22 January 2019

Yesterday, speaking at the debates of the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I drew the attention of parliamentarians of European states to violations of the basic document of the Council of Europe – the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in Ukraine.

The opposition bloc challenged in courts the closure of polling stations in the Russian Federation as a gross infringement of the electoral rights of Ukrainian citizens living in the Russian Federation, but the Supreme Court decided on the legality of such actions, arguing that three million Ukrainians will be able to vote in neighbouring states: Finland, Kazakhstan and Georgia. I consider this decision politically motivated: the authorities did not allow citizens, who left for work and who were fleeing the war, to go to the polls, because they do not intend to vote for the current president. All the possibilities of Ukrainian justice in protecting the rights of Ukrainians to vote in the Russian Federation have been exhausted, and we will appeal to the ECHR.

I also drew the attention of PACE to cases of violation of the right to freedom of religion and non-interference of the state in the affairs of the church, guaranteed by article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Such cases have become widespread in Ukraine in connection with the active assistance of state institutions to the establishment of a pro-presidential religious organization, the Orthodox Church of Ukraine.

The authorities rudely intervened in religious affairs, discriminating the largest Orthodox denomination – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). At the end of December, the coalition majority passed a law obliging the UOC to change its name and re-register its charters, without obliging other confessions to take such steps, which is a blatant discrimination. The authorities may refuse the UOC in re-registration of its charters for political reasons. The other day, the Parliament, violating constitutional procedures in a grossly manner again, adopted another law contrary to the Convention, which actually legalizes seizure of UOC temples and churches. Unfortunately, takeovers of temples are already happening every day. The authorities put the rights of this largest denomination at threat, depriving its believers of their right to freedom of religion.

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