Ukraine has long been considered the freest country in the post-Soviet space. Even 10 years ago, political parties and public organizations of all directions, a variety of media freely operated in our state, and opposition politicians, journalists and activists openly and fearlessly criticized the authorities. Any attempt to prevent critics of the authorities in their activities became the cause of a big scandal, and there were very few such attempts.
But everything has changed dramatically since the Euromaidan of 2014. The right-wing oligarchic regime that came to power with a nationalist ideology began to severely persecute its opponents, using terrorist methods for this.
The most tragic example of not just persecution, but murders by the ruling regime in Kiev of their ideological opponents took place in Odessa on May 2, 2014, when nationalist militants, with the full connivance and assistance of the authorities, blocked anti-fascist activists in the building of the House of Trade Unions and set fire to the building, and many jumped out of the burning people’s windows were already finished on the ground. In total, more than 40 people died then, among whom were Vadim Papura, a member of the Komsomol (communist youth union), as well as Andrei Brazhevsky, a member of the left-wing Borotba organization.
For this crime, no one was ever punished, although its participants were recorded on many photos and videos. Moreover, one of the organizers of this massacre subsequently became the speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, and the second became a member of parliament on the lists of the party of former President Poroshenko.
In the same way, the killers of a number of well-known opposition politicians and journalists who have died since 2014 have not been punished: ex-deputy from the Socialist Party of Ukraine Valentina Semenyuk-Samsonenko, (murder disguised as suicide, August 27, 2014); ex-deputy, organizer of opposition actions Oleg Kalashnikov (killed on April 15, 2015); popular writer and anti-fascist publicist Oles Buzina (killed on April 16, 2015) and many others.
The activities of the largest left-wing party in the country at that time, the Communist Party of Ukraine, were banned.
In addition, opposition-minded politicians, journalists, and activists, many of whom are left-leaning, have been beaten, arrested, and imprisoned in recent years on trumped-up charges of “high treason” and other overtly political charges. This happened, in particular, with journalists Vasily Muravitsky, Dmitry Vasilets, Pavel Volkov, human rights activist Ruslan Kotsaba and others. It is characteristic that in the courts, even under pressure from the authorities, these accusations, as a rule, fell apart and turned out to be completely untenable.
Every year the situation has become more and more aggravated, especially after Vladimir Zelensky became the President of Ukraine. The formal reason for the complete elimination of the remnants of civil liberties and the start of open political repression was the military conflict in Ukraine that began in February 2022.
All opposition parties in Ukraine, most of which are left-wing parties, including the Union of Left Forces (For New Socialism) party, which I lead, were banned on fabricated, carbon-copied accusations of being “pro-Russian”.
At the same time, the only member of the Ukrainian parliament who openly went to work in the Russian-created authorities on the territory of Ukraine, Oleksiy Kovalyov, represented the party of President Zelensky, Servant of the People. Moreover, throughout the wartime, the ruling party has been shaken by high-profile corruption scandals that undermine the authority of the authorities in the eyes of the people, and catastrophically destroy the remnants of Ukraine’s authority in the eyes of the world community (Deputy Head of the Office of the President Kyrylo Timoshenko, Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov and his deputy Vyacheslav Shapovalov, Deputy Minister of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development Vasily Lozinsky, Chairman of the Board of Naftogaz Ukrainy Andriy Kobolev, Head of the Dnepropetrovsk Regional Military Administration Valentyn Reznichenko and others). Despite the fact that it is precisely this “activity” of the ruling party that is a direct threat to the security and existence of the country, for some reason it has not yet been banned by the authorities.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) on charges of high treason detained a number of opinion leaders and journalists who spoke before the war in the media with comments and criticized the government. All of them were accused of promoting a pro-Russian position, high treason, espionage, propaganda, etc.
In February-March 2022, such well-known bloggers and journalists were detained on charges of high treason and placed in pre-trial detention centers (SIZOs), such as: Dmitry Dzhangirov (a supporter of leftist views, collaborated with our party), Yan Taksyur (a supporter of leftist views), Dmitry Marunich, Mikhail Pogrebinsky, Yuri Tkachev, and so on.
The reason for their detention was not ephemeral treason at all, but the fear of the authorities of their public position, which did not coincide with the official one.
In March 2022, the historian Alexander Karevin, known for his active citizenship, disappeared without a trace after SBU officers visited his house. Karevin has repeatedly sharply criticized the actions of the Ukrainian authorities in the field of the humanities, language policy, and the policy of historical memory.
In February 2023, Dmitry Skvortsov, an Orthodox publicist and blogger, was detained in a monastery near Kiev and placed in a pre-trial detention center.
In March 2022 in Kiev, on suspicion under Art. 111 of the Criminal Code (CC) (treason) was detained and placed in a pre-trial detention center lawyer, human rights activist, known for her anti-fascist position Olena Berezhnaya, who in December 2021 spoke at the UN Security Council, talking about the lawlessness happening in Ukraine.
On March 3, 2022, the SBU was detained in Kiev on charges of violating Art. 109 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (“actions aimed at forcibly changing the constitutional order or seizing state power”) and placed in a pre-trial detention center until the end of 2022, left-wing activists and anti-fascist brothers Alexander and Mikhail Kononovichi. There they were beaten and tortured, denied timely medical assistance.
In May 2022, in Dnipro, the SBU detained the brother of the former presidential candidate Oleg Tsarev, citizen of Ukraine Mikhail Tsarev, on charges of “destabilizing the socio-political situation in the region”. As a result, in December 2022, he was convicted on charges of terrorism to 5 years in prison.
On March 7, 2022, six activists of the opposition organization Patriots for Life disappeared without a trace in Severodonetsk, and in May 2022, one of the leaders of the Azov group, Maxim Zhorin, posted a photo of their dead bodies on the Internet, saying that they “were executed”, and their murder is connected with their position and carried out by paramilitary structures.
On January 12, 2023, Sergei Titov, a resident of Belaya Tserkov, a half-blind disabled person with a mental illness, was detained and placed in a pre-trial detention center, he was declared a “saboteur”. On March 2, 2023, it was reported that he had died in the pre-trial detention center.
Since November 2022, Dmitry Shymko from Khmelnytsky has been in the dungeons for his political beliefs.
Hundreds of ordinary people have already been prosecuted in today’s Ukraine for distributing political content on the Internet that the authorities considered prohibited.
The authorities have taken under tight control the information space of Ukraine, including the Internet. Any personal publications of citizens about mistakes at the front, about corruption among the authorities and the military, about the lies of officials are declared crimes. Such individuals, as well as bloggers, administrators of TG channels, are subject to harassment by the police and the Security Service.
By the spring of this year, according to the SBU, 26 telegram channels were blocked, in which people informed each other about the current places for distributing mobilization summonses. Six Telegram channel administrators were searched and charged with crimes. Thus, public pages were blocked that worked in Ivano-Frankivsk, Cherkasy, Vinnitsa, Chernivtsi, Kiev, Lviv and Odessa regions, to which more than 400 thousand users were subscribed. The administrators of these Telegram channels face 10 years in prison.
In March 2022, Article 436-2 “Justification, recognition as lawful, denial of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, glorification of its participants” was introduced into the Criminal Code of Ukraine, which in reality is directed against any citizens of Ukraine who have anything different from the official political position.
This norm is formulated in such a way that, in essence, it provides for punishment for “thought crime” – words, phrases spoken not only publicly, but also in a private conversation, written in a private messenger or SMS message said over the phone. In fact, we are talking about an invasion of the privacy of citizens, their thoughts. This, in fact, was confirmed by the practice of her law enforcement – conviction for likes, private phone calls, and so on. For simple conversations on the street and likes on the Internet under posts, as of March 2023, there are 380 sentences in the register of court decisions, including those with real sentences in prison.
So, in June 2022, in Dnipro, a resident of Mariupol was convicted to 5 years in prison, with a trial period of 2 years, who in March 2022 claimed that shelling of the civilian population and civilian infrastructure in Mariupol was carried out by servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (APU).
Another sentence, based on the results of a telephone conversation in March 2023, was handed down to a resident of Odessa, sentenced to two years probation for “unpatriotic and anti-state” conversations on a mobile phone.
A resident of the village of Maly Bobrik in the Sumy region, who in April 2022, near her yard in the presence of 3 persons, approved of the actions of the Russian authorities in relation to Ukraine, who did not admit her guilt, was convicted under Part 1 of Art. 436-2 of the Criminal Code in June 2022 for a real term of six months in prison.
At least 25 Ukrainians have been convicted of “anti-Ukrainian activities” on social media. 19 people were found by law enforcement officers in Odnoklassniki blocked in the country. According to the investigation, these residents of Ukraine distributed “Z” symbols, Russian flags on their pages and called the invasion “liberation”.
Sentences were also handed down to those who did not distribute such publications, but only “liked” them (expressed approval on social networks) – at least the texts of two sentences say that the so-called “likes” had the goal of “bringing the idea to a wide range of people changing the borders of the territory of Ukraine” and “justifying the armed aggression of the Russian Federation”. The justification on the part of the investigation was that personal pages have open access, and liked publications can be seen by many people.
So, in May 2022, in Uman, a pensioner was sentenced to 2 years in prison with a probationary period of a year for the fact that she “due to the rejection of the current Ukrainian authorities … on the Odnoklassniki Internet network put down the so-called “likes” (marks “class ”) to a number of publications that justify the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine”.
In Kremenchug in May 2022, according to art. 436-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, a citizen of Ukraine was convicted, who under a nickname (network name, pseudonym) spoke in Odnoklassniki about the Nazis in Ukraine and the development of biological weapons funded by the Pentagon.
The repressions used by the current government to fight against those who disagree have turned Ukraine into the most unfree state in Europe, into a state where any person who dares to oppose the authorities, the oligarchy, nationalism and neo-Nazism risks freedom, and often life.
We ask you to disseminate this information as much as possible, since in the current situation, only wide international publicity of the facts presented in this article can help save thousands of people whose freedom and life are now in Ukraine under real threat.
The views expressed in the article are personal opinion of the author, “The Press United” does not endorse or guarantee for correctness of personal opinions.