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Ukraine moves forward with issue of political hostages held by Russia

Children and adults demand the Kremlin release Roman Sushchenko, one of its 45 Ukrainian prisoners, on the day of Putin’s visit to France, where Sushchenko worked for years. Photo: Ukrinform
Ukraine moves forward with issue of political hostages held by Russia

A new institution to coordinate the issues of Ukrainian political hostages held in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea, including the aid to them and their families and the efforts aimed at their liberation, is to be established within the framework of Ukraine’s Ministry for the Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs (MTOT). Minister Vadym Chernysh and human rights activists agreed on this at their meeting on May 30.

Since the spring of 2014, Russian regime has jailed dozens of Ukrainian citizens trying to fabricate the myth of Ukraine as an epicenter of extremism and espionage and thus justify its own aggressive policy, suppress Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian resistance to the occupation of Crimea, and punish the participants of the Euromaidan revolution. The #LetMyPeopleGo campaign is currently fighting for the freedom of the 45 Ukrainians held behind bars by the Kremlin on fictitious charges.

The planned institution is to harmonize the work of various governmental bodies and NGOs related to the hostages, as well as their interaction with international organizations, notes the coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights Maria Tomak. It is also expected to monitor the development of politically motivated cases, clarify the needs of the prisoners, and lay down the measures to satisfy them.

The idea of such a coordinating center has long been voiced by civic activists, relatives and lawyers of the prisoners, and Ukrainian MPs. In November 2016, they called on Ukraine’s Presidential Administration, Security Service, and National Security & Defense Council to designate an office that would negotiate the release of illegally imprisoned Ukrainians with Russia and regularly report on this work to their families and the public. Yet no such office has been created so far. Now the initiative group assures they will do their best to make the MTOT keep its promise.


Last week, the MTOT presented a draft law on the status of political prisoners, which implied, inter alia, the material support of the hostages held in Russian-occupied territories as well as their families. The draft is open to public discussion. The veteran leader of the Crimean Tatar people, Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemilev hopes it will be introduced to the parliamentary session in September 2017.

The agreement on the new institution under the MTOT aegis was reached the next day after French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed his willingness to deal with human rights violations in Russia, including those targeting Ukrainians, in accordance with the values France was committed to. Earlier, on the eve of his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, Macron had been handed over a letter from the relatives of Kremlin’s hostages and human rights defenders, who had urged him to strengthen sanctions and demand Russia release all the unlawfully jailed Ukrainian citizens.

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