On June 12, 2018, joint press conference of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Center for Civil Liberties and Let My People Go campaign “Hybrid Hospitality: Will All 5 Thousand Ukrainians Return from FIFA World Cup” was held in Kyiv at Glavcom press center.
The press conference was attended by the UHHRU Head of Analytics Oleg Martynenko, Chief Editor of the Euromaidan Press and participant of the Let My People Go campaign Alya Shandra and Deputy Head of the Board of the Center for Civil Liberties Oleksandra Romantsova.
Human rights defenders reminded everyone of the cases of Ukrainian political prisoners in the Russian Federation and spoke about potential and actual threats to Ukrainian citizens in Russia on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. They also expounded on the human rights situation there, which is politically motivated, on the number of fabricated cases against Ukrainian citizens and inefficient protection for them in Russian courts, as well as instances of kidnappings.
According to UHHRU Head of Analytics Oleg Martynenko, those 5 thousand Ukrainian citizens who are going to visit the FIFA World Cup in Russia fall under the victim category. He noted that these people have willingly put themselves in a situation where they are objects of increased criminal interest, given the anti-Ukrainian sentiments in Russian society. The human rights defender added that Ukrainian authorities should be prepared to deal not with five thousand people, but with fifteen thousand at the very least, since each of them will have at least two relatives.
Editor of the Euromaidan Press website and participant of the Let My People Go campaign Alya Shandra remarked that Ukrainian citizens who bought tickets for the World Cup might join the numbers of the almost 70 Ukrainian political prisoners, whose freedom Oleg Sentsov is trying to win with his hunger strike. She also showed examples of Russian media’s comments regarding the cases of Ukrainian political prisoners in the occupied Crimea and Russia, reaching the following conclusion: “For this propaganda machine that portrays Ukrainians as criminals and incites hatred for us to work, they need live proof, and this proof does show up from time to time – in the form of Kremlin’s political prisoners.”
Deputy Head of the Board of the Center for Civil Liberties Oleksandra Romantsova spoke of the challenges that Ukraine’s consuls face trying to help arrested Ukrainians, as well as of their protection in Russian courts, given Russia’s nontransparent penitentiary system and the activities of its Federal Security Service. “If a soccer fan finds himself under the scrutiny of the FSB, he should be aware that Ukrainian consuls are busy trying to liberate Kremlin’s prisoners, which means help will not come right away. Judging by some cases, consuls often have to wait months before they are allowed to meet with Ukrainian citizens help in pretrial detention facilities. Kremlin’s prisoners are scattered throughout Russia. Some of them are found only after six months of searching. For instance, they had been hiding Mr. Klych and Mr. Karpyuk from us in prisons for half a year. Seven lawyers tried to join this case to offer their protection, as is guaranteed by all international documents. Please stay at home,” recommended the human rights defender at the Glavcom press conference.
Oleksandr Sokolovskyi, Head of the Office for Cooperation with the National Police, Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, was also present at the press conference. According to him, the Ministry has no powers beyond the state borders and thus can only ask Ukrainians to be careful and heed the recommendations published on official websites, particularly that of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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