Ukraine: Authorities failing womens rights activists by pandering to far-right groups

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In response to the recent attacks on women rights activists and ahead of the expected trial of one of those activists, Olena Shevchenko, on Thursday, Amnesty International Ukraine’s Director, Oksana Pokalchuk, said:

“By prosecuting Olena Shevchenko, the Ukrainian authorities have underscored just how far they are willing to pander to the far-right groups whose threats and violence marred International Women’s Day protests across the country".

By prosecuting Olena Shevchenko, the Ukrainian authorities have underscored just how far they are willing to pander to the far-right groups
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine's Director

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“The ugly scenes we saw in court once again prove that the Ukrainian authorities are failing to protect women rights activists from far-right violence, whether coming from organised movements, informal networks or individuals. It’s giving rise to a deeply troubling situation where radicals believe they can assault, threaten and humiliate women with total impunity.”

Background

This year in Ukraine, the Women’s Marches on International Women’s Day were marred by extreme right-wing violence against peaceful demonstrators. The attacks took place during and following the demonstrations in Kyiv, Lviv and Uzhgorod.

In Uzhgorod, six attackers who threw paint at the women rights activists and threatened them with violence were detained and released shortly afterwards. In Lviv, attackers threw bricks at a tram car with activists who were leaving the demonstration, but despite available video evidence of the attack no one was arrested. Later in the day, another participant in the demonstration suffered from a fractured skull after reportedly being beaten by far-right activists near his home.

In Kyiv, not only the police did not interrupt the attackers, who threw paint at the participants after the march, but detained one of its organisers, Olena Shevchenko for alleged “violation of order to conduct public demonstrations.” On 12 March, a court hearing in the case was held at a Kyiv court but had to be adjourned after some 20 men entered the court building and threatened Shevchenko and her lawyer Oksana Guz with violence. They had to call a private security service to be able to leave the premises.

The next court hearing in this case is on 15 March. Olena Shevchenko and Oksana Guz fear for their safety and well-being because of the continued threats from members of/people associated with the far-right.

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