Ukraine bans top opposition party — Analysis

A court has ordered the assets of the country’s leading pro-Russian and Eurosceptic party transferred to the state

Ukraine’s Opposition Platform – For Life (OPPL) party was officially banned by a Ukrainian court on Monday. Facebook post by the Ministry of Justice announcing that assets, properties, and money will be handed over to state.

Following a request by the Ministry of Justice, the Eighth Administrative Court of Appeals ruled to ban the party. The OPPL had all of its operations suspended by the authorities in Kiev in March after the launch of Moscow’s military operation, and the party and its leaders were accused of having ties to Russia and being “anti-Ukrainian.”

In its Facebook post, the ministry noted that Ukrainian courts have so far banned 11 “pro-Russian” parties suspected of acting to “undermine the sovereignty” of the country.

Before its operations were suspended, the OPPL was Ukraine’s largest opposition group and second-largest party in the country. In 2019, it won 13% of the vote in a parliamentary election, and in 2021, polls showed that it surpassed President Volodymyr Zelensky’s ‘Servant of the People’ as the most popular party.

Since 2018, it was led by Viktor Medvedchuk, a businessman who called for better relations with Russia and saw Kiev’s western turn as detrimental to national interests. In May 2021, Medvedchuk was placed under house arrest after being accused of treason amid Zelensky’s crackdown on dissent.

Medvedchuk had repeatedly denied accusations against him as “politically motivated,” and insisted he was never “pro-Russian,” but merely wanted what was best for the Ukrainian people.

The Ukrainian Security Service captured the OPPL leader as he tried to flee Ukraine on April 12th. After Zelensky posted a photograph of Zelensky holding the man, it was published. Since then, the politician was held by the SBU in an unspecified location.

Medvedchuk’s wife, Oksana Marchenko, has been pleading with world leaders to organize her husband’s release or exchange and has accused the SBU of beating and torturing him.

Last week, Ukrainian courts banned two more political movements – the Left Opposition and the Party of Shariy – both of which were previously featured on the list of 11 political factions suspended by Ukraine’s Security Council.

Zelensky outlaws more Ukrainian opposition parties

On May 14, President Zelensky signed into law a bill that simplifies the process of banning political parties deemed to be ‘anti-Ukrainian’. Any party opposing or challenging the government’s official position, particularly in relation to ongoing conflicts with Moscow, may have its operations halted and their assets confiscated by a court order that cannot be appealed.

The bill outlaws denial of the ‘aggression against Ukraine’, or referring to the conflict as ‘internal’ or a ‘civil war’. It also prohibits positive statements regarding the ‘aggressors’, and makes it illegal to refer to the forces of the Donetsk and Lugansk republics as ‘insurgents’, insisting that they should be called ‘terrorists’.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. French and German-brokered protocols were intended to provide special status for the Ukrainian states that break from the state.

Since then, the Kremlin demanded Ukraine declare itself neutral and vow to never join NATO’s military bloc. Kiev maintains that Russia’s offensive was not provoked and denies claims it planned to seize the two republics.

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