Leonid Mikhailov is a Russian activist in the anti-Putin opposition, a social democrat, and a member of the organization Left Socialist Action. On a recent visit to Eastern Ukraine undertaken to bring humanitarian aid to the suffering inhabitants of the war zone he was arrested by representatives of the Ukrainian authorities. He is accused of participating in a separatist militia and is now languishing in a Ukrainian prison.
In order to demonstrate the implausibility of the charges leveled against Leonid Mikhailov, it suffices to glance through the home page of his organization’s website (http://levsd.ru/). One of the items that we find there is a joint statement by Left Socialist Action and two other Russian social democratic organizations about the situation in Eastern Ukraine. This statement forcefully expresses their opposition to the separatist regimes in the Donbas – the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR). They regard these regimes as much worse than the government in Kiev, under which citizens at least enjoy basic civil rights.
Here are the first few lines of this statement, translated from the Russian:
“The position of the social democrats of Russia is based on our view that the moderately conservative government of Ukraine is a more progressive institution of state power than the majority of the leaders of so-called ‘New Russia,’ who are radical conservatives. The DPR and the LPR are mostly a collection of warring right-wing military juntas. The residents of the areas under their control have none of the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the rest of bourgeois-democratic Ukraine. This applies especially to the clerical-nationalist regime of the DPR, under which use of the Ukrainian language is forcibly suppressed even in daily life and Orthodox Christianity has been declared the state religion. Political self-expression is impossible in this area: worker activists have been kidnapped and tortured for criticizing the DPR...”
It is extremely difficult to believe that an activist of an organization that has adopted this position would offer political or military support to any of the “right-wing military juntas” in Eastern Ukraine. Several prominent figures of the Russian democratic left have conveyed their firm conviction that Leonid Mikhailov went to Eastern Ukraine out of purely humanitarian motives. His arrest was presumably one of the mistakes or misunderstandings that are so hard to avoid under confused wartime conditions. We respectfully request the Ukrainian authorities to release him without delay and allow him to return home.
Vladislav E. Bugera
Professor, Department of Philosophy, Ufa State Petroleum Technological University, Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan, Russian Federation
Stephen D. Shenfield
Independent researcher and translator, Providence, Rhode Island, USA
New signatories invited.