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Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


On November 2nd, in Zhitomir the latest court session concerning the journalist Vasily Muravitsky – accused in Ukraine of “treason” – took place. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) detained Muravitsky on August 1st. He was taken away from maternity hospital, where he visited his wife, in their family in recent days their son Andrey was born.

The journalist is suspected of “infringing on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine” for his publications. According to the SBU, his articles were published on “websites that were administered from the Russian Federation and the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine”. For this he can be condemned for 15 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property. However, Muravitsky’s lawyers Andrey Domansky and Andrey Gozhy claim that their client is innocent and they will be able to prove it “in any judicial instance”.

What do you think – is the court in Zhitomir capable of considering the case of the journalist Muravitsky objectively?

Andrey Domansky: “Unfortunately no. Because here surrounding this case the corresponding information field is created. Currently all means of mass information that are financed by pro-authorities structures accuse Muravitsky. In defiance of all standards of legislation, in defiance of the presumption of innocence, they consider him to be guilty. They dispute only about the measure of punishment that he has to incur. Nobody even says that his guilt still must be proved in court …”

The lawyers of the journalist Vasily Muravitsky Andrey Gozhy and Andrey Domansky

But is he guilty?

Andrey Domansky: “The defence has solid arguments for his innocence. We can’t yet reveal all the information that is available for us, as there is the secrecy of investigation, and not all materials were yet made public in the court session. But we can say that we have proof that will completely disprove all charges against Muravitsky.”

Besides the legal aspect, in this case there is also another one. We know that one of you, Andrey Gozhy, was among the defenders of Euromaidan, and Andrey Domansky condemns the accession of Crimea to Russia. Muravitsky is accused of “working for Russia” and was against the authorities that appeared after Euromaidan. What brought you into this ideologically-alien-to-you process?

Andrey Domansky: “Ideology has nothing to do with anything here. The lawyer acts like a doctor, despite political, national, social, racial, or any other affiliation of his client. For us this is first of all a person, his rights must be defended. But there are also personal moments.

We indeed know that Muravitsky was groundlessly accused. And we will insist on a verdict of not guilty, we will be able to completely acquit Vasily Muravitsky in front of the public, and in doing so we will prove that in Ukraine there is the right to any outlook, and that in our country any person can criticize any acting or inactive politician.”

But you claim that in Zhitomir it is impossible to count on an objective consideration of the case of Muravitsky.

Andrey Domansky: “You know, there is such a concept as ‘provincialism’, there is certain political pressure (on the court). But it is necessary to fight. And we will achieve his acquittal. If not in Zhitomir, then in Kiev, if not in Kiev, then in the European Court of Human Rights. Moreover, we will raise a question – that the persons guilty of our client being illegally accused and therefore being illegally held in custody incur punishment for this to all severity of the law.”

In the court hearing you stated that the conditions that Muravitsky is kept in is torture…

Andrey Domansky: “Of course. Firstly, he isn’t allowed during court sessions to be near his lawyers, he sits in an ‘aquarium’. Secondly, right after his son’s birth, he was taken away from the maternity hospital where Muravitsky came to visit his wife and child, and was put in a pre-trial detention center, where he has now been for three months. Although there is no need for his isolation from society. After all, as the investigation affirms, it already has all the proof of his guilt, and, being at large, Muravitsky isn’t able to change anything. And he also can’t influence witnesses. It’s not the case. All of this can be unambiguously qualified as the torture of a person who honestly performed his journalistic work.”

During a break in the court hearing Muravitsky told us that from the material evidence, which was confiscated by the SBU during a search at his place, the materials of his journalistic legal investigation “amber mafia” disappeared.

Andrey Domansky: “Yes, he repeatedly informed us that he had journalistic investigations concerning the activity of certain officials, in particular – People’s Deputies, who are involved in the so-called ‘amber mafia’. We consider that it is exactly this that is the main reason why Muravitsky is being pursued, and why was a search carried out — precisely with the aim of possessing these materials that he collected as a journalist-investigator.”

We paid attention to the fact that in the hall of court hearings there is a group of people who shout out accusations towards the defendant, call him the “enemy of Ukraine” and “separatist”. And what do you think, what is he?

Andrey Domansky: “I consider him as a patriot. He wants people to live well, he is for a united, independent, sovereign Ukraine in its borders as it was according to the results of 1991, when Ukraine adopted the act of independence, which he repeatedly declared both during the pretrial investigation and during the court hearings. He never called for the disintegration of the country, for any actions to change the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He was always a patriot of his country, always loved and loves it. If he condemns certain actions of certain Ukrainian politicians, it doesn’t mean that he acts against the country or against his people.”

Andrey Gozhy: “As for the group of persons who you mentioned, this is Borislav Rosenblat’s extras (the People’s Deputy from the ‘Bloc of Petro Poroshenko’ in the parliament of Ukraine). It’s not by accident that they show a great interest in the process. Rosenblat is also the main character in the investigation into the ‘amber mafia’. And in general, the ‘separatist’ label in Ukraine is now assigned to all who criticize the authorities. Earlier, under Stalin they were called the ‘enemy of the people’. But this is absurdity. We live in different times.”

Andrey Domansky: “Here this is about the fact that this stamp is very favorable for the authorities, because it is easily picked up by the masses, without understanding what it means … This is an effective way of influencing people. But we live in a constitutional State and understand that there must be a court ruling, which must enter into juridical force. And only the court can pass such a decision determining the guilt of a person. And not the accusations of a national rumor, warmed up by the authorities. And we will defend the principles of the law.”

But “public prosecutors” in the courtroom – we will call them as so – say: Muravitsky is guilty not because of what he said or wrote, but because he received money for it. Because he had a contract with MIA “Russia Today” where his critical columns were published.

Andrey Domansky: “It is worth remembering the treaty of friendship, cooperation and partnership works between Ukraine and Russia, and nobody terminated it. And consequently, Muravitsky has the right to publish in the media of Russia. Now about money that Muravitsky received for his honestly performed work. He received it, which he didn’t hide, for the fact that he actually carried out analysis and monitored publications, working as an observer. This isn’t a violation of the law.

It is exactly in the same way that it is possible to accuse observers, for example, of the BBC of working in Kiev or in Moscow on London’s orders. It’s about interpretation. In Ukraine honest work in the Russian media is interpreted as assisting an aggressor. But, as oriental wise men said, there are three things that can’t be hidden. It is impossible to hide the sun, the moon, and the truth. All of them will anyway will leave the shadows. That’s why we are sure that the court will make a lawful decision on Muravitsky’s case that will confirm that our client is an honest person who charges were unfairly brought against.”

We know that European structures also watch this process closely…

Andrey Gozhy: “International structures trace the process — ‘Reporters Without Borders’ and Committee to Protect Journalists. There were also representatives of the OSCE. We regularly inform them about the situation also now. We conduct talks with colleagues in the Netherlands, who are ready to give us help in drawing up documentation for when we will decide to appeal to the ECHR.”

From a conversation with Vasily Muravitsky, which we, nevertheless, managed to carry out through the glass of the “aquarium” during a break, we discovered that his family after his arrest actually found themselves without means of support. After all, he is the only breadwinner in the family.

Andrey Gozhy: “Yes, the financial position of his family is catastrophic. In order so that his family could survive in conditions when Vasily is in prison, we registered the ‘Charity foundation of Vasily Muravitsky’ and opened a special account. We hope that ordinary people will understand all the injustice of the charges that were brought against him, the illegality of his detention, and will help his family to overcome these adversities until Vasily is acquitted and will be able to return to work. We hope to receive funds from honest and ordinary people, his colleagues in journalistic work.”

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