Press release

Ukraine: Law Enforcement Must Respond to Open Threats of Hate-Fueled Violence

Attacks should be prevented, and any perpetrators should be fully prosecuted.

Following hate-motivated assaults in Kharkiv and Odesa Regions on August 29 and August 30, Freedom House issued the following statement:

“The recent assaults on peaceful LGBT+ human rights supporters and Romany people are an urgent reminder that threats of hate-motivated violence must be taken seriously by state authorities, who have a responsibility to prevent and respond to such violence,” said Matthew Schaaf, director of Freedom House’s Ukraine office. “Numerous threats of violence preceded both incidents, on social media and elsewhere. That the assaults still took place—in the presence of law enforcement authorities, who were unprepared to deal with the rapidly escalating threats—underscores the fact that perpetrators of hate-motivated violence continue to enjoy impunity in Ukraine. The people responsible for the attacks in Kharkiv and Odesa must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of existing law, and policymakers should take decisive action to improve Ukraine’s legal framework to prevent and respond to hate-motivated violence, in keeping with international human rights protections.”

Background:

On August 29, a large group of residents of Andriivka, a village in Kharkiv Region, gathered to vent anger over alleged abuses by Romany people in the community over the past decade. Prior to the gathering, several calls for violence and dehumanizing rhetoric were shared on local social media pages, and calls for violence were also made at the assembly itself, drawing no response from law enforcement officials. After the gathering, a large group of people moved to the house of a local Romany family and pelted it with eggs, rocks, and other objects. People inside were evacuated by the police and are currently in hiding. Tensions had risen during the week before the August 29 gathering, after a Romany person was hit by a car and another individual was beaten up, apparently by several local Roma.

Separately, on August 30, during a public event in support of LGBT+ human rights organized by Odesa Pride, participants and police were attacked by individuals from a counterdemonstration. Odesa Pride and the police—who were in extensive contact with one another, according to organizers—had received threats of violence ahead of the planned event, and threats were also issued publicly on social media. The attackers used violence and tear gas against event participants and police officers, injuring several of them. The police reported that 16 people were detained and will be charged with hooliganism, but it is not clear whether they will also be charged with crimes related to hate-motivated violence.

Efforts to enhance accountability for hate crimes in Ukraine, including those motivated by anti-LGBT+ animus, failed to gain support in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) earlier this year.

Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2020 and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2019, and is categorized as a Transitional or Hybrid Regime in Nations in Transit 2020.