While there are exceptions, the process of releasing political prisoners has begun in Ukraine.
On June 25 the Constitutional Court declared Part 5 of Article 176 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine unconstitutional. This provision stipulated that only detention may be applied as a pre-trial confinement in respect to persons suspected of terrorism articles, crimes against Ukrainian national security or obstructing the activities of the armed forces.
According to various Ukrainian media sources, the number of people charged under Article 111 of the Criminal Code is estimated to have reached 500. This refers to charges such as treason, attempts to overthrow the constitutional system, and espionage. The most important five cases, according to the Ukrainian version of Komsomolskaya Pravda, include two journalists, Vasily Muravitskiy and Kirill Vyshinsky. The Freedom House report “Democracy in Retreat” described the situation of the press in Ukraine in the sentence: “In Ukraine in 2018 journalists endured harassment and threats”.
The first releases following the decision of the Constitutional Court occurred on June 26, when General Aleksandr Shchegolev, who spent more than four years in a pre-trial detention center, was released under house arrest.
On July 3 the Goloseevsky District Court of the City of Kiev released Stanislav Ezhov, the interpreter for former prime minister Groisman, from custody and placed him under house arrest. From the moment of his detention, Ezhov spent a year and a half in a pre-trial detention center on charges of treason. The prosecutor asked the court to set bail at 10 million hryvnia, but the court decided to release Ezhov from custody and confine him to 24-hour house arrest and wearing electronic bracelet. The main reason for accusing Ezhov of treason was his wife’s Russian citizenship.
On July 5 the Solomenskiy Court of Kiev released film director Oleg Sagan on bail. On July 4 the court ordered an alternative restriction, the possibility of posting bail in the amount of 80,000 hryvnia, and on July 5 the director left the pre-trial detention center. The 63-year-old director and cameraman Oleg Sagan was detained in November 2018. He is accused of violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine under Part 2 of Article 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine by making video clips for YouTube.
At the same time, many political prisoners remain under arrest, including the journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, who has been in jail for more than a year. On July 3 a hearing took place in the Podolsky District Court of Kiev. Representatives of the right-wing group “C14”, who put pressure on the judges in this and in other political cases attended the session, threatening Vyshinskiy in public. His lawyers intended to file a request to change the detention, but the prosecutors filed a motion to postpone the hearing. The court approved that motion, postponed the hearing until July 15, and prolonged Vyshinsky’s detention until September 19. It is important to note that Ukrainian media resources have continued to raise the possibility of exchanging Kirill Vyshinsky for filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, as proposed by the administration of President Zelenskiy.
Oles Buzina case
Oles Buzina would have turned 50 on July 13. He was killed in the courtyard of his house on April 16, 2016. Although more than three years have passed since the high-profile murder, the court is still considering the case, and the perpetrators have not been punished and remain at large. On July 11, the Shevchenkovsky District Court of Kiev refused to hear the case, causing another stalemate. The decision was taken since all the judges involved in the case had withdrawn or had been challenged by one of the parties. Therefore, it was no longer possible for the Shevchenkovsky Court to empower a new court composition, as required by law.
Komsomolskaya Pravda/Ukraine noted in their interview with the mother of the murdered writer that in May the presiding judge announced his refusal to be involved in the case since “some participants in the case have made serious efforts to discredit the court as such and me in particular”.
The Mirotvorets-related cases
The State Bureau of Investigation is carrying out investigative actions regarding the website “Mirotvorets” concerning criminal actions which the human rights platform “Uspishna Varta” had earlier alleged. The SBI started their investigation after the complaint on inactivity had been heard by a court.
On July 10 it was revealed that the personal information of a journalist of the YouTube channel “Klymenko Time” was removed from the “Mirotvorets” online resource. However, it is still unclear who transmitted and published the personal data of the journalist, and when and under what circumstances this occurred. The human rights activists of “Uspishna Varta” insist on further investigating the crime committed by “Mirotvorets” in relation to the journalist, as well as numerous other individuals’ personal data being published on the website without their consent.