The situation with respect to the rights and legitimate interests of various national communities living in Ukraine, remains unsatisfactory. Monitoring of the information space in the period from February 1 to February 13, 2022 allows the following main facts and problems in this area.
New cases of incitement to ethnic hatred, use of hate speech in public space, manifestations of Russophobia and anti-Semitism have been recorded in Ukraine. Right-wing radical organizations, which in the first half of February of this year played an active role in this process. We held a number of actions in different regions of Ukraine, including in Kiev and Kharkiv.
At the same time, the Ukrainian authorities, instead of curbing the right-wing radical forces, actually patronize them and, moreover, use them as pressure on their political opponents and independent media. This, in particular, is evidenced by the situation around the TV channel «Nash», which in early February was attacked by right-wing radicals, and then came under the sanctions of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) after which its broadcast was stopped.
Of serious concern are new facts of discrimination against Ukrainian citizens on the basis of language, violation of the rights to cultural identity and free use of their native language in all spheres of life are of serious concern. So, in Kiev, teachers of two schools were dismissed from their jobs for using the Russian language in their classes. In addition, during the specified period, there were cases of vandalism of a Russophobic orientation.
There are also new cases of violations of the rights of believers belonging to the most popular church denomination in Ukraine — the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
1. Manifestations of right-wing radicalism. Illegal actions of radical nationalist groups. Incitement of ethnic hatred, use of hate speech in public space
On February 1, ultra-right activists staged a protest outside the office of the Nash TV channel in Kiev. Right-wing radicals burned flares, shouted «Russian, surrender» and called for » hanging Nashists»( employees of the Nash TV channel).
Commenting on the action live, the host of the Nash TV channel, Max Nazarov, asked why the police are inactive, while the nationalists are behaving aggressively. (https://strana.today/news/374563-pod-ofisom-telekanala-nash-ultrapravye-ustroili-aktsiju-protesta.html)
On February 2, nationalists held another protest outside the office of the Nash TV channel. They demanded to close the Nash TV channel and put the founder of the channel in prison Eugeni Muraev.
Right-wing radicals brought posters with the words:»Our – not ours, but theirs», and also pasted a poster on the canal building «Russian Army».
The action ended with throwing flares at the wall of the building. (https://strana.news/news/374748-natsionalisty-proveli-aktsiju-u-telekanala-nash-s-trebovaniem-eho-zakryt.html)
February 4 duringthe match between the national teams of Russia and Ukraine in the semifinals of the European Futhall Championship, Ukrainian fans shouted nationalist and Russophobic slogans, including » Ukraine is above all!», «Who doesn’t jump is a Muscovite», etc. They also sang the song «Bey Moskal» with the words:
» Beat the Moskal,fold the corpse and. Also pick up a machine gun. And charge a new ribbon.»
5 February in Kiev passed the 9th «»Bandera Readings «organized by the nationalist Party All-Ukrainian Association «Svoboda». The conference was led by one of the leaders of» Svoboda», former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Yuriy Sirotyuk participated in the conference. According to the organizers, the readings are an «intellectual forum» that takes place under the auspices of Ideas S.Bandera. This year’s event was dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the creation of the UPA.
At one of the discussions – «Tasks and forms of activity of the nationalist movement» – the head of the ultra-right group C14(recently it is called «The Basis of the Future») Evgeny Karas performed. In his speech, Karas stated that in fact, the goal of Euromaidan was not a movement to Europe, but an increase in the influence of nationalist forces.
«Maidan was a victory for nationalist forces. All this European integration and flags-they disappeared. All this «euro» has disappeared as a comedyfilm, » Karas said.
Also Karas said that the nationalists «have fun fighting and killing.» In addition, he threatened that if the nationalists come to power Ukraine may hit European countries, in particular, Hungary.
«Imagine how many weapons and veterans we have. Now imagine-Russia is disappearing… do you understand what kind of eyes Budapest will have, for example, if we turn around to it? We have «Javelins” already the largest in Europe… If we come to power, it will be both joy and problems for the whole world, for the countries that are trying to prick us, » said Karas. (https://strana.news/news/375824-evhenij-karas-nam-prikolno-ubivat-video-i-analiz-zajavlenij.html)
On February 5, the so-called «unity march» was held in Kharkiv, organized by the National Corps and other nationalist parties and movements. The marchers brought OUN-UPA flags and chanted nationalist slogans during the march «Ukraine above all!». Glory to the nation – death to the enemies!», etc. (https://news.obozrevatel.com/society/v-harkove-proshel-marsh-edinstva-vse-podrobnosti-foto-i-video.htm)
2. Restriction of freedom of speech, closure of independent media
On February 11, the National Security and Defense Council imposed sanctions against the Nash TV channel at an off-site meeting in Kharkiv.
At a briefing following the meeting, NSDC Secretary Oleksiy Danilov was asked about the reasons for sanctions against Nash .
«Will the documents be published, what are the specific reasons for the closure? » – the channel’s journalist asked.
On this Danilov replied that the restrictions were imposed at the request of the SBU. The NSDC secretary did not announce any other reasons.
Immediately after the announcement of the NSDC sanctions, the broadcasting of the Nash TV channel began to be turned off in cable networks. (https://strana.today/news/376331-snbo-vvel-sanktsii-protiv-telekanala-nash.html, https://focus.ua/politics/506256-chernyy-ekran-telekanal-nash-otklyuchili-srazu-posle-sankciy-snbo-foto)
Igor Guzhva, editor-in-chief of the online publication Strana, commented on the closure of the Nash TV channel on his Facebook page.
«So, the National Security and Defense Council has introduced yet another illegal unlimited sanctions-against the Nash TV channel. When asked why the sanctions were imposed, Danilov said nothing. Just as there is not a single document, not a single piece of evidence on all other media outlets that have fallen under criminal sanctions, including Strana. They simply shut down media outlets that are objectionable to the authorities without trial, » concluded Guzhva.
As Strana notes, with the closure of the Nash TV channel, the authorities purged almost all opposition media outlets that worked for the Russian-speaking audience focused on the south-east of Ukraine from broadcasting.
It started exactly a year ago with the closure of NewsOne, ZiK and 112 TV channels, then sanctions were imposed against the channels «First Independent» and UKRLIVE.
In August 2021, Zelensky by his decree imposed sanctions on the largest opposition Internet resource in Ukraine —Strana, through its editor-in-chief Igor Guzhva and legal entities that provided the work of the «Country». (https://strana.news/news/376213-sanktsii-protiv-telekanala-nash-vse-podrobnosti.html)
Opposition Platform- For Life Party (OPPFL) commented on the introduction of sanctions against the Nash TV channel. The party accused the current government of systematically destroying freedom of speech in the country.
As noted in the statement of the OPPFL, the worse the situation in the country becomes, the more the authorities are drowned in corruption and scandals, the stronger the indignation of people grows – the harsher and more brazen the repression becomes. Moreover, this is done demonstratively and defiantly, despite harsh criticism from international human rights organizations. Including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and representatives of international monitoring missions.
The OPPFL demanded that the authorities stop unconstitutional arbitrariness and crimes against freedom of speech, lift illegal sanctions, and ensure the broadcasting of all opposition channels and the work of independent online media. (https://zagittya.com.ua/news/zajavlenija/raspravoj_nad_oppozicionnymi_smi_rezhim_zelenskogo_sovershaet_prestuplenie_protiv_svobody_slova_ukrainskoj_demokratii_i_konstitucii.html)
3. Discrimination on the basis of language, violation of the rights to cultural identity, free use of the mother tongue in all spheres of life
In Kiev, two teachers were dismissed for using the Russian language in the educational process. The dismissals took place after an inspection conducted by the office of the Commissioner for the Protection of the state language Taras Kremin in two educational institutions. This was announced on February 7 by the press service of the Commissioner.
According to the report, the staff of the Commissioner’s Secretariat found violations of the law «On Ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as the state language in two educational institutions of the capital. We are talking about the refusal of the German language teacher of Lyceum No. 303 to teach in the state (Ukrainian) language as well as conducting lessons in Russian by the history teacher of school No. 152.
In educational institutions, teachers were reprimanded, and then dismissed. (https://vesti.ua/lite/v-kieve-uvolili-uchitelej-za-provedenie-urokov-na-russkom-yazyke)
Despite the fact that Article 10 of the Constitution of Ukraine prescribes the free development, use and protection of Russian and other languages of national minorities, today this provision of the basic law is not implemented, and language scandals concerning the use of the Russian language occur regularly:
Demonstrative repeated cases of harassment of Russian-speakers have become a common practice, the purpose of which is to force Russian-speaking citizens of Ukraine to refuse to use their native language in the public space by any means.
February 9 at the Authorized Body for the protection of the state language T..Kremin appealed to the mayors of cities with a request to dismantle outdoor advertising, signs and signs installed in violation of the language law. This is stated on T.Cremin Facebook page.
«The Commissioner for the Protection of the state language continues to receive numerous complaints from citizens about the placement of information in a non – state language for general information, in particular signs, signs, inscriptions, etc., as well as outdoor advertising on the territory of improvement facilities,» the report says.
In this regard, the Language Ombudsman appealed to the mayors of those localities where such violations were recorded. In particular, Kremin sent letters to the heads of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odessa, Dnipro, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Sumy, Poltava, Chernihiv, Cherkasy, Chernivtsi, Kropyvnytskyi, Uzhgorod, Kremenchuk, Beregovo, Mariupol, Kramatorsk, Bakhmut and Kryvyi Rih, as well as managersVolnovakha, Slavyanskaya, Severodonetsk and Lisichansk city military and civil administrations. (https://vesti.ua/strana/yazykovoj-ombudsmen-vzyalsya-za-reklamu-i-vyveski-predlozhil-demontirovat)
4. Acts of vandalism of Russophobic orientation
In Poltava, a monument to the famous Russian commander Alexander Suvorov was dismantled, since it «is not a monument of history, art, culture, architecture, urban planning, science and technology» and contains «elements of Soviet propaganda.» This was announced on February 3 by the regional representative Ukrainian Institute of National Memory (UINM) Oleg Pustovgar.
Initially, the monument stood in the courtyard of the Kiev Suvorov Military School (in 1992, KSMS was renamed the Ivan Bogun Military Lyceum). In January 2019, the monument was dismantled at the initiative of the Lyceum’s directorate and with the support of Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kirilenko and the head of the National Memory Institute Vyatrovich. Later, the monument to Suvorov was moved as an exhibit to the Poltava Heavy Bomber Aviation Museum, which is a branch of the National Military History Museum.
The representative of the UINM also said that «the terrible legacy of the Russian-communist imperial past is a lot of toponymic names in honor of Suvorov».» According to the Pustovgar calculations , in the Poltava region, there are 27 streets, alleys and squares named after Suvorov. Pustovgar expressed hope that the dismantling of the monument to Suvorov (whom he called «the executioner of the Ukrainian and Polish peoples» and «a Russian war criminal») will speed up the renaming process in the Poltava region. (https://poltavawave.com.ua/p/pamiatnik-suvorovu-pribrali-z-poltavskogo-muzeiu—-pustovgar-589729, https://poltava.to/project/7216/?fbclid=IwAR3ihPxK1jwXSAiInVz_Tup0lh04685O7Jib1lFwvRLS0qSCjWsveYibSuQ)
5. Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the public space
In the Center of Contemporary Art of Ivano-Frankivsk in the framework of the exhibition «Precursor» featured paintings by Ukrainian artist Roman Bonchuk, on which Jews were depicted in a repulsive way. However, they were removed due to complaints from the Jewish community, which called the paintings anti-Semitic. This was announced on February 6 by the United Jewish Community of Ukraine (UJCU) in its Telegramchannel.
The community explained why it said the paintings were anti-Semitic.
«The first is » A Jew with a pig.» The second one showed a monster in a black hat, and a Torah scroll was presented in place of meat in a shaurma machine, » the community said in a statement.
After the reaction of the Jewish community, the artist removed both paintings from the exhibition.
«The Ivano-Frankivsk Jewish Community, with the legal support of the United Jewish Community of Ukraine, will appeal to law enforcement agencies,» the UJCU said in a statement. (https://strana.news/news/375238-v-ivano-frankovske-vystavili-antisemitskie-kartiny.html)
Fifty-two cases of anti-Semitism were recorded in Ukraine last year, which is three more cases than in 2020. The United Jewish Community of Ukraine said that the level of anti-Semitism in the country remains unchanged. This was announced on February 9 by the press service of the UJCU in its Telegram channel.
In the report «Anti-Semitism in Ukraine-2021», the NGO described the cases of anti-Semitism in Ukraine over the past year and the reaction of law enforcement agencies to them. In total, the document describes 52 cases. The UJCU said that since the difference with 2020 is only three cases, the level of anti-Semitism in Ukraine remained unchanged.
«At the same time, a negative trend can be considered an increase in the number of acts of anti-Semitic vandalism, which peaked at the time of the Hanukkah celebration – then 6 Hanukkah were affected and a memorial in Lisichansk, » the UJCU said in a statement. (https://strana.today/news/375911-za-proshlyj-hod-v-ukraine-zafiksirovali-52-projavlenija-antisemitizma.html)
6. Violations of the rights of believers belonging to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church
The State Historical and Architectural Reserve «Khotyn Fortress» has not extended the term of the contract for the use of the temple with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which restored the temple from the ruins on its own. For the first time in the history of independent Ukraine, the doors of the church were closed to the faithful. This was reported on February 3 by the UOC press service on Facebook.
«Under pressure from the representatives of «Right sector», which requires to pass «PCU» the Church that the arrival of the UOC at his own expense and difficulty restored from the ruins and turned into a gem of Khotyn district, State historical-architectural reserve «Khotyn fortress» did not extend the contract of use of the temple of the UOC, and on the door hung a padlock», – stated in the message. (https://strana.news/news/374892-v-upts-rasskazali-o-zakrytii-dlja-verujushchikh-khrama-v-khotine.html)