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Law enforcement in Ukraine

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Title: Law enforcement in Ukraine  
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Law enforcement in Ukraine

Law enforcement in Ukraine is the responsibility of a variety of different agencies.

Contemporary uniformed officers of the Ukrainian police provide security at a football match.


Pre-20th Century

The history of law enforcement in Ukraine is a very complex one. Since the Ukrainian state has rarely existed throughout history, the history of law enforcement in Ukraine is largely related to the history of the region's occupying powers and their respective agencies. For the most part of its history, since the downfall of Kievan Rus, acts passed and enforced by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Tsardom of Russia were representative of the development of the legal system and its imposition in the ethnically Ukrainian lands.

An officer of the Russian Imperial Police (1900).

Under the Poles and Lithuanians, the application of law and order was delegated to various Polish nobles who had large estate holdings in Ukraine. These nobles were empowered, by the King, to both pass judgement and sentencing on their subjects while requiring them to work a certain number of days a year for them. This form of justice was greatly flawed, and since the orthodox and Greek-Catholic ethnic Ukrainians were traditionally seen as inferior to their Roman Catholic Polish masters, it was a heavily biased system which tended to act in favour of the rights of ethnic Polish settlers.

Despite this, it is regarded as having been far less severe than the system of justice and law enforcement imposed by the Russians in their Ukrainian territories. While in the Polish-ruled regions of Ukraine the ethnic settlers were afforded a certain amount of limited rights, Ukrainians living in Russian-administered territories were afforded almost no rights and were expected to render unconditional service to their masters.

After the collapse of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the division of what is now considered Ukraine between the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, the organisation of law enforcement agencies came under the direct supervision of authorities based in Saint Petersburg and Vienna. However, while the Austrian authorities were traditionally seen as liberal, exercising fair justice, the Russians were outwardly hostile to Ukrainian nationalism and initiated a process of gradual, forced Russification.

This process of forced ethnic assimilation was imposed through use of the Imperial Police to shut down non-academic Ukrainian social organisations. Interestingly however, high-register Ukrainian literary works, which were deemed to be too complex for large scale readership, were not censored or suppressed; in the contemporary era this collection of works in the Ukrainian language has provided support for the development of national consciousness.


After the First World War, ethnic Ukrainians again found themselves under the auspices of either the Soviet or Polish governments. This situation lasted until the beginning of the Second World War, at which point the whole of what is now considered Ukrainian territory came under control of the Soviet Union.

During the war the German Wehrmacht was pressured for political reasons to gradually restore private properties in zones under military control and accept local volunteer recruits into their units and the Waffen SS, promoted by local nationalists' organizations O.U.M. and U.P.A., while receiving political support from the Wehrmacht. This led to the establishment of a Ukrainian Schutzpolizei to police Nazi-controlled areas of Ukraine.

Following the conclusion of the Second World War, the Soviet Union expelled all non-Soviet peoples, such as ethnic Poles, from the territory of the post-1945 Ukrainian SSR. At this point the Soviet Militsiya and other units of the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs took over responsibility for all law-enforcement activities in Ukraine. Following the independence of Ukraine in 1991 all these units operating on Ukrainian territory were transferred to the command of the newly formed Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine which continues to exercise control over Ukrainian law enforcement agencies to this day.


Early history

On February 2, 1713 by the order of Peter I in Ukraine were formed landmilitia out of regiments of the Russian army quartered in Ukraine and specially recruited soldiers to carry out security and guard duties.[1] Since 1722 local cossacks were allowed to join landmilitia. In 1736 by the request of the great Russian military reformer General Field marshal Minikh the units of landmilitia were renamed into the Ukrainian Militia Corps that was accounted for 20 cavalry regiments.

Since 1762 when the Emperor Peter III ordered the corps to be called simply the Ukrainian, the word landmilitia fell out of use. In 1770 the Ukrainian Corps was merged with the Russian regular army, however, the special tax that was paid by the population of Ukraine for the landmilitia upkeep was liquidated only in the beginning of 19th century.

MVS in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine

The contemporary Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine originates from the Soviet NKVD's branch in Ukrainian SSR - the "NKVD of the UkrSSR", which was later reformed into the "Ministry of Internal Affairs of UkrSSR" (Ministerstvo vnutrishnikh sprav Ukrayins'koyi SSR). Both agencies were merely a regional branch of the all-Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs, and essentially a militsiya force since the late 1950s.[2]

Despite some operational autonomy, all regulations and standards of policing were established by the central Ministry; Moscow was directly co-ordinating important operations in Ukraine (such as anti-corruption investigations regarding statesmen of higher levels or other politics-related issues), including deployment of detective brigades from central offices in case of need. TheMilitsiya of the Ukrainian SSR used the same ranks, insignia and vehicle liveries as the rest of the Soviet militsiya.

Like all the Soviet Ministries of Internal Affairs, the Ukrainian SSR MVS included not only the militsiya, but also the republican branch of non-police services, such as:

MVS and political repressions in Soviet Ukraine

MVS of the Ukrainian SSR has been directly involved in Soviet political repressions in Ukraine at all stages. Since the splitting of the NKVD and detachment of the secret police to the MGB-KGB, the militsiya became a secondary instrument of repression in the hands of the KGB, fulfilling such tasks as:

  • conducting fabricated charges of non-political crimes against Ukrainian dissidents (like Vyacheslav Chornovil)
  • tackling occasional mass protests against Soviet rule
  • maintaining the propiska regime
  • participation in ethnic-related repressions and restrictions
  • assisting in the persecution of religion
  • direct persecution of homosexuals and various restricted cultural movements (like rockers, punks, bikers, karate students etc.)

MVS of independent Ukraine

Officers from the Militsiya's public order department patrol Khreshchatyk Street in central Kiev.

Post-Independence reformation and the Gongadze case

Since independence and before the 2004 Constitutional Reform, Ukraine's Minister of Internal Affairs was directly subordinate to the President of Ukraine (appointed by the President unilaterally), also a formal member of Ukraine's Cabinet of Ministers. Before the Orange Revolution, only militsiya Generals (not civil statesmen), were appointed Ministers.

The Ukrainian militsiya has a significant record of law violation and human rights abuse. The most notorious case is the agency's involvement in the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000. Soon after Gongadze's disappearance, recordings of a Major Melnychenko were revealed.

A fragment of the recorded conversations portrayed MVS Minister Kravchenko promising President Kuchma to "take care" of the oppositional journalist. According to the recordings, Kravchenko told Kuchma that he controls a special group of high-class detectives "without any morals, and ready to do anything".

The decapitated and disfigured body of Gongadze was found later in a forest, and a long-lasting investigation started. In 2005, soon after the Orange Revolution, the first results of the case appeared. Three members of the MVS detective squad were charged with the abduction and murder of Gongadze. An international warrant was issued for their chief, General Oleksiy Pukach, who was supposedly hiding abroad.[4]

In March 2005, ex-Minister Kravchenko, the main participant of the case, was found shot in the head (supposedly by his own hand). Later, in September 2010, Ukraine's Office of the Prosecutor General issued a statement stating that prosecutors had concluded that Kravchenko had ordered Pukach to carry out the murder, and stating that Pukach had confessed to the murder.[4]

In the Melnychen recordings, the hitmen group was called "orly" Ukrainian: орли (literally "eagles") by the Minister. (Orly here it is not a proper name, but a traditional Russian common name for brave and skillful soldiers). Since then, the phrase "Orly of Kravchenko", became a symbol of lawlessness and brutality in Ukrainian law enforcement.

MVS and the UBK campaign

In 2000-2001, the MVS was trying to tackle Ukraine without Kuchma (Ukrainian abbreviation: UBK) mass protest campaign against President Leonid Kuchma, using various methods: from direct attacks to the infiltration of provocateurs. The final confrontation took place on March 9, 2001 on the central streets of Kiev, including clashes between protesters and anti-riot units, and mass arrests of youngsters in the city.

MVS during the Orange Revolution and since

A girl attaches flowers to Kiev riot militisya officers' shields during the Orange Revolution.

During the 2004 election and the Orange Revolution, the MVS did not confront the opposition protests, although media sources claim that respective orders were given to its anti-riot units by senior commanders and leaders of the country. Minor clashes between protesters and the Berkut happened in the city of Chernihiv, but both sides agreed that they were incidental and provoked by unknown forces. The opposition also accused the militsiya of involvement in attempted electoral fraud that occurred at polling stations.

In February 2005, after the revolution, as part of the post-election democratic changes, President Viktor Yushchenko appointed Yuriy Lutsenko as the new Minister of Internal Affairs. Unlike his predecessors, Lutsenko was a career politician and had never served in the militsiya or any other law enforcement agency. Moreover, as one of the main figures in the Socialist Party of Ukraine, Lutsenko participated in several protest campaigns and conflicts with the militsiya. The new minister demanded resignations from those officers involved in racketeering. Thus, taking a significant step towards the establishment of civil control over the Ukrainian militia.

In January 2006, Minister Lutsenko admitted that the MVS is in possession of the evidence that would allow them to question and charge ex-President Leonid Kuchma in a privatization wrongdoing case, if only the MVS had the authority for starting such a case autonomously. Later, according to 2004 constitutional amendments that took effect after the 2006 parliamentary elections, the minister is now nominated by the Prime Minister and appointed by the Verkhovna Rada (parliament), without formal influence of the President. Thus Yuriy Lutsenko, the Minister at the time, who was previously appointed under the old procedure, was reappointed, thereby becoming the first-ever MVS Minister to be agreed upon by the parliamentary coalition and appointed by parliament.

On December 1, 2006, Verkhovna Rada dismissed Lutsenko and appointed Vasyl Tsushko of the Socialist Party as the new Minister. Like his predecessor, Tsushko was also a civil politician (and previously a vineyard manager), not connected to the militsiya before his appointment. Additionally, Tsushko was the first-ever MVS Minister not subordinated to the President.

However, in 2007 Lutsenko returned to the post of minister and remained there until the elections which brought Viktor Yanukovich to power in 2010. After Yanukovich's election, Anatolii Mohyliov was appointed to the minister's position; he is a career militia officer and currently holds the rank of Colonel General of the militsiya. Vitaliy Zakharchenko succeeded him in November 2011.

Recent developments

Officers and a patrol car of the DAI, the Militsiya's traffic corps, at work in central Kiev.

In May 2007, the on-going political crisis in Ukraine lead to a jurisdiction dispute over the country's Internal Troops. Following minor political clashes involving the militsiya and presidential security forces, President Viktor Yuschenko issued a decree re-subordinating Internal Troops from the Ministry of Internal Affairs directly to the President. The MVS criticized both the decree and the subsequent troop movements.

Both sides in the political crisis managed to avoid further clashes between law enforcers. Now the Internal Troops, as well as all militsiya units, returned to their routine tasks and re-established practical co-ordination. However, the legal dispute over Internal Troops remains unsolved. The Troops command declares its subordination to the President - according to the decree which is currently being appealed in court by the Cabinet of Ministers.

On October 10, 2008 officers from the Security Service of Ukraine detained deputy platoon commander of the Kharkiv city division patrol and inspection service regiment of the Main Interior Affairs Ministry Directorate in Kharkiv region on suspicion of pushing narcotic drugs.[5]

According to head of the trade union of attested employees of law enforcement agencies Anatolii Onyschuk, sociologic research shows that 3.9% of the Ukrainian militiamen trust the state, while 67.7% distrusted the state.[5]

Contemporary law enforcement

An officer of the Ukrainian police's highway patrol detachment.

As Ukraine is a largely centralised state, regional law enforcement agencies do not really exist in the way that they do in the United States, Germany or the UK. In Ukraine, the national police service (Militsiya) is directly responsible to the central government, and while it operates with an organisational structure that allows oblast and local metropolitan commands to exist, the regional authorities do not have any major say in law enforcement policy, and cannot affect the day-to-day operations of their local force.

The Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, and particularly the Militsiya, have been criticised for providing private security services to business and industrial complexes throughout Ukraine. While this, in accordance with Ukrainian law, is a legal undertaking on the part of the Ukrainian police, it has become highly unpopular, as the force is largely seen to place priority on responding to private security calls instead of emergency calls from citizens.

In addition to local and national 'police' forces, there are also a number of specialised agencies which operate with more specific objectives in mind.

Law enforcement agencies

See also


  1. ^ (Ukrainian) Eneyida. Ivan Kotlyarevsky
  2. ^ when Soviet secret police were separated into the KGB.
  3. ^ Soviet Internal Troops in Ukraine were directly subordinated to its separate central command within the Soviet Ministry of Internal Affairs, except for a short period in the 1960s; the same is true of prison administration.
  4. ^ a b Ukraine Ex-Minister Ordered Journalist's Murder, Voice of America (September 15, 2010)
  5. ^ a b "Ukrainian News". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
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