Ukraine: Activists at women’s solidarity event must be protected from attacks

The Ukrainian authorities must ensure participants in tomorrow’s women’s solidarity event in the city of Uzhgorod are protected from violence, Amnesty International said ahead of the event on International Women’s Day (8 March).

Organized by activist Vitalina Koval and Amnesty International Ukraine, “The First Wreath: The Reunion of Women’s Solidarity” is dedicated to the women’s rights movement in Ukraine.

For the past two years, feminist events organized by Vitalina Koval on International Women’s Day have been met with violence from far-right groups – in 2018 she suffered chemical burns to her eyes in an attack.

“The Ukrainian authorities know full well that their failure to ensure adequate protection in Uzhgorod and elsewhere has led to injuries to peaceful attendees at solidarity events. They have no excuse to fail again,” said Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine.

The Ukrainian authorities know full well that their failure to ensure adequate protection in Uzhgorod and elsewhere has led to injuries to peaceful attendees at solidarity events
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine's Director

“They must take every reasonable measure to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and the safety of participants in events marking International Women’s Day across the country.”

Vitalina Koval, a tireless activist who was featured in Amnesty International’s 2018 Write for Rights campaign, was last year attacked with red paint by members of a violent group at the solidarity event and sustained burns to her eyes.

“Hate-motivated groups in Ukraine who attack human rights activists, political opponents and ethnic minorities believe they can do so with impunity, and the authorities’ past inaction and ineffective investigations have bolstered this belief,” said Oksana Pokalchuk.

Hate-motivated groups in Ukraine who attack human rights activists, political opponents and ethnic minorities believe they can do so with impunity
Oksana Pokalchuk, Amnesty International Ukraine's Director

“This impunity must come to an end. The authorities must ensure the investigation into the attack on Vitalina Koval in 2018 is effective, thorough and impartial, while also investigating the threats and attacks against her and other activists across Ukraine.”

The event in Uzhgorod is inspired by The First Wreath almanac, which was published in Ukraine in 1887 by two writers and philanthropists, Natalia Kobrynska and Olena Pchilka.

Background

Amnesty International has been campaigning on Vitalina Koval’s case since 2018.

Last year, the organization documented widespread use of violence by far-right groups against peaceful demonstrators who took to the streets to mark International Women’s Day. The attacks took place during and following the demonstrations in Kyiv, Lviv, Uzhgorod and elsewhere.

Amnesty International is monitoring the rising incidence of politically motivated violence against human rights activists, political opponents and ethnic minorities in Ukraine. The latest summary was presented in the document Ukraine: Human rights under pressure, their advocates under attack.