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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: October 29, 2015
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Natalya Sharina, Director of Ukrainian Literature Library in Moscow, Arrested on Charges of 'Extremism'; Books and Computers Seized
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Natalya Sharina, director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow has been detained by  police, Novaya Gazeta and Interfax report citing law-enforcement sources.

Currently Sharina is under interrogation. Officials have not confirmed the arrest. Unian originally reported, citing TASS, that she was to be held for 48 hours. She has now been taken into custody on charges of "extremism" on the basis of materials found in the library, Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reported.

Earlier, the library was searched and agents confiscated documents, electronic devices and some books. Reportedly they said the library had copies of newspapers that could be "of a Russophobic nature," Interfax reported. TASS said the books "apparently distort historical facts."

The apartment of Valery Semenenko, co-chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Russia was also searched today. Semenenko later told RFE/RL that people in masks with machine guns rather rudely took his electronic devices, flash cards and a large amount of literature.

Even back in 2010, the Library of Ukrainian Literature was declared to be distributing books that were anti-Russian in both the sense of against ethnic Russians and against citizens of Russia (anti-russkiy and anti-rossiyskiy). A criminal case was opened on charges of "extremist materials" but then later closed.

A Unian correspondent in Moscow reported that a masked  soldier from the OMON (riot) troops was not letting anyone into the building, saying the library was closed, and also forbade photography. A spokesman for the Investigative Committee who refused to give his name said there was no search  of the building but it was closed "because we're here."

Library workers later reported that the police had planted nationalist literature in the collection, and they had recorded this.  "The methods are old. It's possible they planted the very same books they did several years ago. The search is still underway," he said.

Sharina's home was also searched and several books, including a work about the Holodomor or mass famine of 1932-1933 by Oksana Zabuzhko, containing material from European, Ukrainian and American researchers was confiscated, along with several copies of newspapers from 2011 and citations from former President Viktor Yushchenko, desposed president Viktor Yanukovich and former Prime Minister Mykola Azarov expressing their gratitude to the library. Office equipment and electronic devices were seized.

Sharina believes the searches are related to the criminal case opened in 2010, then closed. She noted that the reading room and loan collection did not contain any banned literature. The special stacks had the works of Stepan Bandera, a controversial Ukrainian revolutionary, as well as about the ultranationalist  Ukrainian Insurgent Army (OUN-UPA), but none of the books taken were in the Russian government's list of banned extremist materials.

Investigators seized a copy of Barvinok, a children's magazine, because they said it allegedly had a picture of the flag of the ultranationalist Right Sector in it.

Coynash reported that REN-TV claimed police were looking for copies of Chas Rukhu, one of whose authors if Boris Tarasyuk, former Ukrainian Foreign Ministery and deputy leader of Yuliya Tymoshenko's Batkivshchnyna party.

She said another library in Russian-occupied Crimea was fined for having 12 books about the Holodomor including Vasyl Marochko's Genocide of Ukrainians: Holodomor 1932/1933, which is on the Russian government's list of extremist materials.

Russia’s Sova Center, a group tracking extremist movements in Russia has condemned the resumption of the criminal proceedings (translation by Halya Coynash):

“A library is designed for storing printed material, not for propaganda of the ideas expressed in such material.  The point of its existence is to provide researchers and those simply interested with access to a whole range of Ukrainian thought.  We would furthermore point out that according to the Library Code, a library is obliged to hold all incoming material.”

-- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick