Ukrainian journalist’s fifteen years in jail for opposing war?


This video is called Imprisoned by Ukrainian regime: Ruslan Kotsaba appeal to international community [2017].

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Ukraine: draft dodgers face jail as Kiev struggles to find new fighters

Journalist Ruslan Kotsaba, arrested after refusing to fight in video addressed to Petro Poroshenko, is among many weary of conflict that has killed 5,000

Ruslan Kotsaba posted a video addressed to the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, last week in which he said he would rather go to prison for five years for draft-dodging than fight pro-Russia rebels in the country’s east. Now he faces 15 years in jail after being arrested for treason and obstructing the military.

This 15 January 2016 video is called Appeal of an Ukrainian journalist [Ruslan Kotsaba] to the deputies of the European Parliament.

His case is symptomatic of Kiev’s difficulties in mobilising a war-weary society to continue the fight against the rebels, who appear to have an unlimited supply of weapons and training from Russia. As the country nears bankruptcy and the reform programme demanded by the Maidan revolution last year is sidelined by the war effort, the drive to call up new recruits is floundering.

The conflict has cost more than 5,000 lives since it began last spring and Russia shows no signs of toning down its backing for the separatist movement. Poroshenko is due to meet his Russian, French and German counterparts in Minsk on Wednesday, and the financial and emotional burden of months of conflict could mean Ukraine is forced to accept a deal that effectively gives up control of rebel-held territory.

Ukrainian men aged 25-60 are eligible for conscription and 75,000 have been called up, of whom 60% will enter service, Poroshenko claimed last week. Preference is given to men with military experience.

A government decree regulates foreign travel for those subject to mobilisation. It means people could be arrested at border checkpoints, with those guilty of draft-dodging facing up to five years in prison – a law which provided the basis for Kotsaba’s video.

Why are ordinary people being called up to fight against terrorists?
Iryna Vereshchuk, mayor of Rava-Ruska

Amnesty International has called on Ukrainian authorities to free the journalist immediately and declared him a prisoner of conscience.

“You can take different views on Ruslan Kotsaba’s position, but by arresting him for stating a particular viewpoint, the Ukrainian authorities are violating the key human right of freedom of thought, which Ukrainians stood up for on the Maidan,” said Tetiana Mazur, director of Amnesty International in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian security services claim that Kotsaba’s arrest has nothing to do with his journalistic activities. “This is not a fight against Kotsaba as [a] journalist, but there are suspicions against him as a citizen of Ukraine,” said SBU senior adviser Markian Lubkivskyi, who said officers had found “evidence of serious crimes” among Kotsaba’s belongings. He declined to elaborate.

The government has denied there is a major problem with mobilisation, and Pavlo Kyshar, an MP who fought with the Donbass [sic; Donbas] volunteer battalion, said there are few people who do not want to fight.

But testimony from the regions, especially in western Ukraine, tells a different story.

“At least here mobilisation has been a total failure,” said Iryna Vereshchuk, mayor of the small town of Rava-Ruska, in the far west of Ukraine. “People don’t understand what they are fighting against. If it’s a war, why has no war been declared? Why are ordinary people being called up to take part in a fight against terrorists?”

The government has avoided officially declaring a state of war, instead referring to the operations in the east as an anti-terrorism operation, despite clear evidence of Russian military incursion. Part of the reason for this is the fact that Kiev would have trouble securing a much-needed support package from the International Monetary Fund if it was officially at war.

“Martial law would mean a lot of restrictions, including on freedom of speech, democratic freedoms and would have a lot of consequences. It would be the complete transfer of the country on to a military track,” said Ihor Lapin, a fighter with the Aidar volunteer battalion who is now an MP.

Vereshchuk said attitudes have hardened in her town as locals who went to fight returned in coffins. Of about 100 call-up papers meant to be distributed as part of the latest wave of mobilisation, only six had been given out. In the other cases, the men had hidden or could not be found, she said.

“We still have diplomatic and financial links with Russia and yet people are saying we have to go and fight their troops and die,” said Vereshchuk. “If our region was coming under attack, people would take up arms, but they are not ready to go to the east and end up killing other Ukrainian citizens.”

The fear of conscription has been exploited by the Russians, with the president, Vladimir Putin, ordering officials to change laws to allow any Ukrainian men escaping the draft to stay in Russia for longer.

“Ukrainian citizens cannot stay in Russia for more than 30 days. After that they have to return to Ukraine where they are being caught and sent under the bullets again. That is why I think that we are going to change something in that law,” said Putin with carefully calibrated concern.

A series of gruesome videos, sometimes shown on Russian television, has increased the psychological pressure on Ukrainians. … Add to that the inevitable swirl of wartime rumour. In Kiev, Andrei, a 24-year-old engineering student, says he hopes the war will finish before his 25th birthday, after which he could be called up.

“A friend of mine told me his friend was down there in the east and they ran into Chechens, who sliced off all their testicles. There were about 100 of them, and the Chechens castrated the lot of them. If I get called up, I think I’ll go into hiding. I want a family and kids.”

Additional reporting by Oksana Grytsenko

This music video, of a song originally written against the French colonial war in Algeria, says about itself:

Boris Vian: Le Deserteur; The Deserter. English subtitles

The start of world peace– an individual’s decision to refuse to go to war, even if it costs him his life. “I’m not on this earth to kill poor people” he says. An anthem of pacifists all around the world. Words by Boris Vian, music Harold Berg. 1954 Video by Galaico Borges of YouTube Thanks to Phillipe Chek of YouTube and of Paris for suggesting I translate and post this important chanson.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Martial law could be imposed by the Ukrainian government if fighting continues to rage with separatists in the country’s east.

President Petro Poroshenko threatened the measure, usually used during conflicts or coups to increase military power, on Wednesday according to the Interfax news agency.

Since last week’s announcement that Washington may directly arm the pro-NATO Ukrainian regime in Kiev, the rhetoric of the US government and its European allies has become increasingly reckless and extreme. Amid all the bellicose statements, no one is stating clearly what the cost in human lives of a broader conflict over Ukraine might be, what limits it would have, or whether it could escalate into a nuclear exchange between Russia and NATO: here.

Further evidence has emerged that the deadly shootings on Independence Square (Maidan) in Kiev last February, in the final stages of the NATO-backed putsch that ousted pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, were carried out by the far-right: here.

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