In Kyiv, the press conference of UHHRU and the Media Initiative for Human Rights about the trafficking of Ukrainian citizens, organized by the Russian drug mafia was held.
Over the past two years, hundreds of citizens of Ukraine were trapped by drug mafia and trafficked. Borys Zakharov, Director of the Advocacy Center of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union, believes that the extent of fraud is much bigger.
‘Through the channels in Russian pre-detention centers, we have found that in every city there are at least ten Ukrainian citizens are imprisoned under this article. Thus, we can conclude about a huge scope of the scheme, and that there about three thousand people are imprisoned under this scheme’, he said.
The Ukrainians, detained in Russia, are accused by two Criminal Code of the country: Article 228 (illegal narcotrafficking) that is punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of 15 years, and Article 210 (Creation of a criminal community) that is punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of 20 years.
Olena Biletska, the mother of one of the victims, said that her son decided to go to work in Russia since he was looking for a job for three months. He passed a polygraph in Kyiv, then he was sent to Moscow, where his SIM card and mobile phone were was taken away and destroyed.
‘When a few days later, my son realized that he was a victim of fraud, we decided to return to Ukraine. He was denied and threatened. Once he bought a ticket to Kyiv and reported it to his girlfriend on the phone, he had been detained by the Russian police,’ says Olena Biletska.
The woman was denied to meet him and can communicate with him only through a lawyer. Olena Biletska created a closed Facebook group “Human Trafficking (Victims)”, where people can exchange information.
Vira Volodii, the mother of the other victim, says that her son is more than a year in jail, and she cannot communicate with him. Already four times he got the message that he had died.
‘In the Kyiv subway, advertising posters of this criminal organization reappeared. I urge everyone not to respond to them, because this way you can get into the trap,’ says Vira Volodii.
Maria Tomak, Coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights, said that the victims of traffickers under the control of the Russian Federation and are subjected to ethnic discrimination: this is a specific treatment by other prisoners and detention in isolation ward for no reason.
‘Ukraine has certain obligations concerning these people. We constantly remind to Ukrainian law enforcement, so they do not forget about the cases because these people are victims and must be recognized as such,’ says Maria Tomak.
According to Maria Tomak, the Ukrainian police do not recognize anyone convicted under Article 228 as victims, because many of them consciously decided to take part in the crime. But the human rights defender believes that it is necessary to explain thoroughly.
According to the human rights defender, now in Ukraine, there are only two criminal proceedings under article 149 (human trafficking or other illegal agreement on humans) concerning these events.
‘None of the Ukrainians, who are in prison in Russia, is recognized as a victim because in doing so, our law enforcement agencies require the presence of these people in Ukraine. In our opinion, this is a bad excuse. There are mechanisms for cooperation between the police of the two countries, and they should be used. But our government still has no strategy for the return of these people in Ukraine. This should deal with the Ministry of Justice,’ says Maria Tomak.
The Media Initiative for Human Rights and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union demand to recognize those persons involved in the criminal scheme by a compulsion as victims.
Natalia Fedorovych, Deputy Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine, recalls that a person recognized as a victim of human trafficking falls within the scope of national and international protection programs. During 2016, the Government of Ukraine managed to return home 15 our fellow citizens, who were victims of trafficking: 8 – from Kuwait, 2 – from Lebanon, 2 – from Cyprus, 1 – from Jordan, 1 – from Malaysia and 1 – from Poland. According to Natalie Fedorovych, to date, in specialized institutions abroad is another 15 our citizens, who are waiting to return to Ukraine.
‘I urge Ukrainians to be very careful about the employment of structures associated with the work of a courier, and especially – in Russia because Ukraine due to the political situation is not able to protect the rights of its citizens in this situation,’ said Nataliia Fedorovych.
Natalia Fedorovych said that active work is currently being done between the Cabinet of Ministers and the Parliament to address this problem.
Inna Koval, a lawyer of the Strategic Litigations Centre of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, explained what the victims of human trafficking and their relatives should do.
To contact the Department to Combat Human Trafficking (01601, Kyiv, 10 Bohomoltsia str., Office: +38 (044) 254-74-30 Fax: +38 (044) 254-98-76, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), notifying about the crime. It should include the most detailed description of everything that happened with a man since his/her departure from Ukraine. Especially, worth noting: was there misleading about the nature of work? Whether the victim tried to leave the Russian Federation after it understood the nature of the work? What were the threats that prevented him from doing it? What were the threats and perceived victim or these threats as real? Do not copy other similar stories of other victims.
To contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and consular offices of Ukraine in the Russian Federation. The Ukrainian Consul may visit the victim in prison or jail and check the conditions of his detention and treatment to them.
To send a personally signed appeal of a victim to the National Police of Ukraine, and to ask to recognize the status of a victim.
If a victim has been already condemned in Russia, his/her parents can apply to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine with a request for serving a sentence in our state.
In the Russian Federation, you also have to apply to the Investigative Committee. It is desirable to do it by the victim. It must be added to the application that Ukraine has been already investigating these crimes.
If a person is not sentenced, during the preliminary investigation, he/she must state that is a victim of human trafficking, describe the deception and intimidation in a written form.