Civil society remains concerned over protest bill allowing police to use force
A new wave of civil society protests is expected in Ukraine
In October 2016, the Ukrainian parliament presented a bill which allows law enforcement officers to disperse protesters, using force if deemed necessary. Civil society criticised the initiative as reminiscent of the "draconian laws" associated with former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, which allowed police to use force against those who were protesting peacefully. This led to several violent clashes between protesters and police in Kyiv, resulting in the first deaths during EuroMaidan.
In September 2017, during an informal interview with CIVICUS Monitor research partner, several representatives of civil society from Ukraine remarked that the authorities had not yet given up on the above-mentioned bill. Therefore, several protests were announced in September to take place across the country against these new legislative provisions.
Urge Russia to let illegally jailed Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chyigoz see his dying mother in the occupied Crimea pic.twitter.com/hw3zGgCxSO— Mariana Betsa (@Mariana_Betsa) June 15, 2017
Persecution of Crimean Tatar community
On 11th September 2017, the Supreme Court in Crimea, which is under Russian control, sentenced Crimean Tatar leader Akhtem Chyigoz to eight years in prison for organising mass riots. Chyigoz, who is the deputy head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, had spoken out against the annexation of Crimea at a pro-Russian rally in 2014 where demonstrators were calling for Russia to annex Crimea.
On 13th September 2017, around 50 people gathered near the Independence Monument in Maidan Square, Kyiv in support of Tatar people in Crimea. The chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, the People's Deputy from the Piotr Poroshenko Bloc faction, Refat Chubarov; the head of the parliamentary committee on human rights, national minorities and ethnic relations, Grigory Nemyria; the leader of the Batkivshchyna faction Yulia Tymoshenko and others were in attendance.
Several countries, including Canada and Germany, have urged the Russian authorities to immediately release Chyigoz from detention and to put a stop to the persecution of Tatar peoples from Crimea.
Reporter for Rossiya 1 & 24 Maria Knyazeva, aka Saushkina, deported & banned from Ukraine for 3 years, says Ukrainian security service, SBU. pic.twitter.com/JoYBChede9— Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) July 26, 2017
On 31st August 2017, Ihor Lossovskyi, Deputy Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, issued a statement on freedom of expression and media freedom in Ukraine, referencing the recent expulsion of several Russian journalists from the territory of Ukraine, such as the incidents described below. In addition, Lossovskyi reaffirmed Ukraine's commitment to respecting the freedom of the media, the independence of the information space and freedom of speech in its signing onto international commitments and conventions, but added that the country faces an information war and accompanying propaganda campaign from Russia that aims to destroy peace and security in Ukraine.
In July 2017, the Ukrainian Security Service forced Russian journalist Maria Knyazeva (working in Ukraine under a different name) to leave the country. She was working for Rossiya 1 and Rossiya 24 – two Russian television channels, known for pro-Russian propaganda. In a statement, the Ukrainian Security Services declared that Knyazeva had been expelled because of destructive activities against Ukraine. At the end of August 2017, another Russian journalist, Anna Kurbatova, was detained and later expelled from the territory of Ukraine. She is working for Russian public televisionstation Pervii Kanal/ORT.
Moving message of solidarity from Kremlin hostage Roman Sushchenko on sentence of Crimean Tatar leader Ilmi Umerov - https://t.co/a9oC1VnNXh— Rights in Russia (@rightsinrussia) September 29, 2017
According to human rights activists monitoring the situation in the region, more than 40 Ukrainian citizens are illegally detained either in the Russian Federation or occupied Crimea. In the latter, there are at least 29 Ukrainian citizens detained and the numbers are increasing. Pro-Ukrainian activists, journalists and all those who disagree with the occupying Russian regime face accusations of "terrorism", "extremism", and "sabotage activity".
Those in detention do not have access to a fair trial. One of the most prominent cases involves journalist Roman Sushchenko, a correspondent with the National News Agency "Ukrinform" in France. He was detained in Moscow in 2016 by law enforcement agencies from the Russian Federation and was charged with espionage. Another case involves Ukrainian film director, screenwriter and writer, public activist Oleg Sentsov, one of the most active campaigners for a united Ukraine. After Crimea’s annexation, he organised the supply chain of products to military units that were blocked by Russian occupation forces. He was detained in May 2014 in Simferopol.
Based on an analysis by Detector Media of data and ratings from Freedom House and Reporters without Borders, the situation for freedom of expression in Ukraine has improved somewhat over the past two years. Detector Media reported that the rating for RSF had improved by five points and Freedom House also noted an improvement in press freedom.
"По оценкам «Репортеров без границ», Украина поднялась в рейтинге на пять пунктов за последний год, оценки Freedom House менее оптимистичны — всего на один пункт, но все-таки улучшение".