Russian social media, websites and TV blocked in Ukraine on national security grounds
On 15th May 2017, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko enacted Decree №133/2017 per the National Security and Defence Council’s decision to block Russian social networks: VKontakte and Odnoklassniki. The Decree also blocks access to other Russian websites and email services in an effort to sanction Russian-owned companies and businesses. The government claims that the list of sanctioned entities are a propaganda tool of the Russian government and that censorship is necessary to protect the country's national security interests.
International human rights organisations, such as Reporters without Borders and IFEX, criticised the government's actions on the grounds that such censorship limits Ukrainians' access to information and curtails their right to freedom of expression. Similarly, as reported by Voice of America, the U.S. State Department also expressed concern over the new restrictions on access to Russian media.
In March and April 2017, several protests took place across Ukraine against Russian-owned banks. In April 2017, protesters blocked the entrance to the Russian-owned Sberbank in the capital, Kyiv. Protesters also blocked access to Sberbank branches in the cities of Odessa and Dnipropetrovsk. On 10th April, clashes broke out between protesters blocking the banks and police in Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine. The demonstrators vowed to continue the blockade until all banks with Russian capital on Ukrainian territory are closed.
In general, the civil society sector is robust and allowed to operate in Ukraine, particularly in the west and centre of the country, while civil society has suffered in the east and Crimea due to the ongoing conflict and Russian occupation.
In the west and central regions of the city, there are several examples of civil society organisations working effectively with local authorities to provide services and information to citizens. For example, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union reported that several civil society organisations throughout the country have cooperated with local governments to inform citizens participating in anti-terrorist operations (ATO) in eastern Ukraine about their rights. The informational campaign - We Understand Human Rights - assists demobilised ATO participants and their families in understanding the rehabilitation and medical services available to them. A video of the campaign can be viewed below.