“Court hearing. Ruslan Kotsaba, 12/24/2015”
Background by Thalie Thalie
(tr by Tom Winter):
Ruslan Kotsaba is a Ukrainian journalist from Ivano-Frankovsk (Western Ukraine) who worked for the television network public Channel 112. He was the first journalist to go to Donbass to see what was going on there with his own eyes, and he saw. He saw that it was a civil war, a fraticidal war. At the end of January 2015, on the heels of the government announcement of another wave of mobilization, he got up and launched an appeal to the Ukrainians.
Ruslan Kotsaba was arrested by the SBU February 7 at Ivan0-Frankovsk, after publishing a video describing “The fratricidal civil war in Donbass.” He was immediately jailed. He was formally charged with “high treason” on March 31, and faced with 15 years imprisonment. They also charged him with “Obstruction of the legitimate activities of the armed forces,” a masterpiece of a charge that could get him eight more years of prison.
Amnesty International has called for his immediate and unconditional release and counts the treatment accorded to him as shameful restriction of liberty of expression. The last court appearance was December 24. It is from his holding cell that he addresses all of you and the deputies of the European Parliament.
Here is the English text of his appeal:
Appeal of Ruslan Kotsaba to the deputies of the European Parliament
While I have the chance, I address the deputies of the European Parliament. I declare in the first place that I do not at all feel guilty. I declare that I am seriously opposed to the war in Donbass; like the majority of the European leaders, I consider it a civil war, and I emphasize once again that that in choosing the heaviest response [imprisonment] that they have done it not just to sully my name, the name of an honest man, but on purpose to intimidate the citizens of Ukraine, and suppress criticism of the regime.
As it is, if you criticize the regime, you’re accused of high treason, and treated as an agent of Putin, as a pawn of Moscow. This formula is very useful for the current regime, for whom the least criticism is treated as high treason. You have heard the whole case, most of you, and I am grateful for your support attending the hearings.
You have heard the whole matter, and you have not seen one I repeat, NOT ONE deed of treason or obstruction. All you have heard is just these clowns threatening to kill me and strangle my children.
I beg you: journalists are the conscience of society. Lina Kostenko, Ukrainian writer, has said: “journalists are the eyes of the the society that is asleep.” But our society is not asleep, it is scared. If it is possible, since it is not possible in Ukraine, for the European Court, and the European Parliament to be involved in this case. It is impossible that they can put you in prison for non-conforming anti-war ideas. And if here neither the court nor the prosecutor get the difference between “proof,” “supposition,” and “judgment,” the European Paliament will. That’s why I will be very grateful to you, if you can, kindly circulate this video in the internet, on twitter, and on the social media, since, for now, democracy still exists on the web, and it is still theoretically possible to criticize those in power. Because what is happening to me today — journalists, get this — each one of you could be in this cage!
Just try writing that Poroshenko is a bloodthirsty executioner because he keeps up the war in Donbass on purpose so the looting, corruption at the road-blocks and smuggling can continue, and you will immediately become the enemy of Ukraine! Under Stalin enemies of the people were shot. And now they find themselves in jail for 15 years.
Maximum sharing, please.
Translator note: see also, for instance, Ukraine: Journalists and Prison