KIEV, May 17. /TASS/. Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko should immediately lift sanctions against Russian social networks VKontakte and Odnoklassniki, as well as Mail.ru and Yandex companies, and take steps to protect freedom of expression and information in Ukraine, Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
"It’s an inexcusable violation of Ukrainians’ right to information of their choice, and the European Union and Ukraine’s other international partners should immediately call on Ukraine to reverse it," Tanya Cooper, Ukraine researcher at Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying. "In a single move Poroshenko dealt a terrible blow to freedom of expression in Ukraine," she said.
"This is yet another example of the ease with which President Poroshenko unjustifiably tries to control public discourse in Ukraine. Poroshenko may try to justify this latest step, but it is a cynical, politically expedient attack on the right to information affecting millions of Ukrainians, and their personal and professional lives," Cooper said.
The decree would be hard to enforce without changing the law as "only a court can order internet service providers to take action against a website," Human Rights Watch said with reference to Oksana Romaniuk, executive director of Kyiv-based Institute of Mass Information.
On May 16, Pyotr Poroshenko brought into effect a decision made by the country’s National Security and Defense Council on expanding sanctions on Russia. Sanctions have been imposed on several TV channels and companies, including 1C, ABBYY and their Ukrainian subsidiaries. Also, Russia’s VKontakte and Odnoklassniki social networks, Mail.ru and Yandex companies have been banned. Vkontakte is the largest and most popular social networking website both in Russia and Ukraine. Odnoklassniki ranks fifth in popularity in these countries. Both websites were founded in 2006 and belong to Mail.Ru Group Russian Internet company.