Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
I will be honest, on the day when the court passed the decision — all the blogosphere was shocked, do you know about this? For example, Anatoly Shariy said that most likely you will be given two years and you will be released as you already served this term. I read your interview the day before — you were sure that you will be acquitted?
“I was also shocked when the judges started reading the verdict. I couldn’t imagine that judges can so simply ignore the facts and common sense. I still can’t understand how it was possible to condemn me – a person who has nothing in common with any ‘Novorossiya-TV’ – for some technical support! I had my own news site (pravilnoe.tv), where anyone could post their articles after completing registration, and a number of journalists from Donetsk published their materials there. As I couldn’t pay journalists for articles, a number of them left for somewhere – and as the SBU claims, a couple of journalists went to work for a salary at ‘Novorossiya-TV’, but where I factor in here, I still can’t understand.
It is obvious that I was arrested for my journalistic and public activity, and not for some mythical ‘help to Novorossiya’; nonsense about help to ‘Novorossiya’ is only a pretext that was used by the SBU to discredit me and my undertakings in the eyes of society.
The fact is that according to Savchenko’s law I actually already served nearly four years, and from all directions this is more than enough for ordinary journalistic and public activity. I understand that by using me as an example they wanted to frighten all journalists who dared to criticize the authorities, and I believed that they already achieved their goals, that’s why I would be released, but alas. After all, I didn’t violate any laws.
I couldn’t believe to the last moment that Beria’s saying ‘we just need a person, the article for condemnation will be [later – ed] found’ is also actual now for 100% of Gritsak and Poroshenko’s reign.
It is shocking that the SBU knows very well that I am a patriot of Ukraine who spent my money on my journalistic projects, which aimed to prevent a conflict in Donbass and so that citizens of Ukraine have immunity from propaganda, and this didn’t stop them. They nevertheless ordered the judges to put me away for 9 years! Simply imagine the level of cynicism when I – a patriot of Ukraine, who did everything so that there is peace in the country – called to stop kindling hostility through the media. In fact they appointed me as ‘an assistant of terrorists’ and threw me in prison! After handing down the verdict of 9 years for nothing, now I clearly understand that Poroshenko’s regime doesn’t need peace, and all those who really impeach senseless war in Donbass await either death, prison – like me, or full ignoring, but is it normal? Is it normal that I, a person who never supported neither terrorists, separatists, nor some ‘Novorossiya’, a bunch of ghouls in epaulettes and judicial cloaks can deprive freedom for 9 years of?
There are hundreds of my videos on the Internet, on YouTube, searchable on ‘Media lustration’, ‘What the media is silent about’, ‘Museum of Information War’, and others. It is possible without difficulty to be convinced that I, as well as it befits a journalist, according to journalistic standards, didn’t take somebody’s side in the conflict. I always opposed any war on our land. I hoped that the masters of the judges will listen to common sense, but far from it.”
Just after this many lawyers and journalists began to write that your sentence is the absurdity of all the judicial system of Ukraine. There are quite influential people, with money and contacts. Did someone from among these people address you with an offer to help after the judgment?
“Yes, through my lawyer I learned that Andrey Portnov with a whole team of lawyers offered to help in our case. This is also both the ECHR and other courts. In my case, when I am actually left one-on-one with Poroshenko’s machine of repression — this is very apposite, and of course I agreed. I believe that with such support I have a real chance to defend my name. The authorities made many efforts to discredit me, with the help of the media in their pocket they hung on me the label of ‘separatist’ and ‘assistant of Novorossiya-TV’, and in order to fight against this system of lies and manipulation the support of adequate people is simply necessary.”
Literally a few days ago we conducted a survey on the streets of Kiev — most people didn’t know who you or Timonin are, they didn’t hear anything about the process. All of this is connected with the absolute silence in the media, and with the fact that human rights organizations don’t put pressure on the authorities of Ukraine. Are you or your representatives going to send appeals and letters to these organizations with the demand to a fair trial?
“We sent requests and information about my case to different organizations (to Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, PEN club (protection of the rights of journalists and writers), the journalistic community of Ukraine, European Parliament). But unfortunately, most likely because of the fact Poroshenko’s regime hung on me the label of ‘separatist’, they ignored my appeals and simply didn’t try to learn about my case, this is how the lie works. I was initially slandered and now it is very difficult to explain to people that I am not a separatist and that I have no relation to any ‘Novorossiya-TV’. And also, as far as I understood, international human rights activists defend generally only those journalists who receive grants from abroad. Such journalists are engaged in defending the interests of grantors, and for this they are under protection. If someone touches them, the State Department, grant-eating media, etc, immediately cry out.
I was an ordinary businessman who in parallel was involved in journalism, (taking into account that I was jailed for this, probably I became a good journalist). I didn’t receive grants, so they are silent, they simply don’t see in front of their face the lawlessness concerning my case. It is simpler for them to shout to the whole world about the arrest of a Crimean for 15 days and to express their ‘deep concern about this’, than to see 9 years of prison for criticising the regime of Poroshenko and exposing lies in the media. Well perhaps they also defend those journalists who once were in ‘their ammo clip’ in order to save face. My situation is different, I funded my journalistic activity through my business, and I spit from a high mountain on all their grants and conditions to receive their money. Yes, in relation to my projects I cooperated with Channel 17, but conditions were laid down to them by me, and also nobody from the leadership of the channel imposed censorship on me, they only helped with my work.
Of course, we will send appeals to human rights activists, after all, hope dies last. Maybe they will notice the lawlessness and repression in Ukraine, but I am skeptical about them suddenly becoming enlightened.”
Have representatives of these organizations contacted you?
“None, during all this time. Most likely they see only what they need to see. Well, if I was a Crimean Tatar and Putin threw me in prison, at least for two days, then yes, a queue of these human rights activists would form, and in my situation I am an ordinary citizen of Ukraine, who for criticising Poroshenko and journalistic activity was jailed for 9 years, after all, these are such trifles for them.”
Unfortunately, not everyone has the access nor the time to read your case, but everyone says the same thing: you were given 9 years for setting up a YouTube channel. Describe briefly, please, if it is really like that? What is the essence of your case and what did the court judge you to be guilty of?
“In reality I was called guilty for my journalistic and public projects, but as all my activity was 100% lawful, the SBU simply called me ‘an assistant of terrorists’ and threw me in jail, without inventing anything better than to declare the ‘setting up of a YouTube Channel for separatists’. Yes, it is the purest lie, the creative department of the SBU probably wasn’t able to invent something more real, but as it is known, in a standoff between the truth and a lie, the lie wins – after all, there are many of them, while there is only one truth. There are many reasons why I am condemned for 9 years precisely now and am in prison. Here is not all, but the main reasons:
1. Media lustration. We created a really-operating public mechanism for the suppression of lies and the incitement of war in the media. We, on behalf of a large number of labor unions, brought journalists to visual and legal responsibility if they lied, manipulated society, or fuelled war;
2. My program ‘Museum of Information War’, in which I scrutinised programmes in the media – both foreign and ours, revealing violations of journalistic standards, and in comparison I showed people how exactly propaganda influences and what it consists of. This project helped assist in the formation of citizens’ immunity from any propaganda;
3. My program ‘What the media is silent about’, in which I, on the basis of analysis and monitoring the media with the help of colleagues, revealed topics that were made taboo by the authorities. It is this list of forbidden topics that I discussed with the guest in the studio. The idea of this program was whispered in my ear by Igor Guzhva, for which I am very grateful to him, despite the fact that I am in prison;
4. My activity in the public council of the Ministry of Information Policy. I actively opposed the establishment of censorship in the media, after all, the representatives of Media-lustration controlled the majority of committees and the board of public council;
5. It is also the creation with my active participation of a public council of social insurance fund in order to stop corruption there;
6. Also, I prepared the submission of a claim against the International Monetary Fund in the international criminal court in the Hague for the economic genocide of the Ukrainian people. After all, the IMF, by its demands, made the life of Ukrainian citizens simply unprofitable and intolerable. I planned to collect expert opinions about the level of income of citizens and the level of prices across all of Ukraine, and to submit a claim against the IMF on behalf of labor unions with which we cooperated. Yes, I understood that legally my undertakings didn’t have any sense, but my aim was to create an informational pretext, thanks to which the IMF perhaps would’ve softened its demands for the delivery of credits to Ukraine, and would’ve started to analyze more often the real level of the income of the population before making their demands;
7. It is also because of our actions that, with my direct participation, we displayed various anti-corruption videos using a projector, including also Anatoly Shariy’s blogs about the lies and manipulations of our media.
But all of this is within the framework of the law, that’s why the SBU decided to fantasise and clung on to my trip to Donetsk for 4 days in the summer of 2014. They invented a ‘marvellous tale’ that I allegedly gave orders to Timonin to set-up a channel on YouTube for ‘Novorossiya-TV’, after all, I couldn’t do it myself, according to the SBU, to set-up a channel on YouTube. Apparently, it seems that I couldn’t spare 5 minutes for this, and since they [DPR – ed] are ‘separatists’, of course they don’t know how to set-up something on YouTube, ‘they are simply stupid’, according to the statements of the SBU, and without my ‘help’ they couldn’t cope with it. Then, according to the sick imagination of the SBU, I employed a staff of people in three days, assembled a studio of a live TV channel, taught people to operate video (by the way, I need to learn how to do it myself, after all, I am not able to do it), installed some unknown servers, calibrated the software and ‘launched everything’. In general, I am a super-agent, which, of course, is complete delirium, after all, on the date of my trip ‘Novorossiya-TV’ didn’t exist. ‘Novorossiya-TV’, according to the case materials, started to broadcast three months after our trip, even the channel on YouTube was registered when we weren’t any more for a long time in Donetsk, and the judges perfectly knew this. They knew that Timonin and I went there to set-up the work of our correspondent office of our news site ‘pravilnoe.tv’ (which, by the way, we couldn’t do either). This is also present in the case materials, but it was necessary to jail me, spitting on common sense, logic, and the Constitution.”
Also, in the court’s verdict there are links to the site Mirotvorets as a source and as proof that you are guilty. What does your lawyer say about this? Do you know that with such a case you can reach the ECHR?
“Yes, and I will surely reach it. My lawyers, like all mentally healthy people, don’t understand how on such delirious charges it is possible to keep people in prison! On Irina Berezhnaya’s recommendation, I submitted a claim against the site ‘Mirotvorets’ long ago about a crime. Through a lawyer she already prepared an appeal to the police and I, from the pre-trial detention center, filled it out and submitted it, but there wasn’t any reaction as of now. I consider that the site ‘Mirotvorets’ divides citizens of Ukraine into bad and good, which leads to war. I think that the project of the party of war for the incitement of conflict in society needs to be closed, and the quicker this is done, the less blood of our citizens will be shed.”
I know that this question can be unpleasant, but would you change something in your activity if you knew that everything would lead to not a result per say, because we all believe and know that this is not a definitive decision, but to a life moment?
“No, I wouldn’t change anything. I couldn’t simply look quietly at how the citizens of Ukraine are pitted against each other through the media, that’s why I simply couldn’t behave differently. I would declare war against these beasts, otherwise it would be disgusting to look at myself in the mirror. It is the equivalent of passing by indifferently when three men are beating a defenseless girl on the street (the three men are Poroshenko’s regime, and the girl, in our case, is Ukraine). Now even though I am in prison, I look in the mirror and I’m not ashamed.”
And the last thing — we would like to appeal to international human rights organizations with a request to influence somehow the growing lawlessness of law enforcement bodies, the judicial branch of power — what would you like to tell them?
“It would be good if they began to see clearly, but I will not beg them to see repression in Ukraine, I will write that I think: Your inaction and silence about repression in Ukraine that is conducted by Poroshenko deprives your existence of sense and speaks much more about your work than you imagine.
I want to remind them of the words that Fidel Castro said when the Batista regime sentenced him during the first attempt to overthrow it: ‘You can condemn me, but history will absolve me’.”
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