Ukraine’s security service chases EU-based blogger
The State Securuty Service of Ukraine (SBU) served an official notice of suspicion to EU resident Anatolii Sharii described by SBU as a “Russian propagandist”. “Allegedly, he conducted subversive activity against Ukraine in the information sphere,” SBU stated on its website. “There is reason to believe that Anatolii Sharii acted on behalf of foreign security services.”
The notice of suspicion is a formal confirmation of charges within criminal proceedings. SBU accused Sharii of treason and violation of equality of citizens. “In particular, the offender incited national, racial or religious hatred, humiliation of national honor and dignity, etc.”, the security service said.
Its experts established that the interviews and speeches of Sharii have evidence of his subversive activities against Ukraine. “Since 2012, via social networks, electronic media and Russian television channels, Sharii has been assisting Russian state and non-governmental structures in conducting special information operations,” SBU said. “In particular, the propagandist discredited the state policy of Ukraine, deliberately and purposefully disseminated manipulative, distorted information about government initiatives and events in the East. The goal was to aggravate and destabilize the socio-political and socio-economic situation, inciting interethnic and interfaith conflicts.”
Yuri Svirko: While SBU has every legitimate right to suspect people and serve them relevant notices, this news creates more questions than answers. The obvious questions are: why only Sharii and why only now? After the recently imposed sanctions against Ukrainian MP Taras Kozak and his three TV channels in Ukraine, it would be more logical to apply such a mechanism to Anatolii Sharii who is a permanent legal resident, if not already a naturalized national, of the EU. Sharii fled Ukraine in 2012, under President Viktor Yanukovych, and was granted political asylum in the EU, residing afterwards in Lithuania, the Netherlands and now Spain. Blaming him for discreditation of the state policy of Ukraine “since 2012” can be politically risky for both SBU and President Volodymyr Zelensky, as this period includes the presidential terms of Yanukovych and Poroshenko. Sharii has already thanked SBU for “serving a notice via publishing a propagandist video” since he would not need now to prove again in the EU that all cases against him “are pure politics.” Moreover, he is still the leader of Sharii’s Party, his own officially registered political party of Ukraine which has not been suspected nor suspended. The party was 10th with 2.2% of votes in the parliamentary elections of 2019 and, based on a recent poll of Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, can become 7th with its current rating of 3.9%.
Therefore, the SBU’s recent move might lead to growing concerns about freedom of speech in Ukraine and even beyond, since Sharii resides in the EU.