September was pretty busy for our country in terms of the news. The truth is that not all of them occurred under the victory flag. However, if the Ukrainian media still found a balance between positive and frankly horrifying materials, the authors of the international media are increasingly concerned about the negative events taking place on our territory. The only ray of light seems to be the long-awaited independence for the Ukrainian church. On the continuation of Sentsov’s struggle, attacks on activists, a wiretap of journalists, and other things through the prism of the foreign media ‒ in a monthly review from Opinion.
We say “Oleg Sentsov” and we mean all Ukrainian prisoners
The hunger strike of Oleg Sentsov, unlawfully held in a Russian prison, this month seems to attract the authors somewhat less than in August. In our previous review, individual columns and appeals were dedicated to the topic of struggle and the fate of Oleg, this time the published texts were mostly news. And, in any case, even the slightest mention of Oleg and other Ukrainians, who continue to resist the Russian system, is essential: any event remains in the minds and realities of people as long as it is written about.
A short review about how the Slovaks themselves are joining to the support of the Ukrainian director was published on the pages of the Slovak English-language edition The Slovak Spectator in late September. In particular, we are talking about an open letter in support of Sentsov, which at the time of publication of the text was already signed by nearly 3,000 people. In addition, the Slovaks organize silent public meetings as part of We Do Care initiative. According to the journalists, the participants are trying to demonstrate that they are not indifferent to how human rights are realized in different countries, therefore, as the members of the European Union, they are actively advocating for European values that are suppressed in Russia by the regime of Vladimir Putin. At the same time, activists also demand a clearly formulated position of Slovakia towards this issue.
“We say Oleg Sentsov and we mean all Ukrainian citizens, imprisoned by the Russian Federation. The Kremlin regime decided to take away their homeland, citizenship, and freedom. Sentsov is a symbol of courage and perseverance in the struggle for freedom, independence of the country, the lives and freedom of his fellow citizens”, ‒ the founder of the Ukrainian-Slovak initiative Lyudmyla Verbytska notes.
Everyone seems to know about Oleg’s nomination for the Nobel Prize. This news has spread through both Ukrainian and foreign media. However, this is not the only award that Oleg deserves, this was reported in the material of Radio Liberty. According to the journalists, the European People’s Party, the largest political group in the European Parliament, nominated Sentsov for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.
While presenting the candidacy before the parliamentary commission, Eduard Kukan noted that the Ukrainian director started a hunger strike with the hope that his voice would be heard, and the world would understand the value of honor, truth, freedom, and democracy. “Supporting Oleg, we remain true to our own convictions about universal principles of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and freedom of thought”, the Slovak politician said.
In the end, it would be wrong and false to talk about a small number of reports about Oleg. It does not disappear even from the information field of foreign media, but the main thing that we need to understand is that Oleg Sentsov is not the only person, who’s waging a titanic struggle against the machine of the Russian system. This is every Ukrainian, whom Moscow has imprisoned physically, but will never be able to put behind the bars his views and thoughts.
GPU against Sedletska: an attack on freedom of the press and good old corruption
Earlier this month, the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv, at the request of the General Prosecutor’s Office, granted the investigation permission to access calls, messages, and data on the location of the phone of the journalist and the editor-in-chief of the “Schemes” investigation program, Nataliya Sedletska. This news strongly outraged the Ukrainian media community, journalists in one voice began to talk about the attack on freedom of speech and the persecution of media workers. At the same time, colleagues from foreign media hadn’t kept silence as well.
Radio Liberty was the first to react to this news. This is quite logical; Sedletska is working in its Ukrainian branch (Radio Svoboda). In the text representative of the media, Joanna Levison says that the decision of the court “does not meet Ukraine’s obligations, regarding the promotion and protection of a free press, and creates a cool atmosphere for media workers”. According to Levison, such initiatives raise alarming questions about the real intentions of those, who are searching for information.
Media’s lawyer also commented on the actions of prosecutor’s office and said that the decision is “excessive”, stressing that it “puts pressure on the journalist’s work and provides illegal access to their sources”. The lawyer labeled this situation a fundamental violation, promising to act on his part accordingly.
However, the reaction of the international community was not long in coming: according to the article by The Financial, the European Union warned Ukraine about a huge violation of press freedom. According to international experts, the court order can have an unchanged impact on freedom of the press, and efforts, aimed at combating corruption in Ukraine.
Though, the British newspaper The Independent did not limit itself exclusively to the analysis of the court decision, linking the situation around Sedletska with the active deployment of corruption schemes in Ukraine. “Journalism is under threat, and corruption continues its dominance in Ukraine” ‒ the article’s headline notes.
The British authors placed the comment of the journalist herself, and superficially analyzed the situation and shifted to corruption problems. “Ukraine depends on large-scale international financing, which keeps it afloat. The IMF says that, despite the increased corruption that holds back foreign investors and blocks economic growth by at least 2% per year, the Government of Poroshenko doesn’t do enough to solve this problem”, the publication states. The key role in the fight against corruption schemes, according to the text, is played by journalists, on whom they’ve started to press.
The marker of not the safest place for public activists threatens Ukraine. This is evidenced by numerous attacks on those, who decided to do at least some resistance to the system. Serhiy Sternenko, Kateryna Handziuk, Vitaliy Ustymenko are just a small part from the bunch of names and surnames of those, who were attacked. Recently the Odesa activist Oleh Mykhailyk joined the list of more than 50 people, unknown people shot him near his home.
A brief digest of the Ukrainian crisis
It is material that was published on the website of The Washington Post. Journalists were not too lazy to recall not only the contemporary Ukrainian problems but they’ve also analyzed the period since 1654.
In the review there is no special analyst, it is rather a short and superficial selection of facts from history (or even Wikipedia), which is probably known to every high school student. That is, 1917-1922 is the period of Ukraine’s attempts to gain independence, and at the same time, a period of stable conflict between various political and military forces. And 1991-2014, it is understandable, is a period of independence, when our country had the potential to become one of the largest prosperous countries in Europe. However, the war and the Russian aggression are trying to make their own adjustments.
Assault on Oleh Mykhailyk: Odesa becomes dangerous
“Protests against the illegal sale of land in Ukraine can have deadly consequences”, ‒ the reporters of The Independent believe. This is not surprising, because on the eve of Oleh’s assassination attempt, he was one of those, who participated in the protest against further illegal construction works. As it was reported in the text, Odesa is becoming especially notorious, because of the grandiose theft of the state land and deeply rooted organized crime by politicians and oligarchs.
The journalists also recalled the announcement, which was noticed in social networks before the protest action with participation of Mykhailyk. Unknown people recruited young guys of athletic complexion in order to resist activists. This “work” should bring “employees” 1,000 UAH. However, there was no evidence that developers had anything to do with such announcements, neither activists nor media were able to find it.
It is impossible to intimidate the activists
Even numerous attacks on indifferent citizens do not stop them before striving to establish justice in their own country. Given this, activists from all over the country gathered to protest in Kyiv. More information on how the “Night on Bankova” happened can be found in the material by our journalist. Such a decisive action could not be out of sight of the foreign media.
According to the authors of The Daily Star, the assault on the anti-corruption activist Oleh Mykhailyk was, in fact, the last drop. In addition, journalists emphasize that a special group of investigators was sent to Odesa only after the assault on Mykhailyk received a wide response, and his friends and like-minded people massively urged the President to intervene in the situation.
The Daily Star claims: there have been many cases of similar to Odesa incidents on the territory of Ukraine. For example, most recently, Kateryna Handziuk was injured, and in 2017, outside of Kyiv, the body of the human rights defender Nozdrovska was discovered. Actually, this was illustrated by the posters, which the activists kept during the action: “Silence kills”.
The issue of autocephaly: the way out of the Russian shadow and the election campaign of Poroshenko
The Tomos, autocephaly, UOC-MP, UOC-KP ‒ a familiar list of words, right? The issue of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church is, perhaps, the main issue of the month for both Ukrainian and international media. The materials on this subject come from the keyboards of the foreign authors with an enviable regularity. So, in early September, the American company Bloombeg issued a column of one its authors with the headline “Ukraine could beat Putin in church battle”.
In the text, the newspaper observer notes that while Ukraine cannot return the territory, annexed by Russia, but in our chances to deprive the “big neighbor” of something no less valuable ‒ power and influence on Ukrainian Orthodox believers, and thus Moscow’s claims to the main role in Eastern Christianity. “Under the leadership of Putin, the church has become closer to the state more than at any other time since the revolution in 1917. And receiving autocephaly by the Ukrainian church can inflict a powerful blow to the claims of the Russian leader. The independence of the church will probably force many priests to feel unnecessary. They simply cannot remain a part of the organization that the Ukrainian Government regards as the fifth column of Russia”, ‒ the author argues.
However, on the pages of the CNA (Catholic News Agency) at the end of the month, it is noted that preparations for the independence of the Ukrainian Church cause a certain tension. In particular, the text explains: the plan of Patriarch Bartholomew to create a single church in Ukraine, led by one’s own patriarch, is motivated by the desire to unite 30 million Orthodox Christians. But the Russian church considers this, of course, as a violation of its jurisdiction and authority.
“This all happens as a result of the struggle that Ukraine has been waging since the annexation of the Crimea by the Russian Federation.” As Bishop Svyatoslav Shevchuk points out, “the country is still in the midst of a “silent and forgotten war.”
“The ROC (Russian Orthodox Church – translator’s note) expresses warnings to the leader of Orthodoxy” ‒ now this is the headline of the material of the American newspaper The Washington Post. According to the text, the Ukrainian church for hundreds of years was tied to the Moscow Patriarchate, the situation changed after the annexation of the Crimean peninsula, it was precisely from 2014 that calls for independence increased.
It is interesting that, recalling the role of Petro Poroshenko in the issue of obtaining autocephaly, journalists add that he “works for re-election next year”. Obviously, representatives of foreign media do not rule out the possibility that the issue of the independence of the Ukrainian Church has been updated, also in connection with the forthcoming presidential elections. In the very same material, the authors give the floor to the representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate, who, quite predictably, are not tire of stressing about the “sad precursor of tragic events” and “bad consequences for Ukraine”.
However, the Financial Times edition headline notes in its publication that “Ukrainian church emerges from Russia’s shadow”. However, in this text the Ukrainian President got a good one again, he was remembered even the billboards, on which the issue of autocephaly is one of the main messages. “Petro Poroshenko declares that the independence of the church is a guarantee of spiritual independence from Moscow. And the adoption of this decision is also crucial for the preservation of the current President of his power after the next year’s elections” ‒ Financial Times convinced.
By Dmytro Zhuravel