Which laws and secrets does the new Head of SBU plan to protect?

Immediately after his appointment, the new Head of the Security Service [SBU] Valeriy Khoroshkovsky spoke with journalists expressing some interesting sentiments: “The Security Service should reduce work with archives and concentrate on its main tasks”; “a great deal of material has been declassified: the truth that needed to be made available to the Ukrainian people, that truth has been made available”. He also said that the “concern of the Security Service was primarily in protecting its secrets, protecting the laws which created these secrets”.

The same day one of those dismissed was the Head of the Central SBU Archive Volodymyr Vyatrovych.

What is most staggering in this is the total certainty of this top official that the truth needed has already been given to the people, and that’s enough.

So it seems there is truth that doesn’t need to be given? Once again they are trying to decide for us what we need to know and what we don’t? It won’t work, Valeriy Ivanovych!

I would remind you, should you have forgotten that the main duty of the State, according to Article 3 of the Constitution is to affirm and defend human rights, including the right to truth about our history.

And in fact, what secrets are we talking about?

Nobody is denying that the Ukrainian State has its secrets, and that the Security Service must protect them in accordance with the law.

However the corps of SBU archival material, created up to 1991 in other country, the USSR, does not form a part of these secrets!

The stamps “secret”, “entirely secret”, and other stamps restricting access on these documents are not set out in any Ukrainian law! I would point out that the right to information under Article 34 of the Constitution may only be restricted by law.

These stamps were introduced in the USSR by Instruction No. 0186 which was itself secret and not on open access.

Normative acts of the Soviet period are only valid in Ukraine where they do not run counter to the Constitution. The given Instruction clearly breaches it and cannot be applied. Therefore refusals to provide information and access to archival files with Soviet stamps restricting access are entirely unlawful.

It is clear that all documents classified as secret by the Soviet regime need to be declassified.  There is no sense in independent Ukraine in keeping any of that material secret. And the information which should remain secret can be given the stamps “top secret” or “particularly important” in accordance with the Ukrainian Law “On State Secrets”.

The systematic process of declassifying documents about political repression of the Soviet period, and it is this which makes up the major part of the SBU archives, was only begun in 2009.  The leadership of the SBU stated on 24 December that during the year 16 thousand archival documents had been declassified. Yet this is only a small percentage of the overall number of documents which need to be declassified.

Thus there are not a “great many” declassified files, but extremely few!

These are archival documents about Holodomor, a small part of the documents about the liberation struggle in the 1940s, some archival criminal files of prominent figures…

Yet the main corps of documents concerning the crimes of the Soviet regime against the Ukrainian people is still closed.

We would mention only the most serious crimes of the communist regime which concerned Ukraine:

1. Mass repression against the peasants – dekulakization, resettlement, arrests and executions at the ruling of OGPU troika, the terrible years of 1930-1931

2. Organization of manmade famine resulting in the death of 7 to 12 million people in the USSR, from 10 to 15 percent of the population of Ukraine, 1932-1933.

3.  Mass arrests and executions in the so-called “Kulak operation” of the NKVD – executions according to quota, July 1937 – November 1938 (767,397 people were arrested, of whom 386,798 were executed).

4.  Repression against the families of people convicted of “State treason” in 1937-1938.

5.  Executions and convictions according to the so-called “execution lists” where the measures of punishment was determined personally by Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovych, Zhdanov, Mikoyan and others. During the period from February 1937 to October 1938 44 thousand people were convicted, of whom 39 thousand were shot. Other mass repression of the Great Terror.

6.  The mass execution of around 22 thousand Polish officers taken prisoner in the Spring of 1940 in Katyń, Mednoye and Kharkiv.

7.  Mass deportation of civilians on the basis of “class” or ethnic group – Poles, peoples of the Crimea during the Second World War, Ukrainians “for abetting the Ukrainian Resistance Army”, etc.

Mr Khoroshkovsky, if none of the above-listed tragedies touched your family, I am sincerely glad for you.

Mine, however, is one of the majority of Ukrainian families who went through those tragedies, who want to know the truth about our past. And it is impossible to find it out without archival material.

The process of opening up the archives must be continued if the talk of President Yanukovych about European integration is sincere, and not hypocritical rhetoric.

Or it will once again end up that Europeans are much more affected by our tragic past, than we Ukrainians. On issues of memory, access to information about political repression, etc, European consciousness has long had a clear position, formulated in numerous resolutions of the European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE Committee of Ministers and OSCE.

I will not bore you with long quotations, three will suffice:

1. “The wider public know almost nothing about the crimes of the totalitarian communist regimes. In some countries communist parties legally exist and actively function despite the fact that sometimes they have not even distanced themselves from the crimes committed in the past by the totalitarian communist regimes.”

2.  “In order to strengthen European awareness of crimes committed by totalitarian and undemocratic regimes, documentation of, and accounts testifying to, Europe’s troubled past must be supported, as there can be no reconciliation without remembrance”

3.  “access to documents that are of personal relevance or needed for scientific research is still unduly restricted in some Member States; calls for a genuine effort in all Member States towards opening up archives, including those of the former internal security services, secret police and intelligence agencies”

The only point on which I can agree with the Head of the SBU is that work with the archives cannot be among the main tasks of the Security Services.

In fact it would be desirable to hand these archives to specialized institutions as has been done in other post-communist countries.

Last year there was a draft plan for creating an archive of national memory, with the department of the SBU archive with the entire collection and personnel in a separate institution. Yet this was rejected by the government. Is it not time to return to this idea?

So what secrets and laws will be protected?

I publicly demand a meeting! I hope I can explain to you, a young man, that information about political repression needs to be declassified and what kind of reservations, etc are needed.


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