Ukraine not seriously in dispute.   Much of it is equally an indictment on the West’s continued insistence on a diplomatic solution in which the Kremlin-backed militants in eastern Ukraine are treated as negotiating partners. The report should also raises questions about the continued failure in the West to understand the danger posed by a warmongering propaganda machine extending far beyond Russia itself. 

Saying that there is little new is in no way intended to belittle the authors’ achievement – and their courage -  in publishing a vital source of information, but their real (and stated) audience – Russians – remain deprived of any access to the work.  No mention of the report was made on the vast bulk of Kremlin-loyal media on Tuesday, with all nationwide channels on May 12 simply continuing their  warmongering distortions about the war in Donbas and Ukraine.  The same media, incidentally,  reported German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Moscow on May 10, but failed to mention her description of Russia’s annexation of Crimea as “criminal”.

Most of the headlines about the May 12 presentation of the work initiated by Boris Nemtsov and finished by his associates, refer to ‘allegations’ about 10 thousand Russian soldiers in Ukraine.  It is excellent that the figure is mentioned, but it has been already – by NATO, by Igor Sutyagin in an important paper published by the Royal United Services Institute. 

Who is in charge of Donbas?

As with all parts of the study, the chapter under this title provides nothing staggeringly new, although it does demonstrate that behind closed doors, western leaders have recognized that the official leaders of the so-called ‘Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics’ [hereafter ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’] are required only to sign documents.

The report points to the key roles played by Russians in the leadership of the so-called ‘republics’, especially at the beginning. Alexander Borodai, a PR specialist known for his extreme nationalist views, often expressed on the pages of the ultra-nationalist newspaper ‘Zavtra’, long held the post of ‘DNR prime minister’.  The report mentions also Marat Bashkirov who held an analogous position in ‘LNR’ and is described as a political consultant “collaborating with the Russian government (more details here).

The report mentions other Russian citizens having played a key role in organizing the armed confrontation with the local authorities in Donbas, but focuses mainly on Igor Girkin (nom de guerre Strelkov) who is referred to here as a retired Russian Security Service officer.  Back in June 2014, US officials reported that Girkin was working for Russia’s GRU military intelligence service.  Girkin is known to have taken part in Russia’s operation to annex Crimea and went on to form an armed unit of separatists in Sloviansk.  

The report notes that Borodai and Girkin have known each other for a long time.  Both at one stage worked for the Marshall Capital Fund owned by Russian businessmen Konstantin Malofeyev whom Ukraine believes to be one of the main sponsors of the fighters in eastern Ukraine.

Borodai has never concealed  the fact that he was regularly in Moscow and coordinated his activities in Ukraine with Russian officials.  The report quotes him talking about the support ‘DNR’ receives from Putin’s aide Vladislav Surkov and ending: “without exaggeration, Surkov is our man in the Kremlin”  (no link is given, but the original appears to have been an interview given to ‘Aktualniye kommentarii’)

The authors point out also that Denis Pushilin’s ‘resignation’ as speaker of the ‘DNR parliament’ was written from Moscow.

They are dismissive of the ‘republics’’ declarations of sovereignty, saying that they are in fact governed from Moscow and key decisions are dependent on Russian officials and political spin doctors.

Staffing reserves for ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ are often provided by socio-political projects, directly linked with the Kremlin.”

They mention Pavel Karpov in ‘LNR’ who previously worked for the Russian president’s administration on work with nationalist organizations, as well as Leonid Simulin who previously worked in the pro-Kremlin organization ‘Mestniye’ [‘Locals’].  Simulin appears in the testimony of members of the neo-Nazi BORN group guilty of a number of high-profile killings which they believed were committed with Kremlin authorization.  There is plenty of evidence of other Russians holding leading positions in the so-called ‘republics’ (here, for example).  There are also clear links between Ukrainian pro-Russian activists and training courses organized by Russian fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin with support from the president’s administration and specifically Surkov).  Anton Shekhovtsov has identified at least five such people involved in the ‘republics’.

Girkin acknowledges that he was pushed out of ‘DNR’ under pressure from the Kremlin.  “I can’t say that I left voluntarily.  They threatened to stop supplies from Russia and without supplies it’s impossible to fight”.  He claimed in January 2015 that the focus moved to peace negotiations and they needed people more willing to come to agreements.  Here Borodai who ceased his role in August was more honest. The report quotes him saying that “there would come a time when a fragile semblance of peace would be needed” and it would look terrible if he and Girkin, as Russians, took part in the Minsk talks.

The authors are convinced that it is specifically Surkov who has played a key role in the external control of the ‘people’s republics’ by the Kremlin.  “Formally he is in charge of cooperation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but even back when being appointed Presidential Aide in Autumn 2013, it became known that Ukraine would also be one of his areas of interest”.

“The Kremlin policy in relation to ‘DNR’ and ‘LNR’ is extremely secretive and non-transparent. However the facts of direct regulation of policy of these supposedly ‘independent’ republics are impossible to hide. We are effectively talking about the creation in the east of Ukraine of pseudo-states governed from Moscow and being essentially a mechanism for putting pressure on Kyiv”.

The chapter ends with a telling detail about the Minsk II agreement and how after a night of negotiating between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany, there was a hiccup when the two current leaders of the ‘republics’ – Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky – refused to sign a document that could mean their political (if not physical) death.  Putin asserted a few times that he couldn’t pressure them, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande made it clear that they weren’t accepting this, and that the signatures needed to be provided within one and a half hours.  Two minutes before the deadline Putin appeared and said that Surkov had phoned to say they’d signed everything.

The Report Putin. War is a devastating attack on the current Kremlin leadership, and sets out in exhaustive detail Moscow’s culpability for the carnage and destruction in eastern Ukraine, as well as for its aggression in Crimea.   It is no surprise that the Russian media make no mention of the report.  It is however frustrating that they will instead be reporting the assurances given by US Secretary of State on Tuesday evening.  John Kerry is reported to have said that whoever instigated the fighting in Ukraine, it has gone on too long, and that if the Minsk agreement is implemented, the west will begin rolling back its sanctions from Russia.   According to the report made public just hours earlier, 70 Russian soldiers died in the Russian – militant fighting that took place immediately after the Minsk II agreement was reached and culminated in seizure of the strategic town of Debaltseve.  Aside from a few expressions of ‘concern’, little was said of that or further encroachments since by the militants.  Crimea has so far been omitted from all agreements, and it would now appear that all parties, save Ukraine, are willing to be dangerously flexible as to what they term ‘implementation’.  

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2015, #05