war crimes in Ukraine

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Bolshevik rebuff to Ms Severinsen and Ms Volvend

Yevhen Sverstyuk
Those who saw fit to respond with cries of “interference” to the PACE co-rapporteurs’ reminder that a Human Rights Ombudsperson must be politically impartial show that they have learned nothing. The author asks the co-rapporteurs to accept his as ever penetrating explanation as an apology for such tactlessness

Bolshevik rebuff to Ms Severinsen and Ms Volvend

The “anti-crisis coalition’s” highly interesting letter to the PACE could be seen as the howls of people who have slept through the last twenty years of history, or as the strategy of a skunk which uses its smell to push outsiders away from its “privatized” zone.

It happened on 12 January 2007, by chance of that same day when, 35 years ago, “the empire of evil” gave its Bolshevik repulse to Ukrainian dissidents for their “insolent” demand for dialogue with the authorities. We were stopped short with the help of convoys and labour camps from which many never returned.

During those 35 years the world has changed. However our communists and ex-communists from the “anti-crisis coalition” have not changed in the least. They retain the same language and style. They don’t like dialogue and with outrage reject the letter from the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee. Why?

The question forces me to go back in time half a century to the “ideological struggle between two systems”.

What was behind it?

We took the propagandistic formula at its face value. In fact there was only one ideological system. The West was not an ideological system. It offered democratic values, a common language and the law which needed to be observed for the sake of security in Europe.

The West organized the League of Nations, the Declaration of Human Rights, the Final Act of the Helsinki Accords. The Bolsheviks accepted such proposals only as far as they suited them.  That means, they signed the agreements, but then rejected the requirements which they were supposed to meet and called them “interference in the internal affairs of our country.”  They did this, moreover, not so much shamelessly, as superciliously, with pride and a Bolshevik hint of contempt.

These agreements were reported in Soviet newspapers. With scant detail, but reported. The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, signed by the Leader, was removed during searches of dissidents’ homes, as a semi-prohibited document.

And for the demand that a document ratified by the USSR be honoured, we were arrested as “especially dangerous state criminals”.

If you look at the question from a conceptual point of view, then the West was called an “ideological” and “hostile” system in essence because it demanded adherence to laws equal for all.

Propaganda, of course, presented western “imperialists” as “stirring up a new war”, although the Kremlin never feared the “aggressive West”. The Kremlin armed itself, and over 70% of industry worked for the military. Yet all understood that this was to be a war “for the liberation of mankind”.

What the USSR regarded as especially hostile was “interference in our internal affairs”, that is, the demand that laws be obeyed.

Over 35 years the weapon arsenals have turned into unneeded and dangerous stocks. The ideological system has rotted, with the exception of granite monuments of Lenin. And the ideological stereotypes and demons of intolerance live on in the hearts of yesterday’s Leninists who haven’t forgotten anything and have learned nothing.

We know that the main thing for communists was to seize power. Now, of course, there are no guarantees that the power will be for long. However a communist won’t allow anyone else to have power. Law which limits that power is their enemy. Justice for communists is when the prosecutor, judges, the Human Rights Ombudsperson all depend on their party and act in the interests of their party.

In Brezhnev’s time human rights protection was the Achilles’ heel of the regime. After the collapse of censorship, total control over the individual was also lost. It seemed as though now they would have to reconcile themselves and keep quiet about their phantom pain.

On 20 January a letter from the co-rapporteurs of the PACE Monitoring Committee Hanne Severinsen and Renata Volvend regarding the election of the Human Rights Ombudsperson was addressed to the Speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada. The letter says that Oleksandr Moroz knows himself that the present Ombudsperson, a State Deputy from the Party of the Regions is politically engaged, whereas it is envisaged by the norms that this human rights defender be politically neutral. They could have answered “We know that”. They could have said thank you.  They will, all the same, have to work with the Council of Europe and reckon with the fact that the Monitoring Committee exists in order to help different countries act in accordance with accepted principles and laws. And of course thank the people who are asserting the authority of the law and rights in the interests of our country.

These simple truths are incomprehensible to Leninists, whether they be from the Communist Party or the Socialist Party, or the Party of the Regions. Instead they plan together to give an “angry rebuff” and accuse people with standing in post-communist countries also of “flagrant infringements”, “attempts to compromise”, “to impose their point of view”, and to “express a vote of no confidence in the legislative steps of people’s representatives”.

The shamelessness and lack of ceremony of this statement signed by I. Bokiy, P. Symonenko and R. Bohatyryova, force me to write this explanation. I would respectfully ask Ms Severinsen and Ms П. Volvend, as well as the readers of this document, to accept this explanation as an apology for such tactlessness from Ukrainians.

President of the Ukrainian PEN club, Yevhen Sverstyuk

22 January 2007



Yevhen Sverstyuk, prominent Ukrainian writer, philosopher and former political prisoner, was born on 13 December 1928, the seventh child in the family of Oleksandr and Yevhenia Sverstyuk in the village of Siltse, Horokhivsky district, Volyn region.   He has written many books and numerous essays and articles on literature, psychology, philosophy, and religion, as well as translations from German, English and Russian. He is a laureate of the Shevchenko State Prise, and the International UNESCO Award. In Ukraine and in the West he has been known since the 1960s as a participant in the national liberation movement, and was one of the organizers of Ukrainian “samvydav” [samizdat].  He spent 12 years in the Soviet labour camps and in exile for his literary works, in particular for his book “Sobor u ryshtovanni” [“The cathedral under scaffolding”] (Paris, 1970).  He is presently editor of the National newspaper “Nasha Vira” [“Our Faith”], and is also the President of the Ukrainian PEN-Club, and a co-organizer of the civic organization “Hromadyanska pozitsiya” [“Civic Stand”]. 

Please see  for more details about Yevhen Sverstyuk’s life


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