Accessibility links

Breaking News

Lie-Detector Loyalty Tests Proposed For Ukrainians In Separatist-Controlled East


A Ukrainian prosecutor has proposed loyalty lie-detector tests for residents in territory controlled by Russia-backed separatists.

Ukraine's chief military prosecutor has called for lie-detector tests to determine the loyalty of residents in the parts of eastern Ukraine that are under the control of Russia-backed separatists.

The timing of the proposal has raised questions about whether lie-detector tests could be used to restrict the voting rights of those from separatist-controlled territory when they try to register and cast ballots in Ukraine's upcoming presidential election.

That's because voters who live in separatist-controlled areas must cross into government-held territory to take part in the March 31 vote.

But Oleksandr Kluzhev, an analyst at the Civil Network OPORA, says he thinks it will be impossible for authorities in Kyiv to implement the policy because it would violate the Ukrainian Constitution.

"If this policy is established, of course we will see the misuse of it in the context not only of elections but also in the context of human rights," Kluzhev told RFE/RL.

"It's obvious the proposal is discriminatory because it is based on the registration of the place of a person's residence and not an individual's activities," Kluzhev said.

"It's important for officials to crack down on provocations by the Russia state, but I personally see this as an unrealistic proposal made by a public official," he said. "It's an attempt to make popular claims about a conflict zone at the time of elections."

Military Prosecutor-General Anatoly Matios proposed the lie-detector tests during a January 29 interview with the private 112 Ukraine TV channel.

The loyalty of residents of separatist-controlled areas such as the Donetsk region town of Yasnyuvata, seen here after shelling by Ukrainian government troops in December 2017, might be tested if Ukraine's chief military prosecutor gets his way.
The loyalty of residents of separatist-controlled areas such as the Donetsk region town of Yasnyuvata, seen here after shelling by Ukrainian government troops in December 2017, might be tested if Ukraine's chief military prosecutor gets his way.

Although Matios didn't specify details of his plan, his remarks suggest lie-detector tests are being considered for an estimated 7,000 people who cross the "line of contact" in eastern Ukraine every day from the parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions held by separatists pitted against Ukrainian government forces.

Matios said Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had called for ideas to determine whether residents in separatist-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine are loyal to the government in Kyiv or support the Russia-backed separatists.

"Now, many [government employees] are working on how to separate the people who are forced to live under the occupation regime from those who willingly organize fake elections and collect taxes" on behalf of the self-declared separatist governments in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, he said.

Matios said he can now reveal that "top secret" lie-detector software has been developed in Ukraine's Black Sea port city of Odesa on the basis of work by "a powerful intellectual and scientific center."

He said new polygraph software uses algorithms that allow computers to quickly test the reactions of people to a series of questions.

"The reactions to the questions make clear if a person is answering sincerely or not," Matios said.

Election Bureaucracy

In 2014, when Ukraine's last presidential and parliamentary elections were held, internally displaced Ukrainian were required to prove they'd moved to government-controlled territory in order to register and vote there.

Voters visit a polling station during parliamentary elections in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk in October 2014.
Voters visit a polling station during parliamentary elections in the eastern Ukrainian town of Slavyansk in October 2014.

There were no voter-registration centers or polling stations in separatist-held territory during Ukraine's 2014 national elections. Those who stayed in their homes in separatist-held areas simply could not vote.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled the east and wanted to cast ballots in 2014 faced a long bureaucratic process to register.

Voter registration was denied to many who couldn't provide legal residency documents from their new homes in government-held territory because their landlords didn't report them as tenants.

Responding to a groundswell of complaints about those rules, Ukraine in 2018 changed its election laws so that proof of residency in separatist-controlled territory is now valid.

But residents in separatist-held territory still must cross the line of contact into government-controlled areas in order to register and vote there.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
XS
SM
MD
LG