YURI BUTUSOV: To everyone who was on the Maidan on December 1st

By Yuri Butusov, Ukrainian journalist and editor-in-chief of censor.net.ua
Dec. 1, 2017
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

Four years ago I left the house and saw an unforgettable image. Lines of people stretched to the subway from every house in the densely populated Kharkiv massif. One subway car after another was overflowing with people, headed to the city center on a Sunday (!) afternoon (!). People were more tightly packed than even during the morning rush hour – yet there was no aggression or anxiety.

Near the Palats Sporty [Sports Palace] stop, someone in the subway car started singing the Ukrainian Anthem, and suddenly, most of the passengers joined in. That day, I would tear up more than once, including from the tear gas – but this was the first time. Before that day, I had sung the anthem at the stadium, at some events – but this was the first time I heard it sung by people who, outside of sharing their transport, were strangers. Everyone understood that the Ukrainian anthem was a password shared by those who share the struggle, an insignia for those who would no longer tolerate the insult to society, those who, on that day, decided to become a Citizen.

Everyone who sang it was declaring, ‘I’m travelling to the rally in support of the dispersed EuroMaidan.’ Dozens of strangers in the subway car used the anthem to confess to each other that they were traveling together, full of determination, and they would no longer be afraid. Later, the anthem was sung on the escalator, which was difficult to get onto – a humongous crowd filled the entire station platform, and proceeded upstairs, incredibly politely and attentively, so as not to bump into anyone. They sang the hymn in the underground passage, in the street, and then everywhere. A colossal sea of ​​people flooded downtown Kyiv, and this tremendous solidarity among the hundreds of thousands of people who didn’t know each other, showed that the people would win. That anyone who stood in the way of the people would be swept away, because there was nothing stronger in the world than this human sea.

It must have taken me over an hour to make my way from Shevchenko Park to the Maidan. There were no longer any cordons, the police and internal troops had fled, abandoning the strategically important Christmas tree, the fences had disappeared. The beginning of the rally was delayed; two honking cars could not pass through the dense crowd surrounding the Maidan from all sides. People were incredibly polite and helpful. I saw a bagpiper who played as he walked. I saw a young man in knight’s armor. The people calmly waited for the politicians to arrive, talking to each other and browsing the Internet on their smartphones.

That was when I saw things for what they were: the real Revolution. This is a whole new caliber of civil society – people who no longer needed to be entertained, who didn’t need a leader to give them speeches. People stood there consciously, and no one would back down. And another thing I clearly realized, at the very beginning of the rally, was that everything on the Maidan would be fine, that my participation would not be needed there. And I understood that the authorities would want to use some technology against the Maidan, that something shown on the evening news would have to eclipse the incredibly powerful image of Kyiv, which came to the rally almost in its entirety… To everyone who was on the Maidan, back then on the 1st of December – thank you.

Photo: Yuri Butusov, 1:30pm on Dec. 1, 2013

Source: Yuri Butusov FB page


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Global Action: ‘Waiting In Vain’ at airports for Ukrainian political prisoners. #FreeKolchenko

By Senior Voices of Ukraine Staff

Today, activists in both Ukraine, Canada, Poland, Austria, the USA and the Czech Republic marked Ukrainian political prisoner [Oleksandr] Sasha Kolchenko’s birthday in a variety of ways, including by organizing a symbolic action in airport arrival terminals, entitled “Pointless Waiting” or as they called it in Toronto,“Waiting in Vain,” to support Kolchenko and other Ukrainian political prisoners. Each activist carried a sign with Kolchenko’s name or the name of a political prisoner who is being unjustly and illegally held – by now there are around 60 political prisoners whom Moscow is holding in either Crimea or Russia. The action was timed to coincide with Kolchenko’s birthday, it is now his 4th birthday behind bars in a crude, cold and remote prison in Kopeysk, in Chelyabinsk oblast, Russia. The title of this global action carries some irony and is intended to create a sense of dissonance that stays with the viewer, since “Waiting in Vain” is fundamentally about showing up for an act of remembrance, a supportive action of hope-filled determination, and a meme-change from writing postcards to prisoners. Far from being ‘pointless’, it alerts the authorities to the continued determination of global civil society to stand with the dissidents and lets the prisoners themselves know visually that they are awaited globally by many, with flowers and open arms.

The action was started by Czech activists in Prague, one of whom, Otakar van Gemund stated: “We are symbolically waiting for the ‘victims of Putin’s Russia.’ The FB event page specifies: This time around the action will focus exclusively on Ukrainians who find themselves in Russian captivity in Russian-occupied Crimea, the Russian-occupied area of the Ukrainian Donbas region, or in Russia itself. There they are either languishing in jail without any form of due process, are in custody awaiting an unfair and manipulated trial or are already serving a prison sentence after having been unjustly convicted on the basis of falsified charges. This particular action is conceived internationally to take place on November 26, the birthday of the wrongfully convicted Ukrainian activist Oleksandr ‘Sasha’ Kolchenko, at various airports right across the world.”

Activists at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport Arrivals Gate.

In Toronto, at the Pearson International Airport, activists gathered at the Arrivals gate to focus on Crimean and especially Crimean Tatar political prisoners–many of whom have not enjoyed the same wider media attention of other Ukrainian political prisoners. The chairman of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center and member of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, Eskender Bariyev has stated that 57 political prisoners are currently held in Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister for Information Policy Emine Dzhaparova noted that, “More than 50 symbols of resistance in the annexed Crimea are people who are under trial or are serving their sentences in political cases, and it is important to inform [the public] about these cases and other cases of violations of rights and freedoms in Crimea,” adding that 100 children are now left on the peninsula without support from parents who are victims of repression. Since Russian annexation, Crimea has been subject to more frequent searches in the homes and offices of especially pro-Ukrainian independent journalists, public activists, activists of the Crimean Tatar national movement, members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, as well as Crimean Muslims suspected of having links to the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organization with no links to violence in Crimea, that is banned in Russia, but not in Ukraine.

Signs held by activists participating in the Pearson International Airport action included the names of Sasha Kolchenko and Oleg SentsovBekir Degermendzhi, Mustafa Degermendzhi, Ali Asanov, Asan Chapukh, Kazim Ametov, Volodymyr Balukh, Muslim Aliev, Remzi Memetov, Enver Mamutov.

Last year at mid-November, according to the U.S. OSCE Mission to Ukraine, there were 21 Crimean Tatars facing baseless charges of “terrorism” or “extremism” and 30,000 Crimean residents had fled the peninsula fearing reprisal for their pro-Ukrainian views. These repressions were the basis for global sanctions to remain in place against the Kremlin until Russia ends its occupation and attempted annexation and returns control of the territories to Ukraine. Today, a year later, both of those numbers have grown exponentially and the OSCE Mission’s current report states: “The politically motivated targeting of Crimean Tatars, and others opposed to Russia’s occupation of Crimea, continues unabated…Russia has detained dozens of Ukrainians on a variety of baseless pretexts…Those who have survived more than three years of Moscow’s bloody conflict face ever deteriorating conditions…we all know the truth: this is Russia’s conflict, but it is unwilling to make even simple moves to reduce tensions…We demand the sides treat detainees humanely, and call on Russia to respect the spirit of the Minsk agreements, and to authorize the exchange of detainees without delay.”

The Crimea Human Rights Group has put together a blacklist of information regarding all judges involved in illegally imprisoning Ukrainian citizens in Russian-occupied Crimea. Despite the fact that decisions to persecute individual Ukrainian citizens are made in the Kremlin, this list provides evidence to back demands for these individuals to face sanctions and is documentation for the international courts.

Last month, in October, the Kremlin’s most famous Ukrainian political prisoner, filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, was sent to a brutal prison north of the Arctic Circle in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, the ‘White Bear’ Prison Colony No. 8 in Labytnangi. This prison colony is said to be ‘red’, a term used when the staff are free to impose their own ruthless regime, with many reports of prisoners being brutally beaten.

If you can write even a sentence in Russian (as only Russian messages are accepted) to support Sasha Kolchenko, send him a postcard to the address:
Kolchenko Aleksandr Aleksandrovich (born 1989),
IK-6, 20 Kemerovskaya Str.,
Kopeysk, Chelyabinsk Oblast, 456612, Russia.

Oleksandr, or “Sasha” (“Tundra”) Kolchenko

For a list of Ukrainian political prisoners and their profiles and information on their cases, see at the end of the article here: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

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Oleg Sentsov: “The flight continues well. :)” – Letter from Kirov SIZO

“The flight continues well” is a reference to Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight on the Vostok (“East”).
By Oleg Sentsov, shared by Tatiana Shchur, human rights activist
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine


Tatiana Shchur: Here is a letter from Oleg Sentsov, sent from SIZO-1 [detention facility] of Kirov, on September 27, 2017. There is so much irony, humor and dignity in it! He sends his greetings to Sasha [Olexander] Kolchenko, convinced that “Tundra can take care of himself!” In fact, Tundra [Kolchenko’s nickname] is currently receiving a visit from his mother…


Letter Transcript:

“Nikolay and Tatiana, hello!

“I’m writing to you from Kirov, while on my way through here. I was recently passing through your area [Chelyabinsk] on another complimentary trip organized for me by the Russian FSIN [Penitentiary Service], meals and extended security included. 🙂 🙂 I’m going from Yakutia [Sakha Republic] to Yamal [Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug], through Siberia and Ural.

“I’ve figured that over these past three-plus years, thanks to this Russian travel agency, I’ve seen all of Russia’s great rivers: Volga, Kama, Ob, Yenisei, and Lena. I even saw a bit of Lake Baikal from the window of an air prison, on the chartered flight from Yakutsk to Irkutsk. Now I’m going to look at Ob again, and even temporarily reside somewhere around its eponymous Guba [the Gulf of Ob]! 🙂 ))

“The place is called Labytnangi (I hope I spelled that right), it’s somewhere close to Kharp, the “Snowy Owl” [maximum security prison] and polar bears. Arctic night and northern lights guaranteed. In my opinion, it would be very stupid to turn down such a tempting offer, especially since no-one really asked for my opinion. 🙂 )

“Along the way, I’ve seen several places considered “scary”: Irkutsk, Omsk, now Kirov. Didn’t collect any bumps, and did not observe any humiliating treatment or physical violence. It’s institutional treatment alright, but it’s all “if you please.” Are the times changing, or are they faking it well? Hopefully, the former.

“I didn’t receive any of your letters while in Yakutia, even though I know you wrote to me. I wrote one myself, but it looks like it also failed to arrive. Yakutia is some kind of black hole in this respect.

“Overall, I’m doing okay, feeling fine, the flight continues well  🙂 ). Send my greetings to all our people!

“Don’t write to this address, obviously: they’re moving people around fast now, so I’ll be on my way before you even get this letter. (Hopefully, you will get it, unless Kirov is like Yakutia).

“With this, I will take my leave.

“My separate hello to Sasha Kolchenko. I’m sure he’s doing okay: Tundra can take care of himself! 🙂 )

“All the best!
Oleg Sentov”

Source: Tatiana Shchur FB

Summary of Sentsov’s case:
–  convicted by the North Caucasus Military District Court to 20 years in prison on charges of “creating a terrorist organization and committing two acts of terrorism;”
– was supposed to serve his sentence in Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange deal;
– was subsequently denied that option on false grounds;

Further reading:
Letter posted by Open Russia;
– Letter posted by Gennadii Afansiev;
– Profile pieces on Sentsov at KHPG.org: Aug 2016, Oct 2017;
Kyiv Post feature;
Oleg Sentsov in Wikipedia.


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Oleg Sentsov: “Anyway, they won’t send me to do time at the North Pole, right?”

A political prisoner’s letter to the free world
By Oleg Sentsov, with commentary by Zoya Svetova, Russian journalist/human rights activist/producer, for Open Russia
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

The Ukrainian film director [Oleg Sentsov] sent a letter from the Tyumen [detention] facility. He believes that he is being transferred to [Russia’s] northernmost maximum security colony in the Kharp village, which is known for its strict regime.

Oleg Sentsov, who was serving 20 years in a maximum security colony in Yakutsk (Open Russia: convicted by the North Caucasus district military court in August 2015 and found guilty of allegedly creating a terrorist organization in Crimea), has been transferred in an unknown direction in early September [2017].

On September 9, members of the Irkutsk Public Monitoring Commission located Sentsov in the Irkutsk detention facility.

Since then, neither his family nor his lawyers know anything about his location, or where he is being taken.

On September 29, I received a letter from Sentsov through the mail. The last page was dated September 17, 2017, Tyumen. The stamp on the envelope said: Tyumen oblast, FKU SIZO-1 [federal government agency “Detention facility-1”], Tyumen, stamp of the correspondence inspector. Posted on September 21,2017.

[the stamped envelope]

It took a week to reach Moscow.

Oleg Sentsov does not write often. From his letter, I found that while in the Yakutsk colony, he would spend months being denied access to letters sent to him by his friends, family, and strangers from all over the world. Therefore, we don’t know whether the colony’s operative department sent all of Sentov’s letters addressed to other people.

Several months ago, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia (FSIN) denied me an interview with Sentsov. When I contested this decision in the Zamoskvorets court (Mosc0w), the FSIN representative suggested that I write Sentsov a letter with the questions I wanted to ask him in person. I explained that letters do not reach Sentsov. The FSIN representative was very surprised and did not believe me.

It turned out I was right.

Every letter sent by a prisoner to the free world is like a message in a bottle tossed into the sea: who knows if it reaches anyone. I believe that Oleg sent this letter to let everyone who worries about him know where he is and what’s going on with him.

Oleg Sentsov’s letter is published below, mildly abridged:

“I’m doing okay. In transit. They whisked me away from Yakutia, and are taking me to the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug [district]. There’s only one penitentiary facility there, the legendary Kharpy. I think you know better than I do what it used to be like there, and what it’s like now. I don’t expect anything nice from this trip. Especially now that I’ve been through the Irkutsk and Omsk central prisons, and I have first-hand experience of how bad it can be.

“Physically, no-one is bothering me, of course, but you understand how this system can punish and torture people in the most perverse ways, without resorting to brute force

“Oh well, it’ll be alright!

“I haven’t written in a while because I really wasn’t in the mood. Not because I’m depressed or feeling dispirited — that’s not my thing, don’t worry!

“I’m just not a very talkative person, and there are periods where I minimize external communication.

“The Yakutsk operative department contributed to that, by the way: this year they issued two postcards to me, one for New Year’s, and one for my birthday. But before I left, they didn’t just return the box to me with old letters that they’d kept for the last year and half, but also gave me about a hundred new ones. They’d collected them for a year, and only now decided to give up their paper hostages. So now I’m reading while in transit. They also gave me a dozen of the books I’d been sent and not given earlier.

“I’m cursing as I drag this, very valuable to me, literature from prison to prison, but it would be a shame to abandon it. Ask them not to send me any more books, okay? Because they’re not sending me the books I need, but I still can’t throw them away. So I’m giving them away when I can, and dragging them with me, but that’s as much of this portable library as I can transport!

“Also, don’t send me any parcels that I don’t request, because I’m only allowed a parcel once every three months. I would rather write to Natasha (Open Russia: Oleg Sentsov’s sister) or to someone else, through you, ask for what I need and receive those exact things. There have been situations where some kind soul would take pity on the poor political prisoner, and send a parcel with some useless nonsense. Meanwhile, I run out of the supplies I’d been sent, and have to wait another three months to get the things I need.

“I’ll write when I get to the place.

“One last thing on the needful topic (which, by the way, takes up a large portion of a detainee’s life) — please ask my sister Natasha to put about 10 thousand roubles [USD 170] on my prison account. By the time I get there, they’ll reach me.

“Speaking of kind deeds that don’t always bring good results.

“Klimkin (Open Russia: Ukraine’s Foreign Minister) tried to phone me on my birthday in July, and Pussy Riot, with Alekhina, came to Yakutsk to support me. That was really cool! But instead of the phone call, I received another stretch in solitary [SIZO] (my fourth or fifth one), and then got transferred to a stricter place, Kharp. Russian FSIN signed an order to that effect in late July. That does not mean that I’m asking you not to do anything.

“All you, out there, can do anything you consider necessary to support me or other political prisoners. Just know that local law enforcers follow their own brand of logic, and this is how they react sometimes.

“After all, they’re not going to send me to do my time at the North Pole, right?

“Overall, everything is okay with me, and I hope that I’ll survive this trip and my time at the destination with what remains of my health. I hope you out there aren’t going to throw a panic about this, because I’m not sitting here alone; there’s many of us, and my conditions are far from the worst.

“Aside from that, I’m doing the same things as before: reading, now in English as well; editing and adding to the scripts I’ve written — this is a job I can do almost forever, but I believe I’ve got a few more collections in me; exercising as far as I can, and so on.

“Needless to say, I have been following events in Ukraine and Russia, as far as was possible. Well, I can’t say anything good — maybe the view is bad from here.

Ukraine is going through some hard times, but still scraping in the right direction somehow. Russia has permanently stuck in a dead end, and no-one knows what to do next.

“I still don’t doubt our success and our victory, nor that everything will be well — very well, even!

“With this I’ll say goodbye.
Yours, Oleg Sentsov.
Tyumen, 09.17.17

“P.S. Don’t write here [to this colony], I will be on the move before this letter even reaches you.”

Source: Open Russia

Summary of Sentsov’s case:
–  convicted by the North Caucasus Military District Court to 20 years in prison on charges of “creating a terrorist organization and committing two acts of terrorism;”
– was supposed to serve his sentence in Ukraine as part of a prisoner exchange deal;
– was subsequently denied that option on false grounds;

Further reading:
– Letter posted by Gennadii Afansiev;
– Profile pieces on Sentov at KHPG.org: Aug 2016, Oct 2017;
Kyiv Post feature;
Oleg Sentov in Wikipedia.

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DMITRY TYMCHUK: About those “Javelins” for Ukraine…

information_resistance_logo_engDmitry Tymchuk, Head of the Center for Military and Political Research, Coordinator of the Information Resistance group, Member of Parliament (People’s Front)
09.04.2017 (September 4, 2017)
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

About the “Javelins”:

US Army soldiers training with anti-tank Javelins. Photo: Spc. Patrick Kirby. Source

On the eve of the hopefully positive US decision to provide us with lethal weapons, the Ukrainian info space has turned into an utter circus. The media are wheeling out wholesale numbers of talking heads who call themselves “military experts,” spout utter nonsense, and essentially, discredit (for an unknown purpose) the notion of supplying the Ukrainian Armed Forces with American anti-tank missile systems (ATMS).

A few words in this regard:

  1. “Military experts” take note: there is no fifth generation ATMS. Nor is there a fourth. Only three generations exist in the world today – the “Javelin” being the third. Their two key points are: the concept of “fire and forget” and the ability to hit an armored target from above (where the armor is thinnest).
  2. That said, the Ukrainian defence industry currently manufactures only second-generation ATMS (Stungas and Korsars; for the ‘people in the back’: Skifs are the same as Stungas, only with different, Belarus-made guidance devices).

This does not mean we have stupid designers. It only means that for the last quarter of a century – ever since Independence – the Ukrainian Defence Industry has been the unloved daughter of the Ukrainian authorities. Please direct all of your questions at the Kravchuks and the Kuchmas, who now like to put on an intelligent air and discuss what we should be doing next.

3. The point of obtaining Javelins for the Armed Forces of Ukraine is to compel the Russians in Donbas to observe the Minsk Agreements. If every Rostov-Buryat schmuck realizes that they can’t just ride out in their T-72 tank, deployed from the Urals, and take potshots at Ukrainian Armed Forces’ positions with impunity, the permanently comatose agreements might actually start working.

Source: Dmitry Tymchuk FB post


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