Ukrainian Journalist Vasily Muravitsky: Advice for People Who Are Charged by Kiev for “Separatist Offences”

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The Zhytomyr journalist Vasily Muravitsky was detained by the SBU in August, 2017 on charges of state treason, assisting terrorism, and infringing on territorial integrity because of his publications and journalistic materials. After spending 11 months in a pre-trial detention center, on June 27, 2018 the court softened his measure of restraint to around-the-clock house arrest.

The court sessions concerning the case of Muravitsky that take place in the Korolevsky court of the city of Zhytomyr systematically receive the attention of far-right groups. Thus, on September 28, 2018 a hearing on the case of the journalist turned into an attack committed by radicals against the lawyer the accused Andrey Gozhy and the journalist Andrey Laktionov.

On November 16, during another hearing on the case of Muravitsky, “Uspishna Varta” human rights activists managed to interview the journalist, who gave advice to persons who have been charged under political articles. Muravitsky described how one shouldn’t behave during an interrogation and a search, why it isn’t necessary to choose to reach a deal with the investigation, how to behave in a pre-trial detention center with other suspects if one already found oneself there, and what the relatives of the accused should do.

We publish the full text of the interview, and the video interview is available at the YouTube channel of “Uspishna Varta”.

Vasily, how long did you spend in a pre-trial detention center?

330 days, i.e. nearly a year.”

What did you do that warranted being put there?

“Probably, I was involved in a ‘horrible’ activity called journalism. Now it is a crime, according to the prosecutor and investigative department of the Zhytomyr SBU.”

Today many people are sat in a pre-trial detention center under the same articles that you were charged under. Describe for such people and their relatives how they shouldn’t behave whilst being interrogated and searched? How in general should someone position himself or herself in such a situation?

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“Since they are political articles, it is necessary to remember the political field and to understand that it’s possible that it is the result of a political order being given. That’s why you shouldn’t make any contact with the investigation. 90% of persons accused under these articles, if not 95% of them, opt to reach a deal with the investigation. I.e. the person is put in a pre-trial detention center and told that they won’t be released. Or offered to sign an agreement, and told that afterwards everything will be normal. People sign and most often slander themselves only for the purpose of receiving a conditional sentence and being released from prison. Therefore you shouldn’t be afraid. It is necessary to understand that you are in a political field. And, if you have the strength, of course, you shouldn’t opt to reach a deal with the investigation and slander yourself.”

Did the prosecutor’s office offer to cooperate with you in any way?

“In the very first days I was offered to write a request for an exchange [an exchange of prisoners within the framework of the Minsk process – UV]. Back then even the indictment hadn’t been drawn up; nothing was finished. I was offered to agree to a certain prison term, after which I would be promised to be included in a list for an exchange. This was the main demand.”

What should the relatives of those who faced such circumstances do?

“To hold on and to keep holding, because the system is designed so that it is necessary to fight against it and not to recede. If you are obedient, then this system will mince you. Nobody looks at the ‘dimensions’ of this state treason, they simply look at with a plan in mind. Besides holding on, it is necessary to understand that it is a temporary phenomenon. The political situation unconditionally changes, and in Ukraine it changes very often. And when the political situation will change, all of these cases will become politically unprofitable. And perhaps those who fabricated these cases will be already pursued.”

How should one behave in a pre-trial detention center? After all, for an ordinary person this is unusual. Before they worked and were free, and suddenly they end up in a pre-trial detention center.

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“In a human way. At the end of the day, it is humans who are sat in the pre-trial detention center. If you are a human in freedom, then you will also be a human in a pre-trial detention center. Don’t ask for trouble, but also defend yourself. Don’t be silent, but also don’t shout. Behave in a human way, and understand that there can be dirty tricks, exploitation, and manipulation. In this environment both the most remarkable people who are also innocent and fully-fledged thugs can be met. I personally met very honest, frank, and courageous people in the pre-trial detention center who helped me in many respects. It is necessary to find friendly relations in the cell. And the main thing is not to be afraid.”

Speak a bit about your lawyers. How did you find them and how do you cooperate? How should one go about correctly choosing their lawyer?

“I have a group of lawyers: Andrey Gozhy, Andrey Domansky, and Ruslan Bereshchenko. They all have their specifics; they are all involved in the separate activities. And there is already a result – I am free, although I am under house arrest. But I am sure that we will win.”

As of today, how long have you already been under house arrest?

“It will soon be half a year.”

What do you think of “C14” and other nationalist groups?

“I don’t perceive them in any way, but how they perceive me… They are involved in their own affairs. I understand them. They have their own activity and sphere, for which they, perhaps, receive some financial security, or maybe they don’t receive any. Maybe there are some patriots there. But European human rights organizations, for example, think very badly of this field of activity. And how they behave towards me is all the same for me.”

They don’t threaten you?

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“And tell me who they don’t threaten? They pursue and threaten me relentlessly. It is necessary to understand that they work according to a system – up to the fact that there are persons among certain structures, including law enforcement, who cooperate with or supervise these organisations. That’s all, it is just necessary to understand clearly that they don’t do anything just by themselves.”

Vasily Muravitsky’s case is being constantly monitored by the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform.

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