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Friday, January 17, 2014

Ukrainian Parliament voted for the 2014 budget and approved controversial laws in an attempt to crack down the protests

Ukrainian parliamentarians during the controversial session
and voting process
(Image: The Guardian)
Ukrainian Parliament has held on Thursday, 16 January, a really scandalous session voting for 2014 budget and for 10 laws significantly restricting civil rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens and practically imposing the laws and norms existing during the period of “emergency law” with the difference that these laws in Ukraine could be constant.

Everything has started in early hours of Thursday, when the special parliamentary commission has gathered at 1 a.m. in order to discuss the project of 2014 budget and the amendments to it. Though the commission was represented mostly from the pro-Yanukovich powers, as oppositional representatives weren’t present and none of their propositions were imposed.

Morning session in Ukrainian Parliament has started at 9 a.m., though the moods were tense and many parliamentarians have gathered at least one hour before. Oppositional forces have blocked the tribune of speaker in order to disrupt the work of the Parliament and to prevent voting for the scandalous budget, the details of which weren’t disclosed before the voting. Oppositional MPs have also blocked the cabinet of the Parliament’s speaker Volodymyr Rybak to prevent him from opening the session.

But the session was opened by the Vice-Speaker Igor Kaletnyk, who has announced the beginning of voting for the budget. The situation was extremely tense as oppositional MPs continued to block the tribune and the electronic system of voting. Several clashes erupted between some MPs. Though the budget was approved, with 249 votes in favor of it. Voting happened during 10 seconds, without any studying and discussing the budget, parliamentarians have been voting in the “hands regime”.

Massive anti-government protests in Ukraine
(Image: Index on Censorship)
In addition to that, Ukrainian Parliament has voted for other 10 controversial laws restricting the freedoms and rights of Ukrainian citizens and threatening civil society and democracy in the country as these laws are the real attempt of the authorities to usurp the power in the country and to control all the state’s institutions and lives of citizens as well. Many of the laws approved on Thursday are actually the copies of some Russian laws, claim many experts.

These 10 laws were supported by the parliamentarian majority of the representatives of Yanukovich’s Party of Regions and Communists, while oppositional forces and independent MPs didn’t vote.

Among the most controversial and dangerous draft laws voted and approved by the Parliament on Thursday, is the so called “Kolisnichenko-Oliynyk Law”, or the “Law about the courts and reforming the courts’ system”, proposed by the Party of Regions parliamentarians Mr. Kolisnichenko and Mr. Oliynyk. It’s worth mentioning, that opposition didn’t know about this law and its registration in the parliament, what brings a lot of questions regarding the legitimacy of the voting process during Thursday’s session.

This scandalous law was also voted with the serious violations and is already sent to the President for his signature and approval. This law really threatens to destroy personal and civil rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens. Oppositional politicians, activists and journalists have issued a statement calling Yanukovich to use his power of vetoing this law.

EU politicians and diplomats and representatives of US government have also expressed deep concern over the laws voted in parliament and crackdown of the oppositional forces and peaceful anti-governmental protests.

Thus, Ukrainian Parliament has voted for the laws that threaten Ukraine even more, then Yanukovich’s 2010 Constitutional Decree as they restrict freedoms and rights of Ukrainians on an unprecedented level. These laws were also voted with violations (with no participation of the opposition and with the hands regime of voting without the official procedure of declaring the changing of the voting way etc.).
Massive protests in Ukraine
(Image: Kyiv Post)

The new law actually criminalizes slander and smear and states that the accused persons could be tried in absentia. In addition to that this law proposes restrictions of the privilege of Parliament and declares simplification of the process of arrest and detaining of the political figures, what could really threaten any oppositional politician.

The law also restricts mass gatherings, actions and demonstrations criminalizing it and also possessing of some symbols and wearing some things, such as scarves, masks, helmets etc. Erecting of any kind of barricades, tents and other buildings for the protests purposes is also prohibited under the new law. It’s worth mentioning also that this law forbids also moving in the cars column consisting of 5 and more cars. All these actions are punishable with the serious bills and prison terms.

]Another scandalous and controversial law approved on Thursday is law about “extremist activity” which prohibits and declares criminal responsibility for any “extremist activities” whether in public places, or in media and internet as well. Creating, saving and distributing of “extremist materials” becomes also punishable. Any calls for the power change or changes of the Constitution in the country are also criminalized.

In addition to that the law prohibits gathering and publishing of any information concerning the judges, security forces and top country’s officials and their families. Citizens of Ukraine will be also taken accountable for any mass gatherings and actions “violating public order”, what actually threaten any demonstration or rally held in protests against the current authorities.

Ukrainian law has got also the new definition, taken from the Russian laws, - “foreign agent”. The clause about “foreign agents” concerns the activities of all the Ukrainian and international NGOs operating on the territory of Ukraine and having foreign funds or receiving some grants or financial aids from abroad. Most of these NGOs in Ukraine are working for establishing and development of civil society in the country, and according to the new law these organizations will be obliged to pay taxes and report the authorities about their members and activities. Actually this law curbs the activities for democratic rules and values in Ukraine.

New law also states criminalizing of any calls and attempt of blocking the residential places of Ukrainian high officials and oligarchs. Those who will violate it will also face punishment.
Ukrainian parliamentarians during Thirsday's voring
(Image: The Day)

The new laws also threaten freedom of speech and information in Ukraine actually imposing censorship and restricting activities and work of Internet media. All Internet media should be registered as information agencies and will be controlled by government, while special commission will have the right to request Internet providers to block some web-sites and sources.

Another new issue imposed by the new law is personal identification of mobile connection, as the SIM-cards should be being sold only with the documents, and government will get the possibility to control mobile users and their communication.

Ukrainian oppositional activists and politicians were outraged by these laws and the way of voting and have strongly criticized them. Arseny Yatsenyuk, one of the oppositional leaders, declared this session and the approval of the laws was a real “anti-Constitutional and anti-Ukrainian coup” and called on Ukrainians to continue the fight against the regime of Yanukovich and to gather on Sunday, 19 January, in Kyiv Independence Square for the People’s Council.

Independent parliamentarian sympathizing the oppositional forces, Petro Poroshenko, has stated that today’s Parliament’s decisions were “absolutely illegitimate and totally discredited Ukrainian Parliament”.

According to the information published on an official website of the Administration of President, Victor Yanukovich has approved and signed five out of 10 laws, introduced by Parliament on Thursday, among them the controversial “Law about the courts and reforming the court system”.
Meanwhile tens of thousands of Ukrainians are already gathering in Independence Square, known currently as Euromaidan, to protests against the recent decisions and laws of Parliament and continuing their fight against regime of Victor Yanukovich, demanding his stepping down and resignation of the government. The atmosphere is tense amid the worries about the possible crackdown on the protesters and dispersal of Maidan.