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SBU busts “anti-Ukrainian” anti-vaxx network with presumable Russian handlers, arrests leader

Ostap Stakhiv (left) with his friends Viktor Serenkov and Oleksandr Nadiozha
SBU busts “anti-Ukrainian” anti-vaxx network with presumable Russian handlers, arrests leader
On 10-16 November 2021, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) conducted a series of searches at homes of activists who were suspected of links with Russian handlers and financial support from Russia. While advocating against vaccination requirements, they also attempted to seize power, SBU claims.

On 18 November, the SBU detained Ostap Stakhiv, who presented himself as the founder of the movement “Human Rights,” one of the largest among a network of other organizations and bloggers who criticize Ukraine’s new quarantine measures for unvaccinated citizens.

However, Stakhiv didn’t limit himself to anti-vaccination activism. In his recent videos and public speeches he also declared contemporary Ukrainian authorities “incapable” to govern and illegitimate, agitated for the creation of “people’s police.” His movement became infamous for the active participation of pro-Russian bloggers.

SBU says it has “indisputable evidence” of the attempts of perpetrators for the violent seizure of power, including correspondence in which the perpetrators searched for weapons and accomplices. They were planning to create their own territorial communities with “their own police and economy.”

The SBU blocked an anti-Ukrainian network, which under ‘anti-vaccination’ slogans tried to destabilize the socio-political situation in the country. Thus, the perpetrators called for a violent change of the constitutional order. According to preliminary information, their actions were coordinated by Russian handlers,” the SBU report reads.

After the Lviv Halytskyi district court allowed the detention of Stakhiv on 17 November, SBU officers arrested him for further investigation and court proceedings.

Stakhiv tried to ask for medical help in Svaliava district hospital to avoid detention. However, doctors said there were no medical conditions for hospitalization. During the court hearings on 18 November 2021, the judges remanded Stakhiv in custody for 60 days with a UAH 998,800 ($37,000) bail.

In the same criminal case, SBU has also started proceedings against another perpetrator, an undisclosed “citizen of the Russian Federation.”

Stakhiv was the co-organizer of Ukraine’s most numerous anti-vaccination rally on 3 November 2021 in Kyiv. Part of the participants criticized Stakhiv for involving pro-Russian bloggers and after the rally distanced themselves from Stakhiv.

Lockdown and vaccination opponents protest in Kyiv amid COVID-19 surge

Currently, the third most severe COVID-19 wave stabilized in Ukraine but social tension remains high. After the government introduced restrictions for unvaccinated to work in state jobs, visit trade centers, cafes, and some other public spaces, 36% still say they don’t want to get vaccinated, according to the most recent poll by the Rating group. As of 9 November 2021, 9,632 educational workers were dismissed from their work in Ukraine, not counting workers of other institutions.

The same study by the Rating group also shows that 71% of Ukrainians consider restrictions applied to unvaccinated individuals a violation of their rights.

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