(Berlin) – Ukrainian border officials barred a prominent Russian human rights defender from entering the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The Ukrainian government should reverse the decision and allow Andrei Yurov to enter Ukraine and carry out his human rights work.
On February 9, 2014, Yurov, a member of Russia’s presidential human rights council and the head of its permanent commission on human rights outside Russia, was deported to Russia upon his arrival at Borispyl airport in Kiev. Yurov was to meet in Kiev with Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muiznieks, and to work within the International Human Rights Defenders’ Group on the Situation in Ukraine, which was founded on December 1, 2013, in response to the November 30 police violence against peaceful protesters in Kiev.
“Yurov’s expulsion is an unprecedented and wholly regrettable step,” said Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of driving out human rights defenders the Ukrainian government should be open to scrutiny of its human rights record during this crisis.”
Yurov told Human Rights Watch that when he arrived at passport control, border officials took him to an office where an officer told him he would issue him a document stating that he is persona non grata in Ukraine. The official told Yurov that it was the SBU, Ukraine’s security services, that had made the decision and that this would not be stated on the document. The official handed Yurov an expulsion order, which Human Rights Watch has seen, stating that he is barred from entry to Ukraine. The document does not indicate how long the ban would be in effect.
Border officials accompanied Yurov to the plane which took him back to Moscow and handed his passport to the aircraft’s captain. Upon arrival in Moscow, the captain handed Yurov’s passport to Russian border officials who accompanied him to passport control. Russian border officials returned his passport, together with another document entitled “Act of Passenger Deportation.”
Yurov’s expulsion from Ukraine comes two weeks after he visited Kiev, Kharkov, and Donetsk to meet with local officials and victims of police violence and harassment by officials. He has been an outspoken critic of human rights violations in Ukraine, and on February 4 led a news conference in Moscow on human rights violations in the country.
The International Human Rights Defenders’ Group on the Situation in Ukraine has called for an international investigation into several incidents of police violence and disproportional use of police against protesters in Kiev.