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Persecution of Human Rights Activists and Anti Fascists

Persecution of Human Rights Activists and Anti Fascists The logo of the Ukrainian anti-fascist movement "Borotba".

After the victory of the opposition during the confrontation on the Maidan, the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych and the formation of a new government, the situation in the country has changed significantly.If earlier supporters of right-wing radical organizations were free to demonstrate their views and criticize their opponents, now they often turned to violent actions, supported the introduction of censorship on TV and in the media, advocated the ban of the Communist Party and the former ruling Party of Regions, participated in repressions against those political forces and sections of the population who did not accept the idea of the Maidan.

The labels of “pro-Russian activists” are attached to most anti-fascist organisations; active work is being done, especially with respect to young people, to dehumanise political opponents. Derogatory terms are being used to describe antifascists and thus create an idea that their ideological opponents are inferior, which leads to the conclusion that it is possible to apply physical force against them, including murder. There are cases of compiling lists of anti-fascists with their addresses. Any attempts to convey an alternative point of view were suppressed by the nationalists, including through the media. For example, before coming to the Lviv region, leader of the anti-fascist organization “Ukraine without Nazism,” deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Anna Herman had her details and defamatory information widely published online, including the date of her arrival.

The most vivid example of the appeals that led to repression and the killing of ideological opponents took place in Odessa on May 2, 2014, when nationalists managed to provoke mass clashes with anti-fascist activists with gangs of football ultras and with the full connivance of the authorities. Information about the massacre with anti-fascists long spread in nationalist circles. Practically in all large cities, there were some kind of flash mobs called “people's lustration”, when people who often held senior positions under President V. Yanukovych, who had a reputation of anti-fascists and opponents of the new government, were forcibly shoved into the garbage cans, city, demonstrating their “creativity” to the inhabitants. Most anti-fascist organizations and groups are operating today under conditions of significant restrictions. Some groups, for example in Poltava, announced the transition to an illegal situation.

Already in March 2014, the activity of the organization “Ukraine without Nazism” almost completely ceased. The anti-fascist left-wing organization Borotba was subjected to tough pressure, political and judicial persecution of the Communist Party of Ukraine was started, which ended with its ban.

On June 3, 2014, Ukrainian women’s rights organisation “Gift of Life” had its assets frozen for allegedly “financing separatism”. This happened after the organisation received a bank transfer from the Russian Compatriot programme.

Thus, many antifascist and human rights organisations have been subjected to severe restrictions in 2014, which did not happen previously. Borotba organisation was subjected to extreme repressions by both sides of the Ukrainian conflict. In March and May, Kiev and Kharkiv offices of the organisation have been searched by police. Several members of Borotba had their houses searched in May and June.

On July 16, 2014, Ukrainian Security Service demanded ISPs block access to Borotba website, accusing it of spreading extremist materials. As a result, the organisation had to change its domain zone.

On September 15, Borotba activist V. Voitsehovsky was arrested in Odessa (later released as part of prisoner exchange in December 2014).

On December 21, four Borotba activists arrived in Donetsk to meet with local administration. Instead, they were arrested by Vostok division and spent two weeks behind bars.

In addition, during the course of 2015, mass media repeatedly spread information about the growth of political prisoners in Ukraine (human rights activists, activists, politicians, antifascists, etc.), and instituting criminal cases against them. On January 20, 2015 criminal proceedings were opened against the disabled anti-fascist Oleg Novikov, leader of the public organization “Exodus” (Kharkov) on suspicion of a criminal offense under Art. 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine - an attack on the territorial integrity and inviolability of the state. On the same day, Novikov was detained in his own apartment. During the search in the office of the Exodus, law enforcement officers seized his “anti-Ukrainian agitation literature”.

On January 21, 2015, the judge of the Kiev district court, Konstantin Sadovsky, chose to detain a disabled person as a preventive measure in custody in the pretrial detention centre, despite the fact that the arrested had four children. The Court of Appeal of the Kharkov region upheld the decision of the court of first instance.

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov noted on the Facebook page, “We do not view the situation as a joking matter, we consider the situation as in the front-line city in the conditions of Russia's aggression, and therefore we will not tolerate any encroachments in this direction.” Two more activists have been arrested on the same day.

In an interview with “Podrobnosti” (March 2015) news show, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stated: “We will not have any political persecution. But the caste of untouchables will be eliminated.”

In June 2015, the European Parliament held a briefing on the persecution of citizens in Ukraine for their political beliefs and the use of law enforcement to fight the opposition. The initiators of the talks were Ukrainian human rights activists, supported by a group of deputies of the European Parliament. The briefing, in particular, discussed the situation with the investigation of the tragic events on May 2, 2014 in Odessa, when 48 people died. Participants of the event stated that the trial of arrested activists of the movement “Kulikovo Pole” is being held under open pressure by state authorities. It was noted that despite the lack of evidence and the contradiction in testimonies against the activists arrested in May last year, who managed to survive in a clash with football ultras, the court intentionally drags out the process out, thereby avoiding an acquittal. The arrested are offered to a deal with the and plead guilty to a crime they did not commit, in exchange for changing the measure of restraint to house arrest. At the same time, Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, despite the demand of international organizations, did not disclose any materials of the investigation into the criminal case against the instigators of the massacre by football fans. Moreover, according to the familiar with the materials of the case, many suspects, against whom there were photo and video evidence, were transferred by investigators to the status of witnesses.

In November 2015, 47 inter-parliamentary deputies established an inter-factional association “It is forbidden to forbid” in the Verkhovna Rada. It was led by Andrey Derkach and included, among others, Nestor Shufrich, Igor Shurma, Valery Pisarenko, Mikhail Poplavsky, Yefim Zvyagilsky, Vasily Nimchenko, Alexander Pressman. The inter-factional association has determined that it will identify, study and prevent violations of the Constitution, laws and international obligations, as well as the use of law enforcement in the political struggle and the administrative and administrative functions of the government in the fight against political opponents.

In 2017, radicals and nationalists continued to exert pressure on those celebrating Victory Day. They were beaten during celebratory demonstrations, had their posters taken away, insulted, and subjected to force and moral pressure. Ukrainian pro-government media actively support such actions of radicals. On May 9, 2017, Victory Day over Nazism, there were clashes in major Ukrainian cities: Kyiv, Dnipro, and Odessa. In Odessa, the head of the Right Sector's regional cell, Sergey Sternenko, attempted to break through to the Glory Monument with a portrait of UPA leader Roman Shukhevich (who was also a deputy commander in the Third Reich's Nachtigal special unit). A clearly planned provocation to discredit the Immortal Regiment provoked clashes near the Victory Monument. Radicals put forceful pressure on the celebrating Odessans, taking away posters with portraits of the heroes of the Great Patriotic War. The clashes occurred on a fairly regular basis. The police detained 15 people. In addition, two of the detainees were carrying firearms and explosives.

Radicals also organized provocations and clashes in other cities. Their actions were coordinated. Thus, at first the nationalists in small groups tried to aggressively wedge themselves into the first rows of people celebrating, engaging in verbal altercations and demanding that their opponents fold their political party flags or remove St. George's ribbons. Sometimes they directly attacked them, blocking the movement and ripping out portraits of their soldierly relatives. After that, for 2-4 minutes the conflicting sides were given freedom of action, and during this time the journalists managed to film the necessary materials for further publications. After that, the parties were separated by law enforcement officers, who had been peacefully observing the provocation attempts before.

In most regions, activists of Azov and its political wing, the National Corps party, whose head Andrey Biletsky is considered to be close to Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, invariably participated in the actions on the nationalist side. A very tough confrontation took place in Dnepr. Radicals tried to block the festive procession in a rather aggressive form (under the pretext of not allowing the use of party symbols). In response, they encountered the resistance of tough young men, who, apparently, were brought in by the organizers of the march as physical protection. A fight ensued, which the law-enforcers began to break up. The police seized four knives, 30 traumatic and one gas pistol, six spray cans and canisters with chemical mixtures. The confrontation in Dnipropetrovsk was a manifestation of the struggle between the pro-government mayor Borys Filatov and the ex-vice prime minister Oleksandr Vilkul, who is from this city and is in opposition.

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