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

Putin’s Ilovaisk Treachery Forgotten?

The Presidents of France, Germany and Russia marked the first anniversary of the Ilovaisk Massacre in which Russian President Vladimir Putin played a fatal role by backing “a new ceasefire”.  Perhaps it would have been undiplomatic to mention Putin’s murderous treachery, but wise to keep it in mind.  There was virtually no mention in the world media of the active involvement of Russian forces in the conflict, although it was precisely those events which rendered further pretence impossible. 

After widespread expectation in July that the Ukrainian military would soon totally defeat the Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas, the situation changed dramatically in August.   Attempts by the Ukrainian military to regain control of the city of Ilovaisk from fighters linked to the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ began on Aug 7, 2014 and went badly wrong, with government forces becoming encircled by the militants.  The latter were from the outset reported to be heavily backed by Russian forces.  By Aug 28, the situation was dire and in the early hours of Aug 29, 2014, an ‘Appeal to the insurgents of Novorossiya’ appeared on Putin’s official website. 

This noted that the “insurgents have achieved great success in countering Kyiv’s military operation which presented a deadly threat to the population of Donbas and had already led to huge losses among the civilian population.  As a result of the insurgents’ actions, a large number of Ukrainian soldiers who were not taking part in the military operation of their own will, but obeying orders, were besieged.

I call on the insurgents to open a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainian soldiers who have become encircled to avoid senseless losses, and provide them with the chance to leave the military zone without obstruction to be re-united with their families, to return them to their mothers, wives and children and urgently provide medical aid to the wounded.”

Within hours this ’call for mercy’ had resulted in an agreement for the creation of such a safe corridor.  Government forces began leaving in a column of 60 vehicles, with the first carrying dead and wounded soldiers and flying a white flag. 

The agreement was a trick and the vehicles immediately came under attack with the use of mortar fire and heavy ammunition.  A minimum of 100 soldiers were killed, and many others taken captive as a result of that treachery.  Some remain in captivity.  As many as a thousand Ukrainian soldiers died during the Ilovaisk fighting.

No washing his hands of this

It had been clear since April that a large number of the militants were  Russian.  These included leaders  – like acting or former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Girkin (nom de guerre: Strelkov) and Muscovite Alexander Borodai, as well as mercenaries and some Russian volunteers, many from far-right, even neo-Nazi parties.  There were also local pro-Russian fighters, under leaders like Pavel Gubarev and Andrei Purgin with ties to the Russian fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin or neo-Nazi Russian Unity Party.

Their position, often even their rhetoric, varied in accordance with the stand taken by Moscow.  Even the leaders in Donbas  changed, with Russia circumspectly replacing Russians like Girkin and Alexander Borodai with local Ukrainian militant leaders (Alexander Zakharchenko, Igor Plotnitsky) in August 2014, in time for the September Minsk negotiations.

Nobody seriously believes that these new ‘leaders’ take any decisions that have not been approved – or dictated – by the Kremlin.  That surely included going against his express ‘request’ for a humanitarian corridor.

The other reason that Putin’s hands are bloodstained was widely recognized at the time and it is frustrating that western news reports should once again be talking of “pro-Russian militants” and stating only that “Ukraine asserts” that Russian soldiers and military equipment have been directly involved in the fighting since August. 

The soldiers who used heavy artillery and mortar fire against wounded and retreating Ukrainian soldiers were almost certainly Russian, as were many of the troops involved in the fighting from mid-August, if not earlier. 

Among those taken prisoner near Ilovaisk was Yehor Vorobyov, a TV Espreso journalist who on Aug 28 had interviewed two Russian paratroopers caught by the Ukrainian army.  The soldiers explained that they had been told they were going on exercises.  They were taken in column at night first to somewhere near the Ukraine – Russian border and then into Ukraine.  Asked by Vorobyov when they realized that they weren’t on a training exercise,   Ruslan Akhmetov and Arseny Ilmigov answered: “When we came under fire”.  Vorobyov was released finally on Oct 7.  A YouTube clip shows how Kremlin-backed militants interrogated and beat him up, striking him hard when he answered truthfully that he and others with him had been captured by Russians in uniform. 

The first report in Russia of Russian soldiers being killed in Ukraine came on Aug 25, and many swiftly followed.  By Aug 27, 2014, the independent newspaper Vedomosti was asking: “If Russia is not at war, then who is in those freshly dug graves?”  Lev Schlosberg, the Pskov journalist and politician who revealed the first deaths of probably most of a Pskov paratrooper regiment was savagely attacked just days after he made the information public.  Even if we leave the question of why Boris Nemtsov was murdered open, a number of human rights activists and others who probed Russian military deaths have faced criminal prosecution or attacks.  

Polish television crews had, by then, long been showing Russian armed personnel carriers, artillery and anti-aircraft weapons turning onto a road leading to the border.  See for example, Artyleria, wozy opancerzone i broń przeciwlotnicza. Ruchy Rosjan przed kamerą TVN24  (4 clips from Aug 18).  Although there were no direct shots of the Russian vehicles crossing, the steady flow was in one direction and there were also shots taken by the militants where you could see, for example, a BTR-80a transporter which the Ukrainian military do not have.  On Aug 19, the same journalist reported that the road leading to the border had been blocked since morning by an endless stream of Russian tanks carrying equipment, etc.

On Aug 22, NATO reported that the Russian military had moved artillery units manned by Russian personnel inside Ukrainian territory and had been using them to fire at Ukrainian forces.  Amnesty International provided satellite pictures to demonstrate Mounting evidence of war crimes and Russian involvement on Sept 9.

In his briefing paper for the Royal United Services Institute, Igor Sutyagin reported that “direct intervention by Russian troops in combat roles then followed in the middle of August, when the prospect of rebel defeat had become realistic. The presence of large numbers of Russian troops on Ukrainian sovereign territory has, more or less, since become a permanent feature of the conflict.”

Western leaders found relief in waxing indignant over Russia’s first so-called ‘humanitarian convoy’ which began its long and ostentatious journey to Donbas on Aug 22.  As decoys go, it was enormous, but highly effective at distracting attention from the reports coming in all the time of Russian military crossing into Ukraine,

In his address on Aug 29, Putin also mentioned “humanitarian aid” which he said Russia was willing to provide “the population of Donbas suffering from a humanitarian catastrophe”.  There have been around 37 such ’convoys’ since, with the loads almost certainly containing arms, fuel, etc. for the war.

The lies and failure to keep to agreements have been repeated many times since then, most notoriously when Debaltseve was seized by Russian and pro-Russian forces soon after a ceasefire was supposed to have come into force.  Ukraine is now under heavy pressure to make new moves, including significant changes to its Constitution, while Russia and its proxies in Donbas continue to breach the Minsk Accords on a daily basis. 

Treachery known and ignored is surely shared. 

Arson attack on OSCE mission follows orchestrated ‘anti-OSCE protests’

The arson attack on four OSCE armoured vehicles in Donetsk on Saturday night came days after the second of two ‘protests’ in which very professional placards, some in English, demanded that the OSCE monitors “open their eyes”.  The protests were widely reported on Russian television, unlike the many Special Monitoring Mission [SMM] reports of late that have noted militant infringements of the Minsk agreement.  

Alexander Hug, the Deputy SMM Head, is reported to have called the arson attack which gutted three of the four vehicles, an act of “intimidation aimed at stopping the OSCE from reporting what is going on in the area."

Denis Pushilin issued a statement on the militants’ Donetsk News Agency expressing “outrage” and saying that an investigation had been initiated.  He claimed, unsurprisingly, that the “most likely” version was that it was the work of saboteurs (i.e. pro-Ukrainian activists, since the area is within the territory of the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’). 

He asserts that the militants want the mission to continue, despite claiming that they have not been “objective”.

It is not clear from the statement what Pushilin regards as “not objective”, but one can safely assume that the militants were not pleased with such elements of the SMM reports as the following:

“In Donetsk, at Chelyuskintsev Street located approximately 600m from the residence of SMM monitors, the SMM observed at one of the building missing and broken windows and facade metal panel damaged, apparently from inside. The SMM was denied entry to the building by two unidentified men. The SMM did not observe any other evidence of shelling in the neighbourhood. Three elderly women and one middle-aged man informed the SMM that they had heard at least one loud blast around 18:30hrs on 6 August.”

Both the building in question, and the unidentified men refusing access to what could well have revealed signs of clearly unlawful shelling, were in an area under militant control. 

There have been two ‘demonstrations’ over the last fortnight – on July 23 and Aug 7.  The SMM reported both as having about 300 participants, while the Russian media that widely reported them spoke only of “hundreds”. 

The report on the first demonstration makes it abundantly clear who was behind these supposed demonstrations.

From its location in the “DPR”-controlled city centre at approximately 7:45hrs, the SMM observed about 300 people, mainly women and children, walking past the parking lot and gathering in front of the SMM’s location. The SMM also observed a large civilian bus and two vehicles blocking the parking lot, thus preventing OSCE vehicles from leaving the area. About six men in civilian clothing were standing in front of an OSCE vehicle and preventing it from leaving the parking lot.  The SMM called “DPR” “police” for assistance at approximately 8:30hrs - after the crowd had grown and become more vocal. About two dozen  “DPR” armed men and as many as eight “DPR” “police” members - standing in groups of two or three - moving around the SMM’s location, were observed. “DPR” members did not prevent the crowd from gathering, nor did they deal with the blocked parking lot entrances.

Signs with messages directed towards the SMM and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were displayed by the crowd in front of the location. The signs showed closed eyes and/or had slogans such as “Peace to Donbas” or “Time to open your eyes” in Russian and “Open your eyes!” in English. The SMM saw people spray-paint 30 SMM and 11 ICRC vehicles. The graffiti on OSCE vehicles also included painted eyes, slogans such as “Peace Donetsk”. The crowd dispersed at approximately 11:30hrs.

All of this, repeated on Aug 7, seems clearly aimed at providing the target audience – in militant-controlled Donbas and Russia – with the impression that OSCE and Red Cross are failing to notice violations from the Ukrainian side.  The reports can easily be accessed and can speak for themselves.

Halya Coynash

Fake “Ethnic Romanian separatism in Ukraine” for Kremlin’s useful journalists

   The supposed founding conference on July 27 (the photo was taken 8 days earlier) 

If you believe media reports, ethnic Romanians in Ukraine’s Bukovyna are now also demanding autonomy.  The road from a cheap fake to a feature in the International Business Times, quoting a “report’ was swift, effortless and dangerously effective.  It is not the first such attempt to fabricate secessionist demands in Ukraine*, and the media really should be more on their guard.

The first report of a founding conference of the so-called ‘Assembly of Romanians of Bukovyna’ was posted on July 27 by, and from there by, one of the media still owned by millionaire Serhiy Kurchenko.  The latter massively increased his fortune through close contact with ex-President Viktor Yanukovych and, like Yanukovych, is hiding out in Russia.  The initial report on is no longer available, but then it’s hardly needed, having been uncritically reposted by numerous websites before the first more vigilant media sounded the alarm. 

The conference announced that they were demanding only autonomy within Ukraine, because they needed to “safeguard the rights of Romanians living in a Romanian province, which is now part of Ukraine.”  After the events in Mukacheve earlier in July, they allegedly claimed,  the Romanians of Bukovyna can no longer feel safe.

By July 30, the first English report had emerged.  The Kremlin-funded Sputnik claimed to simply be passing on media reports.  It ended by mentioning, without any identifiable links, apparent demands from “many in Romania … to make use of the situation in neighbouring Ukraine to win back their “lost territories”.

Thomas Barrabi writing for the International Business Times presumably found this a good enough story to repeat immediately, with his own additions.  Sputnik’s pro-Kremlin line is well-known and Russia’s interest in fuelling, exaggerating or even inventing secessionist sentiments in Ukraine has also been widely noted and analysed.  This makes its use as a source for the IBTimes report at very least strange.  So too are other aspects, such as the caption under the photo. 

“Members of the National Guard of Ukraine lined up after military tactical exercises at a training base near Kiev, Ukraine, July 22, 2015. The Assembly of Northern Bukovina Romanians seeks political freedom “to safeguard the rights of Romanians living in a Romanian province." Reuters. “

Reuters is the source only of the photo, and has nothing to do with the alleged claims of a fictitious Assembly. The first paragraph is alarming: 

“A group of ethnic Romanians in western Ukraine have demanded autonomy from Kiev amid dissatisfaction with the nation’s internal security and economic situation, according to a report Thursday. The outcry unfolded alongside ongoing efforts by separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine to achieve political autonomy.”

It is only midway through the third paragraph that we learn that the source of information is the “Russian agency Sputnik International News”.  The uninitiated reader would be unlikely to pay that much heed and can then promptly forget it as only one of the organizers of this alleged ‘founding conference’ is quoted as though heard directly by the author.  Barrabi then informs his reader that “a similar dispute was at the heart of Kiev’s clashes with pro-Russian separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine, which have killed more than 6, 400 people since the conflict began in early 2014. Various rebel groups have sought to form their own autonomous government within Ukraine”.

No mention of Russia’s highly active role in this ‘dispute’ which has been acknowledged and condemned by the EU, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, NATO, to name but a few.

Instead, just in case anybody had failed to understand what a hotbed of separatist sentiments Ukraine is, Barrabi’s last sentence should clinch it:

When Russian troops annexed the formerly Ukrainian territory of Crimea in March 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that 97 percent of Crimeans preferred Moscow’s rule,  CNN reported.”

Fake ‘Assembly’, fake activists

Bukovyna journalists and representatives of the ethnic Romanian community have slammed the reports and the supposed founding conference as total lies.

Chernivtsi photographer Mykola Havka has demonstrated that the reports were a shoddy fake.  He explained to that he had been dubious as soon as the first report appeared on  Using the Jeffrey Exif Viewer, he discovered that the photograph of the people sitting in front of a banner with the words ‘Assembly of Romanians of Bukovyna’ had been produced on July 19, 2015, 8 days before the supposed conference.  

It is unlikely, writes, that the photo was even taken in Chernivtsi   Arkady Opaits, Head of the League for the Defence of the Rights of National Minorities, believes that the Kremlin was behind the fake.  The idea, he told, was to throw a ‘cheap bone’ at the Internet and see which hungry dogs grab at it.   It is the Kremlin, he says, that is making every effort to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, including in its western oblasts. 

It is certainly a primitive fake since neither Opaits, nor his colleagues who have connection with Romania have ever set eyes on any of the people in the photo. 

The people in Bukovyna, he adds, have very good and friendly relations with Romanians.  He should know, as he headed the Society of Romanian Culture for 12 years.  He points out that Romania was one of the first countries when Euromaidan began to support Ukraine at international level and he therefore hopes that the media will not swallow such an obvious fake.

Whether or not the journalists who snapped up the news can fairly be called ‘hungry dogs’ is for the reader to decide.  Dogs normally sniff offerings to check whether they’re safe to eat.  It is practice the media would be well-advised to follow. 


*  See also

‘Separatism’ in Lviv – For Money and Russian Propaganda

Moscow tries a new Polish and Hungarian “separatist” number

Moscow Replays Rusin ‘Separatist’ Card in Ukraine’s Transcarpathia

Odesa minorities cry foul as new ‘people’s council’ report their persecution

*  See also  ‘Separatism’ in Lviv – For Money and Russian Propaganda

Moscow tries a new Polish and Hungarian “separatist” number

Moscow Replays Rusin ‘Separatist’ Card in Ukraine’s Transcarpathia

Odesa minorities cry foul as new ‘people’s council’ report their persecution

Ukrainian swimmer flees persecution in Crimea: “It’s worse than Soviet times!”

Sevastopol marathon swimmer Oleh Sofianyk has decided to stay in mainland Ukraine after being summoned for questioning about another Ukrainian, Yury Ilchenko who is in detention, seemingly for an article opposing Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Sofianyk has also openly expressed his opposition and fears he will be arrested if he returns.

The 51-year-old swimmer is known beyond Ukraine and has taken part in many marathon swimming events.  The 51-year-old was apparently a dissident in Soviet times and faced KGB persecution.  Like Ilchenko, he made no secret of his opposition to Russia’s annexation of his native Crimea.  Although facing FSB harassment, and FSB questioning as to why he didn’t take Russian citizenship, he had until recently managed to remain, He explained to that he had been monitoring rights abuses in Crimea.  This, he said, was needed as others who would normally be reporting abuses are either imprisoned or have left Crimea.

He explained to Novoye Vremya that the situation changed towards the end of July when he was already on his way home to Sevastopol from a marathon event abroad.  He received a call saying that enforcement officers had appeared at his flat several times, forced their way in, carried out a search and left a note.  The note was from Mikhail Novoseltsev, head of the ‘Centre for Countering Extremism’ in Sevastopol.  Sofianyk called him and asserts that Novoseltsev said the following:

“We came to you because of the arrest of your friend Yury Ilchenko, the Sevastopol blogger. He was arrested on July 2 for posts on [the social network] VKontakte. He wrote anti-Putin statements and articles.  He has been in the Simferopol SIZO since July 2.”  Novoseltsev was not willing to simply talk on the phone with Sofyanik, insisting that he come for a proper talk.  According to Sofyanik, Novoseltsev effectively confirmed that he could face arrest, and unsurprisingly Sofyanik decided not to go back. 

Sofyanik says that Ilchenko also received several visitations from Novoseltsev during the winter.  He was interrogated many times and forced to delete material from VKontakte and Facebook.

Sofyanik’s account of such harassment and of the events surrounding Ilchenko’s arrest makes it quite clear why Ilchenko has been targeted. This is of importance since the investigators are now also claiming that he abused his partner’s 11-year-old daughter. 

Sofyanik says that Ilchenko was planning to go on honeymoon to Bulgaria at the beginning of August.  Instead, he is in SIZO [pre-trial detention prison] and his partner has been pressured into writing a report claiming that he molested her daughter.  Sofyanik points out that these are all KGB methods.

He says that Ilchenko is charged under Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code – ‘extremism’ for posts on VKontakte in January, and Article 340 over the alleged molestation.  Together that could get him a 20 year sentence. 

This is a vile regime, he adds, that will use any methods, however dirty.  It’s worse than in Soviet times where the KGB will talk with a person once or twice and only later, if he didn’t change his actions, arrest him. Now there’s none of that, he says, they just turn up and take everything.  

He calls the FSB a criminal-political gang, who also try to get some kind of commercial benefit.  One family of Crimean Tatars had 2 or 3 thousand dollars in savings kept in the house.  There were no documents for the money and the FSB officers just pocketed it.

Russia has taken all measures, including threatening the Crimean Human Rights Field Mission with being declared an ‘undesirable’ organization, and therefore illegal, to hide rights violations in Crimea.   As reported, it was difficult to find out any information about the charges against 37-year-old Ilchenko.  Radio Svoboda’s Crimean Service spoke with his father a week after his son was arrested.  Gennady Ilchenko explained that a search had also been carried out of the home they share. It lasted 4 hours and produced nothing (more details here).

Gennady Ilchenko’s account of the earlier harassment his son has faced, and the reason for his arrest, coincide with that given by Sofyanik.  The added ‘molestation’ charge appears to be a chillingly cynical reminder of past methods against dissidents.  So, in fact, does this whole case against a Ukrainian expressing his opposition to Russia’s invasion and occupation of his homeland. 


7 months in Kremlin-backed militant captivity: "You expect to die every day"

   Screenshot from the Radio Svoboda video

Crimean Tatar volunteer Gaide Rizayeva spoke in a Radio Svoboda interview of the terrible uncertainty and lawlessness of her months held hostage by militants,  and of her belief that Crimea will again be Ukrainian. If nothing else works, she and other Crimean Tatars will be willing to take up arms to liberate their homeland, she says.

Gaide Rizayeva was taken hostage twice by Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas.  She spent 7 months altogether and says she wouldn’t wish that on anybody, but she would like at least one Ukrainian parliamentarian to experience a single day of such captivity. That would surely make them accelerate the exchange of all prisoners, civilian and military. 

It is impossible to simply explain what such captivity is like, she says. It’s not like prison, where there are at least rules.  This is different, and terrible.  “You expect to die every day and live in uncertainty, when the door of your cell opens and you don’t know how the day will end. Last year separatists killed people in front of us so that we would begin telling the truth. A lot of people were killed, many will not now be found”.  

In her interview for Radio Svoboda’s Crimean Service, Rizayeva explains that she worked in Crimea for 10 years as a lawyer before Russia’s annexation.  Her life was changed first by Euromaidan and then the events that began with Russia’s invasion.   She was first involved in resettling people forced to leave Crimea and Donbas, but then became a volunteer in the military zone. 

She was taken prisoner the first time on July 22 at one of the so-called ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ [‘LPR’] checkpoints while trying to take humanitarian aid to Ukrainian soldiers.  That time she spent three and a half months in captivity before being exchanged for separatists (the word she uses). 

She was met by the Patriot prisoner exchange group and subsequently joined them. 

Then earlier this year, after taking humanitarian aid for prisoners held by the ‘LPR’ , she took part in an attempt to evacuate children suffering from tuberculosis from Alchevsk. The cars were searched at a checkpoint and the militants found ammunition in the driver’s car and seized them all.  She spent four and a half months in captivity this time, and there was even the danger that they would pass her over to the Russian Investigative Committee because of her Crimean registration.  It is that Committee which has come up with the charges against former pilot and now Ukrainian MP Nadiya Savchenko after she was captured by ‘LPR’ militants and taken by force to Russia.

Thankfully Rizayeva was instead part of an exchange near Shchastya, together with 10 soldiers.

She explains that it is actually harder to rescue civilians like herself from captivity, than soldiers.  “There is no mechanism for exchanges of civilians, after all they should simply be released”.  The ‘LPR’ even has a document it calls its constitution and that states that charges must be presented within 48 hours.  There were no charges, just captivity for four and a half months. 

As reported here, there is at least one other woman who has been held hostage for well over 6 months now.  30-year-old Luhansk journalist Maria Varfolomeyeva remained in Luhansk to care for her elderly grandmother who was unwell.  She was seized by militants on Jan 9, 2015.  Despite the fact that she was taken prisoner at a time when there was no shelling in Luhansk, the militants tried to claim, as Russia has with respect to Savchenko, that Maria Varfolomeyeva had been a ‘spotter’.  She has twice now been forced to give videoed ‘interviews’, the second for the Russian propaganda channel Life News.  She is very clearly being placed under enormous pressure (more details here)

Crimea will return to Ukraine

Gaide Rizaeyeva says she is “almost certain that Crimea will once again be part of Ukraine”.   Crimean Tatars, she affirms  “will return, and much stronger than before. Nothing will ever break us in this life”.   Asked if she would be willing to fight for her homeland, she answered:

“If all other options have been exhausted and nothing else remains but to take up arms, we, I included, are willing to take up arms and liberate our land.

Each ethnic group has the right to their homeland and we Crimean Tatars have gone through very much, we lost many of our relatives.  Out of respect for the graves of our ancestors we would indeed take that step.”

The Crimean Tatar People were deported from their homeland in May 1944.  Over 190 thousand men, women and children were forced, with immense brutality, onto trains and sent east, to Uzbekistan.  Another 11 thousand young men were sent as forced labour.  All of this, on Stalin’s order and at the hands of the NKVD, was carried out in the space of three days.  J. Otto Pohl called it “one of the most rapid and thorough cases of ethnic cleansing in world history”.  Up to 100 thousand Crimean Tatars are believed to have died en route or in the first period of exile.

It was independent Ukraine that formally allowed Crimean Tatars to return to their homeland.  Successive Ukrainian governments possibly didn’t have the money, but certainly lacked the political will, to carry out all the work needed to help Crimean Tatars rebuild their lives in Crimea and reinstate their  rights.  For all of the mistakes and failed opportunities of the past, it seems fair to say that the vast majority of Crimean Tatars want Crimea to remain part of Ukraine and have viewed Russia’s occupation with fear and suspicion. All fears have unfortunately proved justified.

The right to life

Ex-Security Service chief in custody over Euromaidan killings

   Photo: EPA/UPG

Oleksandr Shcheholev, the former head of the Kyiv SBU [Security Service] has been remanded in custody for two months on charges relating to the killing of Euromaidan activists.  Shcheholev had been under 24-hour house arrest since March 6 this year, and the arrest on Aug 20 and detention order are reported to be linked with new charges. 

Pavlo Dykan, one of the lawyers representing Maidan victims, notes that Shcheholev was directly in charge of the SBU’s so-called anti-terrorist operation from Feb 18-20.  Dykan believes that Shcheholev was responsible for numerous killings and injuries; the arson attack on the Trade Union building and other crimes.

Taras Hatalyak, a human rights lawyer also working with victims, expressed satisfaction at the detention seeing it as proof that the Prosecutor General’s Special Investigations Department is working.  It is tough-going, he says, but he believes that they will get there and ensure that the culprits are punished. 

It has certainly proven worryingly difficult to get real progress in investigating the numerous crimes connected with Euromaidan, and not only the killings on those last terrible days. 

Three former Berkut officers – the head of the unit Dmytro Sadovnyk and two subordinates Pavlo Abroskin and Serhiy Zinchenko - were arrested back in April 2014 on suspicion of involvement in the murder of 39 protesters on Instytutska St on Feb 20, 2014.  Abroskin and Zinchenko remain in custody, and their trial began in July this year.  Sadovnyk, however, is in hiding.  An initial court ruling placing him under house arrest was appealed and on April 22 he was also remanded in custody, only to be released, officially under house arrest, on Sept 19.  That decision was taken by Svitlana Volvoka from the Pechersky District Court with immediate effect.  By the time the Prosecutor General’s Office [PGO] appeal was due to be heard, Sadovnyk had absconded. 

The PGO apparently initiated criminal proceedings against Judge Volkova accusing her of deliberately issuing a wrongful ruling.  There is no information as to how the investigation into those proceedings is going.

On Feb 24, 2015, two former Berkut officers – Oleksandr Marynchenko and Serhiy Tamtura – were remanded in custody, on the same charges over the death of 39 Maidan activists on Feb 20.

In June 2015 Oleh Yanishevsky, a police lieutenant colonel and Sadovnyk’s immediate subordinate was arrested and remanded in custody over the killing of 39 protesters on Feb 20, 2014.  Yanishevsky was working in the police force until his arrest and as deputy commander of the Kyiv Berkut special force unit in Feb 2014, was considered the highest-ranking officer to be charged.   The pre-trial investigation is still underway, however there was suggestion that Yanishevsky might also be charged with issuing orders to kill. 

As reported, civic activists issued a report earlier this year entitled “Year of Impunity”. 

At the press conference on the report, Pavlo Dykan identified a number of key failings in the investigation into Maidan crimes, namely: the lack of sufficient technical backup; procrastination with qualifying the alleged actions of people arrested back in April 2014; Interior Ministry sabotage; court trials being dragged out and others.  He said then that there had effectively been no progress in the investigation into the beating by police officers during the events on Bankova St on Dec 1, 2014 and during the storming of Maidan in the early hours of Dec 11, and many others.

For a long time there was a diffuse range of investigations into different cases carried out by various investigative bodies.  As a result, no investigator or prosecutor had any idea of the overall picture and could not establish the connections between different events, with some clear offences simply being ignored.  Another problem was that the investigators concentrated solely on those who carried out the abuses, and did not try to establish who gave the orders.

The authors of both ‘Year of Impunity’ and of the International Advisory Panel’s damning report were scathing about “uncooperative attitude” from the Interior Ministry and the SBU.   

It was thanks to serious pressure from the public and lawyers of the victims that 10 months into all official investigations, a special investigation department was created within the Prosecutor General’s Office.  This is now the single centre investigating all crimes committed during the Euromaidan protests, and, as we can see, is finally making progress.

Halya Coynash

The right to a fair trial

Sexual charges against renowned accordion-player slammed as fabricated

Human rights activists, musicians and former students have come out in support of well-known accordion-player Ihor Zavadsky and his agent Andriy Bryhida on the eve of the appeal against their conviction and long prison sentences.  They believe that both men were tortured, have been unlawfully held in detention since Feb 23, 2012, and were wrongfully convicted.  They present evidence of grave irregularities in the case and indication that the charges were fabricated and the records of court hearings falsified.  

As reported, concern has been expressed over this case from the outset.  In July 2014, after over two years in detention, Zavadsky was convicted of sexual crimes against minors and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.  The specific charges were of “‘violently satisfying sexual passions in an unnatural fashion’ (Article 153); sexual debauchery (Article 156) and acting as a sexual go-between (Article 302).  On the same charges his agent received a 7-year sentence and driver – 3 years.

The investigators claimed that Zavadsky had been under surveillance for over a year with a hidden camera placed in his flat.  With the investigators alleging sexual abuse of minors, the period of surveillance seemed suspiciously long.  The TV channel TVi presented a documentary suggesting that Zavadsky had been set up by a rival, and concerns were strong about the case, with this hardly allayed by the fact that the men were tried behind closed doors.

There was public support for the men and an attempt was even made to provide Zavadsky with a mute accordion to enable him to keep practising.  The refusal by the remand prison administration to allow this is additionally condemned as a form of psychological torture.

Yevhen Zakharov, Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, musicians Denis Snihiryov and Ruslan Sheremet, together with the men’s lawyers and Zavadsky’s students expressed their concerns at a press conference on Aug 19, 2015.

They believe that the case was initiated by the Shevchenkivsky District Police in Kyiv without any legitimate grounds, and that it is totally fabricated. “The investigative activities were carried out without authority and with unlawful decisions to carry out searches.  The change of jurisdiction was also made unlawfully, without the involvement of the prosecutor’s office”. There were countless other infringements of procedural law, including the use of so-called witnesses of searches who were in fact investigative officers.  There were also protocols supposedly providing the minutes of court hearings, but in fact aimed at creating the impression that the court had reached a just verdict.  The defence issued 266 comments on those protocols, with the Podilsky Court accepting 197 of them, thus effectively acknowledging that there had been falsification.

The court’s conclusions, the press were told, do not correspond with the actual circumstances of the case, particularly as concerns the minors who were recognized as victims in the case. There was no assessment of whether their testimony was permissible, and where certain evidence was found to have been inadmissible, the court still cited it in its verdict.

The motivation part of the verdict was thrown together in chaotic fashion, without specific charges being laid out.  The court simply recited the article of the criminal code without pointing to actual indications of the criminal behaviour falling under those articles.

The Court of Appeal is due to review the sentence on Aug 20, and hope was expressed that it would thoroughly and objectively study the circumstances of the case and revoke the guilty verdicts.  The defence believes that the case should be terminated for want of any attempts to have assessed the adequacy of the testimony used in the case, and the impossibility of doing this now.

Halya Coynash

Why persecute those trying to help Ukraine?

Yury Hukov, a well-known journalist, human rights activist working for the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, was arrested on June 22 and remains in detention despite protest from colleagues over both the spurious charge against him and the lack of any grounds for his detention.  Human rights activists gathered outside the Prosecutor General’s Office in Kyiv on Tuesday, demanding his release   As well as asking how the authorities can persecute a person who is working to save Ukraine, the banners also pointed out that the times may change, but not the prosecutor’s office, which continues to lie. 

Hukov has worked for the Kharkiv Human Rights Group since September 2014 and was part of an international human rights group carrying out fact-finding trips to Donbas.  He has also played an active role in securing the release of hostages held by the Kremlin-backed militants in the Luhansk oblast, and personally brought one badly injured soldier from the fighting zone.  Before his arrest he was involved in the efforts to free Maria Varfolomeyeva, the young journalist whom the so-called ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ have been holding prisoner since January this year.

It is a sad irony about this case that Hukov, a former Euromaidan activist from Alchevsk (Luhansk oblast), was one of the first people to join the Aidar Volunteer Battalion when Kremlin-backed and heavily armed militants began seizing control in Donbas.  He was arrested when trying to inform the police of suspicions regarding the killers of his wife who died on May 23, 2015 while travelling in the same car as Kremlin-backed militant Alexei Mozgovoi.  Hukov’s detention order was issued by Oksana Tsarevych, judge from the Pechersky District Court, known for her active part in the politically motivated prosecutions of Yulya Tymoshenko, Yury Lutsenko and others, including during Euromaidan.

There are serious grounds for disputing the ‘armed robbery’ charges against him, as well as the justification for holding him in custody.  His 13-year-old daughter was already living with him at the time of his arrest.  She and the two small children who were living with their mother have already experienced one loss, and are now separated from their father.

Aidar and the charges against Hukov

Seeing what was happening in his native Luhansk oblast, Hukov left his work as a journalist (writing under the pseudonym Yury Aseyev) and became one of the five founding members of the Aidar Battalion. 

He spent three months in Aidar and left over conflict with the now disgraced Aidar commander Serhiy Melnychuk   The accusations of illegal abductions and detention, theft, extortion, etc. against Aidar began fairly early, but Hukov was in fact one of the first people to publicly speak out against the lawlessness.  In  an interview given to a short time before his arrest Hukov explained that from the outset it had worried him that about 10% of the volunteers “were people who hadn’t come to fight, but were pursuing their own aims. For that reason we had run-ins, both with the commander and with those volunteers”.  The battalion’s reputation had begun to deteriorate specifically because a part of the battalion, headed by Melnychuk himself, turned to looting and extortion.

The conflict peaked in June when Aidar seized the city of Shchastya back from the militants and took a militant commander, nicknamed Batya prisoner. The latter was believed by many in the area to be responsible for abductions and torture of hostages.  Hukov came into conflict with the Aidar command after he objected to the torture that Batya was subjected to and tried to persuade Melnychuk that prisoners must be given proper medical treatment.  Batya died, and Melnychuk’s response to Hukov was that if he was so smart, he could spend time imprisoned in the basement.  He was imprisoned in the basement for 8 days but released early after a local human rights organization sounded the alarm, with Andriy Parubiy, secretary of the National Defence and Security Council intervened.

Not surprisingly, he left Aidar and has worked for the Kharkiv Human Rights Group since the beginning of September, 2014.

The charges date back to June 2014, and are episode 3 on a list of “65 Aidar crimes” put together by the former Luhansk Governor Gennady Moskal.  On June 4, Hukov and three other battalion members received a verbal order to detain S., an alleged separatist.  They found S’s daughter and wife, the latter of whom made a lot of noise, and the men left without trying to detain S.  Of the Aidar men, however, took away a laptop and mobile phone.  This was seemingly on Melnychuk’s order so that the latter could check the man’s contacts. Hukov says he knew nothing about the items taken until the police, called by the suspected separatist, detained them.  The laptop and telephone were returned and the incident over.  Yet 9 months later the person formally reported a crime.

The father of three has been in detention since June 22, with attempts to appeal the detention and the preliminary hearing constantly deferred.  There have indeed been grounds for concern over certain activities of Aidar fighters.  These need to be investigated properly and the culprits held to answer.  Instead the authorities appear to be going for the easiest option – at the cost of Hukov, his children and the many people in Donbas whom he has been actively helping.

 Halya Coynash

Freedom of expression

Another Crimean blogger interrogated by FSB over Facebook post

    A protest in March 2014 against Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  The placard reads: Supporters of Putin: You will not speak in Russian, you will SILENT in Russian!

The behaviour of the FSB in Russian-occupied Crimea is increasingly reminiscent of the tactics used by the Soviet KGB.  Sevastopol blogger Iryna Gorelikova has reported being hauled in for questioning after she shared a link on Facebook about Mustafa Dzhemiliev, the veteran Crimean Tatar leader and Ukrainian MP whom Russia has banned from his homeland.  

Gorelikova writes that two men in plain clothes appeared at her home on Friday morning, Aug 14 with a formal summons for questioning.  They told her to come with them, and when she said that she needed to go to work, warned her to “not make things worse for herself”.

She was met at the FSB by a polite young man who said that he had “invited” her for a talk.  She corrected him, saying that the word ‘invite’ in this situation referred to a summons for interrogation.

“They were extremely concealed about the integrity of such a country as Russia, and whether I was not encroaching on Russia’s territorial integrity I answered that my indignation in the social media is specifically due to concern over the integrity of Ukraine, and it is incorrect for Russia to touch on the question of its integrity.”

As well as asking why she had posted an article about Mustafa Dzhemiliev, they wanted to know her opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin.  She told them that her view had plummeted since Russia’s annexation of Crimea, but that before that she had been envious of Russians that they had such a president.  She hadn’t believed Russians about the poverty, corruption and lawlessness in Russia.  After seeing the annexation and the one and a half years since, she “has understood, and is genuinely sorry for Russians”.

The FSB officers, Gorelikova says, directly suggested that she leave Sevastopol and move to mainland Ukraine.  She told them they would need to kill her since she has no intention of moving

“I didn’t promise the FSB to change my position. Glory to Ukraine.  What will come later I don’t know.”

The information, reported by the Centre for Journalist Investigations, cannot be confirmed though the copy of the summons is posted.  Gorelikova’s account is close enough to those of other Crimeans to be seriously questioned. 

In May 2015 blogger and civic activist Liza Bohutska was summoned for questioning at the ‘Centre for Countering Extremism’ in Russian-occupied Crimea. The FSB certainly knew that she was living in Kyiv since had received other letters assuring her that there were no criminal cases pending against her nor any restrictions on her entering Crimea.  Bohutska was aware how to view such assurances and did not return to Crimea.  She had left for Kyiv in September 2014, the day after the FSB carried out a search of her home, and she was interrogated for around 6 hours (also in the Centre for Countering Extremism). 

Bohutska is a well-known blogger who has never concealed her opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. 

Nor has Yury Ilchenko, a teacher and blogger from Sevastopol who has been in detention since the beginning of July, almost certainly in connection with texts expressing opposition to Russian rule.  As reported, the marathon swimmer Oleg Sofyanik recently decided he could not return to Crimea after receiving a summons for questioning over Yury Ilchenko’s arrest.

The assumption that he could be the next person to be arrested is one that he shares with many other Crimeans who oppose Russia’s invasion and occupation of the peninsula.

Halya Coynash

Interethnic relations

Debunking Russia’s Narrative of Rampant Anti-Semitism in Ukraine Again

   Kremlin-backed militant leaders were seen on Russian television calling Ukraine’s leaders (the supposed ’fascist junta’) "pathetic Jews"

First published here: Atlantic Council

The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine’s latest reports on xenophobia in Ukraine have struck another blow to Moscow’s persistent attempts to present the country as a hotbed of anti-Semitism. The reports make no mention of the "pogroms" alleged by the Russian Foreign Ministry, nor do they back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assertion of a "rampage of reactionary, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces."

They do identify some problems, but the reports also portray disturbing attempts to exaggerate, invent, or orchestrate others. The most acute problem so far this year, however, remains "the position of Crimean Tatars in Russian-occupied Crimea"—while the reports point to "a high level of anti-Semitism in public discourse" not in Kyiv, but from the Kremlin-backed militants of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

The Congress’s Monitoring Group on the Rights of National Minorities is headed by Viacheslav Likhachev, the main researcher monitoring anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine for the past ten years. In his 2014 report released in April, and a provisional report up to June 2015 released last week, Likhachev shows that the statistics do not support any suggestion of "mounting anti-Semitism" in Ukraine. In addition, the figures for 2014-15 show fewer incidents than the worst years of 2007-08. So far this year, seven racially motivated attacks occurred in areas under Ukrainian government control. There were twenty-four in 2014 and twenty-six in 2013, down from eighty-eight in 2007. Although none led to fatalities, some recent street attacks are alarming, as is the ongoing police reluctance to acknowledge racial motives.

Last year saw an increase in racially motivated vandalism (thirty-three cases, twenty-three of them anti-Semitic). So far this year, Ukraine has experienced eleven such cases, seven of them anti-Semitic; in 2013, there were twenty cases of racially motivated vandalism, nine of them anti-Semitic. Likhachev says recent developments in Ukraine could account for the 2014 jump, but the reason given contrasts starkly with Moscow’s narrative. He points out that since the Euromaidan, Jews have become strongly associated with the pro-Ukraine movement. Anti-Semites especially directed their hate speech against Ihor Kolomoyskyi, the oligarch who took a pronounced pro-Ukrainian, anti-separatist position as governor of Dnipropetrovsk.

Not all statistics can be taken at face value. The authors suspect that agents working for the Kremlin not only exaggerate Ukraine’s problems or report fictitious incidents, but actually stage them for propaganda purposes. They have grounds for believing that at least two anti-Semitic attacks in Kyiv and the desecration of a synagogue the day after Russian forces seized control in Simferopol were orchestrated. Such stunts also support efforts by what the authors call "pseudo-rights organizations" that Moscow uses to produce material claiming rights abuses and "rampant neo-Nazism."

For example, Ukrainian journalists who were fully aware of the participants’ venal motives nevertheless reported on an "anti-Semitic picket" in Lviv. Video footage would inconveniently show those reporters asking the young kids and inebriated down-and-outs how much they’d been paid to show up—but photos can and surely will be pulled out as "proof" of Ukraine’s anti-Semitism.

Prominent Jewish figures regularly reject such claims. In November 2014, several Jewish organizations passed a resolution in which they "call on the international community to be extremely careful in any evaluation of the situation regarding anti-Semitism in Ukraine coming from outside our country."

Caution is certainly needed. In October 2014, the Odesa Jewish community was forced to issue a formal statement denying lurid, frightening and entirely untrue Russian media claims that Ukraine’s extreme Right Sector party had "declared war on Jews in Odesa." After a few months of silence, reports alleging anti-Semitism in Ukraine again made headlines—all based on a fake letter from Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, to Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission.

Moscow’s own proxies in the Donbas refute the Kremlin’s anti-Jewish narrative. Earlier this year the leaders of the so-called "republics"—in an extraordinary show of anti-Semitism broadcast on Russian TV—condemned the "pathetic Jews" governing Ukraine. Such disturbing evidence of xenophobia and anti-Semitism has been around ever since the militants seized control, though lately it has become part of their vicious power struggle.

Ukraine’s leaders have laid themselves open to criticism over the role of the Azov volunteer battalion, with its neo-Nazi leaders and probably members, as well as the more extreme elements in Right Sector and VO Svoboda. A few individuals such as Andriy Biletsky and Ihor Mosiychuk have won seats in Parliament, while others have received questionable appointments on the basis of their bravery in defending Ukraine. There are legitimate concerns about their role beyond the battlefield, as well as doubts about their motives as the recent conflict in Mukacheve has demonstrated.

All this is a gift for Kremlin propaganda, but it still does not justify broad claims about Ukrainian society. Ukraine’s two far-right parties did very badly in last year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, and no evidence exists that voters support anti-Semitic or xenophobic views. Now in Parliament, Biletsky reportedly claims that stories about his neo-Nazi and white supremacist views is all Russian slander. The denial is unconvincing, but it is telling that he sees the need to make it.

Few expect Moscow to abandon its propaganda arsenal, but the facts presented in the monitoring group’s reports may serve as a warning to others to watch out for fakes, manipulation, and total fabrication.



Ambushes as quota-filling ’mobilization’ continue in the Kharkiv oblast

The police and recruitment offices in Kharkiv are continuing to grab young men effectively off the street and send them to military recruitment centres, despite assurances from the Interior Minister and Kharkiv Governor that such methods of ‘mobilization’ would stop.

A regular wave of mobilization is underway in the country. In Kharkiv, however, ambush is unfortunately a better term.  Police officers, some in plain clothes, simply stopped young men in the street, in metro stations, even in an institute where one young man was taking the external assessment exam [matriculation], and took them away.  Normally from police stations they were taken to the regional military recruitment office collection point and from there to the military unit. 

Kharkiv Human Rights Group lawyers cried foul back in June and for a while the practice seemed to have stopped.   The Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced that people’s rights must not be infringed during mobilization and the Kharkiv Governor and head of police both prohibited any such ambushes.

Nonetheless, KHPG reports that people are still being stopped on the street and taken away, ending up at the military recruitment office collection point.  Nobody is worried who they take, they just need the numbers. 

On July 28 the mother of a young man from the Mykolaiv oblast approached KHPG.  Her son is registered with the recruitment office where he lives, yet that didn’t stop them detaining him in Kharkiv and trying to send him away to serve in the army.  On July 30 a young man who for health reasons is not liable for military service was seized, while another man who is not liable for mobilization because he has three small children was also stopped and taken in. 

In each of these cases, the men were only released after KHPG intervened and pointed out that the military recruitment office’s actions were totally illegal.

During a visit to the collection point, KHPG staff found around 20 people, of whom three asked for KHPG help and are obviously not eligible for mobilization.  One is not only from the Zaporizhya oblast, but has already been released from military service on health grounds.  The young man’s documents clearly indicated this, yet it was ignored both by the police and by the military recruitment office. Another person detained was drunk when seized, and is registered at a psychiatric clinic in Kharkiv and released from military service, while the third is facing a criminal investigation at present.

The men say that they were detained by police officers working with staff of the military recruitment offices.  Some of the officers were in uniform, some in plain clothes and most showed their ID.   Some of the men were taken to police stations which shows that the police are not telling the truth when they claim the detentions have nothing to do with them.  Others were taken to military recruitment offices, or straight away to collection points.

A KHPG lawyer managed to also get two other people who are not suitable for military service release.

KHPG reiterates its protest at such actions and points out that if people in the Kharkiv oblast are being mobilized who on health grounds cannot serve in the army, or are chronic alcoholics or under criminal investigation, the question must arise whether such an army can defend the country.


Point of view

Why such contempt for human rights, Mr Corbyn?

  Jeremy Corbyn (Photo: REX)

Jeremy Corbyn, frontrunner for the UK Labour Party leadership and therefore a potential UK Prime Minister, affirms a commitment to human rights on his website.  He demonstrates none when it comes to recent events in Crimea, the rest of Ukraine and Russia, and this is not through lack of attention to this part of the world.  His assessment of Russia’s annexation of Crimea coincides nicely with that presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin and on Russian television and he has simply ignored grave human rights concerns under Russian occupation.   

In February and March 2014 Russian troops seized control and forcibly annexed Crimea.  Ukraine was too weak, even with the undoubted support of the Crimean Tatar population behind it, to defend its sovereign territory.  The security assurances given by Russia, the USA and UK to Ukraine via the1994 Budapest Memorandum proved meaningless, and Crimea remains to this day under illegal Russian occupation. 

The UK’s unwillingness to risk military conflict with Russia is understandable.  Corbyn’s justification for non-intervention is much less so.  He first expressed his views on March 8, 2014, two days after the leaders who had been installed at gunpoint had announced a largely alternative-less ‘referendum’ on joining Russia to be held ten days later, on March 16.   Corbyn did note that “Russia has gone way beyond its legal powers to use bases in the Crimea. Sending unidentified forces into another country is clearly a violation of that country’s sovereignty.”  He then added the non sequitur that Russian President Vladimir Putin had called ex-President Viktor Yanukovych “political history” and expressed woolly hopes for a “reduction of tensions”.

He asserts that one must “recognize the history lurking behind the drama”, and that  “Ukraine’s national borders have ebbed and flowed with the tides of history”.  He then claims significant collaboration with the Nazis during the Second World War and states that “their descendants could be seen bearing Nazi insignia and spouting racist slogans in Kiev only a week ago.” 

This is the first of a number of assertions that parrot attempts to discredit Euromaidan made first by Yanukovych, then  by Putin.  They are to this day pushed by Russian state-controlled media, including Russia Today which Corbyn is on record as praising for objective reporting.  The refrain is heard again in an article for Morning Star in April (  “The far-right is now sitting in government in Ukraine. The origins of the Ukrainian far-right go back to those who welcomed the Nazi invasion in 1941 and acted as allies of the invaders.”

The narrative Corbyn repeats, both with respect to Euromaidan and to subsequent events, has been repeatedly refuted by prominent Jewish figures in Ukraine and by Viacheslav Likhachev, the main researcher on anti-Semitism and xenophobia in Ukraine.  It has also been debunked by the results of both presidential and parliamentary elections in 2014, where both far-right parties did extremely badly. 

Corbyn’s chief villains in all parts of the world appear to be the USA and NATO.  In the above articles written shortly after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, he effectively suggests that Russia is protecting itself against attempts by NATO to “encircle it”.  From the Morning Star article, one could forget that it was Russia who breached international law by invading Crimea, and by funding and manning those who were by then already seizing control in parts of eastern Ukraine. Russia’s behaviour was, he claims, “not unprovoked, and the right of people to seek a federal structure or independence should not be denied”.  This is how he describes the seizure of government buildings, airports and military units in Crimea by Russian forces.   

It is supposedly NATO whose “belligerence endangers us all”, although there was no question back in Spring 2014 of Ukraine joining NATO.   Corbyn from the comfort of his North Islington home is against Poland and  the Baltic States having been allowed to join NATO, although the Baltic republics are now seriously concerned that even such membership will not prevent Russian aggression. 

This, Corbyn will claim, as does the Kremlin-funded Russia Today, is all US / NATO imperialist propaganda. 

On a recent interview for Russia Today, Corbyn is reported to have suggested that he would seek closer ties with Russia.   He is in interesting company with the same closer ties currently being promoted by a number of far-right parties in Europe including France’s National Front; Hungary’s Jobbik; and Bulgaria’s Ataka Party.  It was members of a number of far-right and some neo-Nazi parties who were invited to Crimea to ‘observe’ the March 16 ‘referendum’, and then in November ‘elections’ held by the Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas

It is obvious why Russia Today ignores or denies the mounting evidence of human rights abuse in Crimea and in areas under Kremlin-backed militant control in Donbas.  It is unclear and disturbing why Corbyn is following suit. 

The following are just some of the developments that cannot be attributed to US or NATO propaganda.

A serious attack on Crimean Tatar leaders and the Crimean Tatar Mejlis or representative assembly.  Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev and the Head of the Mejlis Refat Chubarov have been banned from their homeland. Dzhemiliev’s son Khaiser has been taken to Russia and is facing a lengthy term of imprisonment with his father unable to even visit him.  The Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz has been in detention since Jan 2015 on legally absurd charges of involvement in a demonstration on Feb 26, 2014, i.e. before Russia’s invasion and annexation.  The vast majority of Crimean Tatars opposed Russian occupation from the outset and they have been increasingly targeted in repressive measures aimed at forcing them into exile or silence.  Chiygoz believes that his ongoing detention is specifically because he has made it clear that Crimea is his homeland and he is not leaving.  Russia forced virtually all Crimean Tatar and independent Crimean media to close or move to mainland Ukraine.   The investigation into the murder of Reshat Ametov, abducted from his peaceful protest outside parliament and tortured to death has been terminated, and the occupation authorities have made no attempt to investigate the abduction and / or forced disappearances of a number of other civic activists and young Crimean Tatar men. 

A Euromaidan activist Oleksandr Kostenko is facing a 4-year sentence on equally absurd charges relating to an alleged incident in Feb 2014, before annexation and in Kyiv, not Crimea.  His father has disappeared in mysterious circumstances and all attempts to get the clear evidence that Kostenko was subjected to torture have failed. 

The same is true of Russia’s “absolutely Stalinist” Crimean show trial of renowned Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and left-wing civic activist Oleksandr Kolchenko.  They, together with two other opponents of Russian occupation were arrested, almost certainly tortured and then taken by force to Russia where Sentsov has now been sentenced to 20 years quite literally for nothing.

At least one blogger is in detention for writing articles critical of Russian occupation.  Ukrainians who held a meeting where they laid flowers in honour of the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko and read his works were prosecuted for holding a ‘prohibited symbol’ – a Ukrainian flagSimilar cases of harassment are ongoing.

All faiths except the Russian Orthodox Church are facing repression in Crimea. The same is also true of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics in Donbas.

The list of very serious concerns – of hostage-taking; extra-judicial executions and torture carried out by Kremlin-backed militants in Donbas – is very long. 

Does Corbyn really see all of this as the fault of NATO?  Does he genuinely believe that Amnesty International, Russian human rights organizations, as well as the slain opposition politician Boris Nemtsov were all duped (or paid?) by NATO when they revealed details of direct Russian military involvement and deaths in Ukraine

Or does he not care?  This, one assumes, is the case with former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder who found it lucrative to move to Russia and become a spokesperson for Gasprom.  It is likely that Marine Le Pen has similar reasons for supporting Russia’s position on Crimea and eastern Ukraine. 

It would be a damning position for a future leader of the United Kingdom. 


Please note that any objections, criticism or abuse should be directed solely at the author  


Deported peoples

“We are faced with a threat to the very existence of the Crimean Tatar People»

Refat Chubarov, Head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, or representative assembly, has addressed an appeal to German Chancellor Angela Merkel; French President Francois Hollande and Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko who are meeting in Berlin on Aug 24. 

Refat Chubarov writes that the leaders’ meeting will take place 542 days after the beginning of Russia’s special military operation against Ukraine that resulted in the occupation of Crimea and the bloody military conflict in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Russia has effectively been waging war with Ukraine for 542 days with thousands of soldiers and civilians killed; tens of thousands injured, and over one and a half million people forced from their homes.

In Russian-occupied Crimea, the Head of the Mejlis writes, the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous population of Crimea, are facing a direct threat to their very existence.  The Crimean Tatars held mass demonstrations and protests in Feb-March 2014 against Russia’s invasion and they continue to support the UN General Assembly’s March 27, 2014 Resolution on Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Chubarov points out that this Resolution, as well as numerous other calls by the UN, the EU, the Council of Europe and the OSCE, have been ignored by Russia which continues its unlawful occupation. 

The tragic position of the Crimean Tatar is worsening from day to day.  Crimean Tatar leaders Mustafa Dzhemiliev and Refat Chubarov, civic activist Sinaver Kadyrov and Ismet Yuksel have all been banned from Crimea and the Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz remains in detention, together with Crimean Tatars Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy.    Dozens of young Crimean Tatars have been abducted or disappeared, with some later found murdered. There is still no trace of others.  Hundreds of activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement have been subjected to repression by the occupation regime’s punitive organs.

Refat Chubarov addresses the three leaders, saying that history has placed on them, and the leaders of other sovereign states a huge responsibility not only for the fate of their own people and countries, but – without any exaggeration or pathos – for the future of all humanity.

Human civilization which in the twentieth century endured the mortal threats posed by the fascist and communist regimes must not be held hostage to the irresponsible actions of Russia’s rulers who have violated all norms of international law and ignored the right of people to freedom and peace. 

No country or people should be sacrificed to please an aggressor.  The Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar people who endured Holodomor and the Deportation have the right to receive full support and assistance from the international community.

Refat Chubarov ends by asking the leaders to take effective measures during their meeting aimed at restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity within internationally recognized borders and ensuring Ukraine’s sovereignty over its entire territory, including Crimea.  

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2015, #08