April 24, 2020

UWC defends itself against ban in Russian Federation


TORONTO – The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) is challenging the July 2019 decisions by the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation (RF) that declared the UWC an “undesirable” organization and banned its activities in the RF.

Deeming UWC an “undesirable” organization is yet another example of the continued violations of human rights and efforts to assimilate and isolate the Ukrainian minority in the RF from the global Ukrainian community, Ukraine and the democratic world, the Ukrainian World Congress noted.

The judicial challenge is headed by UWC’s Committee on the Protection of Rights of the Ukrainian World Congress and its network, which is chaired by the former UWC president and lawyer Eugene Czolij.

On October 9, 2019, the UWC filed a lawsuit against the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation with the Tver District Court of Moscow. The UWC is represented in this court case by UWC regional vice-president and lawyer Serhii Vynnyk, from Omsk, Russia.

On March 11, following several court hearings, the Tver District Court of Moscow dismissed the UWC’s lawsuit. The court listed the following UWC actions as key reasons for its decision:

— Promotion of anti-Russian political initiatives to return Crimea to Ukraine and strengthen sanctions against the Russian Federation;

— The 147 international trips to 51 countries made by former UWC President Czolij, during which about 1,500 bilateral meetings were held, where he advocated for the protection of the territorial integrity of Ukraine from Russian aggression and called on those countries to deliver effective measures to address the occupation of Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine. These measures included provision of military assistance to Ukraine, strengthening sanctions against the RF, and suspension of Nordstream2 pipeline construction. These meetings emphasized that the RF was destabilizing neighboring countries through various activities such as cyberattacks and interference in their election processes.

— Organizing discussions that focused on Russian aggression, the occupation of Crimea and the security risks of Nordstream 2 at events of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, World Economic Forum in Davos, European Commission, United Nations and other international forums.

— Initiating the global action “Red Card for Putin” as part of preparations for and during the 2018 World Cup to put pressure on Russian authorities.

The UWC has appealed this decision of the Tver District Court in Moscow, arguing that the Ukrainian World Congess has not violated any Russian or international laws. The UWC contends that the Office of the Prosecutor General and the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation contravened Russian laws by declaring the UWC an “undesirable” organization and banning its activities in the RF. Furthermore, the UWC states that the Tver District Court of Moscow committed a serious error by adopting as its decision the position of the Russian authorities.

The UWC expressed thanks to the representatives of the Embassies of Ukraine, the United States and Canada for attending the court hearings to monitor the proceedings.

The Russian Federation is home to one of the largest Ukrainian minorities in the world. For many years, Ukrainians in the RF have suffered from serious state-sponsored intimidation and violations of human and national rights. State policies of cultural, religious and linguistic discrimination are intended to assimilate the Ukrainian minority in the RF, the UWC pointed out. Ukrainian community organizations in the RF continue to be oppressed and dissolved by state authorities. Relevant examples include the dissolution in 2011 of the Federal Cultural Association of Ukrainians in Russia and in 2012 of the Union of Ukrainians in Russia, which was the umbrella organization representing the interests of all Ukrainian organizations in the RF and a member organization of the UWC.

Among the examples of intimidation against Ukrainian community leaders in the RF is the launch of a recent criminal investigation on contrived pretences against Mr. Vynnyk, a prominent community leader in the RF, a member of the UWC leadership team and UWC’s legal representative in the RF.

A few days after Mr. Vynnyk’s filing of the UWC’s legal challenge in Moscow, his home and law offices were raided, and documents were confiscated on November 4, 2019, by Russian authorities. On January 29 of this year, en route to represent the UWC in a Moscow court, Mr. Vynnyk was removed from his flight by authorities and was served with an order banning him from leaving Omsk.

“The RF’s continued military aggression and occupation of parts of Ukraine, as well as its ongoing human rights violations against citizens of the Russian Federation, its Ukrainian minority and the people of Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, must not go unpunished. This, together with the decision to ban the activities of the UWC in the Russian Federation, requires a strong international rebuke, including increased economic and political sanctions by the international community,” stated UWC President Paul Grod.