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On Monday, environmental federation Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) demanded the immediate release of activist Vadim Shebanov, member of Friends of the Earth Ukraine, arrested on Sunday together with other demonstrators during a peaceful protest in the city of Dnipropetrovsk.
The environmental network, present in almost 80 countries, issued a cyberaction to support Shebanov´s release and demanded an investigation into the alleged police abuse in Dnipropetrovsk and the repeal of new Ukranian laws that criminalize social protests and have serious consequences against human, civil and political rights.
Shebanov and two other people were nominated to negotiate on behalf of the demonstrators at Sunday´s protest with Vice-Chair of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Administration, Anatoliy Krupsky. However, on Sunday, roughly 5,000 people demonstrated at the city´s park before moving to Dnipropetrovsk Regional Administration. Shebanov was arrested and sentenced to two months pre-trial detention on that same night. Violence and police harassment against demonstrators has been commonplace in the past few months in Ukraine.
Besides being a member of Friends of the Earth Ukraine, Shebanov is a well-known activist of Dnipropetrovsk, chair of a sports association and former deputy of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Council.
The demonstrators were demanding the repeal of new anti-democratic legislation. According to FoEI, on January 16, the Ukranian government adopted national laws that criminalize political, civil and social activities. The environmental federation, urging the government to fully reverse the legislation, expressed its concern over some issues included in the new regulations: the bans on public assembly, criminalization of international collaboration and the labeling of NGOs as ’foreign agents’, restrictions on information sharing and repressive regulations governing NGO activities in general.
“Far from posing a threat to society, these activities help to develop community life, build peace and protect the free and frank exchange of ideas”, states FoEI in an article published in its website (http://www.foei.org/).
“We condemn the recent abhorrent violence in Ukraine and call on all parties to pressure Ukraine to end the violence, allow investigations into allegations of police abuse, and repeal its new anti-democratic laws”, they state.
FoEI is also alarmed by the potential impact of the new legislation on the entirely peaceful activities of Friends of the Earth Ukraine (Зелений світ). They explained that this organization is a vibrant and extremely active member at international and regional level in the framework of Friends of the Earth Europe. “FoE Ukraine’s transnational cooperation is a vital part of its work to raise environmental awareness in Ukraine and contribute to regional and international solutions to shared environmental problems”. “Placing legal obstacles in the way of NGOs, such as FoE Ukraine, in the name of security is a dishonest affront to the very idea of international solidarity – a cornerstone of the architecture of a peaceful global community”, FoEI explained.
Along these lines, the environmental federation argued that environmental issues do not, by their nature, respect national borders, and therefore this work necessarily involves international cooperation. The recent legislative moves by the Ukrainian government “can only damage international cooperation through myopic, reactionary national measures”. In addition, according to FoEI, “this raft of legislation will suffocate online and offline media and academic discourse, encourage xenophobia, and subject civil society activity in all its forms to the scrutiny of public officials”.
“We demand that the international community works swiftly to pressure Ukraine to end the violence, allow investigations into documented abuses by the police to date and repeal anti-democratic legislation, using all available diplomatic channels”, concluded FoEI in their press release.
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