Ukrainian Communist Party leader arrested

BY:C.J. Atkins| September 8, 2023
Ukrainian Communist Party leader arrested


This article originally appeared in People’s World.

On Aug. 16, Ukraine’s secret police force — the SBU, or Security Service of Ukraine — announced it had arrested Georgi Buiko, a veteran Communist Party member and leader of the Ukrainian Anti-Fascist Committee. Officials accused him of participating in “anti-Ukrainian activities” and of possessing communist and “pro-Kremlin” publications in his home.

Buiko, 77, was a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union before the fall of the USSR, having joined in his native Donetsk in 1967. After Ukraine left the Soviet Union, he became a leading figure in the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU), rising to serve as head of the Donetsk Regional Committee and editor of the party’s newspaper there.

From 1998 to 2006, he was a member of the Ukrainian parliament. After retiring from the legislature, he was elected chairman of the Anti-Fascist Committee of Ukraine and was active with the International Federation of Journalists.

He is currently under house arrest and faces possible prison time and confiscation of his property if convicted of violating the criminal code.

The SBU posted a statement on the social messaging app Telegram detailing what it saw as Buiko’s offenses, which included advocating sovereignty for the disputed Donetsk and Lugansk regions of eastern Ukraine during the pre-war period, participating in undefined “mass anti-Ukrainian events,” and allegedly “inciting his acquaintances to help the Russian invaders.”

Buiko’s detention is the latest episode in a long-running drama of anti-communist persecution stretching 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. The party’s youth group was also made illegal, and its members were subjected to political persecution by the police and the courts.

Across the country, the government enforced a so-called “de-communization” law that not only forbade CPU political activities but also forbid 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 repression of ethnic Russians in the east, foreshadowing the Minsk Agreements. The latter were 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 still. In the days right after the war began, two Communist Youth Union (Komsomol) leaders—brothers Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich—were arrested by the SBU after a demonstration in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kiev.

The two brothers’ disappearance became an international incident, with the World Federation of Democratic Youth (WFDY) launching a global campaign demanding their release. For several months, their fate was unknown. Eventually they appeared in a Kiev courtroom, charged with conspiring to overthrow the government. To this day, they remain imprisoned, their current health status unknown.

In July 2022, several more left parties were banned alongside the Communist Party, including the Opposition Platform-For Life party, Left Opposition, Union of Left Forces, and the Socialist Party of Ukraine. All were accused of being “fifth column” agents acting on behalf of Russia. At the same time, the last remaining funds and assets of the Communist Party were seized on the order of Ukrainian courts.

A separate legal case is also currently pending against Petro Symonenko, the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Ukraine, who has not been seen since the war began. His whereabouts are unknown, but he is believed to be in exile in Russia.

In June, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a report on civilian detentions in Ukraine. It charged the Russian armed forces with carrying out widespread “torture and ill-treatment of civilians” on Ukrainian territory. It also noted, however, that “legislative amendments…and practices by Ukrainian security services” have led to at least 75 documented cases of arbitrary detention.

The United Nations concluded that under conditions of martial law, “a significant proportion of these cases…amounted to enforced disappearance, perpetrated mainly by the Security Service of Ukraine,” the SBU.

In the wake of Buiko’s detention, the SBU has issued a warning to another former Communist parliamentarian, Pavel Tishchenko, notifying him that he too is under suspicion for engaging in pro-Russian propaganda. As he has already been labeled a “traitor” by the state security apparatus, many see his eventual arrest as a foregone conclusion.

Images: Burning of the House of Trade Unions in Odessa in 2014 by Volokin Yevgeny (CC BY-SA 4.0) / arrested Communist Party member Georgi Buiko by KPU (Facebook); KPU vote share in 2012 elections by Olegzima (CC BY-SA 3.0); Mikhail and Aleksander Kononovich Photo via WFDY (Twitter)


    C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

Related Articles

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer