December 24, 2015
The following appeal by Ukrainian political prisoner Ruslan Kotsaba was delivered on camera during a court appearance by him in Kyiv on December 24, 2015. The text was translated and published on Fort Russ. The video of Kotsaba’s three-minute appeal, with English sub-titles, can be viewed on YouTube here (or click the screen below). Ruslan Kotsaba’s legal defender is Tatiana Montyan.
While I have the chance, I address this message to the deputies of the European Parliament. I declare, in the first place, that I do not at all feel guilty. I declare that I am seriously opposed to the war in Donbass. Like the majority of European leaders, I consider it a civil war and I emphasize once again that that in choosing the heaviest response [imprisonment] that they have done it not just to sully my name, the name of an honest man, but on purpose to intimidate the citizens of Ukraine, and suppress criticism of the regime.
As it is, if you criticize the regime, you’re accused of high treason and treated as an agent of Putin, as a pawn of Moscow. This formula is very useful for the current regime, for whom the least criticism is treated as high treason. You have heard the whole case, most of you, and I am grateful for your support attending the hearings.
You have heard the whole matter, and you have not seen one I repeat, NOT ONE deed of treason or obstruction. All you have heard is just these clowns threatening to kill me and strangle my children.
I beg you: journalists are the conscience of society. Lina Kostenko, Ukrainian writer, has said: “Journalists are the eyes of the society that is asleep.” But our society is not asleep, it is scared.
If it is possible, since it is not possible in Ukraine, for the European Court and the European Parliament to be involved in this case. It is impossible for [Ukrainian authorities] to put you in prison for non-conforming, anti-war ideas. And if here neither the court nor the prosecutor get the difference between “proof,” “supposition,” and “judgment,” the European Parliament surely will. That’s why I will be very grateful to you if you can kindly circulate this video on the internet, on Twitter, and on social media, since, for now, democracy still exists on the web and it is still theoretically possible to criticize those in power.
Because what is happening to me today: journalists, take note, each one of you could be in this cage! Just try writing that Poroshenko is a bloodthirsty executioner because he keeps up the war in Donbass on purpose so the looting, corruption at the road-blocks and smuggling can continue, and you will immediately become the enemy of Ukraine! Under Stalin, enemies of the people were shot. Now they find themselves in jail for 15 years.
Maximum sharing, please.
Ruslan Kotsaba is a Ukrainian journalist from Ivano-Frankovsk (Western Ukraine) who worked for the public television network Channel 112. He was the first journalist to go to Donbass in 20914, in order to see what was going on there with his own eyes. He saw that it was a civil war, a fratricidal war. At the end of January 2015, on the heels of the government announcement of another wave of military conscription mobilization, he launched an antiwar ppeal to the Ukrainians.
Ruslan Kotsaba was arrested by the SBU February 7, 2015 at Ivano-Frankovsk after publishing a video describing “The fratricidal civil war in Donbass.” He was immediately jailed. He was formally charged with “high treason” on March 31. The maximum penalty is 15 years imprisonment. He was also charged with “obstruction of the legitimate activities of the armed forces,” a masterpiece of a charge that could get him eight more years of prison.
Amnesty International has called for his immediate and unconditional release and counts the treatment accorded to him as shameful restriction of liberty of expression. His most recent court appearance was December 24, where he addressed the appeal above to the deputies of the European Parliament.
1. Detention of journalist Ruslan Kotsaba, charged with “treason”, extended for another 60 days, report on New Cold War.org, June 17, 2015
… Meanwhile, members of the media are suffering harassment at the hands of the authorities. Among them is the journalist and prominent blogger Ruslan Kotsaba – recently named as Amnesty International’s first Ukrainian prisoner of conscience in five years. He could face more than a decade in prison on the charge of “high treason” and for his views on the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Ruslan Kotsaba was arrested on 7 February, 2015 in Ivano-Frankivsk, 130 km south-east of Lviv, after he posted a video describing the conflict as “the Donbas fratricidal civil war”. He also expressed opposition to military conscription of Ukrainians to take part in the conflict.
After being formally charged on 31 March with “high treason”, he faces up to 15 years in prison, as well as up to an eight-year sentence on a further charge of “hindering the legitimate activities of the armed forces”. Amnesty International has called for his immediate and unconditional release. We see his treatment as a brazen restriction on the right to freedom of expression.
The freedom to peacefully exercise that right was one of the fundamental rallying cries of the EuroMaydan protesters.
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