Ukrainian Justice: Journalists Kept in Jail by Orders From Above

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


Dmitry Vasilets is a media personality-human rights activist, journalist, social activist, public speaker of the movement “Media-lustration”, author and presenter of programs “Museum of Information War” and “What the Media is Silent About” on channel 17. He is also the First Deputy Head of the public Council under the Ministry of Information Policy.

He is suspected of aiding terrorism for only one reason: that once in July 2014, he went to the Donetsk region for three days in order to objectively highlight the coverage of events in the East of the country. After he returned to Kiev, during the past 2 years, he tried to prosecute the media for lying, manipulating society, and inciting hatred among citizens of Ukraine.

He was arrested by the SBU on November 24th, 2015, on suspicion of creating the channel “Novorossiya TV” – an act which officially incriminates him according to article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine: organizational or other assistance in the creation or activity of terrorist groups or terrorist organizations.

"Dmitry, the truth is on your side, come back soon, we're waiting for you"

“Dmitry, the truth is on your side, come back soon, we’re waiting for you”

…The driver of the car in which I was returning from today, on 7th October 2016, at 3 a.m. to Kiev from Berdichev from a hearing of the local district court, all the while looking anxiously at the rearview mirror: “And what do you think? For sure they will stop us smash everything with bats… And this is only in the best case scenario”

…And the driver worry was justified. During nearly all of the hearing on the so-called “case” of the journalist and human rights activist Dmitry Vasilets and his colleague Evgeny Timonin, in the courtroom were thugs in and out of camouflage uniforms with the flags of the “Civil Corps of {Azov}”. During the intermission they were scurrying around the court building, inside the corridors, and having fun together exchanging words and cutely shaking hands with hugs among them and with the local police with inscriptions “police” on their jackets, and with a strange man in plain clothes who was the ruler of this process. During almost 15 hours of the hearing this became evident to all. The judges went to the conference room, these guys followed them, and when the judges returned to the hall, they did the same to the back seats. No one tracked the path of the people in robes in the toilets, but seeing such tight “contact”, it seemed they couldn’t empty themselves freely. It was as if they could somehow be influenced by the undesirable “enemy” in all orifices – “separatists”, “terrorists”, “Vatniks”, and “Colorads”. And it is namely them that this “fight” was with. It was absurd to outright sadism, mixed with cynicism and demonstratively forced violation of the procedural laws and rules.

It looked like the “general line” of the court hearing ought to be maintained until the end. And it was. The term of detention for Vasilets and Timonin was extended until December 4th and 5th of this year. The loitering guys in plain clothes needed “victory”, and they got it. A horrifying picture became the culmination of this hearing: at 2 a.m. bulky tired “cops” escorted Timonin and Vasilets out, grabbing under their arms, to the cage for the accused. Timonin couldn’t stand anymore without assistance, and Vasilets managed to stand but in pain. And this happened after the doctor, who came in an emergency car, answered the judge’s question, officially stating: It’s not a trial that Timonin needs , it’s hospitalization. And it in this condition that the accused stayed for their verdict, which was quietly and then unintelligibly muttered into the microphone by the presiding chief judge Anatoly Zaitsev. His colleagues Aleksandr Dubtsov and Inna Khutornaya (which Vasilets considered, “following rumors, the most honest judge in Berdichev”) were sadly and wearily listening. They were in concert with the “chief”, so it was in vain that Vasilets categorised them into “honest” and not very honest…

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But it’s not this that is important. In order to better understand what is going on, we have to come back to almost a year ago, when on 24th November, 2015, when Vasilets and Timonin were arrested. Both of them were charged with two counts of “anti-Ukrainian activities” and “supporting terrorists”. After almost six months, “anti-Ukrainianism” was not proven, and the prosecution disappeared into obscurity, but “terrorism” remained. This is article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Here it is: “Creation of terrorist groups or terrorist organizations”.

1. Setting up a terrorist group or terrorist organization, directing such terrorist group or terrorist organization, or participating therein, as well as materially, institutionally, or otherwise facilitating the setting up or operation of terrorist group or terrorist organization, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a term of eight to fifteen years with confiscation of property or without it.

2. A person, except the organizer and leader of terrorist group or terrorist organization, who, on his own free will, informed a law enforcement agency on the terrorist activities, contributed to its suppression or resolution of crimes committed in connection with setting up or operation of such group or organization if his actions do not contain elements of crime – is released from criminal liability.

And it is especially “setting up a terrorist group or terrorist organization, directing such terrorist group or terrorist organization” that is imputed to Vasilets and Timonin. And, it seems, they want to deliberately and demonstratively warn others against doing the same. Exactly as to already released and rehabilitated journalist Ruslan Kotsaba, they wanted to incriminate him for “inflicting damage to the country’s defense capability”. But, if we look at it schematically, even if Ruslan spoke about the undesirability of the mobilization of the army in the civil war in Donbass, this somehow could be attached to “harming the defense capability” if, for example, his appeal had the desired effect and caused a massive abandonment of the mobilization or desertion.

But the prosecutors could not prove anything and, to put it mildly, the sh*t hit the fan – Ruslan was released. Vasilets and his comrade are incriminated by the fact that in 2014, they traveled to Donetsk, and there supposedly strongly “contributed to the creation of the terrorist channel {Novorossiya TV}”. And for this – fifteen years. Although Vasilets himself affirms that he did not creating anything, he didn’t provide any help to anyone, even theoretically, because he went in the profile of his human rights activities in the media – he wanted to establish objective, non-propagandistic/agitprop information from the ATO zone. The thing is, Vasilets is one of the main figures of the organization “Media-lustration”, the main goal of which is to separate information from propaganda in the media and to show it to people, fighting thus against censorship. Vasilets even created an award named Joseph Goebbels, awarded for exemplary samples of propaganda instead of information in the central media. Vasilets presented such “prizes” to particularly odious singers of Maidan and the ATO from the central TV channels, which have been choking on their own patriotism to now. Moreover, he did it legally, I repeat LEGALLY, being the first Deputy Chairman of the Public Council under the Ministry of Information Policy, led by Yuri Stets – the godfather of the President of Petro Poroshenko. In addition, Vasilets on Ukrainian TV channel 17 hosted the program “Museum of Information War” in which he did the same – exposed propaganda and fighting censorship.

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The peak of activity of “Media-lustration” and the direct reason for the arrest of Vasilets was the fact that a few days before this he, right on the Khreshchatyk on the big screen, organized a viewing of the movie of another opposition journalist Anatoly Shariy, who analysed the informational propaganda idiocy of the TV news channel “1+1” of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky – one of the main mouthpieces of Maidan and post-Maidan in the form of “brainwashed judeo-banderists against the Moskals and Putin”. One autumn evening on Khreschatyk in Kiev, pro-Kremlin blogger Anatoly Shariy analysed the headlines of TSN, looking for propaganda in the news. “Just contemplate it: a pro-Kremlin blogger, on the big screen, in the center of Kiev. Just a few blocks from the Presidential Administration, the supporters of the “Russian world” staged a real media informational attack. And nobody impeached them: neither the police nor the special services or the specially created Ministry. A little earlier the same “guys from {Media-lustration} awarded the presenter of TSN the award of the fascist Joseph Goebbels – 100% Kremlin’s terminology,” said the indignant “1+1”. And it was heard – Vasilets and Timonin were locked away and are being kept in detention already for 11 months.

The sense of the dispute on 6th October between the judges and the prosecution (Lina Romanenko, Head of Department for supervision of observance of laws by bodies of the SBU, (SBU again!), the State Border Service of Ukraine, and the office for supervising criminal proceedings accompaniment by the Zhytomyr regional Prosecutor’s office) on the one hand, and with the accused and their defense on the other, comes down to only how to interpret the decision of the same court from the 3rd October this year. And there it was written “to extend the detention UNTIL October 7th, 2016”.


The defence insisted: if there is no other decision, it means at 00:01 minute on 7th October 2016 Vasilets and Timonin should be released from custody. Following the decision of this court of October 3rd, 2016. And the defence procedurally did everything to prevent Prosecutor Romanenko to proceed with its appeal to prolong the term of detention. The defenders announced the objection of the judges and the Prosecutor, the accused Vasilets refused one advocate and demanded another one, the defence demanded time to examine documents and appeals. Time was prolonged by the fact that the “ambulance” was called several times (!!!) for the accused, and they were even brought to a local hospital in order to decide if they could remain in the “cage”. But everything was organised: after having injected something into the accused, the men in white coats returned the drugged-bodies of the “enemies of the state” to the people in robes – on the bench of the accused, from which this pale and haggard bodies fell several times just from exhaustion. Timonin, who attempted suicide in prison, was vomiting directly onto the bench. But the judges again called for an ambulance, the bodies were brought out for “medical assistance”, and after half an hour they were returned there again.

And all this because the judges set the guiding tonality of the hearing. When the side of the defense demanded that the appeal should be reviewed in chronological order, and confirmed that the procedure was violated (because the Prosecutor failed to register his request for an extension of the period of detention for five days), the court, wanting to give the opportunity for the Prosecutor to intervene in any way, directly said: “the court will decide itself WHAT it will examine”. So they acted. And everybody in the prosecution and the judges suddenly became calm, while after midnight, in the presence of the half-dead accused at the hands of police, Prosecutor Romanenko read her appeal, and judge Zaitsev said: Oh, don’t worry, “until 7 Oct” doesn’t mean until 00.00, but until 24.00, so they will sit here, if you don’t believe – refer to linguists…

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And that’s all. The defence did not know how to answer, except cries of outrage and judicial lawlessness. But you can’t swim against the tide, because law is like an axle, you can turn it whichever way you like if you use enough force. Here it is the judge and Prosecutor who make the rules. The accused were taken from the “cage” and left to sleep until morning in the room for the convoy – they were not even moved to Zhytomir in jail: no need to waste gasoline, going back and forth, if new victims of judicial justice have to be brought to Berdichev in the morning. And here we can only add that the accused in this state of health and well-being during almost 16 hours of “hearing” were  not once, I repeat, NOT ONCE fed. Although the “state” in the face of the penal system is supposedly required to feed the accused up to three times a day. Well, in order, as a minimum, to avoid being accused of using methods of torture on prisoners. And hunger torture is indeed “torture” in its purest form. But in their desire to please “the curators” they forgot to do it, the judges paid no attention to the requests of the defence and the mother of Timonin, who was present in court. Two hours before the end of such “justice session” nearly at midnight, one of the judges said to one of the accused’s mother: “Well, go to the store and buy something…”. This, I repeat, at midnight in the provincial Berdichev. If I could have seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t believe the description of all this. The sense of this, as you understand, not even in the procedural intricacies, the linguistic quirks of the judges or the letter of the law – there was no spirit of the law and the correct verdict, which, as you know, is translated as “justice”. While normally humanism, humanity, human kindness, and compassion must exist…

…And on the road to Kiev, thank God, nothing happened. There were young “Azov” members, which were periodically joined by older, more impressive puppeteers. I said to one of these: “I would never have believed that I would tell you this, but I will say I understand what Semen Semenchenko meant when he demands a fair trial for fighters of {Tornado}” – if they are judged the same as those in Berdichev, everything is clear. You understand that you also can be put on such a trial? When there is an order from above for a frame-up, and not for a fair trial, it is equal to “enemy” and “anti-enemy”. “And I won’t let you take me alive,” said the guy who understood everything, trying to laugh it off. “But they can even not take you in captivity,” I joked in response. And “Azov” members soon left. “Without pittance,” they cannot love their motherland a long time. In contrast to people in plain clothes which are on duty. This is a kind of “unjust justice”, which happened in the Ukrainian town of Berdichev…

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