Take action: Ukraine must free kidnapped political prisoner Andrei Sokolov!

Andrei Sokolov

Andrei Sokolov

June 15 marks two months since the disappearance of the famous Russian left activist and political prisoner Andrei Sokolov, who was kidnapped by unknown assailants in Ukraine immediately after his release from the courtroom.

Andrei Sokolov, who comes from a poor family, joined the Russian left movement in the 1990s. In 1997 the young communist, who worked as a baker, was arrested for the first time for destroying a plaque memorializing the Czar’s family. Andrei spent two years in prison, and after his release, he was arrested again in 2000 on suspicion of mining the reception office of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow. The charges were unsubstantiated, but weapons were planted on Sokolov and he was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison. When he regained his freedom, the communist began working as a turner [lathe operator], despite the fact that in prison Andrei’s eyesight had greatly weakened. For many years he was under pressure from the Russian authorities, who detained him several times under false pretenses.

In the fall of 2014, Andrei Sokolov went to the Donbass, where he spent only two weeks in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). On December 16, 2014, he accidentally drove into a checkpoint of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (APU), where he was arrested and charged with “aiding a terrorist organization.” From then until April 2016, Sokolov was held in Ukrainian prisons. According to the Russian’s lawyer, Valery Avzhenko, the prosecution did not have enough evidence to convict the prisoner, and all the “proof” of his guilt was obtained under duress, in violation of the norms and requirements of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Despite this, Andrei Sokolov agreed to a deal with the prosecution, which promised to release him in exchange for a confession of guilt.

On April 15, 2016, the court in Berdyansk, Ukraine, handed down a sentence of 2 years and 7 months imprisonment to the communist. As the Russian political prisoner spent nearly a year and a half in jail, this period was calculated on the principle of “two days served” for every day he was jailed, as provided under Ukrainian legislation. Thus, Sokolov had already officially served his sentence and was released from custody. However, upon leaving the courthouse, he was seized by four unidentified men, who took him away in a car.

Two months have passed, but the fate of the Russian communist remains unknown. Numerous requests from Andrei’s mother and representatives of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation went unanswered. According to human-rights activists and lawyers, Sokolov could have been kidnapped by Ukrainian far-right forces or taken to one of the secret prisons operated by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). In early June, the United Nations said that the Ukrainian authorities did not permit international observers to visit these prisons. According to the UN report, the prisoners there are held without charge or trial. Relatives and lawyers are not allowed to visit, and “methods of physical and psychological pressure” are used – in other words, torture.

The life and health of Andrei Sokolov are under serious threat. Turning to the authorities of Ukraine, Russia and the European Union, to the international community, human-rights defenders and journalists, we demand that all necessary measures be taken to locate the Russian Communist, restore his freedom and punish those who bear criminal and political responsibility for his cynical abduction.
In this struggle we are especially counting on the support of left and democratic organizations worldwide. The fate of Andrei Sokolov proves once again that there are cases of unlawful kidnapping of leftists in Ukraine, and that the country operates secret prisons contrary to all norms of international law. All this is reminiscent of the worst pages in the history of right-wing terror, when “death squads” abducted and disappeared people for their political views. Unfortunately, this is being repeated in our country.
Free Andrei Sokolov!

No to political repression in Ukraine!
Freedom for political prisoners!

Union Borotba (Struggle)
June 15, 2016

‪#‎Free_Sokolov #‎WhereIsAndrew
‪#‎JeSuisAndrey ‪#‎политические_репрессии

The International Action Center joins the call demanding freedom for Andrei Sokolov and all political prisoners of the U.S.-backed regime in Ukraine. Readers are urged to call the White House comment line at (202) 456-1111 and the Embassy of Ukraine at (202) 349-2963. You can also send written messages to the White House at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact and email the Embassy of Ukraine at emb_us@mfa.gov.ua. Demand that Washington and Kiev reveal the whereabouts of missing Russian citizen Andrei Sokolov, that he be released immediately, and that those who illegally detained him be found and prosecuted.

Statement translated by Greg Butterfield.

Urgent appeal to support activists in Odessa, Ukraine

Join Ramsey Clark, Cynthia McKinney, John Pilger, Sara Flounders & more!

The International Action Center endorses this appeal from the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) on behalf of besieged activists and family members in Odessa, Ukraine. We urge you to support UNAC’s delegation to Odessa and share this information widely.

From UNAC Co-coordinators Marilyn Levine & Joe Lombardo:

It’s been nearly two years since the world was shocked by reports of the deaths of scores of pro-democracy activists at the hands of extreme right-wing forces in the city of Odessa, Ukraine.

It was barely three months after a violent, right-wing coup overthrew the elected Ukrainian government. The activists had set up a tent city in Odessa’s historic Kulikovo Square to publicize their demand for a national referendum to decide the legitimacy of the coup.

On May 2, a large mob led by organized fascist groups set fire to the camp, forcing the activists to retreat into the nearby five-story House of Trade Unions. The building was then set on fire. Many died of smoke inhalation or were burned alive. Some jumped to their deaths. Some of those attempting to flee the building were shot or beaten to death. One pregnant woman was strangled. At least 46 activists were killed and many more were injured. (You can find many Internet videos. A good overview is here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yflMScowPfk)

Every week since the massacre, family members, friends and supporters, organized as the Mothers Committee for May 2, have held memorials in Kulikovo Square. These memorials are often harassed by the same or similar right-wing thugs, many of whom belong to neo-Nazi organizations.

The Mothers Committee is now planning a large memorial for this May 2 to mark the second anniversary of the massacre. The fascist organizations have publicly declared that they will not allow the memorial to take place.

In response to this very serious situation, and in consultation with our contacts in Odessa, UNAC is working to re-focus the world’s attention on Odessa, in the hope that this might help convince the U.S. and Ukrainian governments that allowing an attack on the memorial would not be in their best interests.

As part of this effort, UNAC will be sending a delegation of U.S. human rights activists to Odessa to monitor the memorial. We also sent a statement to the United Nations Human Rights Committee endorsing the call by the Mothers Committee for an international investigation into the 2014 massacre. Significantly, one of the leading fascist organizations, called Maidan, has formally asked the U.N. to deny this request.

le-massacre-d-odessa

YOU CAN HELP!

We also have drawn up the attached statement calling on the city government of Odessa, the federal government of Ukraine and the U.S. government to ensure that the civic rights of those attending the May 2 memorial, including the U.S. monitors, are respected. The statement also again endorses the Mothers Committee’s call for an international investigation into the events of May 2, 2014.

We are now appealing to human rights and progressive organizations and prominent individuals to sign on to this statement. We are asking you to help with this effort. Please send endorsements to: UNACpeace@gmail.com.

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE

In order to be effective, we will need to send the statement to the Odessa, Ukrainian and U.S. authorities as soon as possible. At the same time, we will be releasing the statement to the world media.

Statement in support of May 2 memorial in Odessa and for a United Nations investigation into the tragic events of May 2, 2014

On May 2, 2016, a memorial will be held in Odessa, Ukraine, to honor the memory of scores of pro-democracy activists who were brutally murdered on that date in Odessa two years ago. There is no reason for the City authorities to forbid a peaceful memorial, but right-wing radicals – some of whom are believed to have been involved in the events of 2014 – have declared that they will not allow it to proceed.

Partial list of endorsers:
Ramsey Clark – Former U.S. Attorney General; Human Rights Activist
Cynthia McKinney, Ph.D – Former Member, U.S. Congress; 2008 Green Party U.S. Presidential Candidate
John Pilger – Award-winning Journalist
Marilyn Levin & Joe Lombardo – Co-Coordinators, United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC)
Ray McGovern – Former CIA Analyst; Co-Founder, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Margaret Kimberley – Editor and Senior Columnist, Black Agenda Report
Bernadette Ellorin – Chairperson, Bayan USA
Ana Edwards – Chair, Virginia Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project, Richmond, Virginia
Sara Flounders, Co-Director, International Action Center, U.S. Peace Council
See full list here: http://nepajac.org/ukrainepetition.htm

This statement was initiated by the United National Antiwar Coalition, a broad coalition of peace and justice organizations in the United States. UNAC encourages the circulation of this petition among human rights organizations all over the world. Please send all new endorsements to: UNAC, PO Box 123, Delmar, NY 12054 USA; Phone:  518-227-6947; Email: UNACpeace@gmail.com; Web: www.unacpeace.org/

A Perspective from an Activist for Humanity

April 16, 2016
By David Simpson
Originally posted at https://dnipress.com/ru/posts/a-perspective-from-an-activist-for-humanity/

Editors note: As a part of the DONi Newsteam coverage of the war in Donbass we are reaching out to persons in Donbass and abroad to share their views on a wider level. If you have a story or would like to be interviewed in person or by email, contact Dave Simpson at: d.simpson@dnipress.com.

Greg Butterfield

Greg Butterfield

Today we visit with American Greg Butterfield, a man who lives in New York, but whose work is worldwide. His activism has taken him all over the globe trying to better living conditions for the less fortunate, assure civil rights for the oppressed and in general help the world be a better home for all of humanity.

DONi: Tell us a little about your life in your country. Age? What do you do for a living? Size of family? Pets? Hobbies or interests? What do you think about the country you live in? it’s strengths? weak points?

Greg Butterfield: My name is Greg Butterfield. I’m 44 years old. In my day job, I’m an office worker for a New York law firm specializing in defending civil rights. My “real” work happens after hours, as an independent journalist and activist. I live in Brooklyn with my daughters Ripley (age 11) and Drusilla (age 7). I grew up in poverty in the American Midwest during the Reagan-Cold War years. Early in life I developed a critical view of the United States and the mythology which it presents to its own residents and the rest of the world. I believe a country founded on the genocide of Indigenous peoples and slavery of Africans, and which today carries that legacy around the world in the form of wars and neoliberal economics, is incompatible with the principles of democracy and freedom it claims to represent. I think people here and worldwide urgently need a fundamental, revolutionary change to happen in the United States, to create a system based on equality, peaceful relations with the rest of the world, and people’s needs before profits. I’m a founding member of the anti-war organization International Action Center (IAC). For the past two years, I have coordinated the IAC’s activities against the U.S.-Ukraine war in Donbass and in solidarity with Donetsk and Lugansk. I’m proud to say that we held the first protest in the U.S. against the coup in Kiev in February 2014. Since then, we have organized numerous protests, pickets and informational meetings around the country in an effort to break the information blockade of the mainstream U.S. media.For example, last September during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the IAC organized a protest against Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s visit. We condemned him as a war criminal, demanded an end to U.S. support of Ukraine, and proclaimed our solidarity with the Donbass republics.

DONi: How did you first learn about the situation in Donbass? How do you get your news about Donbass? What opinions do you have about the conflict?
Greg Butterfield: Like many left-wing activists in the West, the Maidan developments in Ukraine first came to my attention in December 2013, when the fascists demolished the Lenin monument in Kiev. Soon after, some of my fellow activists attended the World Festival of Youth and Students in Ecuador. They met representatives of the Komsomol of Ukraine, who warned of the threat of a right-wing coup in their country. In early 2014, I began writing about the situation in Ukraine for Workers World, a socialist newspaper. After the coup in Kiev, I made contact with several Anti-maidan leaders in Kharkov and Odessa, and from there learned about the resistance movement in Donbass. Over the last two years I’ve written extensively for Workers World and other independent media about the U.S. role in the Ukrainian coup, Western support for the fascists in Ukraine, and why it’s important for the anti-war and working class movement in the U.S. to support the anti-fascist struggle of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Early on, it was difficult to get any first-hand information in English about the situation in Ukraine and the Donbass Republics. I actually taught myself to translate written material from Russian so that I could write about the war from a more informed point of view. Today I continue to translate several pieces each week into English on my blog, “Red Star Over Donbass.” I want to thank editor-in-chief Janus Putkonen and the staff of DONi News Agency for their commitment to making news and analysis from Donbass available in English and other languages. This has been such an important resource for supporters of Donbass in the U.S. and for me personally, as we continue to fight the media blockade. read more…

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