Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 15.07.2018
Russia 2018 has been the worst World Cup ever. Host nation Russia continues to wage a vicious war against Ukraine in Donbas, a short distance away from where matches were played in Rostov-on-Don. Host nation Russia continues to hold over 70 Ukrainian citizens hostages in the Russian Federation and in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea. Hunger strikes by Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, and Emir-Usein Kuku have been hidden from view by the nervous Russians. While matches were being played, a British citizen died as a consequence of Russia’s attack with a nerve agent in Britain on March 4. Russia politicized the World Cup in a shocking fashion when it directed all the strength of its hate propaganda apparatus against Croatian football player Domagoj Vida because he gave the friendly Ukrainian greeting “Glory to Ukraine!” During the FIFA World Cup in Russia, the US Department of Justice indicted 12 officers of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) with crimes related to Russia’s successful falsification of the 2016 US presidential election. It should have been all about football, but Russia 2018 was the worst World Cup ever because it was all about Putin at war.
Let’s look at some of the Ukrainians who are held captive by the Putin regime because they will not submit as slaves to Russia’s invasion and partial occupation of Ukraine.
Putin’s hostage Oleg Sentsov went on hunger strike on May 14, demanding that Russia free all Ukrainian political prisoners. It was hoped that the global attention given to Russia because of the FIFA World Cup would turn to the plight of Oleg Sentsov and the Ukrainian prisoners of conscience. But instead of releasing its hostages as a goodwill gesture, Russia increased its torment of the Ukrainian captives. Russia does not care about the court of world opinion. The Putin regime believes that the world already gave its imprimatur on Russia’s behaviour – after all, FIFA did not remove Russia as host of the World Cup after Russia invaded Ukraine. Caring nothing about being seen to be a gross abuser of human rights, Russia tortured the Ukrainian hostages even more than before while the matches of the World Cup were being played.
On July 13, a so-called ‘court’ of the Russian occupation authorities in Ukraine’s territory of Crimea sentenced Ukrainian citizen Yevhen Panov to eight years imprisonment in a high security penal colony on fabricated and politically-motivated charges, for which there is no evidence. Supporters of Yevhen Panov shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” when the ‘sentence’ was read out. Panov had given a so-called ‘confession’ under torture. He recanted this confession in court, called out the Russian goons for torturing him, and refused to collaborate with the show trial. For his courage and loyalty to Ukraine, Yevhen Panov was given an excessively severe sentence by the always brittle Russian regime of state terrorism.
Volodymyr Balukh was denied parole by an illegitimate court in occupied Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied). He was also given an additional ‘sentence’ of three years to increase the duration of his incarceration to five years on fabricated and politically-motivated charges. Volodymyr Balukh refused to submit to the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia, he flew a Ukrainian flag over his house, and he honoured the “Heaven’s Hundred” who were killed by Yanukovych goons and Russian advisors during the Revolution of Dignity. The Putin regime hates and fears free spirited and independent minded Ukrainians like Volodymyr Balukh. For not bowing down as a slave, Ukrainian loyalists are punished severely by the Russian occupation authorities.
The youngest Ukrainian hostage of the Putin regime is 20 year old Pavlo Hryb. Pavlo Hryb is a student at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy who was kidnapped by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) from Homel, Belarus and spirited into the Russian Federation. Charged with the usual bogus ‘terrorism’ charges, it seems that Putin and the FSB targeted Pavlo Hryb only because he wrote pro-Ukraine statements on social media. Pavlo Hryb has an acute medical condition, and the Russians are torturing him by withholding essential medication and visits from his own or any Ukrainian doctor. Pavlo Hryb’s lawyer, Marina Dubrovina, reports that he has been assaulted by prison wardens and inmates in jail in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, because he is a Ukrainian citizen. Ukrainian hostages of the Russian regime of state terrorism have a target on them: they’re marked for special abuse.
The foreign invaders of Ukraine from Muscovy have been particularly malign in their persecution of the Crimean Tatars. The Putin regime campaign to eradicate the Crimean Tatars, who are the autochthonous people of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, is tantamount to a nascent genocide. Emir-Usein Kuku is a leader in the Crimean Human Rights Contact Group, which monitors disappearances in Russian-occupied Ukraine. Unable to recruit him as an informant, the illegal occupation regime made Emir-Usein Kuku a hostage on 11 February 2016. Amnesty International has declared Emir-Usein Kuku to be a prisoner of conscience. On June 26, Emir-Usein Kuku went on hunger strike. Like Oleg Sentsov, he is demanding that Russia release all of the over 70 Ukrainians it is holding on fabricated and politically-motivated charges.
On July 14, the United Kingdom demanded that Russia immediately free Ukrainian political prisoners. This added to an international chorus calling for the same thing. The UK in particular expressed its deep concern about the condition of the three hunger strikers: Oleg Sentsov, Volodymyr Balukh, and Emir-Usein Kuku. UK Minister for Europe, Alan Duncan, said: “The imprisonment of these men and many more Ukrainians appears to be politically motivated and we call on the Russian authorities to release them immediately.”
Russia is committing crimes against humanity by its torture and abuse and neglect of Ukrainian hostages. The Russians are doing this as a deliberate affront to the international amity that is supposed to be engendered by the FIFA World Cup tournament. Human rights monitors, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner, the International Committee of the Red Cross, consular officials, Ukrainian doctors, independent journalists – all have been denied access to the Ukrainian hostages being held by the Putin regime.
The World Cup in Russia is a disaster because Russia is invading Ukraine. Because Russia is invading Ukraine, it stands outside the family of civilized nations, and should never have been the host of an international sports tournament in the first place. Given the opportunity to redeem itself using the goodwill forum of the FIFA World Cup, Russia worsened its abuse of Ukrainian hostages. Russia stands exposed on the world stage, guilty of grave violations of human rights and of committing crimes against humanity against the Ukrainian nation.