Why does Cabinet propose to intern persons with Russian passport?

Author : Yevgeniy Levin

Source : 112 Ukraine reveals the details of the new bill and its implications for residents of Donbas and Crimea, as well as Russians.
17:49, 17 November 2020

Iryna Gerashchenko Facebook

The procedure for the treatment of prisoners of war and internees in a special period has not been determined in Ukraine. No authority is officially involved in their accounting, maintenance and protection. The government of Denys Shmygal decided to correct this and submitted a bill on amendments to some laws of Ukraine on issues related to prisoners of war and internees during a special period.

According to the Prime Minister's idea, certain camps will be created, which can be entered with the passport of the "aggressor country" and suspicion of a threat to the security of Ukraine.

At the same time, the parallel presence of a Ukrainian passport does not cancel the possibility of internment and cannot serve as a guarantee of protection. This means that all the residents of ORDLO who have received a document of the Russian Federation in their hands are in the "risk zone".

Organization of internment and its cost

Ukraine 14 years ago undertook international obligations in relation to the retention of prisoners of war and internees in accordance with the norms determined by the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols. However, the procedure for conducting internment and the task of keeping records of citizens' data and creating the necessary conditions for them were not assigned to any of the state authorities.

The collection, escort, security and registration of prisoners of war are proposed to be entrusted to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. If the MPs vote in favor of the bill, representatives of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will have to organize rear camps in which detainees who have performed military tasks of third parties on the territory of Ukraine will be kept. These may include soldiers and officers of the Russian army, as well as militants of the self-proclaimed republics.

At the same time, the control and arrangement of the lives of interned civilians will be passed to the jurisdiction of the regional state administrations, which will also be able to involve the National Police and the National Guard to solve the above tasks.

"Internment" generally refers to forced detention, resettlement, or other restrictions on freedom of movement imposed by one belligerent on the citizens of the other. The most striking example of internment is considered to be the mass eviction of Japanese citizens from America shortly after Pearl Harbor. During it, more than 120 thousand people with Japanese roots were expelled from the United States. Moreover, most of them were US citizens.

In addition to the National Police and the National Guard, it is planned to involve the Security Service of Ukraine in working with internees. It is on the shoulders of the SBU, according to the bill, to calculate and track persons posing a potential threat to the security of the state. They want to entrust the security officers with carrying out measures to identify citizens who are aggressive towards our country on the territory of Ukraine. However, what these events will be and how it is planned to calculate unwanted guests for subsequent internment is not yet clear.

In addition to the bill, the estimated costs of maintaining prisoners of war and internees are indicated. Based on 300 detainees, it is planned to spend 46.5 million UAH (1.6 mln USD) per year.

As for the prisoners of war, their maintenance will be cheaper - only 10 million UAH (357 000 USD) per year.

In the event of a war, the prime minister proposes to create a National Information Bureau. Its representatives will collect and analyze information about prisoners of war and internees, keep their centralized records, monitor the collection and transfer of personal valuables, and transfer information to the Red Cross Committee.

The bill also stipulates who will monitor the observance of the rights of detainees, the implementation of their communication with the outside world. Judging by the way the document was written, it will be the Ministry for the Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, must organize relations with states and international organizations regarding the detention and return of persons.

What the adoption of the bill can turn out to be

Due to the lack of food and the lack of a minimum level of hygiene in internment settlements, the precedents for the establishment of camps are now considered a shame. Ronald Reagan, the 40th US president, apologized to the Japanese and linked it to "racial prejudice, war hysteria and political leadership mistakes." And the British government had to establish a special commission to investigate the situation in the camps during the Second World War. However, by the time the British authorities intervened, it was too late. During the three years of the war, about one in four of the prisoners died.

According to experts, our law also looks barbaric. And not only because in the 50s of the last century, more than half a million Ukrainians passed through the GULAG. First of all - due to the fact that the suspects are planned to be exiled to camps without trial, investigation and proof of guilt, on the basis of only one suspicion.

"Talking in the 21st century about the internment of citizens, the creation of special settlement zones for them and at the same time criticizing the Soviet regime is some kind of political schizophrenia," said political strategist Ruslan Bortnyk.

Related: Verdict on Ukrainian POWs expected this fall, - lawyer

The draft law does not specify what can generally be regarded as a threat to the security of Ukraine, what mechanisms the state has to identify the persons carrying this threat. It is not clear where it is planned to get money for the arrangement of settlements for internees and directly for the maintenance of people there, if the number of them exceeds 300 people. In fact, such a law will give the SBU unlimited rights and will not even leave an adequate opportunity for the detainees to challenge the decision in court and prove their innocence.

Lawyers and political experts in their comments for explain that the effect of the bill will be extremely negative.

"The lack of clear criteria in the law and a clear procedure for its application will inevitably entail monstrous violations of human rights on the territory of Ukraine, and the lack of clearly defined grounds for internment will make judicial appeal ineffective. With the exception of international law, an interned citizen will have nothing to rely on to defend his rights, and due to the fact that national courts are extremely reluctant to apply international norms in their decisions, justice will have to be sought in the ECHR. Unfortunately, this can take ten years," says lawyer Maxym Mogilnitsky.

This initiative looks especially strange in the light of the latest statements by the representative of Ukraine in the Trilateral Contact Group, Leonid Kravchuk, who reported on the attempts of the Ukrainian side to agree on the demilitarization of the territory of ORDLO, the exchange of prisoners and the holding of elections in Donbas. After the draft law on internment is submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, the dialogue can become very complicated, if it does not reach a dead end at all.

"If we are serious about the return of Donbas and Crimea, then this bill looks extremely repulsive. It looks like a set-up for Zelensky because it contradicts his statements. All the rhetoric of the authorities about establishing a dialogue with the Russian Federation is devalued," said political strategist Oleksiy Yakubin.

Colleague Ruslan Bortnyk agrees with him.

“I can compare this initiative with the abolition of the language law immediately after the Maidan, which led to the mobilization of opponents of Ukraine in Crimea and Donbas. This decision will also lead to negative mobilization of all people who, having no access to Ukrainian state services, were forced to obtain passports other countries, including the Russian Federation, "the expert noted.

The lack of government services, perhaps, is worth mentioning separately. Many of those who received a Russian passport in 2014-2015 tried to start a new life in Ukraine, moved to Kyiv and other cities as refugees. But due to the lack of sufficient support, assistance in adaptation, programs to provide jobs and affordable housing, they were forced to return. And while Ukraine turned its back on them, Russia has simplified the procedure for obtaining a passport.

And now, instead of looking for and finding ways of reconciliation, the authorities again step on the same rake and use the stick where the carrot is needed. For a long time now, the MPs should definitely decide whether they want to return Crimea and Donbas to Ukraine, and then go in the chosen direction. After all, it is quite obvious that it is impossible to return territories without the desire of the people living there to become a part of Ukrainian society. And how can you count on their loyalty, over and over again showing them unfriendly gestures?

Who needs this bill?  

Judging by the unpreparedness and sloppiness with which the bill was presented in its first edition, it can be assumed that it was made in the shortest possible time. Perhaps they wanted to use the bill in bidding with Russia. Or maybe the authorities assumed that it would scare away the residents of ORDLO from obtaining a Russian passport. However, the second option is unlikely to work. The introduction of such an initiative, rather, will make the residents of the uncontrolled territories wonder whether they need reintegration at all on such conditions.

Ruslan Bortnyk, a political strategist, also puts forward his theories about the motives for introducing the initiative.

"It is possible that only in the process of finalizing and preparing for the second reading will the true goals and objectives of this bill emerge. It cannot be ruled out that it will subsequently be used against citizens not only of the Russian Federation, but also of other countries, conditional Romania or Hungary, for example," said the political strategist Bortnyk.

Also, one of the purposes of the law may be an attempt to replenish the "exchange fund" with Russian citizens. According to lawyer Maksym Mogilnitsky, earlier law enforcement officers had to fabricate criminal proceedings against them.

"So it was possible to somehow justify their detention. Now this" formality "can be missed. It will be completely free to grab and push foreigners into places of forced settlement until the moment of exchange. You just need to inform that these individuals threaten national security," the lawyer emphasizes.

Such attempts to increase the exchange list with a high degree of probability can lead to the disruption of the negotiation process.

However, in the opinion of lawyer Rostislav Kravets, most likely, this draft law was not prepared for real consideration and subsequent adoption, because it does not correspond to the Ukrainian Constitution and international democratic practice in general. At least - because of the presumption of innocence.

"Such initiatives violate the foundations of human rights. Before the decisions of the courts, a person, whether a citizen of Ukraine or any other country, cannot be considered guilty of this or that crime. Even in the case of the adoption, this law has every chance of being canceled by the Constitutional Court. And the persons who voted for it may be held responsible for such an initiative that violates human rights," Kravets said to

Based on the above shortcomings and contradictions, experts have already described the Prime Minister's project as a political provocation. One can only hope that this provocation will not lead to an even greater split within the country.

Related: Denisova says agreement on Ukrainian POWs' return reached

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