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.




1. General overview

Despite the fact that inter-ethnic problems are not so far the most acute for the Ukrainian society, the experts are concerned with rapid increase in various negative tendencies related to this issue. In their report, published in January 2011, Human Rights Watch experts pointed out the slackening of fight against hate crimes. In particular, they underlined the presence of race-related problems, prejudiced treatment of individuals of non-Slavic appearance and migration policy issues.[2]

Human rights organizations and associations state that intolerance towards “the other” in Ukrainian society is increasing on yearly basis, and its manifestations in Ukraine have become more numerous and regular.

The official institutions, on the contrary, in their judgment use exclusively the data, obtained from the law enforcement bodies, which, in their turn, are well aware of the authorities’ expectations and obediently supply the desired statistics. These manipulations with figures is an easy task, as the law enforcement bodies’ statistics is limited to registering the most outrageous assaults against foreigners and the number of criminal lawsuits under the article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (violation of person’s equality on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion).

Indeed, a number of officially registered cases of violence against foreigners seems to be decreasing since 2009, while the cases, filed by the prosecutor’s office and brought to court under the article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine remains insignificant. However, this statistics obtained from the law enforcement bodies can hardly be considered reliable and objective criterion in evaluating the general situation in the country.

First of all, it is not only foreigners or even people with “non-Caucasian” appearance that fall victims to the “hate crimes” in Ukraine. Oddly enough, rather often the persecution in our country is aimed at its own citizens, including ethnic Ukrainians. Such occurrences usually are not reflected in the law enforcement bodies’ statistics and are not registered as “hate crimes”. Second, law enforcement structures, for the unspecified reason assume that only the cases of physical violence against “the aliens” reflect the level of ethnic tension, ignoring other manifestations of aggressive xenophobia and failing to qualify them appropriately. We are talking about vandalism at grave sites and religious buildings, “war of monuments”, unleashed in Ukraine, intentional damage of certain groups’ property etc.

The use of cases, filed under the article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, as an indicator of xenophobia increase in the country is wrong too. The said article is ironically referred to by the experts as ‘phantom article”, because, although present in the Criminal Code, it is used in real life so seldom, that the expediency of its existence at least, in its current version, is questioned.

The human rights organizations have more than once asked the representatives of law enforcement bodies, why the “phantom article is used so rarely and always received the traditional answer: “This is the prerogative of the prosecutor’s office”. This latter, however, complains that the courts reluctantly qualify offenses as “hate crimes”. The courts, in their turn, refer to difficulties in establishing motives and intent of the offenders. It is all true to a certain extent and one can agree that due to its vague language and specifics of use, the “anti-discriminatory”article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine fails to guarantee thorough protection of equality of rights for all people.

This argument, however, does not justify an inert position of the law enforcement bodies, which ignores other available levers of handling the situation — e.g., article 67 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which defines an offense, committed on the ground of racial, ethnic or religious hatred or hostility as an aggravating circumstance. The use of the article 67 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine does not call for the transfer of the criminal case from militia to the prosecutor’s office, and, when hostility motives are obvious, gives investigator authority to additionally qualify any offense, envisaged by the Criminal Code — from hooliganism and causing serious bodily harm to demolition of property, desecration of religious shrines or defilement of graves. However, this practice is not popular with the militia officials. As a result one can note the mitigation of punishment for the offender, on the one hand, and reduction in the statistic data concerning the number of “hate crimes”, on the other.

Introduction of amendments to some articles of the CC of Ukraine with regards to establishing the so-called “hatred motive” as qualifying circumstance (articles 115, 121, 122, 126, 127, 129, 300) did not help to improve situation. Registering instances of crimes, committed against foreigners, the Ministry of Interior is in no hurry to qualify them as offenses, motivated by religious or ethnic hostility.

Thus, the study of statistic reports prepared between the years 2009-2011 (Form 1-ING) shows that at least 126 violent acts, including premeditated homicide, causing grave bodily harm, hooliganism, were committed against foreigners (excluding CIS citizens):

Table 1. Number of violent crimes committed against foreigners
(excluding CIS citizens)

Type of crime






9 months
of 2011


Premeditated homicide (or attempted homicide) (Articles 115–118 CC)








Intended heavy bodily harm (article121 CC)








Intended medium bodily harm (article 122 CC)








Hooliganism (article 296 CC)

















Meanwhile, the rate of registration of so-called “hate crimes” by the law enforcement bodies and prosecutor’s office leaves much to be desired. The Ministry of Interior reports (form 1-RD) show that over three years only 11 criminal cases against 12 suspects have been filed (Table. 2). In other words, the law enforcement officials managed to qualify only 11 (i. e. 10%) out of 126 violent offenses as “hate crimes”.

Table 2. Indicators of rate of crimes, based on racial, ethnic or religious intolerance

Article of the Criminal Code of Ukraine


Number of lawsuits


Against persons


Number of victims


Year 2009


Article 161 (violation of person’s equality on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion








Article 180 (obstructing religious ceremonies’ performance)








Year 2010


Article 161 (violation of person’s equality on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion








9 months of 2011


Article 161 (violation of person’s equality on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion








Article 129 (threat of murder)









Beyond any doubt, the appropriate use of the aforementioned articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine is not easy, first of all, due to the absence of mechanisms for obtaining experts’ opinion on presence of certain indications of hatred, humiliation, disrespect to ethnic pride and dignity, intent of unleashing inter-ethnic hostility in the actions or expressions. Even despite the latest expert research done by the specialists from the Institute of State and Law under Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Institute of political and ethnic and national research under Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and other institutions, investigators and the prosecutor’s office try to avoid qualifying offenses as “hate crimes”, attempting to limit them to hooliganism (in cases of assaults) or to claim lack of evidence testifying to the intentional stirring of hostility in certain actions (in cases of xenophobic publications in mass media). A commentary of Kyiv militia with respect to an assault against Ukrainian citizen of Nigerian origin is most characteristic in this context[3]:

1.1. The militia of the capital failed to see racism in the mugging of a Nigerian

On Saturday night of April 2, in Kyiv subway three young men mugged 45-year-old Ukrainian citizen of Nigerian origin. Militia qualified the assault which took place between the subway stations “Kreshchatyk” and “Arsenalna” as hooliganism with no racist motive. The press-officer of subway militia unit Natalya Kernitskaya offered the following comment: “There are no grounds to qualify this incident as a case of racial discrimination. The victim is of Nigerian origin, but he has been Ukrainian citizen for a long time. The guys were just drunk, quarrelling, stepping on each other’s feet. The crime was qualified as hooliganism and as such was filed for investigation”.

As opposed to law enforcement bodies, the non-governmental organizations use different criteria and methods of research to deal with the problem, and, in the absence of the necessary amount of information, assess the situation by studying public opinion, taking into account the answers to the questionnaires offered to the citizens of Ukraine and representatives of the “stigmatized” groups and monitoring mass media. Doubtless, this method, combined with analysis of the figures offered by the official statistics data, gives the opportunity to evaluate the rate of xenophobia in the country more accurately and broadly. Besides, as opposed to law enforcement bodies, the non-governmental organizations apply the norms of international law with broader definitions of such concepts as “xenophobia”, “discrimination” etc.

Wrapping up, one may arrive at the conclusion that the official statistics which would reflect objectively the xenophobia rate and the number of related law violations is unavailable in Ukraine. It is also noteworthy that available statistics data should be regarded as indicators of the fact that the law enforcement system of Ukraine simply is not ready to prevent the “hate crimes” with legal methods.

2. Law enforcement bodies as the source of xenophobia

The main problem observed with respect to “hate crimes” is the fact that in many cases they are simply ignored by the law enforcement bodies. Why is it so? Possibly it happens due to the professional negligence of respective officials, or their inadequate professional level, or may be, due to psychological adaptation of the said officials to everyday manifestations of ethnic intolerance. Paradoxically as it is, very often the Ministry of Interior itself commits the violations, which demonstrate not only the spreading of ethnic profiling among militia professionals, but also bear characteristics of the crime, punishable under the article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

Thus, paragraph 13 of the Ministry of Interior order No. 236 of 08.04.10 “On use of additional measures, aimed at enhancing safety of railroad passengers” unjustifiably broadened the competences of the Ukrainian militia officials, who were requested to ensure “permanent control over the foreigners using the railroad transport, thorough checks of the foreign nationals’ documents, paying special attention to their registration cards, issued by the border control officials”. Let’s remind that constant observation and check of the personal documents fall under the category of rigidly individualized procedures, clearly spelled out in the Ukrainian laws, and, therefore, cannot be applied, as general practice, with respect to either citizens of Ukraine or foreign nationals.

Provisions of paragraph 14 also deserve special attention. They request the use of measures directed at “identifying the persons who assist illegal migrants, criminals and other individuals, arousing special interest at the departments of interior, with residential facilities and transportation”. The use of the term “special interest” can lead to unforeseeable consequences, as currently it has neither legal definition nor normative justification. In fact a non-defined number of people fall under this category, which warrants an erroneous approach from the very beginning.

The order No. 136 of 09.02.11 “On operative measures with respect to the educational institutions admitting foreigners to study in Ukraine” contains the request of the Minister of Interior to carry out “preventive operational measures in the high school institutions jointly with the Ministry of Education, State Border Inspection, Security Service, local executive bodies. The goal of these measures was defined as “enhancing control over foreign students’ stay in the country”. The “operational measures” intended for 2 weeks (February 9 till 23) included:

—  Checking the validity of the university invitations, issued to the nationals of the “risk migration countries”;

—  Random verifications of the foreign students’ personal files to check whether they have all the documents required for the foreigners willing to be admitted to the higher educational institutions;

—  Checking students’ dormitories, other places of foreign students’ residence and places of potential concentration (markets, entertainment facilities etc) of the foreign nationals who have come to Ukraine to study;

—  Compiling reports based on the results of check-ups, signed by the persons who performed them and educational institutions representatives.

This document’s provisions bear potential threat of discriminatory treatment of foreigners due to several reasons. First of all, the check-up envisaged familiarization with personal files, places of residence/domicile of the students, leisure places, which is direct violation of the right to inviolability of private life. Second, the scope of the preventive measure envisaged involvement of substantial competent personnel resource and appropriate training for those involved. Unfortunately many experts agree that the Ministry of Interior does not currently possess such a resource. Third, the speed imposed by the Ministry of Interior for the implementation of the said measure enhanced the risk of discriminatory treatment of foreigners, due to the lack of time for proper training of the department of interior professionals and developing appropriate mechanisms for their operation.

Foreigners as potential object of unjustified militia operation were once again refereed to in the Decision of the Ministry of Interior Collegium of 14.07.2011 “On the outcomes of departments of interior operation in the first half of 2011” (order of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine No. 477 of 22.07.2011). In particular, in this document, the attention of the chief executives of the Chief Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, other departments of interior is drawn to the “lamentable fact” that “…in Vinnytsya, Dnipropetrovsk, Transcarpathian, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Luhansk,Lviv, Poltava, Rivne, Sumy, Ternopil, Khmelnitsky, Chernyhyv oblast’s and the city of Kyiv the organized groups, set up on the ethnic principle, have not been registered”.

Under this severe order the militia officials from 15 regions were placed in the situation when they had to uncover at least one criminal “ethnic” group at any cost, even if they are virtually non-existent in a given region. It is obvious that the representatives of ethnic minorities, foreigners and stateless persons are the first candidates to pose as the suspects or figurants in the militia operations. This is direct characteristics of discriminatory policy.

2.1. Here is one of the typical examples of militia’s attitude towards foreigners[4]

My phone rang. The caller introduced himself as B., a Guinean refugee and asylum seeker. He asked me for a meeting as he wanted to share the story of his “communications” with Kharkiv militia. At the meeting B. turned out to be young African who has been living in Ukraine for eight years, but still cannot get used to arbitrary treatment of foreigners by militia in Kharkiv.

B. told me that in late August of the current year militia arrived at the apartment which B. rented with a student friend (also a foreigner). “We opened the door immediately, — said B. — “because we learnt the hard way that we must always cooperate with militia”. After entering the premises, the “law-enforcers” busied themselves with thorough search of the rooms, literally going through everything with a toothcomb. They showed us no documents or warrants. Their only explanation was “we are looking for drugs, and all the foreigners are selling them”. B. and his roommate tried to argue, but were cursed, insulted and threatened. “We were called “niggers” and four-letter words and ordered to shut up” — recollects B. When he tried to call an NGO which offers legal assistance to the refugees and migrants, militia officers simply took away his cell phone. Naturally, the uninvited guests found no drugs, but came across and “confiscated” 200 UAH. (Obviously, the agents assumed that the country did not appreciate or reward their efforts sufficiently).

B. mentioned that militia officers are constantly bullying the foreigners under the pretext of checking their IDs and ALWAYS take their money, even when all the documents are in order. “When I came to Kharkiv, my friends advised me: beware of skinheads and militia! However, I saw skinheads only a couple of times near”Studentska” subway station, where they were attacking Arabs, while militia in Kharkiv occurs at every step” — B. was almost weeping relating that.

Reporting their successes, law enforcement bodies usually refer to the decrease in activity rate of radical “skinhead-oriented” groups with their traditional slogans of white supremacy and respective attributes — shaven heads, Nazi swastikas etc. Meanwhile the officials of said bodies obstinately ignore other outrageous manifestations of xenophobia and discrimination with regards to representatives of one race and one citizens of one country.

3. Current rate of xenophobia in Ukraine

“Language xenophobia” is a specific type of xenophobia characteristic of modern Ukraine. It is caused not by the language preferences of the citizens, i.e. their wish to use either Ukrainian or Russian language in their everyday communication, but by the politicians’ struggle for their electorate, when the “language issue” becomes almost most important political slogan in election campaign, substituting candidates’ economic programs for sustainable development. Currently the epidemics of “language segregation” in the Ukrainian society, which started last year, is gaining momentum and Ukraine’s division into two camps –i.e. the Russian-speaking and the Ukrainian-speaking is constantly enhanced by politicians, who offer ideological and cultural justification of this negative phenomenon. The choice of spoken language as means of communication eventually became for an average Ukrainian not only an indicator of favoring certain political force, but also a criterion in the dichotomy “our own-alien” and a signal for non-acceptance of, and sometimes aggression towards the said “alien”.

This open discrimination of the “other” language speakers and residents of the “hostile” regions is not limited to mutual insults, but eventually moves into the phase of the open aggression and violent actions.

On May 9, 2011 in Sebastopol an official from Ternopil oblast’ council 60-year old Anatoliy Dekin was attacked.[5] Before the event he received a phone call from someone who introduced himself as Anatoliy’s compatriot from the Western Ukraine and suggested a meeting. When Anatoliy Dekin arrived at the agreed meeting place, he was attacked by three young men, who forcibly dragged him into the park, where he was severely beaten despite his advanced age and disability. As a result, Anatoliy Dekin ended up in a hospital, with broken ribs, injured foot and numerous bruises. The offenders were rather straightforward in explaining their motives to the victim: “Sebastopol is a Russian city. We’ll destroy all of you.” Later it was established that two of the assaulters belonged to a pro-Russian organization. Association “Svoboda” leader Oleh Tyahnybok is certain that Anatoliy Dekin was attacked due to his Ukrainian ethnicity, use of Ukrainian language and active stand in defending the Ukrainians’ rights. It is most indicative that “Svoboda” members expressed their serious doubts as to the local law enforcers’ willingness and capability to qualify the crime appropriately, stating that “Attempts to approach Crimean law enforcement agencies has become pointless long ago, as they themselves often serve as repressive tool against “Svoboda” in Crimea. This is confirmed, in particular, by the fact, that the offenders are still at large in Sebastopol, that’s why we appeal to the Ministry of Interior and Security Service of Ukraine demanding that the crime is investigated and the culprits duly penalized”.

On August 17, 2011 in Sebastopol minibus a local resident stabbed a tourist with the knife[6]. Conflict developed from a quarrel, as to who was the first in bus line. The witnesses testify that Sebastopol resident surmised from his opponent’s accent that this latter was not local resident, and started to insult him saying that “Moskal”[derogatory for “a Russian”] should “bugger off to his homeland”, then stabbed him with the knife, and, after the minibus had come to a stop, ran away. The criminal was quickly detained, which fact was made public on the Sebastopol Department of Interior site.[7] The information, however, typically for militia, contained no mention of the conflict ethnic background; the offense was reduced to administrative tort and filed as criminal lawsuit under article 125 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (light bodily harm).

So, currently there are grounds to conclude that new motives for xenophobia came into being in Ukraine, i.e. the language and territorial ones, when it is not race or ethnicity of the object of hostility, but his/her language of communication or region of residence within the same country. Taking into account rapid spreading of this type of xenophobia it is obvious that it poses a serious threat as destabilizing factor in the country.

As mentioned above, the ethnicity-based xenophobia is not a real problem for the traditional ethnic minorities. It does not apply, however, to Roma people (Gypsies), who, of late, have become the object of defamation, discrimination or even “hate crimes” and assaults. Due to specific social, economic, cultural and historical reasons the majority in this ethnic group belongs to the poorest categories of society. Persistent negative stereotypes with regards to Roma have taken deep roots in the Ukrainian society. Mass media pretty often publish materials depicting the whole Roma community as drug dealers and criminals, while law enforcement bodies treat Roma in plainly discriminatory way.

Executive director of the European Center for the Gypsies Rights Desideriu Gergei appealed to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Pshonka and Minister of Interior Anatorliy Mohylyov with respect to information that law enforcement officials in Lviv and Lviv oblast’ conduct “unwarranted discriminatory checks of papers and fingerprinting among Roma population of the area”[8]. The official site of the Institute of Human Rights and Prevention of Extremism and Xenophobia published, in particular, the data collected by NGOs, according to which over September-October 2011, Roma people residing in the area “were subjected to personal information collection campaign (i.e. documents checks, fingerprinting, photo taking)”, while target raids were organized at the markets and Roma’s houses.

The issue of inter-ethnic relations remains most crucial for the Crimea. Naturally, the problems of Crimean Tatars are predetermined, first and foremost, by social/ economic and not by ethno-political situation. Xenophobia with respect to Tatars, stirred up by political, informational and economic (mainly, in land property relations) confrontation, is manifested in insults, acts of vandalism against Tatar or Moslem cultural and religious centers, or even physical assaults.

The situation with respect to representatives of the “new minorities”, including guests of the country, refugees and re-settlers, is much worse. They are the most popular objects of xenophobic manifestations — from insults to violence. The racists’ victims include Africans, natives of Central and Southern-Eastern Asia, East and the region of Caucasus.

Violence against foreign students has become a most serious problem.

On November 1, 2011 in the city center of Luhansk, around 6 pm, a group of several dozens of young masked men (about 40–50 people, according to witnesses), armed with clubs and iron rods organized a pogrom with mugging. Probably, the young people got together intentionally in the center, marched down the main streets and stopped at a vendor’s stall in Oboronna street. The natural question immediately arises: “Where (if anywhere) have the regular militia street patrols been at the time? And isn’t it their duty to ensure law and order in the city?”[9]

The racist front in Ukraine, although less active than in Russia in terms of physical persecution of the “aliens”, eventually is gaining momentum and recruiting new activists, predominantly, among young people. As of today, a number of organizations and movements with various level of radicalism promoting the idea of white supremacy as a whole or the slogan “Ukraine for Ukrainians exclusively” are in place in Ukraine. If several years ago the radical racism with its typical international characteristics was virtually imported to Ukraine from abroad (mainly, from Russia), presently we witness the tendency of consolidating internal chauvinistic forces with the goal of strengthening the idea of exclusive role of the “title nation” in the social life of the country. Thus, such organizations as “Ukrainian nationalistic-labor party”, “Patriot Ukrainy”, “Slava I chest’” [Glory and Honor-Ukr.], “Tryzub” [Trident-Ukr.] become more and more prominent in the social life of Ukraine. Their activists more than once participated in the actions aimed against the so-called “predominance of non-Ukrainians”.

In 2011 some chauvinistic and racist organizations have several times demonstrated their strength in the public actions, where openly racist and discriminatory slogans have been proclaimed to incite the public at large.

It would be wrong, however, to assume that xenophobia in Ukraine is of Ukrainian-nationalistic nature. The change of policy towards allegiance to Russian Federation actively implemented in 2010 by the new country leadership is assessed differently by population, and has sometimes led to cased of “reciprocal discrimination”, i. e. when pressure was exerted on ethnic Ukrainians.

Crimea is most demonstrative in this aspect, as there Ukrainians often suffer from Ukraino-phobia of multiple Russian communities. In the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine significant number of movements and groups (“Russkoe sodruzhestvo”, “Pravoslavny vybir”, “Soyuz russkogo naroda”, “Evraziyska spilka molodi” et al.) distort the idea of “fraternal union with Russians” and express negative attitudes towards Ukrainian language, Ukrainians themselves, integrity of the state etc. The methods are similar to those, used by Ukrainian chauvinists, i.e. rallies, picketing, demonstrations and other public events, defiling the monuments etc.

On June 20 Simferopol Central District Court passed a ruling in which the leader of Cossack’s community “Sobol’” Vitaliy Khramov was found guilty of criminal offense, i.e. stirring up inter-ethnic hostility, and fined with 23 thousand hryvnas. Events in Dnipropetrovsk provide another example.

Dnipropetrovsk militia, patrol units together with road inspection, “Berkut” special unit and even municipal guard are on the quest to find the authors of xenophobic graffiti which this week appeared in abundance all over the city. The first slogans “Death to Khokhly!” [derogatory for “Ukrainians”] appeared in the yards and alleys of multi-storied houses on the Left bank, where the Donetsk highway begins. In a couple of days, though, the authors of the anti-Ukrainian slogans — “Death to Khokhly!” and “Death to Ukrainians!” proceeded to decorate the facades of the houses in the downtown and then in the premises of the university campus on Gagrain prospect, near Dnipropetrovsk National and Transportation Universities. So far militia has been overwhelmed. –On the one hand, the fact of multiple graffiti is confirmed by the numerous pictures in the local Internet web; while, on the other, the communal services workers manage to paint them over before they can be documented by the law enforcement officials. “We registered two petitions, to which we responded immediately. Operational groups arrived at Donetsk highway, 1, and in the proximity of the block No1 of Dnipropetrovsk National University. Not a single fact has been confirmed — the communal services removed the “inscriptions” before militia had a chance to arrive at the site. We ask the communal services not to remove the graffiti before they can be documented by militia”,- informed deputy head of the city militia Vladimir Sedletsky. According to his statement, militia is actively looking for hooligans, although it is very probable, that they would not end up in court or be convicted for the phrase “Death to Ukrainians!” “One can hardly expect anything more serious than “administrative infringement”, i.e. damage to city property, verdict. The offenders will be just fined. If we detain these people and the prosecution finds premeditation and intention to incite inter-ethnic conflict, then the criminal lawsuit might be filed” — stated Sedletsky”.[10]

Permanent confrontation between certain categories of Ukrainian population on the basis of religious differences gives grounds for serious concern. Obviously, the conflicts between the believers are unavoidable in a country where citizens profess various religions; however, over the recent years one could register not only traditional conflicts between Christians and Moslems, Greek Catholics and Orthodox Christians, but also the spreading of intolerance among the adherents of different branches of Orthodox Christianity. To a certain extent, these conflicts are incited by unreasonable actions of the authorities, including public expressions of the officials’ preferences in religious matters, which lead to some elements of discrimination in the treatment of certain categories of the believers, with active participation of the Ministry of Interior in discriminatory actions. Here is a story of what happened to Krishna followers.

On July 16, 2011 a group of young men, including their guest who was much interested in Ukrainian culture and came to visit Lutsk from St.Petersburg, decided to visit Horohiv. They were chanting in a street near a local gas station.

When they intended to resume their journey, they were approached by a woman who asked for their permit to chant in the city. The boys asked, whether she was Horohiv mayor, and that’s the answer they got:” I am higher than mayor”. It turned out that she was the head of Horohiv raion administration. The lady-bureaucrat was accompanied by a priest — father Roman. Arguing that his church was the only one registered officially, he called the Krishna followers “carolers”, — writes the newspaper.

Next, a militia officer arrived. Said Yaroslav Hnatyuk :” A senior investigator came to the site and asked for our papers. As we did not have any pockets in our attire, we did not carry the papers. I went to fetch the driver’s license. Then we were taken to rayon militia precinct”- and added –“as soon as we crossed the threshold, we heard obscenities and insults in lieu of greeting”.

“Without as much as asking us, what the purpose of our visit was, he started to threaten us saying that we would be incarcerated, and he also mocked our attire. Each in our community is considered a priest — we were dressed in cassocks” — explained Hnatyuk. Despite such treatment, the men remained courteous, and subsequently were called “skirted clowns”.[11]

Despite the fact that under international treaties Ukraine should ban and condemn hostility and openly abusive attitudes towards people of other ethnicity, incited by mass media, these occurrences become more and more frequent in media. The Ministry of Interior of Ukraine, lacking specially developed informational policy in this area, also often allows publications of openly contemptuous nature and calls for discrimination of a particular ethnic community, namely the people of Roma on the official web-sites of their subdivisions. The main message sent by these publications to public at large is traditional militia warning “Beware of Gypsies!”.

We’ll cite only a few instance of militia “hate language”, registered by public activists in the course of implementing the project “Monitoring of hate crimes in Ukraine, protection of victims and analysis of Ukrainian legislation and practices, pertaining to hate crime prevention”, supported by “Memory, responsibility, and future” foundation.

On July 4, 2011 the official site of Yalta City Department of Interior in the ARC featured an article dedicated to Roma people, entitled “Don’t let them into your homes under any pretext!” The publication states that:

“… law enforcement bodies possess the information to the effect that crimes have been committed by a gang of Gypsies looking like Slavs. To disguise themselves, present day Gypsy females dye their hair light, wear no colorful skirts or kerchiefs, and, moreover, do not go in bands, thus destroying time-tested distinct stereotype of “nomadic people”.

On July 19, 2011, the same site published information “Swindle through hypnosis”, in which the readers learn about a number of committed crimes:

“…On July 13, in Koreiz, near the “Ay-Petri” bus stop a woman with the girl approached a fruit stall and asked the vendor to weigh three kilograms of vegetables and fruits. Offering the vendor a 500 UAH bill for her purchase, the woman started a small talk with him. Presently, taking her purchase with change, as well as her own money, voluntarily returned to her by the vendor, she left the stall. Eventually the vendor discovered that 950 UAH were missing. A similar scenario recurred at another fruit stall with the second victim discovering the disappearance of 700 UAH. Neither of the victims could account for their actions and clarify what has happened. The both men felt as if hypnotized”.

Still another publication entitled “My house is my fortress” on Yalta militia site offers the public advice to:

“Reject the offers, made by strangers, especially of Gypsy origin, to tell fortune at your home, use it to change their babies’ diapers, have a drink of water, ask for medicine and the like. As a rule, such visits end in thefts”.

Similar “explanatory” work was carried out on Volyn oblast’ Department of Interior site in the publication “Until the thunderbolt strikes…or how people learn to distrust swindlers”:

“…Everybody is engaged in this criminal craft: women, children, men and elderly people. The female part of the band operates in groups, led by experienced she-thief. When going out to the “job”, each Gypsy woman performs her designated function. They ring the doorbell, and ask for a glass of water or to change their baby. As soon as an incautious victim opens the door, the Gypsy woman will show her a host of wondrous tricks. In no time all money and valuables will disappear from the apartment. The victim’s attention will be distracted while somebody will steal into the apartment unnoticed, confidently and unmistakably track the loot and dissolve into the thin air. That’s why thefts home and robberies, perpetrated by Gypsies, are hard to solve.

Recently the Gypsies have mastered still another “related trade” — money swindles in the vicinity of street vending kiosks, currency exchange booths, at the railway stations and market places.

The Gypsies mostly engage in fortune telling within large groups at the railway stations and market places. Naïve and credulous persons, offered to have their fortune told or evil spell lifted, become their victims.

One can surmise that Gypsy women to a certain extent have a command of hypnotic techniques and suggestion. Otherwise, it is hard to explain why mentally sane and educated people would voluntary give away substantial sums of money and valuables to swindlers. “I remember nothing…I acted as if in a dream…” — that’s how the victims explain their behavior to militia officials. But there were also cases when kids would give out the money even in parents’ presence at home.

The law enforcers have hard time counteracting Gypsy schemes. Besides, the investigators are totally unaware of Gypsy customs or language. Moreover, it is very difficult to bring criminal action against Gypsies. They are either sick, or pregnant, or minor, or simply vanish into the thin air. Militia and mass media are fed up with reminding credulous individuals to stay away from these deceitful people and not to have any dealings with them”.

On April 28 an article with eloquent title “Caution! Gypsies’ tricks!” was published on the official site of the Vinnytsya oblast’ Department of Interior. The Roma people were characterized in this article as follows:

“Gypsies have been residing in the territory of Ukraine for many centuries. Begging is one of their main traditional trades. It has been their heritage and never considered as something shameful. Women and children exclusively dealt in this trade. Gypsy children learn the anti-social mode of life at early age — they go a-begging together with their parents, speculating in trifles.

The relationships between the Gypsies and local population have always been complicated. Gypsies themselves are to a large extent responsible for the negative image of their people: “sticking”, bothersome with their fortune-telling or trying to sell something at the railroad stations or markets.

Now and then the information on crimes, committed by Gypsy-looking individuals, becomes public. The offenders, using any pretext (fortune-telling, lifting of evil spell, asking for a glass of water or a place to rest etc.) embezzle other people’s money and valuables.

They might use different scenarios, but the classic one remains unchanged — lifting of evil spell.

The robberies and thefts, committed by the Gypsies are very difficult to solve. It is even more difficult for the militia officers to detain the perpetrators, due to the fact that the Gypsies are not settled at one place, but moving all the time within the territories of different oblast’s.

Militia sends out a warning! Not to fall prey to the Gypsies do not start any negotiations with them. Disregard their requests. Be smarter than the swindlers and don’t let them drag you in to an undesirable situation”.

The official site of Kyiv Department of Interior in the article entitled “Fortune telling or plain robbery? Beware of street fortune tellers” warns Kyiv residents:

”…coming across Gypsies in the street many people try to avoid them, not to get in touch with them. However these loud women sometimes won’t let people pass: they stop them with questions or bad news, offer to tell fortune and to lift the evil spell. Low spirits and lack of money in the wallet are the usual outcomes of these meetings.

Usually the “feeble sex” fall victims to the thievish fortune tellers, as women are more sentimental and trustful, more susceptible to “ill prophecies”. To “buy” health and well-being of their loved ones they eagerly dispose of their costly jewelry…

Here are some pieces of advice to the public on how to protect oneself from troublesome fortune tellers. Learn to say “No” firmly to the Gypsies approaching you in the street! First of all, never make an eye contact with a fortune teller. Second, no conversations, even if she starts to profess all the evils for yourself and your family. Do not believe them; they are just trying to abuse your trust and love of your family”.

Even the main militia bulletin — the site of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine — could not avoid describing Roma people in negative terms. The article “Trust, but check!” reads:

“Usually the Gypsy women stop young people in the street and scary them by telling that an evil spell — leading to a grave disease or death — has been cast on their parents. They offer to quickly amend the situation and save the loved one. In order to “lift the spell” one should give them all the money and jewels immediately, or to bring valuables from home” — explain militia officers. Unfortunately, people tend to trust the thievish women and give out substantial sums of money, sometimes tens of thousands hryvnas”.

It is an incomplete list of the dubious materials, published at the sites of regional departments of interior under the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine over the year 2011. One would be unwilling to believe that large scope use of “hate language” with respect to Roma people, creating a negative image of “Thieving Gypsy” in the public conscience, use of openly discriminatory warnings(“don’t let in”, “don’t communicate with”, “avoid contacts with”) are parts of intended and well-planned hatred campaign, unleashed with the help of militia Internet-resources.

Probably the employees of PR subdivisions responsible for informational policy of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine intended only to warn Ukrainian citizens about cases of crimes and, thus, prevent their repetition. Meanwhile, they did it without proper consideration or professional approach, as the law does not stipulate the protection of rights of a particular group of people by means of restricting these rights for another group.

No doubt, the articles quoted above have openly anti-Roma orientation, contain negative generalization with respect to the whole Roma people and point to its criminal inclinations as typical of the given ethnic group. The content of the articles is detrimental to honor and dignity of the Roma and builds up the feeling of hostility and openly prejudiced and negative attitudes among their readers. Therefore, their publication can be regarded as intents of stirring up inter-ethnic hostility.

This kind of actions can be easily qualified as criminal under the article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine “On violation of person’s equality on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion”, the commentary to which reads as follows: ”…any actions the goal of which is substantial increase of the feelings of hostility and contempt among one group of population against other ethnic or race groups or religious associations, diminishing positive characteristics of a certain nation, be qualified as actions, aimed at stirring up the interethnic clashes, at humiliating and hurting the feelings of national honor and dignity…”

The fact that such publications on militia Internet-resources constitutes plain disregard of the requirements of normative acts issued by the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine itself, is most amazing.

Wrapping up one might conclude that informational policy of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine with regard to the Roma population is the policy of hidden, and sometimes, quite open inciting public to xenophobic manifestations and certain types of everyday discrimination of Roma people. It is a paradox, that at present the Ministry of Interior uses its Internet-resources to actively divulge two contradictory concepts: on the one hand, the first persons of the agencies demonstrate their will to ensure constituent counteraction against any manifestations of discrimination and strict adherence to respective international standards, while on the other hand the Interior Departments as consequently participate in the eventual developing of concept of possible discrimination of a particular group by the society.

This tactics provides fertile ground for disseminating xenophobia among the officials of Ministry of Interior of Ukraine, which leads to open discrimination of Roma people, mass violations of rights of these ethnic minorities. Here is a typical example:[12]

The Roma complain to oblast’ deputies of the actions, performed by militia officers. This complaint was the topic of discussion at the today’s meeting of the standing committee on deputies’ operation, local-self-governance, protection of human rights, legitimacy, fight against crime, Internet-resource “Volyn’pravda” informs.

Following this information the head of “Terne Roma” association Serhiy Hryhorchenko wrote appeals to the head of Volyn’ oblast’ state administration Borys Klimchuk, to the head of oblast’ council Volodymyr Voytovych, the head of oblast’ department of interior Vyacheslav Khodyrev and oblast’ prosecutor Andriy Hil.

On March 10 militia officers conducted a raid in Torchyn settlement (Lutsk opblast’). The essence of the raid was that since 8 am militiamen were entering private homes of Roma families without any permit; they checked the passports, wrote down the numbers of the cell phones, took pictures of the residents, and fingerprinted them.

Doing that militia officers refused to provide any reason for their visit, an order or warrant which would justify their actions. The majority, i.e. about 20 persons, refused either to show any IDs or to state their names and surnames. Some militiamen just informed that they represented criminal investigation division” — reads the appeal.

The appeal also specifies that in the course of the raid militiamen behaved rudely: threatened the residents with physical violence to be exerted on their minor children and with potential eviction from Torchyn. The head of “Terne Roma” also revealed that a tenth-grader from a Roma family was taken to militia precinct in Torchyn and beaten there. Another young man, who had a concussion, and, therefore, stayed in bed, was forced out of it, despite his mother’s pleadings and ordered to testify to supply the information militia wanted. The victims testify that such raids occur two-three times a year. They are always accompanied with extortion disguised as fines and with threats of worse consequences for non-compliance — including physical punishment” — reads the appeal.

In his turn the deputy head Department of Interior for Volyn’ oblast Taras Pazyn informed the deputies that crime situation in Lutsk rayon and in Torchyn, in particular, “is not a simple one”. “We have filed citizens’ complaints with regard to potential physical violence between the conflicting parties. They all have been registered and given appropriate legal qualification”, — says bureaucrat. Taras Pazyn said that under the Lutsk militia resolution, an order concerning passport checks has been issued. The official also mentioned that similar raids were held in Tsuman’, and Holoby within the framework of preventive campaign and improving legal situation.

Taras Pazyn informed those present that over 5 thousand ethnic Roma reside in Volyn’ oblast’. The absence of their IDs makes it difficult to register the Roma children at school or the adults at the workplaces. At present, under the passport office data, over 2 thousand 200 Roma live in the oblast’ on legal documents.

The deputy Anatoliy Vytiv supported militia. “If one party claims that the militia officials acted illegally, their claim should be supported by respective evidence — signs of beatings, petitions, witnesses. Then the claim would be brought to court. As things stand right now, we can as well accuse militia of anything”, — said Vytiv, adding that it is up to the court and the prosecutor’s office to pass final ruling on the matter. “Someone has to establish law and order in the country”, — stated Vytiv in support of militia.

By the way, the appeal of the head of “Terne Roma” association also points out that aforementioned actions of the law enforcers “provoke the ethnic minority to public sedition. For example, with regards to the threat to evict all the Roma from Torchyn the village head in Perespa (Rozhyshchy rayon) S. Kurylovych is collecting signatures under the villagers’ petition, inciting other village heads to do the same, to have the Roma forcibly evicted from the settlements.

Finally, the deputy committee recommended to send the appeal to the prosecutor’s office for consideration and appropriate qualification of the matter with subsequent response to the petitioner.

4. Conclusions

The facts, described above, give grounds to conclude that Ukrainian society is contaminated with xenophobia virus. This disease does not set in “out of the blue” — in the situation of economic and social crisis xenophobia becomes more acute, aggressive and widely spread; manifests itself in most dangerous and threatening forms. The increase in xenophobia levels in Ukraine is an indicator of our society’s crisis and its lack of trust towards power.

Unfortunately, we can’t help pointing out that over the years 2010–2011 the bodies of authority have practically curtailed their proactive operation in this area, unleashed in 2008, replacing it with wait-and-see attitude, favored by some politicians, so that now they only passively register the on-going developments in the country.

The fact that manifestations of xenophobia and discrimination have become routine in the operation of the Departments of Interior officials in Ukraine is most disconcerting. Eventually spreading they become an inalienable component of the law enforcement bodies’ dealings with particular groups of population. Obviously, militia officers constitute a part of our society with all its faults and shortcomings; nevertheless the increase of xenophobic tendencies among militia officials is especially dangerous, because their distorted vision might affect their actions and decisions in the course of performing their professional duties.



[1]  Prepared by Volodymyr Batchayev, Association of Ukrainian Monitors of Human Rights observance in the operation of law enforcement bodies.



[4]  Yuriy Nuzhny. Beware of skinheads and militiamen 25.09.11,










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