From RT, February 12, 2015
(RIA Novosti / Evgeny Kotenko)
A bill submitted by an MP from President Poroshenko’s party in the Ukrainian parliament seeks to criminalize public speech that reject the government’s narrative on the civil war, which it describes as a Russian military invasion.
The controversial bill amends the Ukrainian criminal code to make “public denial or justification of the Russian military aggression against Ukraine in 2014-2015” a felony.
The ‘crime’ would carry a penalty ranging from a heavy fine and up to a five-year jail term for repeat offences or convicts who held public office.
If the bill is signed into law, it would be the latest move to attack civil freedoms by Ukraine’s post-coup government defending its security policies from criticism.
Last week a Ukrainian court ordered the two-month detention of a journalist from western Ukraine who called for a boycott of the ongoing military draft. Ruslan Kotsaba stated that he would rather spend two to five years in prison for refusing to serve in the military than shoot at Ukrainians in what he described as a ‘fratricidal war’. Prosecutors charged him with high treason, a crime carrying a 15-year term in Ukraine.
The prosecution of Kotsaba was sharply criticized by Amnesty International, which labeled him a ‘prisoner of conscience’ and demanded his immediate release.
“Ruslan Kotsaba’s position may be viewed differently. But by arresting him for making his position public, the Ukrainian authorities violate the basic human right for freedom of expression, which the Ukrainians had been defending at the Maidan,” Tatyana Mazur, head of Amnesty’s Ukrainian branch, said in a statement.
In a separate incident, Anton Gerashchenko an aide to the Ukrainian interior minister threatened opponents of the military draft that any person taking part in last week’s anti-war rally in Mariupol would be detained, identified and fingerprinted.