The Case of Igor Guzhva, the editor-in-chief of the online news publication Strana.ua, is the first instance of political emigration from Ukraine by the head of an important all-Ukrainian media outlet since the victory of Maidan in 2014.
Guzhva requested political asylum in Austria where he arrived after the official completion of the term of the preventive measure imposed on him by the court, namely the ban to leave Kiev. Unprecedented for Ukraine, this event has produced the effect of a bomb exploding in the information space both inside the state and outside it.
During the two-year existence of the publication, its editors and journalists have been repeatedly faced with searches, threats and attempts of political pressure. There have been 5 criminal cases based on trumped-up charges against Guzhva. He cited political persecution as the reason for his asking asylum in Austria, the decision, which he publicly announced on January 31.
As if in confirmation of the journalist’s words about the threats, the people’s deputies of the Radical Party immediately reacted to his departure. The head of the radicals, Oleg Lyashko, was outraged by this “serious failure” of the Ukrainian special services. His colleague Igor Mosiychuk complained that “patience is coming to an end, and it seems that there are chances for the repetition of the story of Buzina (writer and publicist Oles’ Buzina was killed near his house in Kiev – Ed.).” In other words, he expressed a threat of killing political opponents. It is noteworthy that when speaking of Guzhva’s case, the radicals forgot what he was actually accused of. Thus, Mosiychuk writes in his address to the Prosecutor General that Guzhva is charged with a bribe case, while the actual criminal case against the journalist was based on “fabricated” extortion charges filed by Moschichuk’s colleague in the Radical party, Dmitry Linko [Linko claimed that Guzhva personally attempted to extort money from him – Ed.].
A member of the parliamentary committee on freedom of speech Yuri Pavlenko notes that the committee has repeatedly drawn attention of international human rights organizations to the situation of freedom of speech in Ukraine. Thus, the investigations into the murders in Kiev of journalist Pavel Sheremet and publicist Olesya Buzina have still not been completed; the scandal with the criminal persecution of journalist Ruslan Kozaba has not abated; the criminal cases of journalists Timonin and Vasilets have not been completed; there has been pressure on TV channels “Inter”, “112 Ukraine” and “NewsONE”. The channel “Vesti” is talking about new attempts to block their work.
“The West has received yet another proof [Guzhva’s case] that there are big problems with freedom of speech in Ukraine, it is possible that the reaction to this may be an increase in pressure on the rest of the mass media and independent journalists that are not under control of the authorities,” Pavlenko said. Thus, Human Rights Watch states that Ukraine does not conduct a proper investigation of crimes against journalists. HRW notes that the authorities restrict freedom of expression and media freedom, “justifying them [restrictions] by the need to resist Russia’s military aggression in the east of Ukraine and anti-Ukrainian propaganda.”
Ukraine: Woman Detained, Held Incommunicado, Tortured
Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) arbitrarily detained a Ukrainian woman, held her incommunicado, and tortured her, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities charged the woman, Daria Mastikasheva, with treason, and a court in Dnipro has ordered her pretrial detention pending investigation.
Mastikasheva, 29, a Ukrainian citizen living in Moscow, was visiting her mother and her 10-year-old son in the town of Kamenskoye, in the Dnipropetrovsk region in eastern Ukraine. On August 15, 2017, the security services abducted her and held her incommunicado for two days.
“Ukrainian authorities should immediately investigate the allegations that Mastikasheva was unlawfully detained and tortured,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Ukraine has a record of torture and other ill-treatment in custody compounded by virtual impunity for such abuse.”
After being abducted, detained and tortured by SBU officers, the woman was given a text to memorize for the camera, which said that she was an agent of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), and had travelled to Ukraine to recruit veterans of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine to commit terrorist attacks in Russia, which the FSB would blame on the Ukrainian government. The head of the SBU later showed this video at the news conference on August 17.
The lawyer said that the SBU also detained a man, Aleksandr Korotai, accusing him of helping Mastikasheva recruit Ukrainian war veterans for the FSB. The lawyer said that Korotai was also tortured and forced to give a false confession.
Source: Human Rights Watch
September 7, 2017
18 people detained in Kharkov, including a 83 years old man
On September 3, the head of the SBU, Gritsak, boasted of a successful special operation conducted by his subordinates. In an interview with Yevgeny Kiselev on the television channel “Direct” he said:
“On August 17, in Kharkov, we detained a large group of Russian intelligence agents, which consisted of 18 people. Seven of them have already been presented with charges, we have conducted 16 searches … They carried out sabotage and reconnaissance activities on our territory.”
Among those detained is Mehti Logunov, a 83-year-old Soviet engineer, candidate of technical sciences, whom SBU officials suspect of the creation of a sabotage and reconnaissance group. Surprisingly, this operation was carried out on the eve of an attempt to pass a law by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to recognize Russia as an aggressor.
There are reports that these detentions were carried out with gross violations of legal procedures and law, and Mehdi is under severe pressure from the SBU, where he is forced to admit his guilt. Logunov is isolated from his daughter, who, incidentally, was also arrested, but subsequently released with the prohibition to leave the country.
As one of the former political prisoners (2014-2016), Spartak Golovachev, wrote on the social media, “Logunov is maximally isolated and subjected to a psychological pressure and, I am afraid, physical as well. They are trying to get from him a confession as soon as possible.”
August 2, 2017
Zhytomyr-based blogger-journalist Vasily Muravitsky, who wrote for the Russian media, faces 15 years in prison.
In Zhytomyr region, the Security Service of Ukraine announced that Muravitsky is suspected of high treason, as he allegedly published anti-Ukrainian materials at the direction of Russian curators. The Security Service of Ukraine believes that he [Vasily Muravitsky] acted to the detriment of the information security of Ukraine.
Among other things, Muravitsky has been the editor-in-chief of a Komsomol newspaper Novaya Volna (“New Wave”).
July 11, 2017
A school librarian fired for using textbooks published in the Soviet Union
An employee of a school library in the village of Utkonosovka of the Izmail district, Odessa region, was fired for issuing textbooks in Russian language, published in 1990, to schoolchildren.
In addition to the Ukrainian and Moldovan languages, at the choice of parents, children also learn Russian. However, Ukraine does not publish textbooks of Russian language for Moldovan schools and classes and so they do not supply them to schools.
A teacher decided to use the textbooks of a 1990 edition, printed in the times of the Ukrainian SSR. These books, written off already in 2004, were kept in the back room of the school library, and that’s where schoolchildren got them from.
One of the parents noticed that his child is taught Russian language according to a textbook that contains, among other things, forbidden communist symbols – for example, an image of the flag of the Ukrainian SSR. He published theseImages of sedition in social networks, which gave rise to a loud scandal, which had already reached the Izmail district education department.
The librarian, who gave ideologically harmful books to schoolchildren, was fired, while the principal and the teacher of the Russian language were reprimanded, all the seditious textbooks were confiscated and thrown out.
A student from Lviv is sentenced to 2,5 years in prison for posting Lenin’s quotes on Facebook
The Halytsky District Court of the city of Lviv sentenced a 22-year-old Komsomol member to two and a half years in prison – according to the materials of the criminal case and the verdict – for laying flowers at the grave of Soviet soldiers on May 9. The fact that the member of the Komsomol of Ukraine posted on his Facebook page a “criminal” slogan calling, in the court’s opinion, to terrorist actions: “Lenin lived. Lenin is alive. Lenin will live” served as an aggravating circumstance. Among the material evidence is the volume of Karl Marx’s Capital. There are two more Komsomol members in this case, one of whom is only 15 (!) years old.
According to the prosecutor’s office, the 22-year-old student, committed a criminal offense under article 436-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (producing, dissemination of communist, Nazi symbols and propaganda of communist and national-socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes). According to the verdict, which is posted on the website of the Single State Register of Judicial Decisions, on May 4, 2017, the Galitsky District Court of Lviv presided over by Judge Strelbitsky, with the participation of the prosecutor Matlakh, recognized a native of Lviv, a third-year student of Lviv National University as guilty of committing a crime under part 1 of article 436-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
According to the storyline of this case, from May 2015 till April 2016, the student made publications from his home – using his own portable laptop, with a Facebook account under a pseudonym – that were recognized by the linguistic expertise as propaganda of elements of communist ideology, that is, deliberate spreading of tendentious information aimed at idealizing and popularizing communist ideology as well as public use of products with symbols of the communist regime. The student did it realizing that his page was open to public and could be accessed by an unlimited number of users of the social network Facebook. Publications included among others statements dedicated to Lenin, a person who held a leading position in the highest authorities in the USSR, his philosophical and political quotations, as well as generally known Communist slogans. The publications are not published openly in the verdict. However, according to sources of the online publication Strana.ua in the prosecutor’s office, the quotations published by the student are the following: “Lenin lived, Lenin is alive, Lenin will live,” “The plan is the law, fulfillment is duty, overfulfilment is honor!” and the like. Under the terms of the agreement, the accused, during the pre-trial investigation, fully acknowledged his guilt for the crimes envisaged in part 1 of article 436-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, and he pledged to admit it unconditionally in the whole amount of the charges in the judicial proceedings. The parties to the agreement immediately agreed on the punishment in the form of two years and six months of imprisonment without confiscation of property with exemption from serving the sentence under the condition of a probation period of one year.