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Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts Session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

Before 2014 and especially before the adoption of the discriminatory Law on education in Ukraine (2017), there were no explicitly discriminatory laws adopted. However, several acts and regulations contain discriminatory provisions. For example, in December 2012, Ukraine adopted the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organisations”, which complicated the registration process for religious organisations and established close government control over their activities (through bodies such as Ministry of Culture, Prosecution, local administrations and municipalities). The law also requires religious organisations to seek permission to conduct peaceful public events, which directly contradicts Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Furthermore, the law introduced control over religious activities of foreign nationals on Ukrainian territory, which is done by the Department for Religious Affairs (part of Ministry of Culture). This brought further contradictions in Ukraine’s regulations of activity of foreign priests, volunteers, teachers and students of religious institutions, etc.

On August 12, 2014, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament) adopted a bill №4312a, which extended the detention period of terrorist suspects to 30 days without charge. Preventative detention will be carried out on order of the Head Security Service of Ukraine with the consent of prosecutor and without a court ruling. The main reason for preventative detention is “reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity”.

Separatists in Donbass also introduced their own discriminatory legislation.

So called Luhansk People’s Republic passed the law “On the protection of Christian traditions of the Luhansk people from the harmful effects of hostile states, such as the European Union, United States and Canada.” The law essentially criminalised homosexuality. Meanwhile, Constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic states that any “perverse same-sex relations” are prohibited, not recognised, and punishable by law. It also states that the “head religion” of DNR is Orthodox Christianity (Art. 31).

However, no new discriminatory norms have been adopted over the monitored period.

On February 23, Verkhovna Rada cancelled the law “On state language policy” which allowed Russian and other non-state languages to have an official regional status. Acting President A. Turchinov did not uphold this decision, but it still shocked local minorities and quite possibly contributed to the events in eastern Ukraine.

Several regional regulations can be pointed out for their discriminative nature against the Russian-speakers. On September 26, 2013, it was reported that deputies of the Ternopol City Council, where Svoboda party nationalists hold majority of seats, introduced a provision to the rules of city development that prohibited the use of any language except Ukrainian in the external design of stores, catering outlets and other establishments. On December 26, 2013, the resolution of the Odessa Administrative Court of Appeal came into force, invalidating the decision of the Odessa City Council (of July 8, 2011), which equated Russian language to Ukrainian as “a language of education and upbringing.

Armed conflict in southern and eastern regions of Ukraine prompted the government to adopt discrimination legislation.

Thus, on August 12, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament) adopted a bill №4312a, which extended the detention period of terrorist suspects to 30 days without charge. Preventative detention will be carried out on order of the Head Security Service of Ukraine with the consent of prosecutor and without a court ruling. The main reason for preventative detention is “reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity”.

Separatists in Donbass also introduced their own discriminatory legislation. On May 15, a draft Constitution of Republic of Donetsk was announced, prohibiting abortion and same sex marriage. Draft document also declared Orthodox faith (Christian Eastern Orthodox Catholic Confession), professed by the Russian Orthodox Church as the official state religion.

On October 4, 2014, deputies of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic passed the law “On the protection of Christian traditions of the Luhansk people from the harmful effects of hostile states, such as the European Union, United States and Canada.” The law was essentially criminalising homosexuality, which could be punished with up to 5 years in prison or correctional labour from 2 to 4 years. Actions committed with violence or towards minors are punished by 8 years in prison or a death sentence.

Attempts to introduce glorification of OUN-UPA (Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, 1920s-1950s) in Ukraine’s legislation have been reported. On July 10, 2014, Lviv City Council appealed to the President, asking to return the title of “Hero of Ukraine” to Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych. “Thus you will confirm that you are an independent President of an independent Ukrainian state, for which the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army led by Roman Shukhevych fought and gave their lives,” council’s statement said.

On October 14, Petro Poroshenko cancelled the Defender of the Fatherland Day (February 23) and announced a new holiday – Defender of Ukraine Day, which will be celebrated on October 14 – when the Ukrainian Insurgent Army was first drafted. He noted that October 14th will mark ALL defenders of Ukraine during its rich history. Among other historical figures, he mentioned several members of the OUN and UPA.

On May 15, 2015, President Poroshenko signed a Law “On the legal status and commemoration of fighters for Ukraine’s independence in the 20th century”, as part of the “de-communisation” legislation. These “fighters”, criticising whom is now against the law, are OUN-UPA soldiers, who collaborated with the Nazis and took part in the Volyn Massacre, as well as mass murder of Jews in Lviv and Babi Yar, and soldiers of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1918-1920, headed by S. Petlyura), who also took part in Jewish massacres. Another Law – “On condemning communist and National Socialist totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and prohibiting the propaganda and symbols” – prohibited the use of communist and Nazi symbols, equating the two regimes.

Naturally, the law sparked some sharp criticism in the society. Leaders of Jewish organisations and communities expressed their concerns. For example, President of the Ukrainian Jewish Forum Arkady Monstyrsky said, “I believe that this law was adopted at a bad time. It almost looks like a provocation, especially in the current socio-economic climate. Who would be happy to find out that money that could be used to repair roads or utilities will be spent on changing street names and government stationery? This is unnecessary stress on local budgets, which are already tight as they are.” OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic also expressed concern with the law and tried to convince President Poroshenko not to sign it.

Prominent international historians wrote an open letter to Petro Poroshenko and Parliamentary Speaker V. Groisman, warning that “decommunisation” laws and laws regard the UPA are contrary to European principles.

Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine “On the legal status and commemoration of fighters for Ukraine’s independence in the 20th century” found that persons who publicly disregard the fighters for independence of Ukraine, impede the exercise of the rights of fighters for independence, are responsible in accordance with the current legislation of Ukraine. In addition, the public denial of the legitimacy of the struggle for Ukrainian independence in the twentieth century is recognized as an outrage against the memory of the fighters for Ukraine's independence in the 20th century, the humiliation of the dignity of the Ukrainian people and is illegal.

However, it should be noted that these provisions were not detailed in the Criminal Code of Ukraine or the Code of Administrative Offenses, and nothing is known about the cases of punitive application of the above standards.

In 2015, a number of laws of discriminatory nature appeared in the country. For example, the Law No. 159-VIII “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Protection of the Information Television and Radio Space of Ukraine” was adopted in February that year, which prohibited the display of Russian films and serials. The adoption of this document by the public was regarded not only as a protection of the information space of Ukraine, but also as a violation of basic human rights. In this case it is necessary to speak Russian-speaking national minority.

As the media reported, deputy head of the political faction “Opposition bloc” Alexander Vilkul commented: “Today I come from Brussels, where I met with leaders of all factions of the European Parliament, and they are talking with great concern about Ukraine. This concerns both huge corruption and violations of human rights, freedom of speech – basic European values, because they are very sharply negative towards any elements of censorship, it is not the path for Europe.” The president of the Association of Media Lawyers Tatyana Kotyuzhinskaya noted that this law introduces censorship: “There is a search for how to censor. This restriction of freedom, restriction of economic activities.” An open letter from the Media Group Ukraine expresses deep concern about the norms contained in Bills Nos. 1317, 1768, and 1889: “These draft laws contradict both the norms of international law and generally accepted European standards. They jeopardize the independence of the media. and our colleagues in the media market, we are sure that together with these bills the issue of the existence of freedom of speech as such and the rule of law will be put on the agenda of the Verkhovna Rada. “

In accordance with the spirit of this law, the practice of the Ukrainian government included bans on the entry of cultural and art figures in the country, who expressed themselves in a pro-Russian spirit or simply played “the wrong roles” in the theatre and cinema. One of the last examples was the ban in December 2016 on the entry into Ukraine of the famous Russian actor Ian Tsapnik for the fact that in one of the films he played a soldier of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

The Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Procedure for Using Funds Provided in the State Budget for the Financial Support of Print Periodicals in the Culturological Direction, Newspapers in the Languages of National Minorities and Touring Activities of Domestic Performers” dated May 14, 2015 No. 291, cuts the financing of newspapers in the languages of national minorities.

A number of legislative initiatives have had a negative impact on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine. This Report does not consider IDPs as a national minority, but given the vulnerability of this category of the population of Ukraine, it is necessary to pay attention to such normative acts. Initiatives such as: deprivation of the right to vote at the elections, taking IDPs to account, checking the actual place of their residence / stay, the obligation to receive social payments through a single banking system, had negative consequences for the social protection of IDPs. This was also noted by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in his annual Report for 2015. The Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 79 of March 4, 2015, “Some issues of registration and issue of a certificate of registration of a person who moves from the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine or the area where the antiterrorist operation is conducted”, aimed at avoiding the receipt of social assistance by persons who In fact, they did not leave the house and continue to reside in territories controlled by the government of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

According to the Decree, only in case of a successful check by the State Migration Service, can IDPs receive a mark of registration of their place of residence, and, accordingly, receive a competent certificate of the migrant. A certificate of registration of a migrant without registration of residence is not valid! Also, this Resolution authorized the Migration Service of Ukraine to conduct an inspection within 2 months of IDPs at their temporary registration address, and even accompanied by police and local authorities. In the absence of a migrant at home and not applying it within 10 days to the nearest unit of the migration service, he is removed from the register of persons who are moved from the temporarily occupied territory of the Crimea and the areas of “Anti-Terrorist Operations”.

The Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections” of 14.07.2015 № 595-VIII deprived internally displaced persons from the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions that are beyond Kiev's control, as well as Crimea, from the right to vote outside the settlement where they are registered. An exception to this rule can only be voting at special sites.

As reported by the media, citing the Central Election Commission of Ukraine, the settlers will be able to participate in voting at local elections only after the end of hostilities and only at their official place of registration. Experts noted that in this version the law contradicts the Law of Ukraine “On ensuring the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons”, according to which IDPs can participate in local elections by changing the place of voting without changing the elective address.

Separatists in the Donbas region also issued some discriminatory laws. On the territory of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People's Republic” there is a law “On the Protection of the Christian Traditions of the People of Lugansk Region from the Harmful Influence of the Customs of Hostile States, such as the European Union, Canada and the USA”, criminalizing homosexuality. The Constitution of the “Donetsk People's Republic” says: “No forms of perverted unions between people of the same sex in the Donetsk People's Republic are recognized, not sanctioned and prosecuted according to the law”. In the same document, it is noted that “the dominant faith” of the “DNR” is Orthodoxy (Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Democratic Republic of Donetsk).

In 2016, the pro-presidential Bloc of Peter Poroshenko submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a bill which discriminated minorities in use of their native language. So, it is proposed to increase three times the regional barrier for the languages of national minorities, and the conditions for registration of media in the languages of national minorities. Teaching the mother tongue may be in Ukrainian only.

Also in 2016, a law "On Television and Radio Broadcasting" was adopted, regulating the proportion of the songs in the official language in music radio programs and radio broadcasts. It introduced high quotas for the use of the Ukrainian language in the media and the penalties for violating them.

In Ukraine, the year 2016 was marked generaly by the ousting of minority languages from the media, education, and culture. As already mentioned in the previous section, on November 8, the Law "On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine” regarding "On Television and Radio Broadcasting" (on the share of songs in the state language in music radio programs and broadcasts) came into force. As a result, new quotas for the use of the Ukrainian language in the media were introduced and increased, penalties were imposed for violating the quotas that were not previously available.

In December 2016, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine also introduced Bill No. 5556 "On Languages in Ukraine", co-authored by deputies from the Presidential Bloc of Petro Poroshenko Y. Lesiuk and I. Vasyunyk. It is called upon to replace the old democratic law "On the Foundations of the State Language Policy" (the "Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law"), which in fact does not work after the victory of the "Maidan" in 2014. As already indicated, the new bill significantly curtails the rights of national minorities to use their native language at the regional level, learning their own language and registering the media. A separate item in the bill states a special status of the Crimean Tatar language in the Crimea, which is of obvious propaganda nature, because Ukraine does not control the Crimea de facto.

Obviously, such legislation will negatively affect the situation of the languages of national minorities, first of all, on the most widespread - Russian, to a lesser extent - Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, and others.

At the same time, it should be borne in mind that in 2016, out of 519 schools in Kiev, only seven educational institutions were taught in Russian - a little more than one and a half percent of the total. Only 12 schools in the Ukrainian capital have Russian-language classes. At the same time, according to the population census of the 2.5 million people living in Kiev, 600 thousand - a quarter of the Kiev population - recognize Russian as their native language.

The lack of places in Russian-speaking schools is indicated not only by parents, but also by teachers. In September 2016, the director of the Kiev Pushkin gymnasium No. 153, Alena Batalova, reported that in the beginning of the academic year four potential pupils pretended for a place in school. "About 230 applications were submitted for 56 places in the first two classes," the director emphasized. At the same time, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science believes that there is no shortage of Russian-language schools in the country. Head of the educational department Liliya Grinevich said that the current state of affairs in the education system is mostly satisfied by the Russian-speaking population. "If parents have a problem, they can apply to the local education department, they will certainly recommend a school with a Russian class or Russian-speaking school," the minister added.

September 28, 2017 came into force the law "On Education", which provides 12-year education in the school and the increasing role of the Ukrainian language. The document was officially published in the Verkhovna Rada's "Voice of Ukraine" edition No. 178-179 of September 27, 2017.

The law determines that from 1.09.2018 the language of the educational process in educational institutions is the state language. Thus, the numerous national minorities of Ukraine became the victims of this law. The representatives of the Hungarian community, who speak poorly in Ukrainian and Russian languages, were particularly affected. It is important to note that also that Hungary invested considerable money in the educational infrastructure for Ukrainian Hungarian minority. After the protest of Hungary and a number of other European countries, the authorities were forced to declare that "according to the educational program, one or more disciplines can be taught in two or more languages ​​- public, in English, in other official languages of the European Union ". Thus, it became absolutely clear that the law was directed exclusively against the Russian-speaking linguistic minority.

As a result of the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections, Petro Poroshenko lost his position to Volodymyr Zelensky, and the coalition of the Petro Poroshenko Bloc and the People's Front to the mono-majority "Servant of the People" party. On the one hand, the election campaign increased the radicalization of public discourse. Petro Poroshenko and his party "European Solidarity" (before 2019 - "Bloc Petro Poroshenko") from the current government in 2018. On the other hand, the coming to power of politicians under the formally peaceful democratic slogans of uniting the Ukrainian people had little effect on the implementation of policies toward minorities.

In 2018, a new language law, No. 2704-VIII "On Ensuring the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language as the State Language," was initiated and passed on April 25, 2019. The new law, prescribed ostensibly to protect the Ukrainian language, is blatantly discriminatory, depriving Russian and other national minority languages of their regional status and drastically reducing their scope of application in public life, including in the private sector. Its main provisions are:

  • Starting in 2023 (for Russian-speakers from 2020), education from the fifth grade of school will be conducted only in the Ukrainian language. Kindergartens and elementary schools are allowed to create groups and classes where instruction is provided in "national minority languages. Students also have the right to their native language as a separate discipline (under the old law, education in the national language was available at all levels, and the creation of educational institutions with instruction in the regional language was allowed). As of the end of 2018, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Education, there were 3,972,471 students, of whom 742,000 were studying or learning minority languages.
  • 90% of the programs on nationwide channels must be broadcast in Ukrainian from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Moreover, it is not allowed to move all 10 percent of foreign-language programs to the evening; from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. the share is calculated separately.
  • The quotas for local channels are lower. In the same intervals they may show 20% of programs in other languages. On Crimean Tatar channels, 75% of programs per week must be broadcast in this and Ukrainian languages, and at least 30% in Ukrainian (the old law left the right to the broadcaster to determine the volume of broadcasting in various languages by itself in accordance with the "number of language groups").
  • A publication in other languages should simultaneously produce an exact analogue in Ukrainian (according to the old law, the language of media was determined by its founder).
  • In newsstands and other points of distribution at least half of the products must be in Ukrainian.
  • If a site in the zone .ua operates in several languages, the Ukrainian version must be the starting point by default. This applies to online media, portals of state and local authorities, online stores (the previous law did not regulate the use of language in the Web at all).
  • All cultural events must be conducted in Ukrainian, unless otherwise stipulated by the "creative intent" of the organizer. It is possible to sing in other languages.
  • In films produced by Ukrainian film companies, 90% of the lines must be in Ukrainian, the remaining ten must be accompanied by subtitles.
  • In the repertoire of Ukrainian cinemas there should be not more than 10% of films in foreign languages in original (necessarily with subtitles).
  • Theatrical productions in other languages must be accompanied by subtitles in Ukrainian.
  • There may be information on posters in other languages. But translation into Ukrainian is obligatory, and not in small letters, as it is often done now, but it should be not smaller than the original.
  • Descriptions of museum objects are made in Ukrainian and may be accompanied by other languages, but the font should be the same or smaller.
  • In the previous version of the law, the cultural sphere was regulated much less: there were no quotas for Ukrainian films, the language of the film was left at the discretion of the distributor, as was the way of adaptation for the Ukrainian market.
  • In the service sector, services are provided in Ukrainian, but a transition to another language is possible at the request of the client. This also concerns medical institutions (the previous law declared free use of languages).
  • Any public events, from meetings to trainings, should be conducted in the Ukrainian language, if at least one person wants this.
  • In Russian-language materials published in Ukraine, the names of geographical objects will not be translated, but transliterated according to their Ukrainian spelling. In other words, instead of "Kiev" there will be "Kyiv", instead of "Kharkov" there will be "Kharkiv", instead of "Dnieper" there will be "Dnipro" (the old law provided for "reproduction of Ukrainian toponyms in accordance with the traditions of the language of reproduction").

The penalties provided for in the law:

  • plans to introduce multilingualism, bilingualism, or to make another language official in a certain area or in the country as a whole are considered a criminal offense - attempts to overthrow the constitutional order;
  • the Ukrainian language is equated with the state symbols of the country, its public insult is punishable by up to three years in prison;
  • the "deliberate violation of the requirements of Ukrainian spelling" in official documents is punishable;
  • Civil servants and deputies who refuse to use the state language in the workplace are subject to fines.

The following fines are stipulated:

  • 3400 - 5100 ($120-180) hryvnia for violations in education, science, culture, book publishing, in user interfaces of computer programs and websites, in information for general perusal, public events, technical and design documentation, advertising, healthcare, sports, telecommunications and postal service, transportation;
  • 3,400 - 6,800 ($120-240) hryvnia for civil servants, in court proceedings, law enforcement agencies, and so on;
  • 5100 - 6800 ($180-240) hryvnia for business entities in case of repeated violations within a year;
  • 6,800 - 8,500 ($240-$1,300) hryvnia for newspapers that will not be published in Ukrainian, but only in the language of the national minority.

The law prescribes special discrimination against the Russian language, because in a number of areas the Russian language is in a losing position not only compared with the Ukrainian language, but also with the Crimean Tatar, English and languages of the European Union. For example, the law allows secondary schools to teach one or more subjects (such as history or mathematics) in English or one of the European languages. It cannot be done in Russian (or Belarusian, which is also not an EU language). In addition, print media in Crimean Tatar, English, and European languages are exempt from having to publish a Ukrainian equivalent. Russian-language educational institutions have already been translated into Ukrainian language since September 1, 2020 (after the 5th grade), and the Hungarian and Romanian-language ones will do the same in 2023.

The text of this law violates the following legislation:

  1. Art 10 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees free development, use and protection of the Russian language and other languages of national minorities of Ukraine.
  2. Art 22 of the Constitution of Ukraine which prohibits restriction of the content and scope of existing rights and freedoms.
  3. Article 24 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which states that there shall be no privileges or restrictions based on language.
  4. The Declaration of the Rights of Nationalities of Ukraine, according to which Ukraine guarantees equal political, economic, social and cultural rights to all peoples, national groups and citizens living on its territory, while discrimination on the grounds of nationality is prohibited and punishable by law. Moreover, according to the Declaration, Ukraine undertakes to create appropriate conditions for the development of all national languages and cultures and guarantees to all peoples and national groups the right to freely use their native languages in all spheres of public life, including education, production, reception and distribution of information. According to the Declaration, the Ukrainian state must ensure the right of its citizens to freely use the Russian language. In regions densely populated by several ethnic groups, a language acceptable to the entire population of a given locality may function on an equal footing with the State Ukrainian language.
  5. The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (signed by Ukraine on September 15, 1995), according to which any discrimination based on belonging to a national minority is prohibited, while a signatory is obliged to create favorable conditions for persons belonging to national minorities to develop their language, culture and traditions. In addition, the convention guarantees the freedom to receive and exchange information or ideas in the minority language without interference from public authorities, as well as the freedom to freely use their minority language orally and in writing in private and in public.
  6. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ratified by Ukraine on May 15, 2003).
  7. Thus, the new law plans to almost completely remove national minority languages from the official sphere, media, sphere and services, with small indulgences present only for English and EU languages (which is most likely a concession for Hungarians and Romanians, whose communities reacted very strongly to the adoption in 2017 of Law No. 2145-VIII "On Education," which significantly narrowed the opportunity to study in their native language for national minorities).

On January 16, 2020, the was passed and went into effect on March 18, 2020. The law provides for three models of implementation of the language norms of the Law on Education for National Minorities.

The first model envisages the possibility to teach all subjects from 1st to 11th (12th) grade in the minority language along with the Ukrainian language. This model will work for national minorities with vulnerable languages, i.e. those who do not have their own state to develop language terminology, as well as those who do not live in their language environment.

The second model is provided for national minorities whose language belongs to the languages of the European Union. Thus, from 1st to 4th grades, teaching will be in the language of national minorities with lessons in Ukrainian, while in 5th grade 20% of teaching will be in Ukrainian with an annual increase to at least 40% in 9th grade. For high school at least 60% of the volume of teaching in Ukrainian is provided.

The third model is for the other national communities of Ukraine. It concerns national minorities whose language belongs to one of the Ukrainian language families, as well as those living mostly in their own language (Russian). In this case, the minority language will also be used in elementary school along with the study of Ukrainian. Children who would study under this model would switch to studying subjects in Ukrainian (at least 80% of the time), immediately after 5th grade.

This policy infringes on the rights not only of ethnic Russians, but also of numerous Russian-speaking representatives of other nationalities, including Belarusians, Armenians, Jews, Greeks, and Ukrainians. In essence, the law confirms that both indigenous and minority languages may be taught as a subject and used as the language of instruction for other subjects throughout secondary education in public schools, but in different proportions from the Ukrainian language. The law also allows private schools to choose the language of instruction if the educational institution in question ensures that students learn the Ukrainian language.

Legislative discrimination also applies to the religious sphere. On January 17, 2019, Law No. 2673-VIII "On amendments to some laws of Ukraine (concerning the subordination of religious organizations and the procedure for state registration of religious organizations with the status of a legal entity)" was adopted. It provides for amendments to the laws of Ukraine "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" and "On State Registration of Legal Entities, Individual Entrepreneurs, and Public Organizations.

The adopted amendments presuppose that decisions to change the subordination of a religious community and the corresponding changes or additions to the charter must be made by no less than two-thirds of the number necessary for recognizing a general meeting of the community as authoritative in accordance with its charter (regulations). Such decisions shall be certified by the signatures of the members of the respective religious community who have supported them. The part of the community that may not agree with the decision of the majority has the right to register a new community and to conclude an agreement on the use of religious facilities. If a religious organization decides to change its subordination, it must inform the central executive body that carries out state policy in the sphere of religion or the local regional administration, which will ensure that the decision is published on its official website.

As a result of this law, a phenomenon appeared such as church raiding, when small organized groups of supporters of the PCU, supported by radicals and local authorities, seized UOC churches and transferred them into subordination to the newly created church structure.

To put additional pressure on the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in December 2018 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine also passed a law obliging the UOC to indicate in its name its affiliation with the Russian Orthodox Church (although the UOC-ROC connection is purely spiritual in nature). From the point of view of President Poroshenko, the canonical church in the eyes of believers and society would thus get a kind of marker of "agent of Moscow.

However, after prolonged litigation, the Supreme Court of Ukraine in December 2019 suspended (no final decision yet) the renaming of the Orthodox Church . We can assume that a certain role in this was played by the position of the new Ukrainian government, which is not aimed at additional incitement of religious conflicts in Ukraine.

We can assume that under the influence of several high-profile scandals, as well as after the change of power in the country, the state has moved away from the practice of church raiding. Thus, unlike the first edition of bill No. 4128, law No. 2673-VIII does not provide for the so-called "right of self-identification," when any person could vote on changing the subordination of the community (on the question of "transition"). The Institute for Religious Freedom previously recommended that the chairman of the Verkhovna Rada and the leadership of the corresponding committee and parliamentary factions and groups carry out more thorough work on the draft law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations" regarding changing the subordination of religious communities.

In particular, the Institute for Religious Freedom stressed that significant risks to religious freedom arise when the legislation on freedom of conscience and religious organizations is passed too quickly and does not allow parliamentarians, experts or interested religious organizations to improve the proposed changes with their own amendments, thus creating more conflicts in the religious environment.

On July 22, 2021, Ukrainian President V. Zelensky signed the Law "On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine. The law provides a definition of indigenous people, fixes which peoples are recognized as indigenous and which benefits they receive in the cultural, educational, informational, and political spheres. According to this law, Crimean Tatars, Karaites, and Krymchaks were included among the indigenous peoples. Thus, the law simultaneously deprived a number of ethnic groups, such as Poles, Bulgarians, Greeks, Ruthenians, Romanians and Moldovans, Jews, and of course Russians, whose number in the country, according to the last census (2001), was 17.3%.

The law guaranteed the following rights to the indigenous peoples:

First, this is funding of their representative bodies from the state budget, the possibility to create schools with education in their native language, national mass media with broadcasting in their native language and state support, permanent representation in government bodies, and so on. Secondly, it is the right to observe, revive and develop their spiritual, religious and cultural traditions and customs, to preserve their tangible and intangible cultural heritage and even their toponymy. Thirdly, this is legal protection from discrimination, primarily forced eviction, forced assimilation, incitement of racial, ethnic and religious hatred directed against them. Finally, fourth, Article 2 of the Law guarantees them protection "against acts of genocide or any other acts of collective coercion or violence."

This list of rights generally raises three questions:

  1. Why do these rights, especially in terms of protection from discrimination in education, information provision, religious and cultural traditions, and protection from genocide, apply only to indigenous peoples but not to other members of national minorities, including those without state formations abroad (for example, Ruthenians)?
  2. How do the provisions of the Law on Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine, as well as other laws of Ukraine, fit in with a number of articles of the Constitution of this country, the Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religious Organizations, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which Ukraine has joined and which guarantee the freedom to develop minority languages, media in any language, etc.?<.li>
  3. Why are only the peoples living in Crimea, which Ukraine has no de facto control over and for which it bears no real responsibility, included among the indigenous peoples?

Interestingly, the Karaites are an ethnic group living not only in Ukraine, but also in Lithuania and Israel, and in Israel they are considered Jews because they practice non-Almudic Judaism and are covered by the Law of Return. The Krymchaks in general are a Jewish ethno-linguistic Turkic-speaking group that professes Talmudic (traditional) Judaism. Virtually the entire community of Krymchaks was completely exterminated in the fire of the Holocaust. It is interesting that today there are more of them living in Israel (600 people) than in Crimea (177 people) and Ukraine (406 people according to the census of 2001) Consequently, as Jews, they all have their own state, which already violates the provision of the new law.

This is not the only contradiction and actual violation of the law already at the stage of its adoption. If the Krymchaks and the Karaites have their own state formation - Israel, then, for example, the Rusyns - a Slavic nation, which was formed in the Eastern Carpathians in the VI-VII centuries AD - fully fit the definition of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine, because there is no state of Rusyns in the world. But there is no mention of them in the Law.

Thus, we can draw two conclusions. Firstly, the rights and guarantees in relation to the three listed peoples will remain on paper, because the de facto Ukrainian authorities have no influence on the situation in Crimea. Secondly, the law absolutely does not concern national minorities on the territory currently controlled by the Ukrainian government.

Why was this law needed? First of all, it was needed to increase the legitimacy and strengthen the international positions of the Crimean Tatar non-governmental organization that has a strong pro-Ukrainian position - the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people. It plays a prominent role in the anti-Russian policy concerning Crimea. This is also important in terms of the numerous international lawsuits Ukraine is currently pursuing against Russia, as well as in terms of Ukraine's diplomatic initiatives to create a mechanism to put the "Crimean question" back on the international agenda and, in the long term, to regain Ukrainian control over Crimea.

The strong political support of the three indigenous peoples of Crimea by a country that has no de facto control over their territories does not impose any obligations on official Kiev. The Mejlis, which, through the efforts of the same Ukrainian authorities, is increasingly empowered as a representative body of the Crimean Tatars in exile, has undoubted advantages. However, Kiev obviously underestimates the possible negative reaction of other national minorities, which, unlike the three Crimean peoples, have been living in continental Ukraine for centuries. These include Ruthenians, Hungarians, Jews, and Russians, all of whom have not received the status of indigenous peoples and, consequently, the grandiose rights that follow from it.

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