Ukrainian communist youth leaders remain defiant after almost 700 days in prison
Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich in detention in Ukraine. | Photo via WFDY

Since March 6, 2022, Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich have been in detention in Ukraine, reportedly experiencing regular beatings and torture. The brothers are leaders of the youth wing of the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), which has been outlawed since 2014 by the government in Ukraine.

The two were kidnapped and held by Ukrainian security forces after they participated in a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kiev demanding that the U.S. stop its military expansionism in Europe via NATO.

Prior to that, they had been repeatedly harassed by security forces for organizing mobilizations against the Zelensky government’s privatization campaigns and other policies. They face ten years in prison if they plead guilty, or a sentence of life in prison if they fight the charges and are found guilty by the court.

During their time in detention—approaching 700 days—they were subject to death threats and torture, including regular beatings. The brothers’ lawyer was appointed by the Ukrainian authorities.

Their arrest in March 2022 was followed later by the detention of CPU leader Georgi Buikoi; both incidents were episodes in a long-running drama of anti-communist persecution stretching back to the 2014 U.S.-backed “Euromaidan” coup in Ukraine. The government that took power outlawed the Communist Party and banned it from running candidates in elections.

Across the country, the government enforced a so-called “de-communization” law that not only forbade CPU political activities but also forbade the use of any Communist names or symbols in public, mandated the destruction of Soviet war memorials, and prevented any teaching about the positive aspects of Soviet history in schools.

The Ukrainian government stepped up its persecution of Communists even further following the outbreak of civil war in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in 2014-15. The CPU had been calling for a federalist solution to the divisions within Ukraine in the early days of the civil war and an end to the repression of ethnic Russians in the east, foreshadowing the Minsk Agreements. The latter was meant to halt the fighting in Donetsk and Lugansk by granting autonomy to those areas, but the government in Kiev never abided by the accords.

Following the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces in 2022, the repression became more severe. It was in the days immediately after the invasion that the Kononovich brothers were arrested.


> Ukrainian Communist youth leaders arrested by government, reportedly targeted for death

> Zelensky government bans Communist Party of Ukraine, seizes assets

> Another Communist leader, Georgi Buiko, arrested in Ukraine

The CPU’s youth wing is a member of the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY), which has been mobilizing its member organizations throughout the world to call for their immediate release. Recently, the two brothers sent a message of appreciation to WFDY, which indicated their defiance of the charges against them and of what they characterized as the “far-right regime” in Kiev.

“The accusation is deliberately falsified, and this case is a clear political reprisal,” the brothers told the court. “We had our noses broken, teeth knocked out, broken ribs, concussion, hematomas.” They also stated that the security forces threatened to harm their families and children next.

A press release from WFDY affirmed solidarity with the defiant youth leaders and underlined the importance of maintaining and escalating international efforts for their release and that of other young political prisoners.

“When the contradictions of capitalism, the crises, and the capitalist offensive sharpen, we must redouble our solidarity with all the persecuted and repressed comrades. On the one hand, to be able to show our solidarity and to articulate a struggle for the liberation of all young political prisoners. On the other hand, to send a message to all the militant youth that there is no reason to be afraid of repression because, in the face of any attack, the militancy will have the support of all the anti-imperialist youth on an international level.”

This article features material from People’s Voice and WFDY combined with earlier reporting by People’s World.

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