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Targeting anti-corruption activists, investigators: the public issues demands to the President, law enforcement

12.04.2024, 16:06

Ukraine's civil society representatives say that they are seeing a dangerous trend of Ukrainian law enforcement bodies targeting anti-corruption activists and investigator journalists, namely through army recruitment centers and the mobilization campaign, reports "Detector Media".

The signatories point out that on April 10, 2024, the Security Service of Ukraine and the State Bureau of Investigation searched the home of Dmytro Bulakh, board chair of the Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center (KhACC) and an active National Guard member.

"As a pretext for the search, they said that Bulakh was a person of interest in a case of enlistment-related abuse of authority (Part 5 of Article 426-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine "Abuse of authority by a military official committed under martial law or in combat"). The article provides for eight to twelve years in prison. The law enforcers are not disclosing Dmytro Burakh's procedural status, but they note that Bulakh has not been issued a suspicion notice," the statement reads.

According to the statement, the targeting of Dmytro Bulakh may be motivated by the Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center (which he runs) reporting in February 2022 that the Deputy Chairman of the Kharkiv Oblast Council Bohdan Malyovany, who is a member of the pro-Russian faction "Opposition Platform – For Life", holds Russian citizenship he received on April 27, 2014, almost immediately after the occupation of Crimea.

Following Russia's full-scale invasion, the the KhACC stressed that a citizen of the aggressor state occupying a high rank in a local self-government body was unacceptable. On February 14, 2023, it was reported that Malyovany had resigned. At the same time, Dmytro Bulakh received a "warning" from the deputy's aides for such exposure.

The KhACC also consistently monitors public procurement deals in the Kharkiv oblast, revealing the numerous abuses in this area. This helped save the taxpayers' money during a full-scale war, but deprived many individuals of profit. Their interest in persecuting Bulakh cannot be dismissed, either.

"In view of this we consider the case opened against Dmytro Bulakh after his mobilization for alleged abuse of military office as a potential act of revenge by pro-Russian forces or local corrupt officials, carried out by the hands of the Ukrainian law enforcement bodies," the signatories stress.

They note that this is not the first attempt to target of discredit anti-corruption activists and investigator journalists, some of which had to do with the mobilization and military service. They recall the recent cases of persecution faced by the Anti-Corruption Action Center board director Vitaliy Shabunin, the Slidstvo.Info investigator journalist Yevheniy Shulhat, the "Nashi Hroshi" investigator Yuriy Nikolov, the Bihus.Info anti-corruption investigation team, the Chesno Movement chief editor Oleksandr Salizhenko, and others.

The authors of the statement are also concerned about the public campaign "with the purpose of targeted smearing of activists who expose corruption schemes, officials' Russian citizenship and excessive profits."

"In their rhetoric concerning anti-corruption activists and investigator journalists, the law enforcers disregard the presumption of innocence and manipulate a topic which is particularly sensitive to the people: mobilization and service in Ukraine's security and defense forces. Such rhetoric is unacceptable and deliberately shifts the focus of the public's attention from the subjects of anti-corruption investigations to those investigating, discrediting their work and undermining the results of these investigations," the authors add.

They point out that this harms Ukraine's international reputation plays into Russian propaganda, as it adds to Ukraine's image as an authoritarian and undemocratic country, which undermines foreign aid that is critically important for repelling Russia's aggression.

The authors put forward their demands to the country's leadership and the President.

"In view of the above, as well as the increasing trend of Ukrainian law enforcement bodies targeting anti-corruption activists and investigator journalists, we stress the following:

  • The President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, must publicly condemn the harassment and smearing of the media and civil society representatives which occurs through mobilization and the work of the defense forces.
  • Representatives of state authorities and local self-government must immediately stop persecuting public activists and journalists, namely through the defense and security recruitment offices. Such actions are an unlawful abuse of office, a violation of the Constitution of Ukraine and of human rights.
  • Representatives of investigative bodies (in particular, SBU, SBI, the National Police) must stop abusing their authority to investigate crimes and carry out overt or undercover investigative (search) actions to persecute public activists and journalists in the interests of individual politicians or officials. Such actions contradict the objective of the judicial process (impartial investigation), constitute attempts to punish innocent persons and target them with unwarranted procedural coercion, and violate the principles of criminal proceedings. The aurhorized bodies should also investigate all the abuse cases mentioned above and bring the culprits to justice. If this is not done, we will see this as a signal for the authorities to freely continue such actions.
  • Ukraine's Prosecutor's Office must pay special attention to the law enforcers' actions in relation to activists and journalists, in particular those fighting corruption, as they provide procedural management in criminal proceedings. Prosecutors must prevent the law enforcement bodies from abusing their powers to persecute public activists and journalists.
  • Judges should pay special attention to the legality of investigative actions as they process law enforcers' warrant requests for investigative (search) actions targeting anti-corruption activists and journalists. These people is an important part of civil society, as they expose corruption, report on abuses and other unlawful actions by officials."

The statement can be signed on ZMINA's website.

The statement was supported by:


  • Human Rights Center ZMINA
  • Anti-Corruption Action Center
  • Legislative Initiatives Laboratory
  • Media Initiative for Human Rights
  • Center for Civil Liberties
  • Human Rights Education House – Chernihiv
  • Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group
  • Ukrainian Institute for Human Rights
  • Kharkiv Social Research Institute
  • All-Ukrainian Association "Automaidan"
  • NGO "Detector Media"
  • Institute of Mass Information
  • Crimean Human Rights Group
  • NGO "School of Mediapatriots"
  • DEJURE Foundation
  • Investigation website "One Law for All" (Dnipro)
  • Transparency International Ukraine
  • NGO "Sova Expert Group"
  • Ukrainian Independent Center for Political Studies
  • NGO Public Control Platform
  • CHESNO Movement
  • Ukrainian Helsinki Union for Human Rights
  • "Grunt.Media" agency

Individual signatories:

  • Serhiy Sternenko
  • Marina Khromykh
  • Tatyana Pechonchyk
  • Maksym Kytsiuk
  • Oleksiy Kovzhun
  • Andriy Kulibaba
  • Sofia Lapina
  • Natalia Sokolenko
  • Andriy Sukhorukov
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