Ukraine assists post-Soviet states with the persecution of political opponents and refugees ©

Three years after the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian Prosecutor's Office, the Security Service and the Migration Service continue to employ methods of the Yanukovich regime. In particular, Ukraine continues to help post-Soviet states pursue their political opponents.

Established links, common methods of operation and common language of communication – all of this characterises the law enforcement bodies and special services of the post-Soviet states (except the Baltic states). Within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), agreements on combatting crime and joint search activities are in place.

Two years ago, the Ukrainian authorities declared their withdrawal from the CIS. However, Ukraine is a member of the Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance, signed, among others, by Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and Russia (all of them, save for Moldova, are authoritarian states). It is with these very countries that Ukraine most closely cooperates with respect to matters of extradition.

The victims of such ‘legal aid’ are often refugees who face politically motivated criminal prosecutions in their homelands. The problem is systemic in nature, as evidenced by the significant number of such cases (this report presents only the most high-profile cases).

Contrary to international law, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine has tried to extradite a refugee and human rights activist Alovsat Aliyev to his country of origin – Azerbaijan. The prosecutor's office has even allowed a visit from an Azerbaijani representative who attended a detention centre in order to threaten Aliyev. It was only due to intervention by the German embassy that the extradition of the human rights defender was prevented.

The GPU didn’t take into account published information concerning the illegal actions of an investigator of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry who was in charge of the case against Kazakh opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov and his associates. The GPU has closed the criminal case against the investigator and continues to ignore the statements of human rights activists and MEPs underlining the political context of Ablyazov's case.

On 29 August, 2016, Vyacheslav Platon (Kobalyev) was extradited from Ukraine to Moldova in gross violation of the law. He was set to testify about the activity of the Moldovan oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc. The law prohibits an extradition being carried out until such time that the deadline for filing an appeal against an extradition order has passed. However, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine (GPU) and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) allowed Platon (Kobalyev) no opportunity to exercise his right to appeal. Moreover, Platon (Kobalyev) holds a Ukrainian passport and the Ukrainian Constitution prohibits the rendering of its citizens. And yet, in the absence of any court rulings, the GPU determined that his passport was counterfeit.

Extradition issues do not fall within the scope of competence of the SBU_still, the body detained Platon (Kobalyev) and executed a decision on his extradition. In addition, SBU officers abducted Aminat Babayeva (who had requested asylum in Ukraine) from the office of the migration service and forcibly returned her to Russia. This case may be an indication of cooperation between the SBU and Russian special services, despite the fact that the SBU states that cooperation between the two ceased in 2014.

The Migration Service of Ukraine systematically and unreasonably refuses to grant asylum or subsidiary protection to citizens of Russia who are being persecuted for their support of Euromaidan, non-recognition of the annexation of the Crimea and for criticism of Russia's military aggression in the Donbass. In many cases, courts require that the Migration Service reconsider decisions, but officials stand their ground, denying asylum applications numerous times.

In its decisions, the Migration Service of Ukraine refers to Russian legislation and the Constitution, referring to Russia as a ‘democratic state of law’, where ‘torture is not practiced’ and ‘freedom of peaceful assembly is guaranteed’. It expresses full confidence in the materials of Russian law enforcement agencies. “The Pro-Ukrainian position is no more than an attempt to avoid criminal liability for their actions”, - such conclusions are communicated to asylum seekers by Ukrainian officials.

Bureaucratic logic of the Migration Service contradicts the conclusions of international organisations who highlight human rights violations in Russia and the Resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on the recognition of Russia as an aggressor. When considering applications for asylum, Ukrainian officials continue to regard Russia as a reliable partner; as though no Russian military invasion of the Crimea and the Donbass has taken place; as though dozens of Ukrainian citizens haven’t been subjected to political prosecution in Russia. This situation serves to render Russians seeking asylum in Ukraine even more vulnerable.

In 2013, Amnesty International published a report on cooperation between the CIS countries (including Ukraine and Russia) with respect to illegal extraditions, expulsions and kidnappings of refugees to the countries of Central Asia. Unfortunately, even after the overthrow of the Yanukovich regime, Ukraine continues the said cooperation.

In this report, the Open Dialog Foundation analyses the support, rendered by Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity, to the authorities of Moldova, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Belarus in the prosecution of their political opponents or contributions towards their persecution. We do not consider the question of whether the individuals are guilty or innocent of the crimes that they are accused of. However, we do pay special attention to violations by Ukraine of the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, namely: illegal expulsions and extraditions; illegal influence on the outcome of extradition cases; groundless refusals to grant asylum.