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Experts say persecution of NGOs in Ukraine's Odessa region is abuse of human rights

April 10, 2015, 18:28 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov

MOSCOW, April 10. /TASS/. Mass detentions of human rights campaigners by the Ukrainian Security Service in the Odessa Region for the sole reason they have decided to unite into a Popular Rada (Assembly) of Bessarabia (a historical region in Eastern Europe, currently split up between Moldova and Ukraine) violate the rights of ethnic minorities and run counter to the country’s legislation, polled experts have told TASS.

On Monday, April 6, the ethnic minorities of the Odessa Region, in the south of Ukraine, set up a non-governmental organization calling itself the Popular Rada of Bessarabia with the aim to campaign for their interests. The founding conference brought together more than 100 delegates, including members of local elective bodies of government, politicians, public figures and journalists from seven ethnic communities of the Odessa Region - Bulgarians, Gagauzes, Russians, Ukrainians, Gypsies, Moldovans and Poles. "We see our mission in gaining our people’s decent representation in the political and economic affairs of Ukraine. Our communities are to have a say in decisions that concern our territory," one of the newly-founded organization’s leaders, Dmitry Zatuliveter, told the media.

Bessarabia is a historical region in the southeast of Europe lying between the Black Sea and the Danube, Prut and Dniester rivers. Part of it is in the Odessa Region, which borders on the self-proclaimed republic of Trans-Dniestria.

On April 8-9, Ukrainian Security Service agents detained several hundred people suspected of "terrorist activities." "The Ukrainian Security Service has cleared Odessa and its region of a criminal, separatist terrorist organization, whose aim was to destabilize the situation," the service’s chief, Valentin Nalivaichenko, said.

Another trouble spot has cropped up on the map of Ukraine.

The Popular Rada of Bessarabia has issued a statement saying its activists faced persecution by the Ukrainian security service. "Ukrainian special services have unleashed a campaign of real terror against our activists. The chairman of the organization’s presidium, Dmitry Zatuliveter has disappeared. All attempts to establish his whereabouts have failed," the statement runs.

On Thursday, the PRB presidium addressed President Petro Poroshenko with a demand for ending reprisals against its members.

"In Odessa and its region human and civil rights are being crudely abused. We are demanding that you as the guarantor of the Constitution should restore constitutional order to Odessa and its region, to terminate repression against the members of the Popular Rada of Bessarabia, and to punish those security service agents who broke Ukrainian laws. You are striving to join Europe. Is this European democracy?" the message to the Ukrainian president runs.

The director of the Institute of Political Studies, Sergey Markov, believes that after they got into hot water in the southeast of Ukraine, where self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics have cropped up, the authorities in Kiev are now are tightening the screws on the whole nation and suppressing all popular attempts at self-organization, particularly so in the potentially autonomous regions. In the meantime, the Popular Rada of Bessarabia is a quite harmless club of intellectuals enjoying no special influence in Odessa. What kind of saboteurs and terrorists are they?" asks Markov, a member of Russia’s Civic Chamber.

"As the social, economic and political situation in Ukraine turns from bad to worse, the authorities in Kiev hurry to crack down on any potential pockets of protest. The number of arrests on far-fetched charges of separatism keeps growing across the country. Today’s Ukraine shows every feature of a nationalist, police state," Markov told TASS.

In Ukraine, the director of the Civil Society Studies Institute, Vitaly Kulik, points out that the participants in the PRB founding conference were discussing ways of supporting cultural, language, educational, social and humanitarian projects, the establishment of closer ties among ethnic communities inside the region and cross-border cooperation as well. "In other words, exclusively humanitarian problems were in focus. There was not the slightest trace of any violation of Ukrainian legislation," Kulik told TASS.

And the deputy director of the CIS Studies Institute, Vladimir Zharikhin, believes that the Popular Rada of Bessarabia and its supporters would like to enjoy the same rights to create cultural autonomies other ethnic minorities have in the European countries. "But the authorities in Kiev, while professing commitment to euro-integration, have been behaving like savages. They keep detaining peaceful civilians and labeling them terrorists and saboteurs. One cannot but feel surprise over the duplicity of EU politicians who keep quiet although they are witnesses to crude violations of the human rights and the rights of ethnic minorities in Ukraine," Zharikhin told TASS.

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