In Digest, Feature Articles, Roger Annis, Ukraine

By Roger Annis, Sept 17, 2015

On September 16, President Petro Poroshenko issued a decree naming 388 foreign persons who are banned from travel to Ukraine. The published list of banned persons was compiled by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. They are deemed to be threats to the interests and national security of Ukraine.

President Petro Poroshenko (Andrew Kravchenko, Reuters)

President Petro Poroshenko (Andrew Kravchenko, Reuters)

The list includes academics, political officials and journalists from countries across Europe. Most are Russian. It includes 41 journalists and bloggers, including three from the BBC.

Poroshenko also issued a list of 105 more Russian entities from which Ukraine will cut ties. These include airlines, financial institutions and civil organizations.

The ban on the BBC employees was soon lifted by Poroshenko’s office. Two Spanish and one German journalist will also be removed from the list. Those whose bans were lifted are Anton Chicherova, Amy Wells and Steve Rosenberg of the BBC, Spaniards Manuel Angel Sastre and Jose Antonio Rodriguez Pampliega, and German Michael Rutz.

There is a great degree of incoherence in the list, as evidenced by its inclusion of journalists from the BBC, which is a media outlet sympathetic to the Ukrainian regime’s political goals. The Russian news agency TASS says that two of its three journalists named by Poroshenko do not write about Ukraine. Media reports say that the two named Spanish journalists went missing in the Middle East in July and are presumed to be detained by Islamist forces.

The list includes the 81-year-old violinist and founder and director of the Vivaldi Orchestra, Svetlana Bezrodnaya, 90-year-old academician Boris Rounov, and Alexei Borisovich Mozgovoi. The latter was a leader of a self-defense military and political brigade in Lugansk, eastern Ukraine. He was tragically assassinated in May 2015.

A copy of the decree targeting the individuals (in Ukrainian) can be viewed here.

Poroshenko welcomes UK ambassador to Ukraine the day after backtracking on banning three BBC journalists from Ukraine (photo by Office of President Poroshenko)

Poroshenko welcomes UK ambassador to Ukraine the day after backtracking on banning three BBC journalists from Ukraine (photo by Office of President Poroshenko)

Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy Johannes Hahn told Sputnik, referring to the journalism ban, “I have just heard about it, I have to look into it, but at the first glance I’m surprised and I’m concerned… I wouldn’t say this is in the European spirit.”

The Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Dunja Mijatović, has also criticized the ban on journalists.

Four days ago, the European Commission extended for another six months its ban on travel and asset freezes against 149 Russian individuals and 37 Russian businesses and other entities.

Ukrainian Minister for Information Policy Yuri Stets has written on Facebook that Ukraine’s ban list needs an overhaul.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement on Sept 16 condemning the decree by Poroshenko. The statement explains, “The 34 journalists and seven bloggers named in the ban come from Bulgaria, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The decree, which was published on the presidential website, does not explain what press coverage Ukrainian authorities deem as a threat to national security.”

CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova says, “We are dismayed by President Poroshenko’s actions, including a ban on dozens of international media covering Ukraine. While the government may not like or agree with the coverage, labeling journalists a potential threat to national security is not an appropriate response. In fact, this sweeping decree undermines Ukraine’s interests by blocking vital news and information that informs the global public about the country’s political crisis.”

Commentator Bryan MacDonald writes on, “If you were a PR adviser to Ukraine’s leaders and they asked you to compile a list of things they must not do, banning journalists would be high up there. Perhaps even at number one. While those who understand Ukraine know that the regime is even worse than its horrible predecessor, Western media has not reported this reality. Hence, the general public in Europe and North America doesn’t have the foggiest notion.

“Firing cluster bombs at civilians would be prominent too. Nevertheless, Kiev has already done that. Luckily for them, the western press doesn’t seem to mind.”

MacDonald notes the lame, initial response by Western journalists to Poroshenko’s decree. “‘Worrying’, said Mashable’s Christopher Miller. Freelancer Oliver Carroll, frequently seen in The Independent, felt it was ‘quite a pickle’.”

Kyiv is lashing out over its military defeats in the east

Poroshenko says the censorship and sanctions he announced on September 16 are intended to punish anyone associating with the rebellions in Crimea and Donbas against the overthrow of Ukraine’s elected president in February 2014.

Most specifically, The Guardian reports on Sept 16: “Poroshenko announced the new round of sanctions in response to the rebels’ plan to hold local elections in October and November in territory they control [Donetsk and Lugansk]. ‘This adventurism and irresponsible decision requires our exact, coordinated reaction to the threat that has been created to the Minsk (peace) agreements,’ he said at the time.”

On September 1, Prime Minister Aleksandr Zakharchenko of the Donetsk People’s Republic held a press conference to announce that local and municipal elections will take place there on October 18 in accordance with the terms of the ceasefire accord signed in Minsk, Belarus on Feb. 12, 2015. He said that Kyiv’s refusal to abide by the terms of Minsk-2 requiring it to negotiate a political settlement with rebel authorities in Donetsk and Lugansk will not deter the election plans.

Similar elections will take place in the Lugansk People’s Republic on November 1.

A renewed ceasefire went into effect in eastern Ukraine on September 1 and has been holding. It results from a combination of pressures operating on Kyiv. European governments have said they want Kyiv to abide by Minsk-2 and curb its civil war. The Ukrainian economy is in freefall and Ukraine’s armed forces are in poor shape to continue fighting. Evasion of military conscription has assumed massive proportions.

A recent poll reveals that only five per cent of Ukrainians are fully confident in the economic “reforms” (economic association with austerity Europe) on which the current government is embarked. Another 26 per cent believe in them, though with doubts. Less than two per cent of those polled believe that Russia is a “main driving force” of the economic crisis in the country and only 12 per cent consider Russia to be an obstacle to the Ukrainian government “reforms”.

Journalists killed and jailed while books, movies, newspapers and television banned

On April 16, of this year, journalist and Euromaidan critic Oles Buzina was gunned down in front of his home in broad daylight in Kyiv. Two men were arrested for the murder, both members of extreme right organizations. The two have become folk heroes of their cohorts. Hundreds demonstrated in the streets of Odessa earlier this week calling for the release of the two.

The march in Odessa was spearheaded by the Right Sector and the Svoboda Party, as is the broader campaign on behalf of the accused killers. On August 26, a memorial plaque for Buzina that had been erected in front of his house was desecrated and torn down by a rightist mob. A plaque honouring his accused murderers was put in its place. All this in broad daylight in central Kyiv.

Ruslan Kotsaba in court on June 3, 2015 (RFE-RL)

Ruslan Kotsaba in court on June 3, 2015 (RFE-RL)

Journalist Ruslan Kotsaba has been sitting in jail since April of this year. He is accused of “treason” for opposing Ukraine’s military conscription. Kotsaba does not deny the accusation and says he wants his day in court. He says Kyiv’s civil war in the east of the country is undeclared and therefore illegal. Kyiv calls its war in the east an “anti-terrorist operation”. It also says Russia has invaded Ukraine and the country is at war with the invader.

Not reported in the mainstream news of this latest banning move is that the Euromaidan government in Kyiv has extensively banned Russian-language television, newspapers and magazines since coming to power in February 2014.

On April 2 of this year, Poroshenko signed into law a measure banning Russian films and television series. The measure bans any film or television series made in Russia after January 1, 2014, those made after 1991 containing “positive depictions” of the Russian government and police and armed forces, and those considered to be “anti-Ukrainian”, whenever they were made.

Last year, Ukraine banned from Ukrainian airwaves more than a dozen Russian television news channels.

Book banning has also come into vogue. Last month, the Kyiv regime issued an initial ban against 38 books, including several consisting of published reports on the human rights situation in the country.

Ottawa researcher Ivan Katchanovski reports on his Facebook page on Sept 16: ” The Security Service of Ukraine has opened a criminal investigation of distribution of “anti-Ukrainian” books at the recent forum of publishers in the city of Lviv. Specifically, books published by Folio Publishers are mentioned by the head of SBU in the Lviv region. The police official claims the books are a secret operation of the Russian domestic security agency (FSB).”

The publisher of Folio has responded to the threats against his publishing house. Folio is based in Kharkiv and according to Publishers Global is the largest Ukrainian publishing house. It was established in 1991 and publishes classical and contemporary literature, fiction, educational and computer books in Russian and Ukrainian languages.

Katchanovski reports, “There will be no reaction from the Western governments and no Western mainstream media reports concerning such actions by the Ukrainian secret police, which reportedly has U.S. advisers.”

Desecration of Babi Yar Memorial in Kyiv on Sept 13, 2015 (photo on World Jewish News)

Desecration of Babi Yar Memorial in Kyiv on Sept 13, 2015 (photo on World Jewish News)

The banning decision comes three days after the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust at Babi Yar in Kyiv was once again desecrated. It is the sixth attack against the memorial this year. An estimated  33,771 people of Jewish faith were killed by Nazi occupation forces and their collaborators in a two-day massacre at the Babi Yar ravine in September 1941.

Other memorials as well as synagogues have been attacked in Ukraine since the Euromaidan government came to power. Earlier this month, a Jewish pilgrimage was attacked in Uman, Ukraine. Local police stood by and did not intervene.

This article also appeared on Counterpunch, Sept 18, 2015. Roger Annis is an editor of New Cold He can be reached at [email protected].


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