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Conscripting the critics: Ukrainian authorities accused of using draft as political weapon

Ukrainian investigative journalist Yevhenii Shulhat claims he was targeted with a draft notice after pursuing a corruption story involving the Security Service of Ukraine.
Ukrainian media.
Ukrainian media. Illustrative photo
Conscripting the critics: Ukrainian authorities accused of using draft as political weapon

Ukrainian journalists, activists, and watchdogs are raising concerns that government officials may be using conscription to silence critics, POLITICO reports.

Several incidents have emerged where individuals involved in anti-corruption efforts or investigative journalism claim they were targeted with draft notices or investigations shortly after pursuing stories critical of Ukrainian authorities.

Yevhenii Shulhat, an investigative journalist, recounts being approached by uniformed soldiers with a draft notice in a shopping mall just after contacting the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) about a corruption story. “I regard this as intimidation and obstruction of my journalistic activity,” Shulhat told POLITICO.

Vitaliy Shabunin, head of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, is being investigated by the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) over allegations of evading military service and improper transfer from a frontline unit. Shabunin denies these accusations, saying, “It is difficult for me to imagine how I can be accused of evasion of duty if I voluntarily mobilized in Kyiv in the first days of the [Russian – ed.] invasion.”

The government maintains it does not condone such practices. Oleg Tatarov, deputy head of the president’s office, told POLITICO, “I believe that the use of criminal justice tools to put pressure on any person, including public activists, is unacceptable, and such facts must be immediately reported to the competent authorities.”

However, critics argue that the pattern of incidents suggests otherwise. Investigative journalist Yuri Nikolov said, “They use different intimidation tactics to try to deter reporters and then, of course, they can always threaten to ship you off to the front lines.” Nikolov believes he became a target due to his stories alleging corruption in the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s procurement processes.

Ukrainian watchdogs and journalists acknowledge significant progress in the country’s anti-corruption efforts despite these concerns.

“We have achieved significant results. For example, our system of controlling the wealth of officials is one of the best in the world,” Shabunin said.

The situation highlights the complex balance between national security needs and preserving press freedom and accountability during wartime.

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