NewsOne Journalist Attacked, Search for "Kremlin Agents" and Prohibition of Parties. Review of Violations of Rights. 17-23 September

We'd like to start by sharing with you the update on the important things Uspishna Varta human rights platform did last week.

First, we summarized and expressed our gratitude to OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and all OSCE institutions for the high level of organization and conduct of annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), which took place in Warsaw between 10 and 21 September 2018. In the framework of HDIM 2018, Uspishna Varta human rights platform organised several events and public performances in support of the human rights in Ukraine. These included not only Freedom of Speech and Opinion in Ukraine: Threats and Opportunities side event, but also remarks of our representatives at plenaries, as well as severalwritten statements and recommendationsdistributed amongthe participants of the meeting. You can read more about the results of Uspishna Varta HDIM 2018 here.

We didn't waste time in Ukraine either. Uspishna Varta human rights platform filed a complaint to Pechersky Rayon Court in Kiev against the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine failure to act in the form of non-entering of information on criminal offence committed by parliamentary speaker Andrey Parubiy under Article 436-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (Production, Dissemination of Communist, Nazi Symbols and Propaganda of Communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes) into the United Register of Pre-Trial Investigations. It should be reminded that on 3 September 2018, speaking at Svoboda Slova talk show at ICTV TV channel, Verkhovna Rada Speaker Andrey Parubiy named Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler the biggest practitioner of direct democracy. More details here.

We also filed a report to Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuri Lutsenko regarding criminal offences committed by law enforcement officers in collusion with Myrotvorets site director Roman Zaitsev and other unidentified individuals, who administer the said site, in the form of unauthorized dissemination of personal data of Uspishna Varta staff members Natalia Natalina and Tatiana Galonza. As the said personal data were not previously published in open sources, human rights activists believe they were gathered with assistance from law enforcement agencies using relevant police and SBU databases. More details here.

We hope our efforts will bring at least some more rule of law and respect for human rights in Ukraine. Regrettably, human rights activists continued the fixation of their violations in Ukraine last week.


On 19 September 2018 Fiona Frazer, the Head of the U.N. Human Rights Mission to Ukraine, presented the Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine for the period between 16 May and 15 August 2018. 32 violations were registered, along with infringement of rights of 23 media representatives and civic activists. This represents a 210% increase in comparison with the previous reported period (February-May 2018). UN noted that the police protracted the investigations of attacks against civic activists and media representatives.

On 17 September, on the eve of the report presentation, Darina Bilera, a journalist of NewsOne TV channel, was attacked as she was providing live coverage of the storming of the Office of Prosecutor General of Ukraine by representatives of right-wing radical organizations C14, Bratstvo and Nazionalny Korpus. Eggs and ice were thrown at the NewsOne journalist as she was live on air covering the scene. After that, a female protester hit the journalist in her face. Artem Shevchenko, Head of Communications Directorate at the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior, refused to comment on the attack against NewsOne journalist "because of the channel's editorial policy". The attacker was identified as Olena Slyusar. Journalists published her photo, and the attack was captured on video. Notwithstanding this, the police brought no charges. Later on, Dmitriy Korchinsky, leader of Bratstvo right-wing radical group, published a Facebook post threatening Darina Bilera.

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir twitted that the attack against journalist Darina Bilera was unacceptable, and called on the Ukrainian government to investigate the incident.

Instead of an investigation, on 20 September 2018 the National Council of Ukraine for TV and Radio Broadcasting ordered unscheduled on-site inspection of NewsOne. The declared reason of the inspection were alleged violations of paragraph 1 of article 28 of the Law of Ukraine on Information, and "dissemination of hate speech".

Other media companies in Ukraine also complained about pressure from government and law enforcement agencies. Thus, on 18 September 2018 Internet newspaper published an investigation of intimidation of its journalist Vyacheslav Seleznev by an SBU officer. The journalist took pictures of a villa belonging to President Petro Poroshenko in Marbella, Spain, in May 2018. The SBU officer demanded from the journalist to inform him about the developments inside the editorial office.

"1+1" TV channel claimed that its journalists were attacked by hackers. According to the statement at the channel's website, the perpetrators attempted to gain access to phones, messengers and social network personal pages of representatives of the department of journalist investigations, in particular, Alexander Dubinsky, host of Groshi show, Maxim Shilenko, head of the department of journalist projects, and other journalists. 1+1 connects the attack to the approaching presidential and parliamentary elections; investigations of high-level officials were named among the reasons behind the attack.

Kiev Court of Appeals upheld partially the complaint of Radio Liberty journalist Natalia Sedletskaya regarding the order of Pechersky district court, under which the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine was granted access to phone data of the journalist for the last 18 months. The court of appeals cancelled the order and issued a new one, providing the Prosecutor General's Office with smaller volume of phone data of Ms. Sedletskaya.

New legislative initiatives were voiced at the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine; they may be used for pressure on opposition media on the eve of 2019 elections.

Thus, People's Front faction announced a draft law on the registration of "foreign agents" in Ukraine. Maxim Burbak, the faction leader, announced the draft at the meeting of parliamentary coordination board. He believes that mass media and nongovernmental organizations recognized as "foreign agents" will have to inform Ukrainians regularly that they act in Russia's interests.

While delivering his annual address to the parliament on 20 September, President Petro Poroshenko also demanded the registration of "agents of influence" of the aggressor state. Speaking about the threats related to the approaching presidential and parliamentary elections, Petro Poroshenko mentioned the threat of revanche. "Regrettably, the Ukrainian political chessboard contains figures that allow Moscow to move them. In the four years, we've restored not only the army, but also the intelligence, therefore,we have not approximate, but quite precise understanding of the Kremlin's plans", Poroshenko said.

Journalists and experts assume that Poroshenko wants to close NewsOne TV channel and other opposition media under the pretext of fighting against "Kremlin agents".


Limitations on freedom of association and assembly for political parties in Ukraine must be removed to ensure political pluralism and the principle of competitiveness at the future presidential and parliamentary elections in Ukraine. Several political parties in Ukraine, mostly in opposition to the incumbent Ukrainian government, inform that they face difficulties in registration of their statutory documents and/or registration of decisions by party assemblies by the Ministry of Justice, as required to take part in the elections. In addition, opposition parties face systematic attacks by right-wing radical groups in various regions of Ukraine, while the police refuses to investigate the incidents of aggression or don't qualify them asprevention of activity of political parties and civic organizations.

Meanwhile, the first hearing of District Administrative Court of Kiev in a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine to ban Uspishna Kraina party took place on 20 September 2018. More details about this case here. The Office of Prosecutor General's of Ukraine and the Security Service of Ukraine are third parties in the process. As the prosecutors failed to confirm their authority, the court delayed the hearing until November. The Ministry of Justice's suit is based on a letter by Deputy Prosecutor General - Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoly Matios. Earlier, Uspishna Kraina party published its official statement, in which the interference of the military prosecutor's office into the operations of a political party is called direct violation of the basic principles of the Constitution of Ukraine, as the military prosecutor's office has no rights to allow or ban operations of civic associations and political parties.

Representatives of right-wing radical group C14 disrupted a meeting of Women for Peace association in Zhitomir on 21 September 2018. As local journalists reported, several dozens of people, including C14 representatives, entered the room, and some climbed on stage. Patrol police arrived at the scene. Women for Peace association is chaired by people's deputy Natalia Korolevskaya (Opposition Block).

Several civic activists were also attacked last week. Thus, Oleg Mykhaylik, a civic activist and the chair of Odessa branch of Syla Lyudei, was shot at by unknown attackers in Odessa on 22 September 2018; he repeatedly voiced his opposition against the city leadership. The police qualified the incident as attempted murder (Articles 15 and 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine).

Ultra-right nationalists attacked representatives of anarchist organization Chorny Stiag in Lviv on 23 September 2018, inflicting heavy stab wounds. Anton Parambul, a representative of Chorny Stiag, reported the incident to journalists. One of the victims received a heavy head wound and was stabbed in his chest. Parambul reported that he saw Nazionalny Korpus T-shirts on some attackers. Yevgeniy Karas, C14 leader, publicly justified the attackers because the victims were anarchists.


Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery is threatened with seizure on October 14. The threats were reported by Metropolitan Pavel, vicar of the monastery. According to the information and enlightenment department of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, a petition to take away the monastery from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church wasput forward at the Cabinet of Ministers' website. Earlier, Metropolitan Anthony, Chancellor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, said that "nationalist groups received instructions to organize provocations towards Kiev Pechersk and Pochayev Lavras on 14 October". The hierarch cited Filaret, the leader of Kiev Patriarchy, who claimed that the seizure of monasteries of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church would be the first thing the autocephalous church of Ukraine do in case of creation. Immediately after these statements, Metropolitan Pavel was put into the lists of Myrotvorets website.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights documented 6 attacks against temples of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church between 16 May and 15 August 2018. For instance, "FSB Division" inscriptions were made at the doors of three churches in Odessa on 5 August 2018. The police started criminal investigations of two of these incidents, the Office reported.

We recommend the following video (on Russian) dedicated to the Ukrainians' right to freedom of religion and the driving force behind the "religious wars" in Ukraine.


On 18 September 2018 Lviv Oblast Council supported the motion by Svoboda deputy R. Koshulinsky, which introduced a moratorium on the use of Russian cultural product in the territory of Lviv Oblast. In the opinion of Uspishna Varta human rights activists, the decision contradicts Article 10 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees free development, use and protection of Russian and other languages of ethnic minorities of Ukraine. In addition, it remains unclear a moratorium on what exactly was established by deputies of Lviv Oblast Council. There's no definition of a "Russian language cultural product in any form" whatsoever. Article 1 of the Law of Ukraine on Culture contains only the definition of domestic (national) cultural product, namely, cultural benefits and cultural values created (provided) by a domestic producer. There are no other products covered by the Law. You can read the opinion regarding "the prohibition of Russian cultural product" voiced by some of civic activists of Lviv here.


On 18 September 2018, Starobelsk Court of Lugansk Oblast had to hearing of Alexander Yefremov case. Mr. Yefremov is a Ukrainian politician accused by the prosecution of violations of several articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, including the infringement of Ukraine's territorial integrity, organizational and other accessory to the establishment and activity of Lugansk People's Republic terrorist organization, and the organization of seizure of the building of the Lugansk Oblast State Administration. The hearings of his case took place whole week. Initially, the prosecution submitted 28 volumes of evidence to the court, but renounced more than a half of its charges during the hearings. At the fifth hearing this week, two witnesses were interrogated, and video recordings were examined. A huge number of videos was excluded by the court as these videos had absolutely no relation to the charges brought against Alexander Yefremov. You can read more about Alexander Yefremov's case here.

Court hearings of cases against Ukrainian journalists charged on so called "separatist" articles will continue this week.

Hearings of the case of Pavel Volkov will take place in Zaporozhye on 25 and 26 September 2018. He was arrested on 27 September 2018 and remains in custody without a bail since then. He is charged under two extremely grievous articles of the Criminal Code of Ukraine because of his journalist activity: Articles 110-2 and 258-3 (infringement of Ukraine's territorial integrity and other accessory to terrorism).

Zhitomir court will continue the examination of the case of journalist Vasily Muravitsky on 28 September 2018. Mr. Muravitsky was arrested by SBU on 2 August 2017 on charges of treason. In addition, he is charged with accessory to terrorism, infringement of Ukraine's territorial integrity and violation of equality of citizens based on their race, ethnic origin or religion. Under these articles, Mr. Muravitsky can be imprisoned for up to fifteen years.

NewsOne Journalist Attacked, Search for "Kremlin Agents" and Prohibition of Parties. Review of Violations of Civic and Political Rights in Ukraine 17-23 September 2018.


You can contact Uspishna Varta human rights campaigners by:

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