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NGO Uniting Ethnic Ukrainians In Russia Under Pressure

Valery Semenenko says Ukrainian language teachers in Moscow are under constant surveillance.
Valery Semenenko says Ukrainian language teachers in Moscow are under constant surveillance.
A nongovernmental group in Russia that unites ethnic Ukrainians is under threat of closure, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Last month, the Russian Justice Ministry officially asked the Supreme Court to close down the group, known as the Federal National Cultural Ukrainian Autonomy in Russia, after its co-chairman, Valery Semenenko, told RFE/RL that Ukrainian language teachers in Moscow are under constant surveillance by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB).

The Justice Ministry ruled that Semenenko had no legal right to make any statements on his organization's behalf because at that moment the activities of the NGO had already been temporarily suspended by the Russian authorities.

The Justice Ministry further claimed that the NGO had failed to provide the authorities with the required data on the number of registered members of the organization and its activities.

The group's activities had focused on providing Ukrainian language classes, as well as holding concerts and conferences on Ukrainian history.

On March 16, the NGO filed an appeal with Moscow's Tver district court challenging the Justice Ministry's recommendation to stop the NGO's activities.

The following day, Semenenko told RFE/RL that his organization provided the authorities with all the requisite necessary documents and data after it received the first notification from the authorities. He said the pressure brought to bear on the NGO by the Russian authorities is politically motivated, as his organization has its own position on the current state of Russian-Ukrainian relations.

Semenenko expressed the hope that Ukraine's new Foreign Minister, Kostyantyn Hryshchenko, discussed the issue with Russian officials during his visit to Moscow earlier this week. Hryshchenko previously served as Ukraine's ambassador to Russia and is very well aware of the problems the NGO faces, Semenenko said.

At the time of the most recent All-Russian census in 2002, some 3 million Russian citizens identified themselves as ethnic Ukrainians.