Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
Ruslan Kotsaba and Tatyana Montyan told Ukraina.ru about what they spoke with European Parliament deputies, political scientists, and representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in Belgium at the roundtable devoted to the restriction of freedom of speech and repression against dissidents…
The event took place in Brussels in the European Parliament. Four deputies among whom there were Andrejs Mamikins and Tatjana Ždanoka, who were elected from Latvia, acted as the organizers.
The hall was full
According to Andrejs Mamikins, the event was successful.
“The hall of 400 places, in which usually big parliamentary committees usually sit, was full. People even sat in stairways. Interest in the event that lasted 2 hours was big. The hearings were open. The media and European Parliament Deputies came, among which there was the former speaker of parliament of Bulgaria and social democrat Georgi Pirinski, local Belgian political scientists, representatives of the Ukrainian diaspora in Belgium. Everything passed very correctly, everyone listened to the speakers with great interest, nobody threw tomatoes at us,” said Mamikins.
The second part of the event, which began in the evening, was devoted to viewing and discussing the hour-long movie about the writer Oles Buzina, killed in Kiev in 2015.
“For safety reasons I don’t want to name the authors of this documentary video. Simply, the price of these people’s security is high: we are here, while they are in Kiev. The Kiev Media Group company was specified as the author. It simply possesses the rights.
After the viewing everybody had an aching heart. During the discussion the lawyer Tatyana Montyan, the leader of the forbidden Communist Party Petro Simonenko, and the second lawyer of the mother of Oles Buzina — Artem Zakharov, spoke. The latter arrived instead of Renat Kuzmin, who decided to refrain from making the trip because of the threat of possible arrest by the Ukrainian authorities (on the day of the event Kuzmin was prescribed to come for an interrogation in the State Office of the Public Prosecutor),” said Mamikins.
Our interlocutor shared with us the impressions from what he heard at the roundtable.
“For example, I didn’t know that the Prosecutor-General of Ukraine Yury Lutsenko is the godfather to Poroshenko, and that the godmother to the latter is also the President’s representative in the Verkhovna Rada — Irina Lutsenko, the Prosecutor-General’s wife. I didn’t know that the confiscated $1.5 billion from Yanukovych’s accounts were then given in the form of a subsidy to oligarchs, to Poroshenko’s friends. This, in particular, was said by Artem Zakharov.
I didn’t know that the commanders of Ukrainian units had an order to throw grenades at houses in the ATO zone, while there were ordinary people there, who didn’t show any resistance. I was also shocked by the information that houses have electricity on the demarcation line in the zone controlled by the LDPR, while there can be no electricity for years nearby in the zone controlled by the Ukrainian army.
It was also awful to learn that for a long time Ukraine hasn’t paid pensions to those who live on the territory controlled by the LDPR. It’s strange, after all, Kiev considers these citizens as theirs. It’s sad, but these pensions are the only source of survival for these people”.
Persecution for dissent
Tatyana Montyan in her speech focused the audience’s attention on the fact that Ukraine currently has become a repressive State.
“I talked about the fact that in Ukraine the most extreme Nazi regime blossoms, and also about the tactics of this regime in its fight against dissent. As the repressive apparatus banally doesn’t have enough forces for everyone, they simply choose a victim — “the enemy of the people”, and they apply pressure, and in this way intimidate all dissatisfied and discordant persons so that they don’t fall out of line and resist.
I cited as an example the shameful story of a shop that is nearby European Square in Kiev that was attacked by the nationalists, who became angry as the shop owners erased their graffiti,” said Ukraina.ru Montyan.
The human rights activist also spoke about her neigbour — Svetlana Pikta, who stated at the school where her child studies that she doesn’t want her child to participate in events devoted to the ATO. As a result she began to have problems.
“She started being persecuted: nazis came to her home, threatened her with murder, they went to the workplace of her husband, they staged a whole action at the entrance of the house where she lives. Svetlana’s appeals to law enforcement agencies simply remained without answer. And what is she supposed to do? She is pregnant — there is no place to disappear to.
People who adhere to such views as Svetlana are two-thirds of Kiev. Of course, the authorities won’t be able to cope with all of them. That’s why their tactics is simple: to find one victim and to intimidate them, showing others what will happen to them if they express their discontent,” complained Montyan.
The lawyer also described the problems with the judicial system in Ukraine.
“In a large number of Ukrainian courts there are no judges, that’s why the hearing of cases is postponed for an improbable amount of time. Because of this people sit for a long time in pre-trial detention centers. In general, complete lawlessness takes place. Sane judges simply run away from this system, and the deviant ones are involved in this lawlessness,” states Montyan.
Crimes against journalists
Ruslan Kotsaba spoke in European Parliament already for the third time. At the very beginning of his speech he mentioned the lack of freedom of speech in Ukraine.
“I said that to present information in full accordance with journalistic standards in my country is possible only either on the Internet or in the kitchen, so that nobody can hear it. Anyone who doesn’t agree with the regime are declared as agents of Putin and the Kremlin, and in general, enemies of the people. After all, I was judged and I continue to be judged now under the heaviest article for ‘high treason’. I reported shocking figures to the audience: just during Petro Poroshenko’s reign 12 journalists died in Ukraine; 40 sentences for posts on social networks were handed down, which already entered into force. For the last one and a half years there were 122 cases of persecution of journalists. And the Ukrainian law enforcement bodies don’t investigate these crimes.
I also described my case, when three right-wing radicals approached me, and threatened to cripple me. I wrote a statement to the police, but they refused to register it. Then an employee of the police in a private conversation explained to me that those who attacked me de jure are … employees of the police, because they served in the ATO in the National Guard. Therefore they won’t punish their own,” said Kotsaba to Ukraina.ru.
Ukrainian journalist Ruslan Kotsaba, sentenced to arrest for calls against mobilization in 2015, has now returned to his Motherland in order to continue the fight against repression…
“Several euro-parliamentarians insistently proposed to me here, in Belgium, to immediately ask for political asylum. They claim that they possess operational information about my probable arrest. Some even speak about my possible mutilation by nazis, or even murder. I thanked all of them for their work and refused all these offers. I am not a coward! So, I come back to fight against usurpers!” wrote Ruslan Kotsaba on his Facebook page.
He emphasized that he didn’t do anything illegal, but just wanted reconciliation with Donbass, and, as an objective journalist, owing to opportunities, actively promoted this.
In January, 2015, Kotsaba publicly opposed the mobilization of Ukrainians in the army, calling the events in the east of Ukraine civil war and said that there are no Russian troops in Donbass, and the militiamen are adequate people, and not terrorists. In the resolution of the court it is specified that the journalist allegedly worked for the NTV TV channel for remuneration and organized the collecting of provocative materials about mobilization in Ukraine. The court sentenced him to 3.5 years of imprisonment with confiscation of property, later the Court of Appeal acquitted him. However, in June the case was returned for revision.
“I consider that those from my colleagues who won’t spread at least here, on social networks, links about yesterday’s exemplary mock trial of Dmitry Vasilets and Evgeny Timonin don’t have the moral right to consider themselves as honest journalists. The most they can consider themselves as after such silence is PR propagandists of the authorities,” said Kotsaba.
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