Ukraine's Parliament passes tough legislation to contain protests.

21 January 2014

The Parliament of the Ukraine adopted five laws that would significantly infringe Ukrainian citizens' constitutional rights.

On the 16th of January 2014, the Parliament of the Ukraine under doubtful procedural circumstances adopted five laws that would significantly infringe the Ukrainian citizens' constitutional rights of association, media and the press, and strip civil society and political opponents of key democratic protections. Among the main legislative changes are the following:

  • Up to 15 years imprisonment for participation in “mass unrest” actions;
  • Up to 6 years imprisonment for blocking entrance to residential buildings, and up to 5 years imprisonment for blocking government buildings;
  • Up to 2 years driving bans for unauthorised driving in groups of more than five cars;
  • Up to 3 years imprisonment for gathering and disseminating information about members of special police force Berkut, judges or their families;
  • Up to two years imprisonment for libel (including via press or social media);
  • Hefty fines and up to 15 days arrest for unauthorised installation of tents, stages and sound equipment;
  • Hefty fines and up to 15 days arrest for participation in peaceful gatherings wearing a mask, helmet or other means of concealing one’s face;
  • Vaguely defined “extremist activity” is criminalized and punished by a fine for the first-time offence and by up to 3-year imprisonment for a repeat offence;
  • Process of removal of parliamentary immunity was simplified to a majority vote in the Parliament, no longer requiring a prior review by a relevant Parliamentary committee;
  • Trial in absence of individuals was allowed;
  • All internet-based media are required to register with the authorities;
  • NGOs that accept foreign funds must register as "foreign agents" and face high scrutiny and pay a profit tax;
  • Government can apply Internet censorship;
  • Police is immune to prosecution for their actions during the unrest.

The new laws, which de facto outlaw any anti-governmental protests, indicate a strong shift of the country towards authoritarianism (see also the article by Timothy Snyder below).

The continuing protests aggravate the economic crisis in Ukraine. The Ukrainian economy has been in recession since mid-2012, in January–September 2013 GDP contracted by 1.2% y-o-y, reflecting lower demand for Ukrainian exports and falling investments. The increased political uncertainty decreases chances of a fast economic recovery.