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18 August 2022

Authorities promise not to target as collaborators medical workers stranded in the occupied territories. The Public Health Minister told in an interview of an understanding with the law enforcement agencies that ordinary medics in the captured areas should not be subject to criminal liability for working with Russia.

The Minister spoke, among other things, on the issue of medics who stayed behind in the occupied areas and continue working at hospitals and other medical facilities.

According to the Minister, such workers should not be targeted as collaborators except where they act out of political motives or voluntarily seek to assume an administrative office. He alluded to an understanding with the law enforcement agencies not to treat medical work as a criminal collaboration, and referred to the Ministry’s previous statements to that effect.

Earlier Ukraine passed a sweeping law on collaborators. It provides for criminal liability for those working for or with the occupying Russian authorities.

It is not clear how much legal weight the Minister’s statements carry. Those may be just his private opinions. Theoretically, those concerned may – in justifying reliance on his words – try to evoke legal certainty, a principle well-established in Ukrainian law. Yet it is normally only in play where official acts are involved.

It might further be difficult to tell where one does medical work for political reasons or otherwise. In any event, the law does not recognize such distinctions. So until and unless the Ministry issues an official clarification on the matter, the position is likely to remain unclear.

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