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Ukraine is a multiethnic and multicultural nation[1][2][3] where racism and ethnic discrimination are arguably largely a fringe issue [4]. However, there have been recorded incidents of violence where the victim's race is widely thought to have played a role. Those incidents receive an extensive media coverage and are usually condemned by all mainstream political forces.[5] Human Rights Watch reported that "Racism and xenophobia remain entrenched problems in Ukraine".[6]

Roma children from Dubove (2004)


Race discrimination

Racially motivated attacks occur in Ukraine[7] while police and courts do little to intervene, the Council of Europe said in a report made public February 2008 in Strasbourg.[8] The report also expressed concern about attacks against rabbis and Jewish students, as well as the vandalism of synagogues, cemeteries and cultural centres. "However, criminal legislation against racially-motivated crimes has not been strengthened and the authorities have not yet adopted a comprehensive body of civil and administrative anti-discrimination laws", the body said. "There have been very few prosecutions against people who make anti-Semitic

statements or publish anti-Semitic literature." Discrimination against the Roma community, continuing anti-Semitism, violence in Crimea[9][10] and other acts of intolerance against various ethnic groups in Ukraine were singled out in the report by the Council of Europe's racism-monitoring body, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.[11]

Pastor Sunday Adelaja (founder and pastor of the Embassy of God Charismatic church in Kiev) is one of the few public figures from African decent in Ukraine

Skinhead violence against Tatars and Jews is also frequent and police have offered little protection to the different communities, it said. And ECRI asked Ukrainian authorities to step up efforts to fight violence by skinheads against Africans, Asians, and people from the Caucasus and the Middle East[12] For instance: in December 2006 racist attacks on foreign students have been reported by the Council of Europe. The council stated that students where reluctant to report attacks because of police response to these attacks seemed to be inadequate.[8] Many of these incidents are conducted by "skinheads" or neo-Nazis in Kiev, but similar crimes have also been reported throughout the country. In addition to incidents of assault[13], persons of African or Asian heritage may be subject to various types of harassment, such as being stopped on the street by both civilians and law enforcement officials. Individuals belonging to religious minorities have also been harassed and assaulted in Kiev and throughout Ukraine[14]

Ukraine does not currently have well established movements against illegal immigration or certain ethnic groups that are common in other former Soviet states. As a European country Ukraine is prone to outside influence from the neo-nazi and supremacist movements beyond its borders. For example, in areas of Southern Ukraine that have closer cultural and linguistic ties with Russia a number of neo-nazi groups resemble those in neighbouring Russia. [4]

Since 2005, nongovernmental (NGO) monitors in Ukraine have documented a dramatic rise in violent crimes with a suspected bias motivation. While incidents occurring in Kiev have been most accurately documented, there is evidence that incidents of violence are taking place throughout the country, including the cities of Cherkasy, Chernivtsi, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Lutsk, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odessa, Sevastopol, Simferopol, Ternopil, Vinnytsia, and Zhytomyr.[15]

Representatives of the Ministry of Justice and Members of Ukrainian parliament stated that discrimination views and antisocial attitudes are practiced by a minority of the population, by fringe organizations, and by younger generation of Ukrainians; they say they are most alarmed by the younger Ukrainian's attitudes[16]. The fact that, during the 2007 parliamentary elections, the right wing parties espousing xenophobic and racist ideology received very little support from the electorate, also points to the unpopularity of such ideas among the general population.[4]

Bias-motivated violence has been largely committed against people of African and Asian origin, as well as people from the Caucasus and the Middle East.


Discrimination against foreigners

According to a Western human rights organization, asylum seekers, refugees, and labour migrants are among the victims of bias-motivated violence, which have also included diplomats, expatriate employees of foreign companies, members of visible minorities in Ukraine, and Ukrainians who have assisted hate crime victims. Foreign students, of which there are some forty thousand, have been among the principal victims of hate crimes. Small populations of citizens and immigrants of African origin are highly visible and particularly vulnerable targets of racism and xenophobia. Although relatively few people of African origin reside in Ukraine, the rate of violence against this group has been extraordinary. African refugees, students, visitors, and the handful of citizens and permanent residents of African origin have lived under constant threat of harassment and violence.[17] During the 2009 flu pandemic in Ukraine in November 2009 the police of Transcarpathia asked the local population to report every instance of meeting or communicating with foreigners, especially those from South-East Asia or Middle East. The police explains that the reason for such a request was "the worsening of the epidemiological situation in Transcarpathian Region and the increasing risk of getting ill." The Uzhhorod police removed the request from their website after media drew attention to it.[18]

Discrimination against Roma

Roma in Lviv (2007)

It is alleged that the country's estimated 400,000 Roma people (government figures were 47,600) faces both governmental and societal discrimination. In October 2006 the European Roma Rights Center complained to the UN Human Rights Committee about violence against Roma in the country, racial targeting and profiling by police against Roma, discrimination in social programs and employment against Roma, and the widespread lack of necessary documentation for Roma to enjoy access to social services and protections. In many areas of the country, poverty often forced Romani families to withdraw their children from school. There were numerous reports of Roma being evicted from housing, removed from public transportation, denied public assistance, kicked out of stores, and denied proper medical treatment.[19] According to the Roma Congress of Ukraine, the findings of the 2003 national study on social integration of Roma remain current: only 38 percent of Roma are economically active, 21 percent have permanent employment, and 5 percent have temporary employment, mainly seasonal jobs. Representatives of Romani and other minority groups claimed that police officials routinely ignored, and sometimes abetted, violence against them.[19]

There were some reports that the government was addressing the longstanding problems faced by the Romani community. For example, the Chirikli fund reported in fall 2006 that a court in Odessa reviewed its complaint against a school director who refused to admit a Romani child to school. The court refused to review claims of discrimination but the case was still under review for possible administrative violations as of December. A court in Donetsk refused to accept a similar complaint.[19]

Discrimination against Jews

As of April 2008, in total, 100 hate crimes were committed since January 2007. One of every five hate crimes in Ukraine since the start of last year was against the Jewish community, the country's security police reported. However, not known how much of those attacks were on a racial base.[20]

[6] Attacks on ethnic minorities are occurring in Ukraine at a record pace, according to the Union of Councils for the Jews in the Former Soviet Union.[20] Ukrainian Jews have been the object of some of the worst government-led persecutions in history, including Tsarist pogroms, Nazi genocide, and Stalin's antisemitic campaigns. The problem of antisemitism has remained despite massive immigration of Jews to Israel, Europe, and the United States following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In recent years, Ukraine has seen a revival of anti-Jewish prejudice in the form of an increase of antisemitic attacks and incidents.[21]

Discrimination against Tatars

In Crimea, native Tatars feel discriminated due to lack of lands.[22] Conflicts between Tatars and their Slavic neighbors in recent years has led to massed fist fights, vandalizing graveyards and even murders. The Ukrainian government is slow in acknowledging the tensions.[23] Crimean Tatars asserted that discrimination by mainly ethnic Russian officials in Crimea deprived them of employment in local administrations and that propaganda campaigns, particularly by Russian Cossacks, promoted hostility against them among other inhabitants of Crimea.[19] More than 250,000 Crimean Tatars have returned to their homeland following Ukrainian independence, shifting the ethnic composition of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The return of Tatars, who belong to a different ethnicity, speak a separate language, and are predominantly Muslim, has resulted in increased ethnic and religious tensions in the Crimea and contributed to an increase in bias-motivated attacks against Crimean Tatars and their property.[24]

Discrimination against LGBT persons

Pianist Sviatoslav Richter (1915 - 1997) never publicly admitted he was gay[25]

The breakdown of the Soviet Union—during which time homosexuality was criminalized—has allowed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender/transsexual people (LGBT) to be more open about their identity. However, the Ukrainian constitution does not explicitly include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation; laws concerning bias-motivated violence do not cover incidents involving bias on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.[26] Many Ukrainians remain intolerant toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, & transgender individuals. According to one recent poll by the Institute of Sociology, almost 35 percent of Ukrainians disagreed strongly or disagreed with the statement that "gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own life as they wish."[27]

Latest developments

A report released by Amnesty International in July 2008 warned of an "alarming rise" in racist attacks in Ukraine. According to the report, more than 60 people were targeted in racist violence in 2007, six of them killed; More than 30 people were victims of racist attacks since the beginning of 2008 and at least four had been killed at the time of the report. Rights advocates are puzzled by the rise in hate crimes but they claim government inaction is partly to blame. They also claim the government aggravates the problem by denying that racism is growing and only acknowledging isolated incidents. Rights groups claim Ukrainian hate groups are inspired by their counterparts in Russia, where minorities are assaulted almost every day. Russian skinheads help the local groups, they say, sharing tips and video clips on how to attack and torture their victims and how to safely leave the crime scene. [28]

Government response

The government's response to the recent surge in hate crimes has been insufficient and inconsistent. President Yushchenko and some other senior government officials have spoken out against racist and xenophobic violence. However, these statements have been undermined by other declarations by some key law enforcement officials whose remarks suggested a denial of the problem. On March 30, 2007, former Interior Minister Vasyl Tsushko condemned acts of xenophobia and racism at a meeting of representatives of embassies and international organizations. Tsushko denied any massive instances of xenophobic incidents in Ukraine, but recognized that single incidents could lead to an overall negative tendency.

The authorities did take some important steps in 2007, including the creation of specialized units in key government agencies. Also, in early 2008, there were several guilty verdicts handed down in cases of violence in which incitement to hatred based on nationality, race, or religion were among the charges. However, these verdicts were exceptions to a pattern in which violent crimes with an apparent bias motivation are more often treated as hooliganism. Law enforcement officials lack training and experience in recognizing and recording the bias motivations behind attacks, limiting the ability of prosecutors to pursue hate crime cases in court. An inadequate legal framework also hinders the ability of criminal justice officials to prosecute hate crimes as such.[29]

In November 2009 the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) adopted a law that raised the maximum sentences for crimes committed on the ground of racial, national, or religious hostility.[30]

Statistics on violent crime motivated by racism and discrimination

There is no government data collection or regular public reporting expressly on violent hate crimes. The most reliable information is produced by NGO and IGO monitoring. Thus, it is impossible to see the full extent of the problem. Human Rights First and Amnesty International released reports on the dramatic rise of hate-motivated violence in Ukraine.[31][32] Both organizations relied on the nongovernmental monitors and closely collaborated with the Diversity Initiative, a coalition of some 40 NGOs, which was created in April 2007 in response to the unprecedented increase in the number of suspected racially-motivated assaults. The Diversity Initiative is supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).[33]


  1. ^ Andrew Wilson, "Ukrainian Nationalism in the 1990s: A Minority Faith", Cambridge University Press, 1996, ISBN 0521574579
  2. ^ Andrew Wilson, "The Ukrainians: Unexpected Nation", Yale University Press, 2002, ISBN 0300093098
  3. ^ Serhii M. Plokhy, 'The History of a "Non-Historical" Nation: Notes on the Nature and Current Problems of Ukrainian Historiography', Slavic Review, Vol. 54, No. 3 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 709-716
  4. ^ a b c Zerkalo Nedeli: У полоні чотирьох імперій, або Про корені расизму в Росії і про небезпеку його сходів на Сході й Півдні України
  5. ^ Human Rights First Government Response to Racially Motivated Crime in Ukraine
  6. ^ a b Essential Background: Overview of human rights issues in Ukraine (Human Rights Watch, 31-12-2005)
  7. ^ Union of Councils for Soviet Jews: Bigotry Monitor: Volume 7, Number 23
  8. ^ a b [1] Council of Europe Third report on Ukraine adopted on 29 June 2007 and made public on 12 February 2008
  9. ^ UNIAN - Dozens of Muslim gravestones defaced in Ukraine`s Crimea region
  10. ^ Фото УНІАН - - photos of politicians, photos of celebrities, stage або production photos
  11. ^ UNIAN - Council of Europe releases Report on racism in Ukraine
  12. ^ .Korrespondent ЄС прагне подолати расизм і ксенофобію в Україні
  13. ^ Police Arrest Suspected In Beating 5 Chinese Students In Kyiv, Ukrainian News Agency, October 2, 2008
  14. ^ [2] US department of state travel information about Ukraine
  15. ^ Human Rights First The Extent of Bias-Motivated Violence in Ukraine
  16. ^ Novinar: Світ занепокоєний расовою нетерпимістю України
  17. ^ Human Rights First The Victims of Intolerance and Violence
  18. ^ Swine flu breeding racism?, Kyiv Post (November 6, 2009)
  19. ^ a b c d [3] US department of state Country Report on Human Rights Practices in Ukraine
  20. ^ a b Breaking News - JTA, Jewish & Israel News
  21. ^ Human Rights First The Victims of Intolerance and Violence
  22. ^ A Bittersweet Homecoming For Crimea's Tatars. Volodymyr Prytula. September 5, 2007.
  23. ^ UNIAN - Dozens of Muslim gravestones defaced in Ukraine`s Crimea region
  24. ^ Human Rights First The Victims of Intolerance and Violence
  25. ^ [4]
  26. ^ Human Rights First The Victims of Intolerance and Violence
  27. ^ Evhen Golovakha, Andriy Gorbachyk, Natalia Panina, "Ukraine and Europe: Outcomes of International Comparative Sociological Survey", Kiev, Institute of Sociology of NAS of Ukraine, 2007, ISBN 978-966-02-4352-1, pp. 133-135 in Section: "9. Social discrimination and migration" (pdf)
  28. ^ Ukraine grapples with alarming rise in hate crimes as it pursues EU dreams Kyiv Post Retrieved on July 18, 2008
  29. ^ Human Rights First Government Response to Hate Crimes in Ukraine
  30. ^ Rada toughens punishment for crimes on ground of racial, national, or religious hostility, Kyiv Post (November 5, 2009)
  31. ^ Human Rights First Bias-Motivated Violence in Ukraine
  32. ^ Amnesty International Ukraine: Government must act to stop racial discrimination
  33. ^ Human Rights First The Extent of Bias-Motivated Violence in Ukraine

External links

See also


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