UKRAINE LEGAL UPDATE
3 March 2022
Rada amends the Criminal Code, instituting the criminal offence of collaborating with an enemy. It is meant to counter the effects of Russia’s invasion and its occupation of parts of Ukraine.
Faced with an invasion and territorial losses, Ukraine has imposed criminal liability for enemy collaboration, a milder form of treason. Affected are Ukrainians helping or working with Russia, particularly in the captured areas. Foreigners also risk prosecution if found to maintain trade or other dealings with Russia, its occupational authorities or the separatist entities.
One goal is to deter those left behind the enemy lines from accommodating the new regime, and so deny it the locals’ support. That, goes the theory, should stymie Russia’s efforts to consolidate its hold over the captured areas.
A particular focus is on criminalizing work and business in the territories. With many local jobs in public administration or social services and businesses needing registrations, permits and licenses, most of those gainfully employed will end up breaking the law.
Ukraine’s existing laws that penalize helping an enemy (e.g., treason) were seemingly ill-suited to the conditions of mass occupation. Hence the need for a range of more specific offences, accounting for degrees of enemy support. Flexibility is also a plus: charging a teacher with treason just might be too hard.
Public denial of aggression
The basic form of collaboration is public denials, made by Ukrainian nationals, of the facts of aggression or occupation, as well as calls for its support. The punishment is fairly light: disqualification from holding public office and engaging in some occupations.
Two offences relate to education. The first is propaganda of the aggression, by Ukrainian nationals, at schools or other educational institutions. It is not limited to occupied territories. The second one is implementation by Ukrainian nationals of the enemy’s educational standards. Its broad scope seems to catch even the most basic of jobs, such as teaching school in a captured area. The penalty may be imprisonment of up to three years.
Transfer of resources
Transfer of economic resources to the enemy, such as providing goods and services, is punishable by monetary fines, imprisonment of up to five years, disbarment from public office and confiscation of assets. Apparently covered are both sales and gratuitous transfers. There is no condition for a transfer to be voluntary, intentional or direct. Nor is it limited to Ukrainian nationals. So foreigners are also at risk. Simply put, any trade with Russia or its auxiliaries, anywhere and by anybody, is a now crime.
The same penalty applies in case of interactions with the enemy when doing business. Besides trade, it also covers such formal contacts as obtaining registrations, permits or licenses from the occupying authorities.
It is a crime for Ukrainian nationals to work for occupational authorities in any capacity. Penalties differ according to the nature of work. Ordinary jobs carry disbarment from public office and certain occupations, and may entail a confiscation of assets. Those working in administration, either by appointment or election, incur tougher punishment: a prison term of up to 10 years, disbarment from public office and confiscation of assets.
Three distinct kinds of political activities are prohibited:
(1) Organizing, holding or participating in elections and referendums in the occupied territories, as well as calling for participating in them. Such actions are punishable by a prison term of up to 10 years, disbarment from public office and confiscation of assets. It is not clear whether “participation” also includes voting.
(2) Engaging in political activities in concert with the enemy for the purpose of giving it support or absolving it of responsibility for the aggression. This includes organizing, holding or actively taking part in such events as meetings, conferences, marches, demonstrations, round tables, etc. The penalty is a prison term of up to 12 years, disbarment from public office and confiscation of assets.
(3) Informational activities, i.e., creating, collecting, receiving, keeping, storing, using or spreading content promoting the above political activities. The penalty is as above.
Joining the enemy’s military or law enforcement
The harshest penalties are reserved for Ukrainians choosing to join the enemy’s military or law enforcement, or those formed in the occupied territories. This includes holding any positions in the judiciary, police, the army or other military or paramilitary organizations. The penalty is imprisonment of up to 15 years, disqualification from public office, and confiscation of assets.
Ukraine declared martial law in response to Russia’s military invasion in February 2022.