PARSIPPANY, N.J. – Ukrainian diaspora organizations, led by the Ukrainian World Congress, have combined efforts to call on the international community to secure the release of Ukrainian political prisoners illegally detained by Russian authorities. They also urged Ukrainians around the globe to take up the cause by contacting their elected officials.
The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC), acting in support of an October 5 appeal by the Parliament of Ukraine, urged the international community, including human rights organizations, to assist with efforts to secure the release of all Ukrainian citizens held by Russian authorities. The UWC is a non-governmental international assembly of Ukrainian organizations worldwide that represent over 20 million people in the Ukrainian diaspora.
The UWC cited the cases of two journalists: Roman Sushchenko, a Paris-based correspondent with Ukraine’s Ukrinform news agency, who was arrested in Moscow on September 30 on charges of espionage while in the Russian Federation on a personal visit; and Mykola Semena, a pro-Ukrainian journalist and contributor to RFE/RL’s Crimean news website, Krym.Realii (Crimea Realities), who was arrested in April and charged with “separatism” for an article on the de-occupation of Crimea.
“Roman Sushchenko and Mykola Semena are victims of the hybrid war of the Russian Federation against Ukraine and their detainment on politically motivated charges serves as yet two more examples of the continued gross violation by Russian authorities of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of speech,” the Ukrainian World Congress noted in an October 7 statement.
“The Ukrainian World Congress calls upon Ukrainian communities around the world, and the entire international community to …pressure Russian authorities for their immediate release,” stated UWC President Eugene Czolij.
The Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC) on October 7 joined the UWC appeal to pressure Russia for the release of the more than 20 Ukrainian citizens currently illegally imprisoned by Russia, including Oleg Sentsov, Oleksander Kolchenko, Stanislav Klikh, Mykola Karpyuk, and Akhtem Chiygoz.
“The UCC calls on the government of Canada and Canadian Parliamentarians to increase pressure on the Russian Federation to release all Ukrainian political prisoners,” said UCC National President Paul Grod. “The Russian Federation continues its war of aggression against Ukraine, and Sushchenko and Semena as well as all other political prisoners are being held hostage by the Russian regime.”
The UCC is calling on Canada and its allies to increase sanctions against Russia for its war of aggression and violations of international law and human rights. It urged the Canadian government to review the Special Economic Measures Act, with the goal of allowing Canada to directly target human rights abusers in Russia by instituting travel bans and asset freezes.
The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA) also joined the appeal, underscoring that Ukrainians around the world stand united to give voice to those facing brutal repression in the areas of Ukraine currently illegally occupied by Russian forces. The UCCA said the Russian occupation “has not only manifested itself in imprisonments, but in the all too common ‘disappearance’ of those deemed to be trouble-makers, be they activists, journalists, or a beset-upon minority, such as the indigenous Crimean Tatars.”
The UCCA is calling on the U.S. government and its representatives to call out the Russian Federation for its unlawful actions and increase the pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to release all Ukrainian political prisoners.
“Furthermore, the Ukrainian American community looks to the United States to live up to its public and binding security guarantees to Ukraine, by demanding the immediate withdrawal of covert and overt Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine, strengthening targeted economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, including a possible ban on SWIFT banking, and providing Ukraine with defensive equipment, services, and training in order to reestablish Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the UCCA said.
Also joining in the appeal of the Ukrainian World Congress is the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations, which on October 11 called on its members organizations and Australian Ukrainian community members to contact their local members of Parliament, provide them with the background information, and call on them to take up the issue with the Prime Minister’s Office and the minister for foreign affairs.
“Russian Federation authorities continue to flaunt, abuse and violate human rights. This is just another episode in the large list of violations,” said Stefan Romaniw, chairman of the AFUO.
“At this time, the AFUO calls on the Australian government and Australian parliamentarians to increase the pressure on the Russian Federation and demand the release of these political prisoners,” he said, adding that the AFUO was reiterating its earlier call on October 3 for the Australian government to act.
Sources: Ukrainian World Congress, Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations.