Ukraine: overview of the visit to Kiev of the NPWJ an NRPTT delegation

7 Mar, 2014 | Press Releases

By Laura Harth, 7 March 2014


A delegation of No Peace Without Justice and the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty – with Antonio Stango, Laura Harth and Stefano Marrella for Radio Radicale – arrived in Kiev on the morning of 21 February, the dayfollowing the major clashes of 18 to 20 February between the protesters and the police in Independence Square – “Euromaidan” – in Kiev, and remained until the morning of 26 February. On 22 February also Nikolaj Khramov arrived, together with Oksana Dryga, after having lost his plane in Moscow the evening before, since he was held in custody at passport control and had to take a train to make it to Kiev. Also upon his return to Moscow on 25 February, returning from Kiev by plane, he was held at passport control for an hour and a half.

Most of the mission has been documented on film by Stefano Marrella and has been published on the website of Radio Radicale. We report here on the main events and some impressions.

On the morning of our arrival, representatives of Maidan and President Victor Yanukovich signed the agreement to end the violence, with the mediation of three European ministers and the Russian Government. Anticipated presidential elections had been announced for the end of this year and a transitional Government was to be set up. However, the agreement was not well received at Maidan, and the representatives for the opposition (among whom one of the main candidates for the presidential elections, Vitali Klitschko) were not given the opportunity to explain the reasons behind the agreement because of the anger of the protesters, one of whom announced on the podium that the deadline for Yanukovich to leave the Presidency was set at 10 AM the following morning, on 22 February.

Upon our arrival at Maidan around 3PM, the situation was relatively calm. However, the tension of the clashes of the previous days remained, and many of the men were masked and equipped with home-made arms like baseball bats and wooden sticks, the entry and exits to the square limited, and we have seen some snipers on the rooftops surrounding the square. The rest of the city was almost deserted, except for the presence of groups of masked and armed youngsters. These groups for the most were from the self-defence groups, but we had also been warned for the presence of “tituska”, poor youngsters without perspective that had been enrolled by the regime to provoke the protesters and to commit acts of violence. We haven’t seen any trace of the official police during our entire stay in Kiev.

That evening the old opposition in the Ukranian Parliament obtained a majority, thanks to the over fourty Members of Parliament who crossed over from the Party of Regions (of Yanukovich), and started to pass a series of measures, everything followed live on a big screen in Maidan, among which the beginning of the procedure of impeachment against President Yanukovich as well as the decriminalization of the crime of abuse of power for which Yulia Timoshenko had been imprisoned. The overthrow of Yanukovich has also been effected by his disappearance (he would reappear only some days later in Russian territory).

After a couple of hours on Maidan, we met with Maria Tomak, a young journalist and collaborator of the Centre for Civil Liberties in Kiev, who had also been present at our Conference in Brussels on 18 and 19 February. The Centre, founded one year and a half ago by young activists – lawyers, journalists and political scientists – works on the documentation of violations of human rights, the promotion of civil rights, trial monitoring and judicial assistance. We have also spoken to its director, Olexandra Matviichuk, and other collaborators

From November 2013 the Centre started to monitor particularly the events on and around Euromaidan with an association of volunteers EuromaidanSOS, which they founded and host in their offices. They have produced a report entitled “Major trends in human rights violations and prosecutions of protesters during the protests in Ukraine – “Euromaydan”, which examines the period from November 2013 to January 2014. A report on the following period will follow. They were present in the square, where they collected information, monitored trials, and installed a 24/7 hotline where all – from Kiev and all other regions – can leave and request information and/or legal assistance. We have met them a second time on the evening of Sunday, 23 February, with the presence also of a young university teacher, Alexandra Alissa Novitchkova (whom Antonio had met in Brussels) and Bogdana Depo, assistant to Polish EPP MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, former diplomat responsible for European integration and very active on the theme.

On the evening of 22 February, we also visited the orthodox monastery Mikhailovsky, which responds to the patriarch of Kiev Filarete and has been transformed into a centre for the collection and sorting of food, medicine and other useful goods for the protesters and the first aid to the wounded. It must be noted that the orthodox Church in Ukraine is divided between the one that distanced itself from the Moscow Patriarchy in 1992 and which supported the revolutionary process, and the one which remained faithful to the Moscow Patriarchy and distanced itself from the protesters since it is traditionally linked to who holds the power at the Kremlin. The Ukrainian Greek-catholic Church, sui iuris respondent to the Pope and followed by about four million persons, has condemned the repression and expressed the hope that the Ukrainians may freely choose their proper future.

Around 11PM on the evening of 21 February, Yanukovich left Kiev. Self-defence groups moved closer to the presidential palace where, around 6 AM the following morning, they met with the official palace guards with whom they made an agreement. The perimeter around the palace was under the direct control of the self-defence groups of the Maidan protesters, while the inside remained under the control of the official security forces. There has not been a single act of violence or destruction. The situation on Maidan and in the city was notably more calm and relaxed, also the public transportation had started to function again. Maidan was mostly dedicated to the funerals of the square’s “martyrs”. After a visit outside the presidential palace, where only journalists were allowed, and some time in the square, we met with the historic treasurer of the Radical Party’s office in Kiev, Inna Gavryliuk, who had been in Maidan since the very beginning of the protests. Her son Roman was with her, and after interviewing him, he asked us for the Party’s flag to put it on the tower in the middle of the square (having felt the importance of nonviolence after the clashes of the previous days). The same day Yulia Timoshenko appeared before a judge in Kharkiv, where she had been detained, and was released; some hours later we saw her speaking on the Maidan stage, where she has been received with respect but, for as far as we can see, without great enthusiasm for her political views.

On Sunday 23rd, we went in front of the Parliament, where we saw several small protests entitled “2014 is not 2005”, to indicate the will to completely change the system and the political class. The protesters were young, and rather contested by persons of older generations. At lunch time we met with MP of the former opposition and historic leader of the Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Jemilev, together with his assistant and his legal counsel, Garik Liogvinsky. The latter is often in Strasbourg for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

On Monday 24th, we returned to Parliament, outside of which the number of protesters had grown exponentially (from extra-parliamentary forces and political currents different from those present in the former opposition). Thanks to Mustafa Jemilev, we have been able to assist to the session of the Parliament, during which the new prosecutor general has been appointed, and where a large majority voted in favour of sending President Yanukovich, the former Interior Minister Zakaharchenko and the former prosecutor general Pshonka to the International Criminal Court for the crimes committed from 30 November 2013 to 22 February 2014. Unfortunately, to today, Ukraine has not ratified the Rome Statute for the The Hague Criminal Court, and its Constitutional Court declared in 2001 that a constitutional amendment is needed before ratification is possible.

On Tuesday morning, after Nikolaj’s departure to Moscow, Antonio and Stefano met with the Italian ambassador in Kiev, Fabrizio Romano, and interviewed him for Radio Radicale as well.

We continue to follow the developments in Ukraine and remain in close contact with our main interlocutors in Kiev. We hope to meet them soon at the Italian Congress of the Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty.