Vitrenko Threatened by Ukrainian Security Agency and Courts
July 12, 2014 • 12:05PM

The Kiev Court of Appeals has upheld the seizure of bank accounts belonging to the All-Ukraine Women's Public Organization "Gift of Life," headed by Dr. Natalia Vitrenko, who also chairs the Progressive Socialist Party of Ukraine. The pretext of the seizure was an allegation of financing "separatism" in Ukraine. Vitrenko has been a vehement opponent of the illegal coup d'etat carried out in Ukraine in February, the neo-Nazi nature of which she exposed during a Feb. 23-March 5 tour of Western Europe, including a high-profile intervention at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Vitrenko has been publicizing and warning about the revival of fascism in Ukraine since 2005, while also, as an economist, exposing how free-trade relations with the European Union will further wreck the Ukrainian economy.

The case against Gift of Life was initiated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), currently headed by Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, a longtime political patron of the fascist groups against which Vitrenko campaigns. The accounts were seized in May, according to Ukrainian media reports, "in the framework of an SBU investigation of funds transfers through Ukrinbank, intended for persons suspected of infringement of the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine."

The Business.ua wire service writes that the SBU alleges that funds received by Gift of Life from Russia "were supposed to be used to discrediting the Ukrainian authorities and for various propaganda work in favor of conducting referendums, as well as possibly financing terrorism." The report cited the view of PSPU members, that "such pressure on leftist politicians is related to the coming imposition of unpopular reforms and an avalanche of privatization."

Another indication of the use of "financing separatism" accusations as a political weapon in Ukraine came July 8, when President Petro Poroshenko signed amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine, setting 5-7 year prison terms for "financing activity intended to forcibly change the Constitutional system or seize state power" and 3-5 years for "acts intended to alter the borders of Ukraine."

On June 10, the Presidium of Gift of Life sent the OSCE a request to "defend the right of our organization to conduct human-rights defense." According to a July 3 Gift of Life press release, the letter explained that a grant was received by Gift of Life in April from a Russian organization called the Fund for Defense of the Rights of Russian Compatriots, Living Abroad, but the money could not be spent, because the accounts were quickly frozen. The organization's "work was paralyzed," and it was "blocked from organizing legal aid to our fellow citizens, right when it was urgently needed." This was before heavy fighting had broken out in eastern Ukraine, but opponents of the Kiev coup were being arrested in ones and twos in various cities.

In its July 3 release, Gift of Life published a letter received from current OSCE head Didier Burkhalter, the President of Switzerland, assuring Vitrenko that "the Swiss OSCE chairmanship follows developments in Ukraine very closely, especially with regards to the human rights situation." Thanking her for informing the OSCE about the case, however, he added, "The responsibility for judicial investigations and oversight lies with the competent national authorities of Ukraine. However, through the Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine, the OSCE contributes to strengthening the rule of law and respect for human rights in Ukraine in the areas of legislative process, criminal, administrative, and constitutional justice, public awareness of human rights, and legal education."

Vitrenko was a Member of Parliament in 1994-2002. She received 11% percent of the vote in the Presidential election of 1999, after her campaign was seriously disrupted by an assassination attempt, in which she and forty others were injured by two grenades thrown during a campaign rally.