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Ukraine Bans Website Accused Of 'Pro-Russian Propaganda'


Ihor Hushva, the editor of Strana.ua, appearing in court in Kyiv in June 2017

KYIV -- An influential opposition news website has been banned in Ukraine in connection with sanctions against its editor, who faces sanctions in Kyiv for publishing "pro-Russia propaganda" and is living in exile in Austria.

The ban against the strana.ua website was issued as a decree signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that was made public on August 21.

Strana.ua's editor Ihor Hushva has been in exile since 2018 when Ukraine's National Security Council imposed sanctions on him and his companies.

Hushva is among dozens of individuals named on August 20 by Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council of spreading "pro-Russian propaganda."

The council on August 20 also imposed sanctions on a number of pro-Kremlin figures in Ukrainian politics, businesses, and media.

Among them is Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker that the U.S. government sanctioned in September 2020 after accusing him of being a Russian agent who tried to interfere in U.S. elections.

In January, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned seven Ukrainians and four entities for being part of a Russia-linked foreign intelligence network run by Derkach.

Derkach did not immediately comment, but he previously denied the allegations and said he was being targeted for exposing corruption.

Derkach was linked to an effort by Rudy Giuliani, who was former U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, to find compromising information about President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, during the 2020 election campaign.

“Sanctions are also imposed on four entities related to Internet resources, which are directly or indirectly coordinated by these citizens and conduct systematic anti-Ukrainian propaganda,” the council said.

They include bloggers and politicians Anatoliy Shariy and Olga Shariy, who are accused of running a video blog and website considered pro-Russian. The couple also founded a party that has several representatives in city and oblast councils.

The head of Ukraine's SBU security agency, Ivan Bakanov, said the measures were taken to protect the "information space."

"The Security Service clearly distinguishes between freedom of speech and the attack on the statehood and sovereignty of Ukraine," Bakanov said.

In addition, sanctions were imposed on 28 members of Russia's intelligence and special services as well as six other individuals alleged to be responsible for human rights abuses in Crimea.

Sanctions were also imposed on 12 legal entities, including local television channels, news agencies, and online publications from Crimea.

“All of them are waging an information war against Ukraine and are active participants in hybrid aggression,” the council said.

Russia occupied Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 after sending in troops and staging a referendum dismissed as illegal by more than 100 countries.

Moscow also backs separatists in a war against government forces that has killed more than 13,200 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

With reporting by Kyiv Post and dpa
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