The trial of Vyshinsky and the last week before the election Political and civil rights in Ukraine. March 18-24, 2019

The trial of Vyshinsky and the last week before the election Political and civil rights in Ukraine. March 18-24, 2019

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINIONS

On March 20th in Kiev a hearing took place in the Criminal Cassation Court concerning the complaint about the unlawfulness of the detention of Kirill Vyshinsky, the editor-in-chief of RIA “Novosti Ukraine”. The court partially granted the request of the journalist’s lawyers, referring the case to the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court. Vyshinsky remains in custody in Kiev, where he was transferred from Kherson on March 19th. Kirill Vyshinsky stated, in an interview with the Coordinator of “Uspishna Varta” during his trial, that he does not intend to opt for an exchange and wants to obtain justice in his case in Ukraine. The interview with Vyshinsky is available here. Recall that Vyshinsky was detained by the Security Service of Ukraine on May 15, 2018. The journalist is accused of treason under Article 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which does not stipulate an alternative to detention in custody.

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The National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) added to the list of legal entities on which additional sanctions are imposed 3 Russian online bookstores - LitRes, Labyrinth.ru, and Reksoft, banning Internet service providers from granting Ukrainian users access to their websites for a period of three years. In addition, 8 Russian publishing houses were added to the sanctions list, including the “Eksmo Publishing House”, “AST Publishing House”, “Knizhny Mir”, etc.

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On March 20th the decision of the NSDC that stipulates preparations for imposing sanctions on NEWSONE and 112 entered into force. The TV channels, 10 days before the election, said that this is the exertion of political pressure on independent media and direct pressure on freedom of speech. The human rights activists of “Uspishna Varta” also reported about the rude letter written by the military prosecutor of Ukraine Anatoly Matios and addressed to journalists of the “Vesti” media holding. The civil servant called their news “fake” and the lawyers of the publication not sufficiently qualified. The National Union of Journalists said that such an attitude towards journalists is unacceptable.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION

On March 22nd the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine announced the completion of the examination of the charters of religious organizations in order to determine which of them fall within the norms of the law on renaming (the law of December 20th 2018). The Ministry of Culture expectedly concluded that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) and a number of Old-Rite churches are subject to the provisions of the law on renaming churches. The Ministry of Culture requires the renaming of the largest confession in Ukraine into the Russian Orthodox Church. The UOC appealed to the court with a request to recognize the decision of the Ministry of Culture, which obliges it to indicate its affiliation to the Russian Orthodox Church in its name, as unlawful. The relevant lawsuit was filed with the Kiev Regional Administrative Court by the UOC Metropolitan of Kiev.

Over the past week in a number of regions of Ukraine observers continued to record conflicts over church parishes, as well as cases where priests and parishes of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) are evicted by force from their premises. Like before, such attempts were initiated by “activists” of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) Patriarchate of Constantinople), as well as representatives of right-wing groups and local officials. The centers of conflict became the UOC temples in the village of Susval in the Volyn region, as well as the villages of Pogreby andIvankov in the Kiev region.

Acts of vandalism in relation to the temples and religious buildings of the UOC also continue. On March 21st unknown people smashed a chapel in the village of Zalozhtsy in the Ternopol region.

ELECTIONS 2019. THE RIGHT TO ELECT AND BE ELECTED

Electoral campaign of the current president

During the past week the current president and presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko continued to carry out campaign trips to regions, despite the fact that the law prohibits candidates from using their official position and official powers to conduct an election campaign. In particular, Poroshenko visited the Rovno and Khmelnitsky regions (March 18th), as well as the Ivano-Frankovsk (March 19th) and Chernovtsi regions (March 23rd).

In each region the President led a Regional Development Council meeting, which representatives of local government and executive authorities took part in. According to the law (part 1 of article 64), the implementation of campaigning by these persons is prohibited.

The CEC does not consider that the distribution of materials in support of Poroshenko on behalf of local officials - which contains information about the improvement of cities in the period from 2019 to 2021, Poroshenko's personal appeal, and a call to write a letter to the President as the head of the Regional Development Council - is campaigning. The CEC, in response to the appeal of the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform, also reported that the specified materials were not submitted by the candidate’s headquarters as printed campaign materials for the electoral campaign.

As a reminder, earlier “Uspishna Varta” found out that in Zaporozhye such a campaign package in support of the president was brought to the homes of residents. According to the “OPORA” observation network, similar promotional packages of the current president containing an appeal from the respective governor were recorded in the Kiev region, Transcarpathia, and Khmelnitsky . They are also distributed to the residents of Rovno and Vinnytsia, as well as voters in the Lugansk, Kharkov, Poltava, Zhytomyr, and Chernovtsi regions. The residents of Kiev also reported about the receipt of similar letters. As the “OPORA” organization notes, “the authorities are obliged to more openly explain to the public the purpose of distribution, the sources of funding for these materials and the direct executors of such distribution”.

In addition, voters began to receive letters about the payment of material assistance from local budgets, signed on behalf of the mayors of the cities and distributed in envelopes featuring the election advertisement of Petro Poroshenko. Such a case was in particular recorded in Dnepr. The envelope contained the name and surname of the candidate Petro Poroshenko, as well as information on the seal mentioning data about the client-candidate. On March 23rd in a public speech on one of the TV channels, Poroshenko once again announced planned social payments for citizens in March and April. Observers evaluate these letters and statements as the use of the budget administrative resource for campaigning for President Poroshenko.

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Observers continue to record incidents where people who try to ask the president inconvenient questions are forced out of Poroshenko's electoral rallies. At the same time, the police does not intervene in what is happening.

Thus, at Poroshenko’s rally in Rovno on March 18th a large crowd of “titushki” - unknown people of sporty appearance - gathered. They controlled those who planned to say negative things about the current president or to display the corresponding posters. When a man in the crowd shouted at Poroshenko, he was immediately surrounded by "titushki", and the police led him away from the rally. Unidentified people also remove a participant of the Poroshenko rally in Chernovtsi on March 23rd - a video of the incident can be viewed here.

Before the start of Poroshenko’s campaign meeting with voters in Ivano-Frankovsk on March 19th, a clash occurred. Representatives of the organization "National Druzhina" made an attempt to enter the square, but a group of unknown guys tried to push them aside. The police intervened in the conflict. During this incident, an attack took place on Andrey Shkvarlo, a journalist for the local information site “GOROD”, who was preparing a report on the arrival of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko.

Conditions of the electoral campaigning

In addition to the current president Petro Poroshenko, the candidates Yuliya Tymoshenko, Anatoly Gritsenko, Ruslan Koshulinsky, Igor Smeshko, Yury Boyko, Aleksandr Vilkul are also actively campaigning in regions. During the week, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” visited some electoral events of these candidates and recorded a number of minor irregularities while they were carried out. In particular, a statement was filed with the police about an administrative offence committed by a local official who campaigned in support of the candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko in Slavyansk.

In all regions of Ukraine, observers continue to record damage being caused to the campaign products of candidates. Thus, on March 22nd in Odessa, unknown people painted the office of candidate Aleksandr Vilkul with offensive inscriptions. On March 19th in Nikolaev unknown persons slashed the awnings of campaign tents and broke the leg of candidate Vilkul's promoter. The victim was hospitalized in a medical facility.

Instances of the billboards and campaign posters of the candidates Aleksandr Solovyov (Sumy), Ruslan Koshulinsky (Kharkov), Yury Boyko (Odessa), as well as the candidates Anatoly Gritsenko, Aleksandr Shevchenko and Yuliya Timoshenko (Lutsk), were recorded. Damage to the external advertising billboards of the current president of Petro Poroshenko was recorded in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Management of the electoral process

In the framework of the 2019 electoral campaign in Ukraine, the process of the formation of district election commissions and the distribution of leadership positions in them continues. One of the main problems, like in the formation of commissions, is the frequent changes in their composition and the non-attendance of commission members to the first meetings. This problem is due to both the high number of presidential candidates (39, and initially 44), and the presence of so-called "technical" candidates among them. According to experts, a number of little-known candidates was initially registered in order to further "resell" their quotas and people in commissions to more rated candidates who have more chance of winning.

According to the CEC, as of March 15th the powers of 2,418 members of district election commissions were terminated ahead of schedule, which is almost a third of their members. At the same time, according to him, 445,000 people are included in the precinct election commissions (PEC).

As observers found out, a number of district commissions formed PEC lists for replacement not during meetings, but with the participation of several members of district commissions, without a corresponding quorum. In a number of districts, cases have been recorded where the procedure for determining quotas for senior positions in district commissions was violated. Upon the appeal of the candidates, the courts annulated the decision of the DEC to approve the composition of the commissions (for example, DEC No. 78 in Berdyansk, Zaporozhye region), which threatens the election process itself.

According to the evaluation of “Uspishna Varta” observers, who monitor the work of the DEC and PEC, the key problems of the commissions are also the insufficient material support for personnel, problems with transport, and the low motivation of commission members. According to the observers of “Uspishna Varta”, after the last elections there were no voting booths, video cameras, and other material and technical support necessary for organizing the election day at the polling stations. More details about the problems in the work of the district commissions cane be read here.

The members of precinct and district commissions who the representatives of “Uspishna Varta” communicated with assess the organization of the electoral process by the CEC as extremely unsatisfactory.

Interference of security bodies in the electoral process

The party of the candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko declared that the actions of the Security Service are aimed at intimidating the employees of their headquarters and demoralizing members of district commissions and observers participating in the candidate’s campaign.

Thus, 73 leaders of the primary party organizations of the political force of the presidential candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko in Zaporozhye received a summons for interrogation in the SBU. In Zhytomyr representatives of the “Batkivshchyna” party also said that over 100 of their representatives were summoned for interrogation, and that it is planned to summon another 300. The party’s website says that 270 representatives of the candidate’s headquarters were summoned for interrogation in the Vinnytsia region. Throughout March the party’s Ternopol website repeatedly published statements about the exertion of pressure by SBU employees. The department of the SBU in the Ternopol region confirmed that their employees carry out investigative actions in the region.

On March 23rd the prosecutor's office of the Odessa region reported that “black cash” in the amount of 1.3 million hryvnia for the “unlawful interference in elections” was found in a branch of a bank. Prosecutor-General Yury Lutsenko indicated on his personal Facebook page that the cash is associated with the candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko. The "Batkivshchyna" party called this situation a provocation and is preparing a lawsuit in court.

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During the observation of preparations for voting day, the observers of “Uspishna Varta” recorded a number of security related processes and incidents at polling stations on election day. Thus, in one of the DECs of the capital the stamp disappeared, the police are establishing witnesses and eyewitnesses to the incident, and also search for the persons involved. In Zhytomyr at one of the polling stations provocations were declared involving unidentified persons in police uniform.

The formation of the DEC working groups with the participation of the Security Service of Ukraine and the cyber police, in accordance with CEC Resolution No. 334 from February 18th 2019, continues. As was reported by observers, such groups are not created in all DECs. CEC Chairperson Tatiyana Slipachuk said at a press conference that the working groups that include SBU members would complete their work before March 29th. At the same time, at the disposal of “Uspishna Varta” are DEC resolutions, from which it follows that the working groups of the SBU are required to be in commissions during the transfer of information about the progress and results of the vote. In the response of the CEC received by the observers of “Uspishna Varta”, they refer to the fact that the validity of Resolution No. 344 was confirmed by the decision of the Sixth Appeal Administrative Court from February 25th, 2019 in case No. 855 \ 53 \ 19, which was left unchanged by the decision of the Supreme Court of March 1st 2019.

Black PR and unfair competition

The CEC has not established the serial numbers of presidential candidates on the ballot. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the CEC. The complaint was filed by representatives of the candidate Yuliya Tymoshenko, who substantiated their numbering demands by stating that the ballot contains two candidates with the same name, initials, positions and place of work, as well as two candidates with the same name. We are talking about the people's deputies of the Verkhovna Rada Yuliya Vladimirovna Tymoshenko and Yury Vladimirovich Tymoshenko, as well as Aleksandr and Igor Shevchenko.

According to experts, Yury Vladimirovich Tymoshenko is a technical candidate who was registered in the interests of the current president, Poroshenko, in order to deprive Yuliya Tymoshenko of a certain number of votes. The placement - on behalf of the technical candidate - of billboards with the initials “Yu.V. Tymoshenko” and slogans that can repel the electorate of Yuliya Tymoshenko was recorded. Such a situation is misleads voters and is unfair competition.

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In a number of regions (Lvov, Donetsk), as well as on social networks, the observers of Uspishna Varta recorded the distribution of leaflets containing false information: that the military registration and enlistment offices before the start of the draft campaign in April will check lists of draftees at polling stations. The head of the Lvov Regional Military Commissariat, Aleksandr Tyshchenko, noted that there would not be any activities related to the start of a draft campaign for military service, and the military commissariat had nothing to do with the leaflets. According to experts, such a "fake" can be aimed at reducing the turnout of young people on election day (mainly supporters of the candidate Vladimir Zelensky).

Voting rights and voter lists

As of March 22nd, 181,602 citizens temporarily changed their voting place. Of these, 44,997 and 21,787 people are residents of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, respectively.

During the week before the deadline for the reception of applications for a temporary change in the place of voting (March 25th), the observers of “Uspishna Varta” noted the appearance of mass queues in the departments of the State Voter Registry in Kiev. Due to the large number of visitors, employees of the institution do not have time to process data. As was reported by the Ministry of Social Policy, as of November 12th 2018, 1,521,038 IDPs from the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea were counted.

According to the evaluation of “Uspishna Varta” observers, the work of the departments of the State Registry is well organized, but because of the number of people who want to change their voting place, the amount of staff is not enough to meet the needs of citizens.

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The observers of “Uspishna Varta” also found a number of apartments in voter lists where up to 500 voters were registered. For example, in the lists of voters in district number 220 (Podolsky district of Kiev) 380 people are found registered at the address: Kiev, 3 Bondarskaya Street, apartment 104. This represents 25% of all voters registered at the polling station (No. 801095). In the same district, a similar apartment was found at 88B Pravdy Avenue, apartment 101, in which more than 500 voters are registered (polling station number 800670). When visiting the apartment at this address, the “Uspishna Varta” observer made sure that only one person lived in the apartment. The observer appealed to the police with a statement about the verification of the legality of the inclusion of these voters in the list.

Observer rights

On March 20th CEC members refused to register observers from the Russian Federation who were filed by the OSCE Mission in accordance with the legislation of Ukraine. All other OSCE monitors have been registered. Earlier, on February 26th 2019, the candidate for the presidency of Ukraine and current president, Petro Poroshenko, signed Law No. 9524 (“On Amendments to Some Laws of Ukraine Concerning Observation of the Electoral Process in Ukraine”), which prohibits Russians from being observers at the presidential election in Ukraine.

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The civil network “OPORA” declared that the CEC is attempting to limit the rights of observers by putting to the vote the question of giving them permission to attend meetings. The organization notes that obtaining such permission is not stipulated by law. “Uspishna Varta” observers also state that they do not have access to CEC meetings, and that communication with the CEC is difficult.

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According to “Uspishna Varta” observers, in a number of district commissions there are questions about the openness of activities and access of official observers to information. Thus, in Kharkov, observers record the absence of identification marks (plaques) at DEC entrances, as well as the obstruction of the free admission of observers to district commissions by the guard.

Also, observers in several regions at once (Zaporozhye, Dnepr) noted that during registration, members of the DEC require registration documents in electronic format (or on a disk). On March 20th the CEC issued decree No. 622, according to which the DEC must submit applications for PEC candidates, the registration of official observers, and other documents in the “Vybory” information-analytical system. According to “Uspishna Varta”, making changes to the requirements for the registration of official observers 10 days before the election is unacceptable.

DISCRIMINATION, HATE SPEECH, AND MANIFESTATIONS OF INTOLERANCE

The human rights activists of “Uspishna Varta” filed a statement with the police about a criminal offence committed by the right-wing radical group “Bratstvo”, Dmitry Korchinsky, who in an interview with a media agency called residents of the occupied territories of Donbass “traitors”, “collaborators” and “another class”. According to the lawyers of “Uspishna Varta”, the aforementioned statements made by Dmitry Korchinsky neglect the principle of equality of human and citizen enshrined in the Constitution of Ukraine, thereby intensifying the escalation of conflict between various members of society. According to human rights activists, he actually committed deliberate actions aimed at inciting national hatred and hostility.

MONITORING OF HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

On March 19th, in the Dneprovsky district court of Kiev, the lawyer Valentin Rybin handcuffed himself to a radiator in the reception room of the judge Marchenko. The lawyer explained his act by the fact that he would remain in such conditions, as close as possible to the realities of being in a pre-trial detention center, until the next hearing on the case of his client Dr. Petro Mikhalchevsky. The client of Rybin held the position of the head doctor in one of the hospitals of Crimea, was accused of treason, and has been in a pre-trial detention center for more than a year. The next meeting on the case of Petro Mikhalchevsky was supposed to be held on March 19th, but, in violation of the rules of the Criminal Procedure Code and without official notification, it was postponed to April 11th.

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On March 21st the trial concerning the case of General Aleksandr Shchegolev continued in the Shevchenkovsky Court of Kiev. During the hearing, the court continued to examine the prosecution documents on the involvement of the “Alpha” unit in the House of Trade Unions on the night of February 18th-19th 2014 in Kiev. Recall that General Schegolev has been in jail for more than 3 years. He is accused of illegally obstructing the holding of peaceful assemblies, rallies, and demonstrations and abusing his powers during the events of February 2014. In total, the case of the General involves 136 victims, less than a half of which have been interrogated in 3 years.

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On March 22nd the coordinator of “Uspishna Varta” visited the court hearing on the case of Igor Kimakovsky in the Krasnoarmeysky district court in the Donetsk Region. On June 6th 2015 a volunteer from St. Petersburg accidentally drove from separate districts of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions to a Ukrainian checkpoint near the village of Berezovoye in the Volnovakhsky District of the Donetsk Region, where he was detained by the State Border Service of Ukraine. The latter, in turn, immediately after his arrest, transferred him to the counterintelligence officers of the SBU. Kimakovsky was charged with complicity with terrorism, encroachment on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, illegal border crossing, waging an aggressive war against Ukraine, and the alleged illegal possession of weapons. The articles stipulate imprisonment for up to 15 years and the possibility of the confiscation of property. According to Kimakovsky, the criminal case against him was fabricated, and the evidence was collected with gross violations. Kimakovsky has been detained for more than 3.5 years in a detention facility, and there is essentially no judicial review of his case. According to him, he was tortured. More about Kimakovsky's case can be read here.

Download Political and civil rights in Ukraine. 18 - 24 March 2019


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