Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 02.05.2018
The United Kingdom has a Magnitsky law. At long last, Britain has the ability to sanction corrupt foreign officials for the gross abuse of human rights. The British government should use its new powers to save Ukrainian hostages of the Russian regime of state terror, because their lives are in critical peril.
The House of Commons of the British Parliament passed the measure as an amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill on May 1. When the bill passes the House of Lords and receives Royal Assent, the UK will become the sixth country in the world to stand up for international human rights with a sanctions law. The United States, Estonia, Canada, Lithuania, and Latvia already have Magnitsky laws. The laws are so-named after corrupt Russian officials murdered auditor and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky on 16 November 2009 in a brutal cover-up of a massive fraud scheme of the Putin-Kremlin crime syndicate that Magnitsky had uncovered.
Magnitsky sanctions hit the Putin regime of state terror directly. That is why Kremlin propaganda has railed against any country that considers defending international human rights in such a manner. But Russia misjudged the UK badly when it attacked British subjects with a nerve agent in Salisbury, England on March 4. Instead of exposing the UK as being isolated and without allies post-Brexit referendum, Russia’s attack united the West behind the British people. Some 20 countries joined the UK in expelling Russian spies who were acting under cover of being diplomats. The British government is moving forward with anti-money laundering measures such as removing some banking secrecy rules from British overseas territories. Now there is a Magnitsky law to sanction people who abuse human rights, anywhere in the world. After Russia attacked on British soil, the British people are in no mood to tolerate Russian spies, Russian money launderers, and Russian human rights abusers.
Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. In so doing, Russia violated the promise it made in the Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances to guarantee Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The United Kingdom and the United States also made the same promise, which was made in exchange for Ukraine giving up all its nuclear weapons. Ukraine kept its promise. Russia broke its promise. The UK and the US have failed to make good on their guarantee to Ukraine for over four years. But as both the UK and the US have Magnitsky laws now, they both can take measures to sanction Russian officials who are abusing the human rights of Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories of Crimea and Donbas. By applying Magnitsky sanctions to help Ukrainian hostages of the Russian regime of state terror, the UK and the US can at least be making some attempt at keeping the promises they made in the Budapest Memorandum.
Russia at war with Ukraine has been abducting and holding captive dozens of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians for being patriots, loyalists, or activists for Ukraine. The Russian kidnappers and hostage-takers commit gross violations of human rights against their prisoners. Only strong international pressure can save the lives of these innocents. Ukrainian hostages of the Russian regime of state terror could be helped by the swift application of new British sanctions. Russia is torturing Ukrainians by the denial of medical care, and the UK should be doing everything it can to stop it.
Pavlo Hryb is a 19-year-old Ukrainian student who was kidnapped by Russia’s Federal Security Service in Homel, Belarus and ‘rendered’ to the Russian Federation. Pavlo Hryb has a chronic medical condition, and he is being tortured by the denial of essential medication and critical medical care. UK Magnitsky sanctions should be applied to Pavlo Hryb’s captors and torturers.
Uzeir Abdullayev is a Crimean Tatar political prisoner of Muscovy in occupied Crimea. Uzeir Abdullaev is dangerously ill and requires hospitalization, but instead he has been incarcerated in the notorious Simferopol remand prison. Torture by denial of medical treatment is the crime against humanity being committed by Russian officials here. UK Magnitsky sanctions should be applied to Uzeir Abdullaev’s captors and torturers.
Volodymyr Balukh is a Ukrainian farmer who the Russians made a political prisoner because he flew a Ukrainian flag over his home in Crimea. Volodymyr Balukh started a hunger strike against the cruelty and injustice of his incarceration by the foreign invader-occupiers of his homeland. On May 2, he will have been on hunger strike for 45 days and his health is believed to be in serious jeopardy. His Russian captors deny him proper medical care. UK Magnitsky sanctions should be applied to Volodymyr Balukh’s captors and torturers.
Every hostage-taking by Russia at war with Ukraine must face the application of British Magnitsky sanctions. Not just Pavlo Hryb and Uzeir Abdullaev and Volodymyr Balukh, but filmmaker Oleg Sentsov and journalist Roman Sushchenko and activist Oleksandr Kolchenko and many, many others.
Britain has the opportunity to make good on its Budapest Memorandum promise to Ukraine by defending the human rights of Ukrainians who are captives of Russia. The British government should apply Magnitsky sanctions to the corrupt Russian officials who are torturing Ukrainians. The UK must act now to save lives.