Ukrainians in Warsaw threatened by 3 years of prison for “disrespecting Putin”

Activists of Euromaidan Warszawa hold a poster saying "Hutin Pui". October 2015 at the Embassy of Russia in Warsaw. Photo by Euromaidan Warszawa

Activists of Euromaidan Warszawa hold a poster saying "Hutin Pui". October 2015 at the Embassy of Russia in Warsaw. Photo by Euromaidan Warszawa 

2016/01/27 • Maidan, News, Russia

Ukrainian activists in Warsaw may be facing up to 3 years in jail for a public offence of Vladimir Putin. Their fate is now being decided in Russia

Posters portraying Putler – a combination of Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler combined, labeling Putin’s portrait with barely concealed swear words, accusing the Russian president in terrorism as well as public speeches stating he was guilty in downing the Malaysian Boeing flight MH17 and persecuting political opponents – all this served as a reason for a pro-Kremlin Polish party Zmiana to submit a request to the prosecutor’s office.

Protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Warsaw, October 2015. Photo by Euromaidan Warszawa

Protest in front of the Russian Embassy in Warsaw, October 2015. Photo by Euromaidan Warszawa

The Polish law allows prosecution for public demonstration of disrespect towards the head of another country (article 136 of the Criminal Codex). This article foresees even up to 3 years in jail though it does not contain a clear definition of “disrespect”. Helsinki Foundation for Human rights considers this law as threatening the freedom of speech.

In spring of 2015, Zmiana submitted a similar request regarding the Open Dialog Foundation, an active Polish pro-Ukrainian organization. The request was then denied and investigation wasn’t started. So almost a year later the party took up to Euromaidan Warszawa.

“Pro-Kremlin party won’t stop us,” – Euromaidan Warszawa

Ironically enough, the fate of Ukrainian activists is now being decided in Russia. The Polish prosecutor has requested the Russian side to check whether offense against Russian law had taken place. If not, Poland will close the investigation, but the leader of Euromaidan Warszawa is skeptical about such a scenario.

“We’ve been active for over two years now, and our rhetoric has been sharp, just as the events in Ukraine demanded. We’ve had performances such as putting Mistrals onto bloody waters, bringing a coffin and a bloody cake to the Russian Embassy on Putin’s birthday, even sending him his last presents by post,” Natalia Panchenko, the Head of Euromaidan Warszawa explains.

Along with fellow activists she’s been a target of troll attacks, threats, and even a homemade bomb explosion hidden in the trashcan of the Ukrainian diaspora center in Warsaw. Now, Natalia is sure, Russia won’t lose the chance to spite Ukrainians. The activists are ready to defend themselves in court and say they won’t stop campaigning against Putin’s crimes.

“They want to intimidate us, but it won’t work. Each of us knows the risks of such protests. We will keep calling Putin “terrorist” until he gets out of our country. Even if some of us is convicted, more people will go on the streets,” says Panchenko.

“We stand for improvement of Polish-Russian relations” – Zmiana party

Zmiana party assures that it is defending the interests of Poland. According to them, activities of Euromaidan Warszawa cause a  deterioration of relations between Warsaw and Moscow.

“… we stand for a significant improvement of Polish-Russian relations, but actions of neo-Banderovite organizations financed by foreign oligarchs cause very bad influence upon realization of that postulate,” the party wrote on its public profile in Facebook of 15 January after receiving a notice from the prosecutor’s office regarding beginning of investigation.

Zmiana claims that the position of Ukrainians does not represent the views of the Polish society. “We do not agree that part of Ukrainians that identifies itself with post-Maidan authorities can commit such excesses on our territory making a false impression as if they were representing opinion of the Poles.”

"Zmiana" leader Mateusz Piskorski with "DNR" leader Oleksandr Zacharchenko in November 2014. Photo from www.facebook.com/mateusz.piskorski

Zmiana leader Mateusz Piskorski with “DNR” leader Oleksandr Zacharchenko in November 2014. Photo from www.facebook.com/mateusz.piskorski

Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, Zmiana leaders have been often commenting at the pro-Kremlin media that the protests on Kyiv Maidan were steered and financed from outside the country, and the power was taken by the neofascists.

Party leader Mateusz Piskorski went to the fake elections on the Donbas in November of 2014 and met the “DNR” chief Oleksandr Zakharchenko. During the Crimean “referendum” in March of 2014 was an “international observer” reporting to the Russian TASS that the voting was “calm and without issues.”

Bartosz Beker, the party vice president, is the ex-leader of a nationalist radical brigade Oboz Narodowo-Radykalny which is now called Falanga and is known as the brightest neo-fascist groups in Poland. Beker openly approves of Russian-backed separatists in Donbas separatists and the Syrian regime.

One of the “DNR” leaders Oleksandr Kofman was invited to Zmiana’s founding congress last February, but he was denied entrance to Poland.

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  • Nowhere Girl

    I remember that one (btw, the woman wearing a poncho is me). “Zmianowcy”, or members of Zmiana, tried to disrupt the protest and, unsurprisingly, soon afterwards a short report appeared at the Russian site “Politnavigator”. Tomasz Jankowski of Zmiana personally reported the protest to the site, with photos and the title “Banderites ‘celebrated’ Putin’s birthday in Warsaw” (so, we are now officially Banderites ;)).
    Anyway, I’ve been reading the “Russian Fifth Column in Poland” profile and the also wrote about the explosive-in-a-trashcan incident. They strongly suspect that it may be related to two other incidents: another small explosive at the Polish Consulate in Lviv (if it was really done by some people from Poland – which is likely – than with the clear intent of spreading tales about anti-Polish sentiment in Western Ukraine. Fake anti-Polish events are, by the way, an already known method of action for the Falanga neo-fascist organization) and yet another one in Cracow. The last story is more complicated: a unit of a volunteer defense organization, where people train to be able to defend Poland in case of an external aggression, was completely inflitrated by Falanga. (You see what a dangerous situation this is: potential “little green men” under the guise of volunteers.) After the unit was disbanded and renamed, somebody left a small trap in the building: an explosive with a tripwire, covered with… ugh… something brown and foul-smelling so that the explosion would splatter it all over the room. Anyway, it’s clearly visible that the Warsaw, Cracow and Lviv cases are siimilar to each other and so the “Russian Fifth Column in Poland” site suspects all may have been prepared by Falanga.

  • Wiktor

    What a weirdo and loser this Piskorski guy is. As a Pole, I can confidently tell you that Poland wholeheartedly stands behind the Ukrainian people. Please don’t concern yourselves too much with weirdos like this Piskorski guy.
    -Wiktor