ASKOLD S. LOZYNSKYJ, PC
Attorney at Law
225 East 11th Street
New York, New York 10003
August 3, 2021
Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Dear Madame Bachelet:
I am a former main representative of the Ukrainian World Congress, a NGO in consultative status with the UN ECOSOC. I write specifically regarding the plight of civil society within the Russian Federation and more precisely the peril facing the Ukrainian ethnic civil society within the RF. This is a matter of severe persecution regarding a segment of civil society, their religious and ethnic rights, their very existence.
Historically Russia in all its permutations from village to empire, to the Soviet Union and now some hybrid has never been welcoming to diversity of cultures and certainly not receptive to the idea that civil society can be a lever of governance. During the chaos of the Yeltsin 1990’s, cultural diversity appeared in the RF. However, when Vladimir Putin assumed full power at the turn of the century a reversal began to take shape. Religious intolerance was the first step. Ukrainian Orthodoxy and Ukrainian Catholicism are both forbidden in Russia. Eventually full measures were undertaken to make Russia homogeneous and authoritarian.
For the past 15 years and continuing to date, Ukrainian organizations in Russia and the community’s activists are being repressed, pressured and persecuted by Russian authorities. The following represent some but not all examples:
Volodymyr Sinyshyn from Tula, Mr. Poburynny from Ivanovo, and Anatoliy Kryl from Vladivostok were murdered for their pro-Ukrainian position; from 2010 the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, the only one of its kind in the RF endured harassment, searches, temporary (until its final liquidation in 2017) closures, a limitation of its rights (for example, the rescission of its legal status) and the persecution of its management; between 2010. and 2012, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation liquidated the Federal National-Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians of Russia and the Organization of Ukrainians of Russia, respectively – the two main coordinating associations of Ukrainians in Russia, which had operated in the RF since the 1990’s; in 2013, the Ministry of Justice of the RF twice, on formal but legally unspecified grounds, denied the registration of the All-Russian public organization “Ukrainian Congress of Russia”; in 2015, the Ukrainian World Congress was included in the so-called “patriotic stop list” – a list of organizations that could potentially negatively influence citizens of the RF which made the UWC susceptible to a federal law of the RF entitled “On measures to influence persons involved in violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms, rights and freedoms of citizens of the Russian Federation” of December 28, 2012; in 2015, a criminal case was fabricated and initiated against Professor Stefan Panyak (Yekaterinburg) for alleged extremism; in 2015, the Ukrainian organization “Dnipro” in the Irkutsk region was liquidated and to date the authorities have not allowed the registration of a new Ukrainian organization; in 2017, a priest of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Omsk, Father Dmitry Kozak, was deported from Russia for fabricated violations of migration legislation; in 2017-2018, the main coordinating Ukrainian organization of the Komi Republic was essentially destroyed by threats, dismissal of activists from employment and the election of a new leadership loyal to the government; in May 2018, an inter-regional NGO “The Cultural and Educational Association Ukrainian Congress “ was established and seven times registration was denied; on July 11, 2019, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the RF declared the activities of the UWC undesirable on the territory of the RF. UWC Regional Vice President Sergii Vynnyk, as an attorney representing the UWC’s interests in court against the RF Prosecutor General’s Office and the RFMJ for its rulings against the UWC, has been routinely harassed for his participation in the UWC’s court proceedings, i.e. on October 16, 2019, the day after the UWC’s filed an administrative lawsuit to annul the July 11, 2019 decision, under his signature in the Tversky District Court of Moscow, a criminal case was initiated against him and in connection with this criminal proceeding, on November 1, 2019, searches were conducted at his home and office. On January 29, 2020, the police detained him at the Omsk airport, removed him from the plane, and prevented him from flying to Moscow to defend the UWC’s interests at a January 30, 2020 hearing in Moscow’s Tversky District Court. He was ordered also not to leave, so that he could not participate in the trial scheduled for March 4, 2020, and March 11, 2020, as well. From July to December 2020 the aforesaid criminal case against him has been discontinued seven times due to the lack of “corpus delicti” and then re-instituted. On September 10, 2020, he was summoned by the Omsk City Prosecutor’s Office to the Magistrate’s court of the May Day Judicial District in the city of Omsk for administrative liability for “… legal support of the UWC in court proceedings, mutual informational support;” in August 2020, the Omsk regional public organization “Siryj Klyn” was liquidated by an RF court by default alleging administrative violations. The Federal Security Bureau had recruited that organization’s chairman Yuri Bozheskul to serve as an informant, who later refused to eliminate minor deficiencies in legal documents, did not attend the court proceedings himself nor did he give a power of attorney to anyone else to defend “Siryj Klyn” in court; in November 2020, the Ukrainian organization of the Novosibirsk region, a noncommercial cultural and educational fund “Union of Ukrainians of Siberia” was liquidated; many Ukrainian activists are routinely forced to cooperation with the FSB or fired from employment if they refuse; in addition, there is constant pressure on Ukrainian community leaders and Ukrainian activists by conducting investigations of Ukrainian communities, as well as by pressure and searches at their places of work and business; administrative cases are constantly initiated against Ukrainian activists on various issues resulting in administrative fines which is a significant hardship.
The Russian authorities have imposed a “de facto” ban on the association of persons on ethnic grounds with respect to the largest ethnic Ukrainian diaspora in the RF, which affects the rights of several million people.
The inclusion of the Ukrainian World Congress on the “non grata” list was an intentional attempt to isolate the Ukrainian community in Russia from the rest of the world. In June and July of this year two laws were enacted by the Russians making it a crime for anyone in Russia to maintain contact with the UWC and imposing a mandatory seven-year sentence.
My fervent hope is that you familiarize yourself with the above, conduct an independent inquiry, bring your results to the attention of Putin himself as nothing happens in Russia without his knowledge and approval. Finally, it is requested that you bring your findings to the attention of the UN member states at the General Assembly and the Security Council. Thank you for your kind consideration of this request.
Askold S. Lozynskyj
225 East 11th Street
New York, New York 10003