Return to news
3 July, 2018
Ukraine Days in Stockholm: No solution to the conflict so far
As the war in Ukraine is now in its fifth year, Ukrainian political prisoners go on hunger strike in Russian prisons, and corruption permeates the entire Ukrainian society.

This difficult situation was discussed during the Ukraine Days in Stockholm, organized by Östgruppen (Swedish Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights). From 12 to 14 June, 2018, the Ukrainian human rights defenders, politicians and lawyers spoke about the pressing social issues in Ukraine. This event was covered by the AmnestyPress.

‘There are two main problems that Ukrainians are facing. One is the war and the other is corruption’, says Mykhailo Zhernyakov, director of Dejure Foundation, aimed at promoting the development of the rule of law in Ukraine. Russia illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula in March 2014, and shortly thereafter the war in the Eastern Ukraine started. The conflict has resulted in more than 10,300 dead, and there is information on more than 1.5 million internally displaced persons, as well as a large number of political prisoners. A political solution seems to be very remote.

Parallel to the war the struggle against widespread corruption in the country continues. Olena Tregub, the Secretary General of the Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO) believes that it is difficult to eradicate corruption since the anti-corruption reforms could backfire on politicians themselves.  The biggest dilemma is how they can fight corruption without thereby putting themselves in prison, says Tregub. According to NAKO Secretary General, the Ukrainian population has felt more and more frustrated with the results of fight against corruption,  and the majority of Ukrainians believe that the anti-corruption reforms don’t work. She says: people are unhappy because corrupt politicians have not been put into prisons. There have been a number of institutional changes in order to fight corruption.  An important step forward seems to be the law on creation of High Anti-Corruption Court, which is meant to review the cases of corruption at the highest level. Hovever, Tregub believes that the anti-corruption concept is not something that can unite the Ukrainian population. One reason for this is that a large part of the population are themselves part of corruption. It is so deeply rooted in the Ukrainian society that it is difficult to survive without indulging in corrupt practices. Olena Tregub believes that to fight corruption numerous efforts are needed, including from the part of politicians, civil society and the international community.

At Ukraine Days the Swedish government was represented by Andreas von Beckerath, Head of Unit for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to Andreas von Beckerath, the Swedish government has contributed to the development of the Ukrainian civil society, and also been a very strong support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He also said that the Ukrainian civil society has been a crucial element of the reform process in the country. Mustafa Nayyem, a Ukrainian MP and one of the most proactive activists during the Majdan Revolution, believes that the civil society, that is now developing in Ukraine, and the new generation of politicians and journalists is not afraid of the government, police or security services. Ukraine Days ended with a session on the violation of human rights at the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula, with particular focus on the political prisoners detained since Russia annexed the peninsula. On the last day the participants of the forum watched the documentary film ‘The Process’ by Askold Kurov about the Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. Sentsov was arrested in May 2014, and is currently detained in northern Russia. Anastasiya Martynovskaya, an attorney at the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, said that the fact that Oleg Sentsov was placed in the jail which is situated far from the Crimea is a part of the punishment. Thus, it is difficult for his family and the lawyer to visit him. Amnesty International called in a statement on June 7 to immediately release Oleg Sentsov and his co-defendant Aleksandr Kolchenko who was sentenced to 10 years in Russian prison for allegedly terrorist offenses.