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.

Ukrainian gets two-year suspended sentence for social media repost of Dugin text in 2014

Halya Coynash

A 35-year-old Ukrainian from Kyiv has received a two-year suspended sentence for the reposting on social media back in April 2014 of an article by Russian fascist ideologue Alexander Dugin.  Volodymyr Holovkov was found guilty of ‘circulating material containing public calls to violent change or overthrow of the constitutional order or to seizure of power’ (Article 109 § 2 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code).

It should be stressed that this is a relatively new criminal case.  Ukraine’s SBU [Security Service] reported on 3 August 2017 that it had arrested somebody it described as “the owner and administrator of several anti-Ukrainian groups on social media”.  Although the person’s name is not given, it appears to have been Holovkov.

The SBU asserted then that the person had been carrying out instructions from people overseeing his actions.  It went on to say that “the so-called press secretary and active participant in an anti-Ukrainian separatist organization created a broad network of web-resources and social media groups which he used for calls to seize power in the state; to circulate anti-Ukrainian material; support Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine and to push the idea of creating the so-called ‘novorossiya’]. 

Computer technology was removed during their search, as well, allegedly, as “proof of unlawful activities”, with the charges initiated as above, under Article 109 § 2. 

Judge Halyna Matiychuk from the Pechersky District Court remanded him in custody for two months.

By 8 September, the charges remained under the same article of the criminal code, but pertained solely to the one repost from 2014.  A person from the prosecutor’s office confirmed to Novynarnia that this was “an atypical situation for Ukraine”.

Holovkov is apparently the administrator of the VKontakte group ‘Union of Ukrainian  and Russian Citizens [“Союз граждан Украины и России”.] and it was there that the Dugin text was reposted on April 15, 2014.   He appears to have also published on the website of ‘Ukrainian Choice’, the party linked with Viktor Medvedchuk, a very controversial Ukrainian politician with strong personal ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Interestingly, not one of the articles is available, with a party spokesperson claiming there to have been some kind of hacking incident but also insisting that Holovkov posted on a blog basis, not as presenting the party’s view.

The same Detektor.Media article gives an apparent link, as do other reports, to the supposed URL of the verdict (in case № 757/45953/17-к ), handed down on 2 October by the Desnyansky District Court in Kyiv, though not one of the links opens, and the verdict does not appear to come up on the Single Register of Court Rulings

This is unfortunate, since the charges are indeed ‘atypical’ and it would be useful to see the justification for the sentence which may be suspended (with one year probation), but is nonetheless steep.

The article in question by Dugin is as chauvinist, war-mongering and anti-Ukrainian, as very many of his texts. The article, entitled ‘War: this time for real’,  is widely available.  It claims that the “Crimean scenario for peaceful establishment of people’s power” did not work, that Kyiv “has decided on war with Russia” and that a war is beginning for “the independence of Novorossiya”.

Every sentence is mendacious and offensive.  Most are also wrong – as prophet, Dugin thankfully fails abysmally.

The text is very easy to find, as are most of the fascist ideologue’s writings.  Ukraine’s SBU has now given one of them considerably more publicity than it deserved.

It has also provided a rather worrying precedent.  Even if Vitalia Lebid from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is right that the text can be considered  hate speech, a Ukrainian has been convicted merely for reposting it on a social media page, with no comment and, aside from the fact of reposting it, no value judgement at all.  The post is also very old. 

All of this is disturbingly reminiscent of prosecutions in Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea.  So too are the serious allegations in the initial SBU report, as compared with the specific and extremely dated action which formed the actual substance of the charges.  No mention is made of  Holovkov having been following instructions, and the ’public calls’ remain in the text reposted only.

Any criminal punishment should be commensurate with the offence and foreseeable.  It is by no means clear that this sentence meets those requirements. 


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