June 26, 2020

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT ZELENSKYY: Ukrainian civic leaders speak out about return of political repressions


Ukrainian civic leaders, including former political prisoners of the Soviet regime Josef Zissels, Myroslav Marynovych, Mykola Horbal, Larysa Lokhvytska, Oles Shev­chen­ko and Leonid Milyavsky, on June 14 published an open letter to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. (The English-language text that follows is from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress Daily Briefing. The open letter is available in the original Ukrainian on Mr. Zissels’ Facebook page.)


We have written this letter in response to recent events that are returning our country to the times of [Viktor] Yanu­ko­vych. After the Revolution of Dignity, arbitrariness, selective justice and political persecution were supposed to be gone from Ukraine forever.

We are outraged by the actions of the State Bureau of Investigations and the Office of the Prosecutor General, which are bringing back these disgraceful phenomena to Ukrainian reality. These are signs of the formation in Ukraine of a police state.

The disgraceful, illegal and unprofessional “show,” organized around the so-called “indictment” of the fifth president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, does not bring honor to the authorities. It significantly worsens the image of our country in the international community. These actions discredit the justice system and ruin the already low rating of trust in it. Society is receiving a dangerous signal: the law isn’t written for the “authorities.” And, therefore, tomorrow any rights can be trampled upon if there is a political order.

With great sadness, we have to state that repressions against political opponents have returned to Ukraine. It is outrageous that the main object of these repressions is Poroshenko – a person due to whose efforts Ukraine was able to withstand the confrontation with Russia in the most difficult years. We recall that, in the first instance, all of these cases were initiated by former members of Yanukovych’s circle and that they repeat the messages of hostile Russian propaganda. It is these initiatives that have been gladly supported and implemented by the team of today’s president of Ukraine.

Most importantly, all of these unlawful actions weaken Ukraine’s position in the international arena. Because Poroshenko embodied Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s armed aggression. And against this background, what does Zelenskyy’s team represent in persecuting Poro­shenko? Including for having Ukrainian ships sail through Ukrainian territorial waters? For beginning the counteroffensive against the armies of the aggressor that invaded Ukraine? For appointments in the security agencies that increase their effectiveness?

In fact, all of these cases, entirely following Russian standards, are aimed at criminalizing actions in defense of Ukraine: the counteroffensive against the forces of the aggressor, the use of the Ukrainian Navy to strengthen the defense of Ukrainian territory, appointments to security services.

The accusation against the president of Ukraine for issuing a decree about personnel appointments in the Foreign Intelli­gence Service looks very strange, given that this is the constitutional prerogative of the president. Moreover, this can bring into question any personnel appointments made by the current, or future, presidents. This is a dangerous precedent.

We stress: building a just state, fulfilling promises to the people about [ending] “legal trash” has not been achieved by anyone, as it has been impossible to hide behind it questions of ineffective internal policies and the weakening of Ukraine in the international arena. It is unproductive to follow the example of Yanukovych. To do so leads to devastating consequences, first of all for the authorities.

The best thing the current authorities can do is end the political persecutions and focus on uniting Ukrainian society in resistance to Russian aggression, start advocating for Ukraine’s interests in the international arena, and improve the living standards of people in Ukraine.