SBU secret police detains historian researching Polish, Nazi and Soviet occupations in Ukraine (Updated)

Via press release:

Toronto, September 9, 2010 On September 8, 2010 six representatives of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) detained at the Kyiv train station, Ruslan Zabilyj, Director of the National Memorial “Prison at Lonsky”. The Memorial is a recently opened museum to the victims of repressions at the Lonsky prison in Lviv, Ukraine, where thousands of Ukrainian political prisoners suffered under Polish, Nazi and Soviet occupations. Mr. Zabilyj is a historian, who oversees the Memorial, and serves as a researcher and archivist.

Mr. Zabilyj had just arrived in Kyiv on the train from Lviv. He was detained and held incommunicado for some fourteen hours at the SBU headquarter at 33 Volodymyrsky Street in Kyiv. He was not formally charged. However, he could not leave voluntarily and was not permitted to use his telephone. His inquisitors refused to identify themselves by name, but did inform him that his detainment was pursuant to instructions from SBU Director Valerij Khoroshkovsky, himself. Further, it was suggested to Mr. Zabilyj that it would be better for him if he quit his position at the Memorial, to think of his family, and cease contact with foreign scholars. He also was told to provide evidence that his research does not involve state secrets. He also was told that a list of those with whom he shared state "secret" archival information is being compiled.

A personal notebook and two compact disks were confiscated and not returned upon his release. Moreover, the SBU said that a criminal case against Ruslan Zabily has been started.

SBU repressive measures were not limited to Mr. Zabilyj alone. Today, the local SBU in Lviv blockaded the National Memorial and prevented entry to employees and visitors. In this regard as well, it is to be recalled that in 2009 the SBU agreed to transform the prison on Lontskoho Street in Lviv and to have it converted into a museum. The National Memorial opened its doors in June, 2009 and is today a museum/memorial and research center.

Attempts to intimidate Mr. Zabily were unsuccessful. Today, Ruslan Zabily filed a complaint against the head of the SBU: "I demand from Mr.Valery Khoroshkovsky an explanation with regard to the action of the SBU officers and to immediately return my private property – the computer and external drives. They contain only copies of historical documents, my research, and personal information. I appeal to you, dear journalists, to together help stop the censorship and pressure, put on history and historians.” He also demanded that his employees and research staff be allowed to return to their offices at the National Memorial.

This is not an isolated incident. It continues a pattern of intimidation by the SBU since Victor Yanukovich took control of Ukraine in late February 2010 and mimics tactics used by the Putin regime in Russia. The targets of this new policy have been journalists, academics, students and even clergy.

The Canadian Conference in Support of Ukraine (CCSU) deplores this reversion to Kremlin tactics, calls on the Canadian government to serve notice upon the Yanukovich regime that abuse of democracy and human rights will not be tolerated. We call on our fellow Canadians to speak out in defense of Mr. Zabily and the National Memorial “Prison at Lonsky”. Only through concerted action on the part of governments and NGOs alike can Mr. Zabily and all others seeking to defend and advance academic freedom, democracy, and civil society in Ukraine know that the world is watching and is standing with them.

They recently held a press conference to discuss these matters to the media as well:

Update: Here is another link to the story.

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